Author Interview: Elly Swartz
My Review: Smart Cookie
Frankie wants to have a family just like everyone else. She wants her family to be complete and her dad to be happy again. She wants a mother. She creates a secret dating profile for her dad online. But, all of that gets side track when there might be a ghost hanging around the bed and breakfast. This is a heartwarming story of what family really means with a twist of mystery and adventure. When you fall in love with Smart Cookie, go and check out Molly's story in Finding Perfect and pre-order Give and Take to read Maggie's story! You will love them all! :)
GIVE AND TAKE
In GIVE AND TAKE (FSG/Macmillan 10/15/19), you meet twelve-year-old Maggie who knows her new baby sister who smells like powder isn’t her sister for keeps. Izzie is a foster baby awaiting adoption. So in a day or a week, she’ll go to her forever family and all that sweetness will be gone. Except for those things Maggie’s secretly saving in the cardboard boxes in her closet and under her bed. Baby socks, binkies, and a button from Bud the Bear. Rocks, sticks, and candy wrappers. Maggie holds on tight. To her things. Her pet turtle. Her memories of Nana. And her friends. But when Maggie has to say goodbye to Izzie, and her friend gets bumped from their all-girl trapshooting squad to make room for a boy, Maggie’s hoarding grows far beyond her control, and she learns that sometimes love means letting go.
Who’s got my back? How many people do I get in my life? Those are the questions that eleven-year-old Frankie asks in SMART COOKIE (Scholastic 2018). Frankie’s mom died many years ago, and she feels like a piece of her is missing. So, she secretly puts an ad online to find her dad a wife.
No spoilers, but what she finds instead, with the help of her ghost-hunting best friend Elliot and Jess, her friend-turned-not-turned-something-else, is her herd. The people in her life who love her and all of her idiosyncrasies unconditionally. Her teacher, her neighbors, the people at Mills Senior Center, even Mabel, her gram’s best friend who cheats at cards. We all have one. And this herd is often so much bigger and wider than those with whom you share a name or childhood.
To Molly Nathans, perfect is:
• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows promises are often broken and hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner’s honored at a fancy banquet. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?
But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.
Ultimately, Molly learns there’s no such thing as perfect.
GIVE AND TAKE is about loving big because it is the most beautiful gift we have to give. Maggie learns that loving Izzie, the foster baby her family cares for, is not about being remembered. In a world filled with manicured moments memorialized in Snap stories, filtered selfies on Instagram and curated videos for TikToc, there are some experiences that are simply about digging deep and loving big. Fostering Izzie is one of those moments.
With Maggie’s big heart also comes a heap of anxiety. The same anxiety that has crept into the lives of so many of our kids. For Maggie, this anxiety takes the form of hoarding. She collects knickknacks and saves objects that most would toss and many would call garbage. She fears if she throws these items away, the memories tied to these keepsakes will disappear forever. Like they did for Nana. Who forgot her love of chocolate donuts, where she lived, and even her granddaughter, Maggie, when her dementia worsened.
Kids hoard. And kids have anxiety. The more we talk about it. The more we share their experiences on the page. The more we breakdown the stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental health. And the sooner all kids, can feel seen, heard, and respected.
I want my readers to know they’re strong. Empowered. And I want them to know they’re not alone.
Meet Lucy – My writing partner!
And I love hearing from you. So let’s stay in touch! You can find me at ellyswartz.com on Twitter @ellyswartz, on Instagram @ellyswartzbooks or on my webseries #BooksintheKitchen with Victoria J. Coe.
I also wanted to share that in GIVE AND TAKE, Maggie’s dad has a podcast called, Go On, Change the World! I’m partnering with Bonnie Thomas of Indigo North Counseling, a licensed, clinical, social worker, to create a journaling activity for readers and educators. The activity will prepare educators to talk about the book, anxiety, making change despite anxiety, and journaling, as well as, provide what’s needed to transform any notebook into a “Go On, Change the World!” journal. Like Maggie, I want readers to see they are strong, brave, and not alone. I want them to love big. And then, to Go On, Change the World!