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I remember when author Erin Soderberg first told me about an upcoming series she was working on. She couldn't say much, but I knew Disney Princesses were involved. It's hard to be given a nugget of information and not have much to go on but be really excited about it anyway! Fast forward over a year and now we get to celebrate this series!
Daring Dreamers Club: Milla Takes Charge
written by Erin Soderberg
illustrated by Anoosha Syed
published by Random House Disney
I am so excited for this first book in what will be a really fun series. We meet Milla (rhymes with vanilla), who is looking for some adventure - more than this town can give her - and is willing to read about everything so she is prepared for it all! Sound like a certain princess? Yup, she resembles Belle! In fact, each of the girls has a little princess inside of them! But this isn't your Disney-fied version - while each girl has qualities of a Disney princess, Soderberg weaves them into the story so they are a part of the girls, but not what makes up the story. For example, in this first book Milla desperately wants her moms to give her permission to attend the fifth grade overnight field trip. However, they've always been just a bit overprotective when it comes to Milla. Yet, she wants nothing more than to have some adventure, more than she can get at home (starting to see the Belle connection?). And just in case she gets to go, she makes sure she's read up on all kinds of outdoor information should an emergency arise... good thing she is so book smart!
I can't wait to see where this series will take us. There are four more girls to learn about, so lucky for us, we have more books coming our way!
And lucky for us, author Erin Soderberg has stopped by to talk more about this series. Welcome, Erin!
1. It must be fun trying to figure out ways to weave bits and pieces of the Princesses into these stories. Tell us more about how you're doing that!
Before I started developing any of the characters or storylines for this series, I watched all the Disney Princess movies again to help me choose which Princesses I wanted to feature in the books. I knew from the beginning that I would have two of the girls connect with Ariel and Belle, because The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast are two of my favorite movies and Princesses (I love both of those Princesses' sense of adventure and exploration). After picking those two, Disney let me decide which other movies/Princesses would offer fun opportunities for Princess connections, and would also allow me to develop interesting and layered characters with unique and diverse big dreams. I picked Cinderella (for her artistic nature, kindness, and positive attitude), Mulan (because she's tough, clever, sporty, and is deeply committed to honoring her family), and Tiana (because of her love of cooking, strong work ethic, and smart business sense). While I did my research (ie. watched movies!), I jotted down fun dialogue and song lyrics, took note of which characters (and character traits) I most enjoyed, and little "tidbits" about characters I might be able to use in a book. For instance, the very first line of Milla Takes Charge is a variation on the first line of the movie Beauty & The Beast! The books don't follow the movie plots at all (these books aren't retellings of the Princess stories), but the girls in the series take inspiration from Disney princesses and use the Princesses' stories and adventures to help them figure out how to overcome obstacles and deal with issues in their own unique ways.
2. I know your kids (and dog!) find their way into your writing life! Would you like to share with readers how they are finding their way into the books? What do they think about this new series?
Oh my gosh, I stole SO much from my kids for this series. First of all, I borrowed their names and many pieces of their personalities. Milla is my oldest daughter's name, and she's also the main character of the first book. Real-life Milla's favorite Princess is Belle, and she's always wanted a pet pig, so that's why I used her name for this first book and character. Like fictional Milla, my Milla loves telling stories, is a kind and caring friend, and loves going on grand adventures. And my twins are named Henry and Ruby - just like Ruby and her twin brother, Henry, in the Daring Dreamers series! Fictional Ruby (whose Princess is Mulan) lives and breathes soccer, loves playing pranks, and comes up with clever solutions to problems - just like real-life Ruby! And in the stories, we learn that Ruby's twin brother loves art and drawing, just like real-life Henry. My kids love this new series, and have been a huge help when I get stuck with my plotting. They also love helping me watch the movies!
3. Disney is known for their Easter eggs - secrets/cameos hidden within their films. Any Easter eggs we should be on the lookout for?
My favorite Easter eggs (in all my books) are all the real kids and pets that I hide in my stories. All of my kids' friends know to look for themselves in my books, since I steal little bits and pieces and names from many of them. But in this series I've also made an effort to tuck in little Princess movie surprises in whenever I could. Here are a few: In Milla Takes Charge, Milla's pig "Chocolate Chip" is initially called a "teacup pig" - this is a nod to Chip the teacup in Beauty & the Beast. In Piper Cooks Up a Plan, Finley (Piper's little sister) brings her class frog home for the weekend, and it creates some excitement and drama in the kitchen - this is obviously a wink to Princess & The Frog. There are more, so keep an eye out for them!
4. Can you give us some sneak peeks what to expect in the series?
The second book in the series is so much fun! It focuses on Piper, and her preparations for and participation in a television cooking competition (with a very unusual theme!). Piper's family is fantastic and all the food science scenes are exciting, so this book was a delight to write. I also learned a lot about both science and cooking! The third book focuses on Ruby, and a high-level state tournament soccer team she earns a spot on - things don't go quite as planned, so Ruby has to do some quick-thinking to keep her big dream from fizzling out. Ruby is so clever, funny, and outspoken that I just love writing about her. She and Henry are hilarious - just like my twins are in real life! I'm working on an outline for Mari's book now, and it's going to be about both swimming and the school musical (two of my favorite activities!). Zahra will continue to focus on her art, and her after-school "job" helping at her dad's childcare center. I hope everyone will find a character they connect with in this series!
Thanks, Erin, for stopping by and answering questions!
You're going to want multiple copies of this book - I know the reader demand will be high! Happy dreaming and happy reading!
Do you work with readers who are starting their journey on the road to reading? Join Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy and me every Thursday as we explore books and ideas to help readers have a successful start to independent picture book and chapter book reading. If you blog or have a Goodreads page, please link up with us!