Jenny Lundquist continues to generate the perfect books for middle grade graders–with topics that aren’t often seen (but are very much needed) in books for this age group. Her newest book, THE WONDROUS WORLD OF VIOLET BARNABY is the second part of her Izzy Malone series, first featured here.

Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.

Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.

And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…

In our last interview, you said, “I think the main thing I’d like my readers to take away is that it’s okay to be who you are.” What are your hopes for middle grade readers who might not know who they are yet? 

My biggest hope is that they would know that’s okay! Most of us don’t know who we are; and who we are one day could be different than who we become the next day. I firmly believe life is a journey, and we are always changing and growing. Middle school is a tender and tough time, an in-between time, when there is so much to learn. Wherever you’re at now, you’re okay. And you will be okay.

Wise words! THE WONDROUS WORLD OF VIOLET BARNABY is the second part of the Izzy Malone series. I love how Violet talks about her relationship with words at the beginning. What other ways were you able to get to know Violet as you wrote her?  

In this book Violet has to come to terms with her new blended family, while still grieving the loss of her mother to cancer a year and a half ago. I wanted to make sure I honored Violet’s character—and anyone who has lost a parent—by trying to portray what it feels like when a tween/teen loses his/her parent as accurately as possible. To that end I read books about the grief process and let that influence me as I wrote Violet’s character. I also get to know my characters by writing journal entries in their “voice” and occasionally interviewing them.

Interviewing characters sounds like a great strategy. What books do you hope to see less of and why?

None! Less books are never the answer! I want more books. Bring me all the books! One of my favorite things to do as an author is visit elementary school classrooms and encourage the students to consider writing a book. The world is always in need of more stories. Who knows how many masterpieces don’t exist because their author decided they “didn’t have what it takes” to become a professional writer?

An excellent point–and one I needed to hear. What are some of your current projects? 

Right now I am in the process of writing the first draft of The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams, which is a book about three eighth grade girls in a struggling factory town who each receive a note to meet the anonymous sender at the Ferris wheel at midnight on the night of the carnival. It’s got sort of a Night Circus/Ray Bradbury tone to it and it has been so fun to write. It is also due in three weeks, so I am currently stress eating my way through October!