Tanita S. Davis is an award-winning children’s author, and any library would be lucky to have her books in their collection. Her latest novel, PARTLY CLOUDY, offers a nuanced exploration of middle school through the eyes of a young Black girl named Madalyn.
Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? After a terrible year, Madalyn needs clear skies desperately. Moving in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, and switching to a new school is just the first step.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Madalyn discovers she’s the only Black girl in her class, and while most of her classmates are friendly, assumptions lead to some serious storms.
Papa Lobo’s long-running feud with neighbor Mrs. Baylor brings wild weather of its own, and Madalyn wonders just how far things will go. But when fire threatens the community, Madalyn discovers that truly being neighborly means more than just staying on your side of the street— it means weathering tough conversations—and finding that together a family can pull through anything.
According to your website bio, you serve on the board of The Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards, better known as The Cybils. What, in your experience, makes a good blog?
In my experience, a good blog is basically one where both readers and bloggers stay engaged. The CYBILS Awards started back in Ye Olde Dark Ages of 2006, when everything was basically LiveJournal and Blogger. Old school blog tours and “waiting on Wednesday” round ups were a huge draw for people who wanted to talk books and engage with other book addicts, and get excited about whatever genre. And when more image-based apps came along, a lot of people jumped that direction, using fewer words and more pictures to share about what excited them. That was extremely cool, too. The best blogs engage with stuff that interests and excites the blogger and invites others to share the love – no matter if it’s traditional or not. (P.S. – The CYBILS considers Goodreads, BookInsta, BookTubers and anyone who blogs or vlogs as a blogger who can be a part of the fun. Don’t forget to nominate!)
Indeed! One of my favorite parts about interacting online in this way is sharing love about books! Your newest novel, PARTLY CLOUDY, follows a girl named Madalyn who has to confront life when it isn’t always sunny. What do you hope readers take away from Madalyn’s journey?
What I hope readers take away from Madalyn’s journey is basically that we all know that relationships are hard, and the differences between us – race or class or gender, even – can sometimes seem insurmountable, especially in junior high. But, if we practice being honest and brave, we can find real friendship and connection. Madalyn had to figure out what she needed from a friend, and then… ask for it. Which seems kind of terrifying! But for anyone, white, Black, feminine, masculine, old or young – asking hard questions and answering those questions with truthful kindness is one of the most necessary and important things we can do for each other. I hope everyone does it – and has the very best of friends they can find in this tough and scary world.
I hope so too! I love how another one of your books, SERENA SAYS, confronts the theme of changing friendships. In what ways, if any, did Serena surprise you as you wrote her?
This is a good question! Serena Says initially was very straightforward – I knew I wanted to write about a girl who had been chosen to be a best friend, and then, later, seemingly discarded. I very much wanted to talk about how friendships shift in junior high, how we grow out of and into relationships and how it’s not always the end of the world. However, the circumstances of Serena vlogging changed – quite a bit. I first had her making mock podcasts, like my niece Fallon did a lot when she was in middle school. The original title of the book was even STELLA SAYS, and focused entirely on Stella making her own little bedroom radio show, and practicing how to speak out that way. However, when the delightful STELLA DIAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY series by Angela Dominguez came out, we wanted to be sure there wasn’t any confusion between two books with such similar titles. First I changed Serena’s name, and then she seemed to need a fresher take on her hobby. Podcasts were out – vlogging was in, and Serena was born! Even though I still really love the name Stella, I think Serena’s changes were for the best.
Fresh takes are always good! What are some of your current projects?
I’m glad you asked! Writers always have quite a few other ideas on the back burner – thoughts we’re kicking around, things we’re rewriting, and stories we’re tossing into the back of the writing drawer. Right now, the two top book projects that are percolating in my brain are GO FIGURE, HENRI WELDON, which will be out next year from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books. It’s about a girl with a math learning disability learning how to balance her desire to do well in “normal” school with the realities of sometimes needing a little extra help. The second book project I’m working on is an unfinished – and untitled, for now – SFF book about an unusual neighborhood of people with monstrous characteristics – think harpy aunties, basilisk moms and werewolf uncles – and the kids who live there finding out who is acting like a real monster when a candy contest uncovers some nasty xenophobic attitudes about the few humans in the neighborhood…
For Tanita S. Davis’s other books, go to http://tanitasdavis.com/books.shtml