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Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Monday, March 10, 2014

(MMGM) Jaleigh Johnson, author of The Mark of the Dragonfly {Review, Interview, Giveaway}

I'm so thrilled to have Jaleigh Johnson stopping by the March MG Madness today! Check out my review, interview with Jaleigh, and enter to win some goodies...

The Mark of the Dragonfly
by Jaleigh Johnson
Random House 

Fans of The City of Ember will love The Mark of the Dragonfly, an adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous.
   Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.
   The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.
   The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.
   Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

I lovelovelove Jaleigh Johnson’s The Mark of the Dragonfly! It has everything you can want in an awesome middle-grade read: thrilling adventure, sweet romance, endearing characters, steller storytelling, and refreshingly original fantasy; sci-fi; and steampunk elements.

Thirteen year old Piper, an incredibly talented machinist, lives in a world called Solace, where objects from other worlds and planets make their way among the Meteor Fields, and people like Piper collect, fix, and sell these objects. All alone since her father’s death, Piper does what she has to in order to survive. One night, during a terrible meteor storm, Piper finds a mysterious girl among a caravan wreckage. The young girl has the mark of the Dragonfly, meaning she’s under the protection of the king of the Dragonfly Territories and maybe worth a hefty reward. With no memory of who she is or where she came from, Piper decides to return the girl, Anna, to her territory. But when a scary man comes looking for Anna, she and Piper must stowaway on the 401, the majestic train that will take them to the Dragonfly Territories. The two girls soon find themselves on a breathless adventure, full of peril, unexpected friends, and  magic.

The Mark of the Dragonfly enchanted me from beginning to end! Jaleigh Johnson took me on an epic thrill ride through a captivating world full of magic, mystery, and grand marvels. Fast-paced and teeming with fun twists and turns, I couldn’t put this book down!

Johnson is a superb storyteller whose writing sparkles and shines! She has created a pitch-perfect middle-school fantasy, with fantastic sci-fi and steampunk elements. The world of Solace, with its terrifying Meteor Fields; mysterious objects from other worlds; and human and non-human inhabitants, makes for a fascinating and compelling setting. I loved exploring this world, with Piper and Anna, from inside and outside the beautiful 401. This grand train, with its own mysteries and surprises, is a spectacular world in itself.

Piper and Anna are two very different, yet equally lovable characters. With her determination, compassion, courage, and quick thinking, Piper is an admirable and worthy heroine. Smart, unique, sweet  Anna is such a wonderful companion for Piper. I love the genuine love and sisterly bond that develops between these two lovely girls!

Piper and Anna’s journey take them from Piper’s bleak Scrap Town Sixteen all the way to the big cities of the Dragonfly Territories and Piper’s first look at the breathtaking ocean. Along the way the girls encounter countless dangers, exciting escapades, surprising friends, magic they never dreamed existed, and uncovered life-changing secrets!

My Final Thoughts: Epic adventure. Fascinating new worlds. Unforgettable characters. Excellent storytelling...The Mark of the Dragonfly has it all and so much more! This awesome book is full of endless fun and a definite must read!


What three words best describe The Mark of the Dragonfly?
Friendship. Magic. Trains.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give The Mark of the Dragonfly a try?
In a world of magic and strange creatures, two girls who couldn’t be more different must come together to save each other by stowing away onboard a beautiful old steam train called the 401.

Grab a copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly and answer the following:
favorite chapter?  Chapter 6.
favorite page?  Pg. 382.
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?

Piper stopped dead.
In the moonlight, the creature looked equal parts lizard, bird, and man, with eyes that glowed green and leathery wings that stretched to a huge span on either side of its body.

What inspired The Mark of the Dragonfly? How did the story come to be?
Two of the main inspirations were the train and the dragonfly symbol.  The dragonfly came to me six years ago when I needed a pin to wear on the back of my wedding dress, and I found this little dragonfly pin sitting on a table at a store.  I bought it, and ever since then I’ve started seeing dragonflies in lots of art and architecture.  The image stuck with me and ended up as a tattoo on one of my characters and the most recognizable symbol of the book.  And I’m still seeing dragonflies everywhere.

The other inspiration is a steam train at the railway museum in Monticello, Illinois.  The Southern 401 is an actual, functioning steam engine restored by museum volunteers.  They spent 15 years working on it, and it’s a beautiful old train.  I thought what a shame it would have been if those wonderful volunteers had given up along the way, and the 401 might have remained a rusted old shell, forgotten by the world.  It made me think of all the things we throw away in our lives, the objects that were once important to us but that we end up forgetting.  I wondered what would happen if those forgotten things somehow made their way to another place, somewhere they could be restored and valued.  That’s how my world of Solace came to be, and the story grew from there.  

There are some memorable characters in The Mark of the Dragonfly, 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?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but Piper and Anna’s relationship turned out to be one of the most surprising and joyful parts of writing this book.  They are so very different, yet the more I wrote about them, the more I realized that each is missing something vital, an emotional hole only the other person can fill.  They take strength from each other, and I loved exploring that as I wrote.  And of course, I had a blast doing their dialog, playing with the contrasts between them.

If you could live in any fictional world from any book, which would you choose? What would you do there?
You’d most likely find me living in Middle Earth in the Shire.  I think I’d have no trouble living like a hobbit, in my warm little hobbit hole just a few doors down from Bilbo Baggins.  But I wouldn’t mind if a wizard came to call now and then with talk of adventure in faraway lands. I might be enticed out of my hidey-hole to see an elf or two.

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?
I think middle-grade is important because those are the books that have stayed with me all my life.  I love that I can still go back to stories like A Wrinkle in Time and Charlotte’s Web, and none of the wonder of those books has diminished for me.  Sometimes I’ll reread books I loved in high school or college and realize that I don’t enjoy them anymore.  They aren’t the same in my memory, or I’ve changed too much as a person to appreciate them.  That’s not the case with middle-grade, not for me anyway.     

What is your all time favorite middle-grade book, middle-grade hero, and middle-grade heroine?
 A Wrinkle in Time. Charles Wallace and Meg Murry.  Those two have a very special place in my heart.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at games. All kinds. I’ve loved them since I was a kid.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I want to be sleeping at noon and writing at midnight. That’s my ideal life.

The last great book I read was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Mark of the Dragonfly, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Well, it would be called The Dragonfly, of course.  Let’s see, I’m picturing a rich vanilla cupcake with a lemon cream cheese frosting tinged green and dusted all over with gold sprinkles.  There might even be a hidden lemon curd filling inside.  Man, do I really want a cupcake now!

Thanks so much, Jaleigh, for stopping by!

Win 1 of 3 copies of The Mark of the Dragonfly, plus a bookmark and tattoo!
The awesome folks at Random House have generously offered up three copies of books and fun swag for three winners.
-US/CAN only
-there will be 3 winners
-ends 3/31
-must be 13+, one free entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must clim prizes within 48 hours
Fill out the Rafflecopter form:


Unknown said...

This was such an exciting review and interview that I find myself LONGING for this book. I must win it. It sounds divine. I have never ridden on a train and to ride a train filled with magic and adventure sounds simply ideal. Yes, I must, must read this book.

Unknown said...

I'm so excited to see this giveaway! I actually was supposed to get this through the old Random Buzzers website but never got it. :( I really can't wait to read it!!!

Charlotte said...

I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to this one!

Michael G-G said...

Great review and interview. This has shot to the top of my "Must Read" list.

Jillyn said...

This sounds right up my alley. I love steampunk and fantasy, and The City of Ember. I'll definitely need to check this one out.

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

This sounds like so much fun! I would definitely choose Middle Earth too. I'd hang out with Merry and Pip, and go on adventures...maybe even steal a few of Farmer Maggot's crops.

Unknown said...

I'm really looking forward to reading The Mark of the dragonfly.

Stitchin in the Sip said...

The relationship between Piper and Anna has me intrigued. There are so many different ways their relationship can go. I need to read The Mark of the Dragonfly!

Orchid said...

I'm so glad to have seen your review of Mark of the Dragonfly. I'd been considering reading it but hadn't really heard anything about it.

It's always cool seeing another fan of A Wrinkle in Time, and one who loves Meg and Charles-Wallace. =)

Myrna Foster said...

I love her interview answers and can't wait to get my hands on this one! Thanks!

anne s. said...

must get my hands on this book@ here's hoping i win!

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