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Friday, September 18, 2020

My Life in the Fish Tank Blog Tour (guest post & giveaway)

Welcome to the My Life in the Fish Tank Blog Tour! 

To celebrate the release of My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee on September 15th, blogs across the web are featuring original guest posts from Barbara, plus 5 chances to win My Life in the Fish Tank and swag!

My Life In The Fish Tank
by Barbara Dee
From acclaimed author of Maybe He Just Likes You and Halfway Normal comes a powerful and moving story of learning how to grow, change, and survive. 

When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke. 

It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret. 

The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help? 

Five Fun Facts about My Life in the Fish Tank 
by Barbara Dee 

1-My Life in the Fish Tank was written before Maybe He Just Likes You (2019).  I wrote Fish Tank as I was recovering from a dog-walking accident that left me housebound with a broken pelvis and shoulder.  All I could do was sit and write, so the book came to me pretty fast. When I submitted the manuscript to my publisher, Simon & Schuster, they generously offered a two book deal: Fish Tank, plus whatever else I wrote next. 

At the time of the offer, I didn't even have an idea for the second book! But as I waited for my editor to send editorial notes for Fish Tank,  he news was full of #MeToo stories. I began to wonder why there wasn't a #MeToo book for MG readers, and decided to write one--which, I was convinced, needed to be published ASAP.  So I asked my editor if we could flip the order of the two books in the deal, publishing Maybe first and Fish Tank second--and she agreed. 

2- The original title of My Life in the Fish Tank was How to Survive Quicksand.  But my publisher suggested  that this title was problematic: for one thing, it sounded like a how-to manual.  Also, they said,  it didn't lend itself to cover art.  

At first I didn't want to change a title I'd had from the beginning. The "how to survive" list was an important thread in the story--gallows humor, a running joke between Zinny and her little brother Aiden that kept them both laughing through a family crisis. It also connected them as siblings, as Zinny stepped in for her preoccupied mom, helping Aiden with a school project he'd stalled out on. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized a new title made sense. When you're writing MG, cover design is so important-- and I couldn't imagine an illustration of quicksand with the necessary kid-appeal.  Changing that image to a fish tank opened up possibilities.  

When I saw the artwork by Jenna Stempell-Lobell, who'd also designed the gorgeous cover for my Halfway Normal, I loved it immediately. I think the cover of My Life in the Fish Tank is perfect-- beautiful, fun, dreamy and intriguing. I'm so glad I changed the title! 

3-The character Kailani was originally named Kamala, as a nod to the senator who cross-examined Brett Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.  But when Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for president, I decided to change the name so it wouldn't be distracting.  Now I can't imagine Zinny's friend wasn't always named Kailani. 

4-For My Life in the Fish Tank, in addition to researching bipolar disorder, I also spent many hours watching YouTube videos about middle schoolers doing crayfish experiments. The track experiment in Fish Tank was based on an actual seventh grade crayfish study. They even used a hot dog as motivation. 

  5-My favorite scene in My Life in the Fish Tank is the dinner when the whole family (minus Gabriel) is eating together for the first time in many weeks. Zinny is excited about her crayfish experiment and can't stop talking about it, informing her family that crayfish eyes move independently: 

"I already knew that," Aiden said, chewing. 
"You did? 
"Uh-huh. So do mantis-shrimp eyes, but they have better vision. and they have blades that that can cut the human finger. In seconds!" 
He nodded. "Hey, Zinny, know what else is true? Piranhas can skeletonize an entire cow in under a minute." 
"Okay, enough," Mom said in her teacher voice. "Can we please try a more pleasant topic at the table?" 
"THANK YOU," Scarlett said. 

Every time I read this scene I can hear Aiden's excitement, Zinny's enthusiasm, Scarlett's disgust, and Mom's (somewhat futile) attempt to control the table.  It's probably not cool for an author to admit she cracks herself up, but the truth is, this scene always makes me laugh. 

Barbara Dee
is the author of eleven middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including 
My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York. 

Follow BarbaraWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram 

One winner will receive a signed hardcover copy of My Life in the Fish Tank, bookmark, and button 

  • -Check out the rest of the stops on the tour for 4 more chances to win! 

  • -US/Can only 

  • -Ends 9/27 at 11:59pm ET 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Schedule: 

September 14th - Crossroad Reviews 

September 15th - BookhoundsYA 

September 16th - Good Choice Reading 

September 18th - Word Spelunking