MADDIE'S FRIDGE by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel - GIVEAWAY!
There's a quiet problem in our country...hunger. What's a kid to do when she discovers her best friend's refrigerator is nearly empty, and that she doesn't drink the milk because she is saving it for her little brother? What's that same kid to do when she promised her best friend that she wouldn't tell anybody about it?
MADDI'S FRIDGE written by Lois Brandt and illustrated by Vin Vogel addresses the issue in a light-handed way, through a delightful story of friendship. I'm thrilled to have Lois on my blog today to talk more about it...
Q. Lois - How did you first become aware of the hunger issue? What inspired this story?
A. I first became aware of the issue of childhood hunger the same way my character, Sofia, did.
I was about 10 years old and was having a great playdate with my best friend. Do you remember those times, playing with your friends and sharing secrets, chasing grasshoppers, swinging on the swings? It was one of those days.
I got hungry, ran into my best friend’s house, and opened her refrigerator door. It was empty except for condiments and one small carton of milk, the kind they gave out with school lunches. My friend had saved her milk for her little brother, who was too young to go to school.
That image of my friend’s empty refrigerator has stayed with me my entire life.
Q. Lois - This had to be a tricky story to write without being too heavy with the message, yes? How long did it take you?
A. I might have written the first draft as long as ten years ago. Boy did I have angry kids in those early drafts. The girls were so mad that at one point they were throwing rocks at a dry creek bed. In another draft they were kicking soccer balls with a vengeance. Maddi and Sofia (and this author) were very upset that we have so many hungry children in our wealthy nation.
At some point, after comments from editors (one editor called the story grim – something my husband still teases me about), I began to put some of the magic of best friends into the story. I asked myself: What do these girls like to do when they are having fun? How do they show each other that they care?
When I focused on the girls’ friendship, I found the heart of this story.
Q. Lois - Flashlight Press always does such lovely, high quality books. How did you end up getting published by them?
A. After many many revisions, I began to get positive responses to MADDI'S FRIDGE and knew the manuscript was close to publishable quality. I reached out to my MFA adviser, Kirby Larson, and she suggested Shari Dash Greenspan at Flashlight Press.
The first time I held a Flashlight Press book, Jodi Moore’s WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, was a wow moment. Flashlight produces stunningly beautiful books. I knew Maddi’s story was in excellent hands.
Q. Lois - A large part of this book seems to be to inspire action, like on your website MaddisFridge.com. How do you spread the word, and how can we help?
A. The first thing to do is talk about childhood hunger. Again and again people I meet are surprised by the numbers. 16 million children, 1 in 5, live in families without consistent access to food.
MADDI'S FRIDGE is just one story of hunger. There are 16 million stories of childhood hunger happening at this very moment in the United States.
We can beat childhood hunger, but we need to accept that this growing problem belongs to all of us. These are our friends and neighbors who are struggling to get food for their children.
Find out the facts about hunger in your community and state. Share what you learn. A good place to start is my website or FeedingAmerica.org.
Q. Lois - This is your first book and wow, what a doozie it is! What's been your writing journey?
A. I’ve always loved to write, but didn’t get serious until my children forced me to.
Like most parents I made up stories at bedtime. We’d read a few books and then I’d tell a story. There was a problem, though. I could never consistently remember all of the details of the stories I told. My oldest son, Alex, called me on it. I started writing down the stories in self-defense, so I could get my own details right.
The more I wrote, the more stories bubbled up from inside of me. Many of them, like MADDI'S FRIDGE, came from places close to my heart.
I took a class on writing for children from author Peggy King Anderson, formed a critique group with members from that class, and joined SCBWI. That path led me here.
Q. Lois - How are you getting the word out about MADDI'S FRIDGE?
A. I visit schools, contact librarians and food banks, and do readings. This has allowed me to meet some of the wonderful people who are working hard in the fight against childhood hunger.
The school visits are my favorite activity. Kids get MADDI'S FRIDGE. They get friendship, promises, and helping. If second graders were in charge of the world, there would be no empty refrigerators.
When a school holds a food drive, I will Skype or come for a visit at the beginning or end of the drive. During my visit I have the children write or draw with me about a time they helped someone, or a time someone helped them. Their stories illustrate the web of relationships that we all live in – friends helping friends and neighbors helping neighbors.
Q. Vin - I love your characters big eyes and that happy yellow. What is your illustration method?
A. Thank you! In general, I make sketches with pencil on paper and scan them. As soon as they are approved, I start working on the final illustrations with a digital tablet. For this book I took photos and used Google Map for reference material. You can find more information about the process here: https://www.facebook.com/vinvogelillustration.
Q. Vin - This isn't your first book - by a longshot! How did you get turned onto Flashlight Press?
A. I have illustrated more than 45 books, mostly published in Brazil and Canada. Shari found my website and contacted me. When I read the story I was hooked! I admire Lois and Shari for writing and publishing a picture book about hunger. And discussing hunger in America is even more courageous!
Q. Vin - What was your path into the children's book industry?
A. I have worked as a journalist (because I also love writing), as well as a 2D animator and illustrator for advertising. My dream was to write and illustrate picture books. So I started to illustrate PB's in Brazil in 2005 and have never stopped. I have recently started to write my own PB's and my debut book will be launched by Dial in the Fall 2015.
Q. Vin - A you mentioned, you're originally from Brazil. What was the children's book market like there?
A. Let's say I wish kids read more in Brazil. Way more.
Q. Vin - Was it exciting to work on a book with such an important message?
A. Sure! As I have mentioned before, I was thrilled to illustrate a book about such delicate subject! Plus, the book carries a message of friendship and helping the ones in need. Many times simple solutions are right under our nose: Lois passed the message in a very sweet and effective way.
Q. Lois and Vin - have you met? Or will you be promoting the book together at all?
A. Not yet. Lois is promoting the book on the West Coast; I'm the East Coast branch!
Note: Feeding America has declared September as Hunger Action Month, so it's a great opportunity for my readers to get involved and make a difference!