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Monday, November 3, 2014

Interview: Barbara Dee, author of The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys

I'm so excited to have author Barbara Dee stopping by today to chat about her adorable new middle-grade book...

The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys
by Barbara Dee

In Finley's middle school, kissing frogs might lead to princes--if there were any frogs! Categorizing classmates leads to a battle of the sexes in this M!X novel from the author of Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life.

According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can't have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain--evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School.

Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary's surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war--one that Finley isn't sure anyone can really win...

What three words best describe The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys?
Funny, realistic, girl-centric

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys a try?

This book is hilarious and smart about the differences between middle school girls and boys, and you'll want to be best friends with the main characters.

Grab a copy or  The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys and answer the following:

favorite chapter? Seven--when Finley spies on Zachary, and realizes he's  lying.

favorite setting/place? The school library, which, thanks to the eccentric librarian. Ms. Krieger, is the ideal sanctuary for Finley
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: " If he'd had a camera with him then, he could probably have taken an ungeneric portrait-- Girl Freaking When Her Thoughts About Boys--Specifically Zachary--Are Revealed to the Universe."

What inspired The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys? How did the story come to be?

When my daughter was an eighth grader, I went to one of her chorus concerts, and was struck by how beautifully the girls sang, and how variable the boys sounded: some of them were sopranos, some were tenors, some were basses, and some were merely croaks. There was also a wide range of boy heights onstage--some looked like little boys, some looked almost, from a distance, like men. Watching these awkward boys started me thinking about how I felt when I was an eighth grade girl. I couldn't wait to graduate from middle school, because I couldn't deal with my male classmates--even the ones I (inexplicably) had crushes on. And that memory launched me on my first draft!    

Can you tell us a bit about your character Finley? What makes her special? What do you love about her?

Finley is smart, funny, and a great friend. She isn't the best student in the world, maybe because she resists doing anything by rote. She doesn't just want to take generic, pose-y, perfect yearbook photos; she want to take meaningful portraits that reveal character.  Finley is a pretty deep thinker, but that doesn't mean she always gets everything right.

What top three things would have been on your middle-school self’s Guide to Imperfect Boys?

If the boy read books: he'd be a Frog. If the boy liked to talk about books: he'd be a Frog-plus. If the boy liked to write: he'd be a Prince!

If you could jump into the pages of any book for just one day, what book would you choose and what would you do inside its story?

I would jump into the pages of Harriet the Spy and whisper in her ear: You're going to be a terrific writer when you grow up, so try not to worry so much about what your friends think about you, and keep taking notes!

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade books are so important and popular? Who are your all time favorite middle-grade hero and heroine?  

Middle grade books are important and popular because MG readers are hungry for new experiences, uncynical, imaginative, curious, silly--and for the most part, spend their days shuttling between school and home. MG books allow their spirits to fly!

Probably my all-time favorite MG heroine is Harriet the Spy. All-time fave hero? Probably Sam from My Side of the Mountain.  

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at keeping my friends' secrets.
I’m really embarrassed to admit I sometimes eat ice cream straight out of the container.

The last great book I read was The Goldfinch.

If you were to bake and create a cupcake inspired by The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

The cake would be half- chocolate and half-vanilla, with something unexpected for a filling, like strawberry cream. The top would be blue frosting to look like water, and I'd decorate it with gummy frogs. We can call it The (Almost) Perfect Cupcake--although truthfully, it sounds pretty perfect to me!
Thank you so much for stopping by, Barbara!

Barbara Dee is the author of the tween novels Just Another Day in my Insanely Real Life, Solving Zoe (2010 Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year), This Is Me From Now On, and Trauma Queen. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York. You can visit her on the web at 

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