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Monday, March 25, 2019

7th MMGM: The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes (review & interview)

Welcome to Day 19 of the 7th Annual March MG Madness! Click here to see the full schedule and links to other days.

The Astonishing Maybe 
By Shaunta Grimes 
March 16, 2019 
Feiwel and Friends 

A middle-grade novel about a girl searching for her father and the boy who helps her find him. 

Gideon hates the idea of moving to Nevada from the East Coast. It's so empty and hot in his new neighborhood. Only one person his age lives nearby: the girl next door, Roona. 

Gid notices right away that Roona is . . . different. She wears roller skates and a blanket as a cape when she needs to feel strong. What he doesn't bargain for, however, is how far outside his comfort zone Roona will take him as she enlists his help in finding her long-gone father. For a kid who's not allowed to ride his bike more than a few blocks from home, this will be the adventure of a lifetime. 

Friendship, heartbreak, and defining what family means are rarely as sensitively, beautifully portrayed in middle-grade fiction. Shaunta Grimes is an extraordinary new talent. 

Upcoming seventh grader, Gideon, hates that his family has relocated to hot, dry Nevada. He hates that the only kid in his neighborhood is Roona, a girl his age that wears roller skates, a swimsuit over her clothes, and a blanket cape. But then Gideon gets to know Roona and discovers that different can be good. And when Roona enlist his help to find her long-gone father, Gideon finds himself caught up in more than he may be able to handle. 

Shaunta Grimes’ The Astonishing Maybe is a deeply felt coming of age middle-grade, with captivating storytelling, endearing characters, and a poignant story sure to stay with readers for a long time. 

Sweet humor, a bit of adventure, a splash of maybe magical realism, a handful of wonderful character building, and a heaping of heart all come together to create a refreshingly honest and relatable story that young readers will connect with. Grimes deftly explores mental illness, abuse, grief, love, and what it means to be family, and does so with age appropriate authenticity and care. The heart and soul of The Astonishing Maybe are, of course, its characters, and Grimes has done a stellar job of crafting wholly engaging, complex, and realistic characters. Separately, Gideon and Roona are both unique and great, but together they are just fantastic. I really love the sweet, genuine, supportive friendship that grows between these two. 

The Astonishing Maybe is an unforgettable gem that will, at times, tickle the funny bone, captivate the mind, and stir the soul.  

Q1. What three words best describe your book The Astonishing Maybe? 

Adventure, Friends, and Secrets 

Q2. Grab a copy of The Astonishing Maybe? and answer the following 
Favorite chapter?  
I love Chapter 7, when Gideon and Roona get to Nellis Air Force Base. 

Favorite page?  
Page 41, the first time Roona tells a story about her mother’s baking. 

Favorite setting?  
Logandale is a real place and it’s very special to me because my dad lives there. 

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:  
Mom reached for me again, this time brushing the hair from my forehead. “We can’t make people take care of themselves, Gideon. That’s just a fact of life.” 

Q3. What inspired The Astonishing Maybe? How did the story come to be? 

It all started with Wonder Roo. When my daughter Ruby (she’s 14 now) was little, she loved superheroes. Really loved them. She used to dress up just like Roona does, with a swimsuit over her clothes and a baby blanket around her neck, and we called her Wonder RooIt turned out, though, that Roona is much more like me when I was young and Gideon was inspired by what I imagine my husband was like when he was twelve.   When I was a little older than Roona, my father was an inmate at the civilian prison that used to be at Nellis Air Force Base. (It was closed after 9-11.) I spent a lot of time visiting him there.  

Q4. Tell us a bit about your characters Gideon and Roona. What makes them special? What do you love about them? 

I didn’t mean to do it, but Gideon and Roona remind me of my husband and myself when we were that age. My husband moved from Wildwood, New Jersey to Nevada, just like Gideon. And he came from a very stable, non-adventurous family.  And when I was twelve, I had a huge imagination that helped me to get through some very rough times.  

I think the friendship between them is one of the most special things I’ve ever written. They complement each other—Gideon offers Roona an anchor and Roona helps Gideon to have adventures. 

Q5. What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade lit? 

I love writing about kids who are in that space when they aren’t little kids anymore, but they also aren’t teenagers quite yet. I think that little window of time is magical, by nature. I love reading and writing about kids who are doing maybe the first things they ever have that their parents don’t know about.  

Q6. What is your all-time favorite middle-grade book? 

My favorite book of all time is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think I’ve read it two dozen times and it never gets old. It’s like going to visit my best friends. I also really love all of the Narnia books and The Hobbit (just like Gideon and Roona!) 

Q7. Fill in the blanks: 
I’m really awesome at ideas. I took a test once that told me that ideas are my biggest strength. 

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I watch a lot of television. A ton.  

The last great book I read waThe Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. 

Q8. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Astonishing Maybe? what would it look and taste like? What would you call it? 

Ooooh . . . this is a great question. They’d be small and round and made of chocolate—milk, not dark, though, because Roona would not want anything bitter in them—with Gideon’s mom’s organic strawberry jam in the middle, and whipped cream frosting because it’s so light and happy. It’s impossible to be sad when you’re eating whipped cream frosting. That’s a universal truth. They’d have to be baked on a good day, of course. I don’t think that Roona would name a cupcake, but Gideon would. He’d call them Hobbit Holes. 

Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage-clothing seller. Before writing for children, she published two science-fiction novels, Viral Nation and Rebel Nation. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. The Astonishing Maybe marks her middle-grade debut. 

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