Welcome to the blog tour for Debbie's new book! If you've never met Debbie and you get the chance, you should absolutely take it; Debbie is absolutely fantastic live and a lovely person to chat to.
I don't want to spoil the book this early in the tour, but it's funny, heartfelt and fabulous, and I advise you all to read it!
As family is such a big part of the story, Debbie has very kindly shared her five (or more!) favourite fictional families.
Five Fictional Family Favourites
by Debbie Thomas
Hi, Debbie here with many thanks to Jenn, B and BeeJay for hosting this post. Families are at the heart of stories because they’re at the heart of life. You may not see your family, like your family or even know your family, but you definitely have - or once had - one. In my new book Chameleon Dad (age 9+), Connie never knew her mum. Her dad left her sitting in a Dublin Airport café when she was four – and never came back. Now aged twelve, all that Connie has left of him are a few memories and Hue, the chameleon he left in a box on the café table. Connie loves her foster mum Mags but longs for real, flesh-and-blood family. So when a mysterious letter arrives from her dad, she tracks him down. But as he reveals his true colours, Connie starts to wonder about the real meaning of family.
Many other stories ask that question. Here are five of my favourite middle grade and YA books about family, in no particular order:
1. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (age 9+)
With seven children of his own and wonderful writerly wit, Frank Cottrell Boyce is a master of family stories. From Cosmic, in which a boy is mistaken for a dad and goes into space, to the three Chitty Chitty Bang Bang books, he captures joyously the laughter and love within families. Millions, my favourite, is narrated by Damien whose mother has died. His hilarious, unself-pitying voice breaks your heart and splits your sides on the same page as he wonders how to spend the huge wads of cash that have fallen out of a train.
2. The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson (8+)
A glorious journey by a family of yetis, led by siblings Con and Ellen, as they flee a Himalayan Valley for the safety of England, only to find they’re not safe at all. The yetis are adorable – from sleepwalking Lucy to wise old Uncle Otto – and their gentleness and love for all living things is ridiculously moving (they’re yetis!) – until you read that the book was written just after the death of Eva Ibbotson’s husband. Some critics have also drawn parallels to the flight of Jews, including Ibbotson who fled Austria during the rise of Hitler.
3. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (12+)
A 13-year-old boy who nearly killed a teacher and who has a daughter doesn’t sound like your ideal foster brother. But as 12-year-old Jack gets to know and love Joseph, he vows to help find Jupiter, the baby Joseph has never met. The beautiful, spare narration is both harrowing and uplifting and strips everything down to show the value of a loving family.
4. Front Desk by Kelly Yang (9+)
A Chinese immigrant family is hired to manage a hotel in California. Taking over the front desk, ten-year-old Mia faces prejudice, exploitation and poverty. If that sounds heavy for a middle-grade book, Mia is funny, feisty and wonderfully resourceful. Heart-warming, inspiring and eye-opening, this brilliant read had me cheering Mia and her parents on and raging at the injustices immigrants so often face as they struggle to make a new life.
5. The Gone Book by Helena Close (15+)
Ever since his mam left five years ago, Matt has written her letters which he never sends but keeps in his Gone Book. Now she’s reappeared, he knows he must meet her. The pain her abandonment has caused Matt and his family is sharpened by brilliant wit and softened by the love of Matt’s friends. This fantastic book published by Little Island is tough, tender, upsetting and uplifting, all at the same time.
Ah, the 5 are up … just a few more wonders:
Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird (10+), a brilliant story about Syrian refugee brothers.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (12+), German heroes and horrors in WW2, narrated by Death, a surprisingly big softie.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (11+). Funny, brave, no-nonsense Cassandra’s glittering depiction of her tumbledown home and even more tumbledown family.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (11+) Meet the Starkadders. From preacher Amos (‘There’s no butter in hell!’) to Aunt Ada who ‘saw something nasty in the woodshed’ the Starkadders of Howling are a welcome reminder that your own family isn’t so weird after all.
Well, I don't know about you but my TBR has just exploded! Debbie, thank you so much for your wise, funny words. I hope the book shatters sales records for you!
Chameleon Dad is on sale now.