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Friday, March 28, 2014

(MMGM) Erin Moulton, author of Chasing The Milky Way {Review, Interview, Giveaway}

I'm so thrilled to have Erin Moulton stopping by the March MG Madness today! Read our Interview and my Review below and enter the awesome giveaway...

Chasing the Milky Way
by Erin Moulton

In a book that pairs science with mental illness, and heart with adventure, Erin E. Moulton delivers a moving story about family, friendship and the lengths we go for the people we love.

Lucy Peevy has a dream--to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she's already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you've got a mama who doesn't always take her meds, it's not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy's mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they're scared of even more than Mama's moods: living without her at all.

Perfect for fans of Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons, Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee and Katherine Paterson's The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Last year I read, and adored, Erin Moulton’s Tracing Stars, so I was very excited to dive into her newest middle-grade contemp., Chasing the Milky Way...and Moulton proves once again that she is a marvelous storyteller who crafts stories full of heart, wit, and charm!

Twelve year old Lucy Peevy wants out of the trailer park and has a plan to do just that. Along with her best friend and neighbor, Cam, Lucy has built a junkbot, wanting to enter the annual BotBlock competition in hopes of winning money and college scholarships. But Lucy’s mentally ill mother doesn’t make life easy for Lucy and her little sister Izzy. Mama is off her meds again and spiraling out of control. When their little family is threatened with separation, Mama takes Lucy, Izzy, and Cam on a wild ride, destination unknown. Lucy must summon all her courage and smarts to keep her family together, but discovers that somethings are just too big to handle.

Chasing the Milky is an honest and touching tale about family, friendship, mental illness, and so much more. Moulton has spun a smart story that is equal parts tender, poignant, aching, and hopeful. Mental illness is a heavy and hard subject to tackle, especially in a middle-grade book, but Moulton has done so beautifully and realistically, while maintaining an age-appropriate level of exploration and understanding. The Peevy’s story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, full of adventure and full of bone-deep emotion, will make readers cry and smile, sometimes in the span of a single page.  

What makes Chasing the Milky Way such a deeply felt and captivating story, are the wonderfully crafted characters. Readers will become fully absorbed in the lives of these layered, realistic, very alive characters. Lucy, Cam, and Izzy are all endearing, sweet, capable, smart kids in their own ways, and the way they love and support each other is so moving. And Moulton has done Mama’s character such breathtaking justice, making her more than just her mental illness. By the end of the book, all of these lovely characters felt like so much more than just creations on the page; they felt like friends to me.

My Final Thoughts: Chasing the Milky is a thought-provoking and thoughtfully written book that will stay with readers for a long time.


What three words best describe Chasing the Milky Way?
Blue, Starry, Hopeful

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Chasing the Milky Way a try?
Hrm, that's  a tricky one, but here goes: Lucy, Cam and Izzy have a lot to contend with when they set out on a road trip for a robot competition, but they never thought they would be stealing and driving an RV, evading the cops and making all sorts of really hard choices, too!

Grab a copy of  Chasing the Milky Way and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Chapter 40.  It's bittersweet. 

favorite page?  
Page 102. It feels triumphant to me.  

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?
I got 151.  I collapse, exhauted, sopping wet at the small dining room table.  

What inspired Chasing the Milky Way? How did the story come to be?  
This is always a hard question for me to answer as the story evolves so much from the conception through the execution. This one came about in a funny way and then was the easiest book (plot-wise, not emotion-wise) that I have written thus far. I had suggested a YA adventure novel to the folks at Philomel and the first few chapters that they read featured Lucy and Mama. When my editor, Jill Santopolo, read it, she suggested that Lucy and Mama were part of another story. I examined that for awhile and when I looked at the struggles of their relationship, the story came quickly.

There are some memorable characters in  Chasing the Milky Way, do you have a favorite? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you with the way they turned out?
 I love all the characters.  I love Lucy's grit, Cam's optimism, and Izzy's imagination.  I love Mama's spirit. I didn't get a lot of surprises this time around. In some stories I do, and in the current project I have run into quite a few, but I knew where everyone was going in CHASING from the very beginning. I still cried pretty hard through the final chapters even though they weren't a surprise.

What do you hope readers will walk away with or learn from Chasing the Milky Way?
A lot goes on in CHASING THE MILKY WAY. One element of the book centers around Lucy and Mama's relationship as Mama struggles with a mixed diagnosis of Bipolar/Schizo-Affective disorder. I am not sure I can accomplish what I set out to accomplish, but at least in a small way, I would love if my book was used as a jumping off point to discuss mental illness, how it is depicted in our stories and our media, and what it means in reality. One of the things I ruminate on is perception vs. reality.  And in the case of mental illness there seems to be a large divide. Mental Illness is an extremely broad term and it is used thus in our media regularly in conjunction with violence. Alternatively, we rarely give room in our our media and other outlets for non-violent mental illness stories. When this happens, it creates a stigma. Stigma means a stain or discredit of a group of people. When people are stigmatized they are marginalized, ostracized. They have a smaller if nonexistant voice in our cultural stories. I find this to be a major problem when, in fact, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. If you were afflicted by a mental illness such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia etc, would you want to talk about it given its regular connection to violence? We all experience symptoms of mental illness, and yet we shy away from speaking of it. I hope that if we make more stories surrounding mental illness, perhaps people will share their own stories more confidently. Perhaps we can peel away Perception and come face to face with People. Perhaps we can see others, not as labels, but as individuals....then, maybe, the real work can begin.  
I also hope that the resources in the back of the book are useful(they are not in the ARC, but will be in the hardcover).  And once the book is out we will have a teacher's guide to help classroom discussions of the novel.  

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?
You know, every time I think of childhood, there is this one glowing bright chunk called 5th and 6th grade.  I can see it very clearly.'s a little foggy. I can barely recall 7th and 8th grade. I LOVED reading everything in 5th and 6th grade.  I loved my school.  I loved my friends.  I can still see the Escher posters, the cloakroom and the inpirational quotes that Mr. Alligator hung up on the walls. I think I write for this age group because it is a time of change, but also a time of coming into one's own convictions. It's a really special age. Also, I naturally tend to go there. Even when I write YA, it often ends up having a MG tone, so it is partly subconscious.
Many of my favorite books are MG. A Murder for Her Majesty, Lyddie, The Redwall Series, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, The Prydain Series. Some of my more recent MG favorites are Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. These are books I could read again and again and still savor the stories and the writing. I only hope to do as well someday.
What is your all time favorite middle-grade book, middle-grade hero, and middle-grade heroine?
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is my all-time favorite. If I need to remember what a good opening sounds like, I pull it from the shelf and read the beginning. It's that good. My favorite hero is probably Taran, The Assistant Pig-Keeper from the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. My favorite Heroine is Lyddie from Lyddie by Katherine Paterson. I always loved her grit and independence.  
Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at _empathy. I don't know why this is the case, but it is something I have always been good at.  

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I type with my left pinky up.  I don't mean to.  I think I broke that pinky in soccer and was learning to type at the same time, so it just points up while my other fingers do all the work.  It's unintentionally dainty, but I can't kick the habit.

The last great book I read was The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susan Cokal.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Chasing the Milky Way, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
It would be blue raspberry with yellow frosting and star sprinkles on top.  It would be sweet, because everyone needs a bit of sweetness, especially in the darkest times. And I would call it Dreamcake, because everyone should get a little taste of their dreams.  

Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey (Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars (Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppies where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams. You can visit her online at or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or connect on twitter @erinemoulton

Win signed copies of all three of 
Erin Moulton's books!
Erin has generously offered one winner a signed ARC of Chasing the Milky Way and signed paperback copies of Tracing Stars and Flutter.
-US only
-ends 4/4
-must be 13+
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-I am not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Barbara Watson said...

I, too, adored TRACING STARS but haven't read FLUTTER. This one sounds marvelous. And you're right -- Erin has such a way of weaving a story.

Unknown said...

This sounds like a beautiful story. I think it's vital that children understand the truth about mental illness. Many parents have sheltered their children to the point that they have no idea of what the real world is like and they expect people to be of similar moods as their parents. When faced with variety of personalities, some of which are invariably suffering from some type of mental illness, the children don't know how to react. This book is a great way to gently introduce mental illness at young age, and is a great tool for those parents who do not know how to approach the subject with their children. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com.

Batch of Books said...

I haven't read any books by this author, but the premise sounds very interesting. I'm always up for a thought provoking book.

Unknown said...

I absolutely love the idea of a middle grade book with the main character's parent dealing with mental illness. It's very prevalent in today's world so I enjoy books about mental illnesses. I can't wait to read this one - it sounds amazing and I am sure many kids could benefit from reading it!

anne s. said...

i wonder if this book will be considered for the schneider family book award?!

Orchid said...

This one definitely sounds interesting and, as you out it, very thought provoking. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

It's so rare to see a MG book that deals with mental illness, so I'm glad this one is out there. Too many kids grow up clueless to mental illness and no idea how to deal with it, so it's nice to see that there are books letting them know it's not something they are alone in.

Jillyn said...

Mental illness is one of those topics that I feel doesn't get enough time in the spotlight.