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A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to meet Lou Lou and Pea a few months before their publication date. I absolutely fell in love with them and have had so much fun sharing their first story - Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery. It is just the book I would have been looking for as a young reader. Because of the length (coming in at around 272pgs), it is a longer book (more like middle grade) but has the content that can reach a variety of ages of readers. And it's a mystery - a favorite genre for young kids!
I am so excited to celebrate this month's release of book #2 - Lou Lou and Pea and the Bicentennial Bonanza! I honestly love this one even more than the first book. Maybe it's because we know the characters a bit more. Maybe it's because we get to return to the wonderful town where the characters live. Maybe it's because there is a good villain that readers will love to "boo"! Whatever it is, I know this book is going to be an easy sell for readers.
Lou Lou and Pea and the Bicentennial Bonanza
written by Jill Diamond
illustrated by Lesley Vamos
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
BFFs Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are busy preparing for the Bicentennial Bonanza, their city’s two-hundredth birthday bash! And this year, the party will take place in their beloved neighborhood of El Corazón. With a baking contest, talent show, and a new gazebo planned, the community can’t wait to celebrate the founders (and historical BFFs), Diego Soto and Giles Wonderwood. But when Vice-Mayor Andy Argyle claims the festivities belong to Verde Valley, using a mysterious diary as evidence, Lou Lou and Pea smell trouble. Will the friends be able to uncover the secrets of their city’s founding, and bring the Bonanza back to El Corazón?
Fun back matter includes a DIY garden party hat and a Spanish language glossary!
Author Jill Diamond was gracious enough to answer some questions for us!
Thank you, Jill, for dropping by!
1. The setting is so unique in this book - it really impacts the story. How did you come up with it? Any real life inspirations?
Absolutely! El Corazón is based on the Mission District in San Francisco. I've lived in or near the Mission most of my adult life. So, El Corazón is a very whimsical version of the neighborhood that I love. Some of the specific places in the book definitely have bits of other locations in them. The Heliotrope is inspired by the lovely magic of New Orleans. And, in my hometown in Maine, we have a park (the Gardiner Common) that reminds me of El Corazón's Limonero Park. I never thought of the Common as a direct inspiration for Limonero Park, but considering it now, there are definitely similarities. The Common is a very important gathering place for the community and it has a gazebo. I spent a lot of my childhood time in this gazebo so it's probably where my idea to incorporate gazebos into the book came from!
2. I love that Pea's heritage is coming into play even more in this book. How did you decide to add the Spanish and cultural parts?
I definitely wanted readers to get to know Pea more in BICENTENNIAL BONANZA since the first book, MURAL MYSTERY, was very focused on Lou Lou. I thought it would be great to have Pea's heritage as a descendant of one of the founders of El Corazón come into play in the story. I also loved bringing in her stunt riding grandmother, Abuela Josie, who is one of my new favorite characters. The Spanish comes in the book because many of the characters in the community are bilingual Spanish/English speakers. Except for Lou Lou - but she's trying!
3. I love that these books are mysteries. How did you decide that genre? Was it ever going to be something different?
I adore mysteries and I always have. They were some of my favorite books to read as a kid and the mystery genre remains high on my list as an adult reader. When I visit schools, I often do a presentation entirely on mysteries because they interest me so much!
MURAL MYSTERY was always going to be a mystery - there was no question about that. It's funny because BICENTENNIAL BONANZA was not even really intended to be a mystery, but it definitely ended up as one. I guess I was just writing what I love!
4. What does your writing process look like for writing a mystery?
With MURAL MYSTERY, I wrote a lot of the story without really knowing what was going to happen. I knew I wanted clues to show up in the murals, and important events to occur on Día de los Muertos, but I didn't even know who the culprit was until midway through the first draft! With BICENTENNIAL BONANZA, the writing process was more planned and orderly in that I at least had a full synopsis before I wrote the book. I don't really do detailed outlines when I'm writing (although I wish I was organized enough to do them) so a lot of things just come to me as the story progresses. And talking through things with my wonderful agent and editor and/or the fabulous writers in my critique group also helps if I get stuck on plot points!
5. So often I hear that some little bits and pieces from the author's life sneaks into the book. Any hidden gems from your life in Lou Lou and Pea?
So many! Lou Lou's full name is Louise and that's my middle name. I also share Pea's love of fashion and her blue eyes (though, her eyes are even bluer than mine). And, Lou Lou and Pea's respectful and close friendship is definitely based on my own friendships. Like Lou Lou and Pea, I am an only child, but I've been very lucky to have fantastic friends from childhood through adulthood who are like siblings to me!
I loved reading through these answers! It's so fun to find out information from the author - I always get a new appreciation for the book.
I hope you have met Lou Lou and Pea, and if not - get to a bookstore or library soon! Your readers will thank you!
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!