Nancy Viau is the author of the new middle grade novel for kids Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen. Her other books include Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head and Beauty and Bernice. She lives in New Jersey.
Q: Did you know you'd be writing a second book about Samantha Hansen as you were working on the first book?
A: Years ago, when Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head was first published by Abrams Kids, I had submitted a second book to them, but they decided not to publish it. Sigh. For years, I had to be satisfied with just one book starring this feisty science-loving girl.
Because of the book’s STEM connections to curriculum, schools continued to want it in conjunction with my author visits and were so disappointed when I told them it was no longer in print. I researched independent publishers and discovered that Schiffer Publishing wished to reissue (and update) the story as part of their growing children’s imprint.
There was one condition: I had to have a sequel. That’s how the new Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen came to be. It’s quite different from the original second book I subbed to Abrams years ago, but I kept the title. (Love that title!)
Q: Why did you decide on bees as Samantha's interest this time?
A: My first attempt at a sequel lacked a modern edge. Also, there was not enough “meat” to it. Since Sam has a boisterous personality, I felt she would be a great advocate for a cause.
Environmental activism is extremely important today, and it takes many forms (recycling, protection of natural resources, decreasing pollution, etc.). I wondered if I could use activism as part of the plot. What might ignite a passion in Sam as much as rocks and minerals? Saving the bees! She states in the first book how much she loves bugs, so it was a perfect fit.
I also wanted the book to correlate with elementary schools’ Life Sciences or Living Earth units.
Fun fact: Some schools not only teach about the importance of bees but are setting up hives as a learning experience. These educators understand that the 40 percent decline in bees is not only a community problem; it’s a world-wide problem.
Fun fact #2: Check out my site for buzz-worthy bee resources provided by Nature Nates.
Q: Beyond her new interest in bees, do you think Samantha's changed at all from the first book to the second?
A: In the first book, Sam worked to settle down enough to achieve a personal goal—get to the Grand Canyon. In the sequel, she realizes it’s not all about her. Aside from helping the bees, she takes in a stray dog, navigates the challenges in making and keeping friends, and begins to see how her behavior—good and not-so-good behavior—affects others.
Savvy readers will notice a growing maturity in how Sam handles herself and how she views the world.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: Our Earth and its resources are in trouble, but the extent of that can be a pretty big concept for young kids to grasp. Understanding that they can thank a bee for every third bite of food consumed is a simple start. I’d like readers to not only be aware of their place in the natural world, but of the small changes they can make to protect the environment.
Ideally, I hope they acquire this awareness while giggling like crazy as they read each chapter!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve been working with my editor at Two Lions on my first non-rhyming picture book, titled Pruett and Soo (Fall 2020). Pruett is a rule-follower. Soo, not so much. Like Sam, they inspire change, beginning in the classroom and then promoting change throughout their planet. They are not Earthlings!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: First Snow, a rhyming picture book from Albert Whitman & Company, was the recipient of the 2019 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Silver Book Award. In April of 2020, look for a companion book, Today Is a Beach Day!
Thank you, Deborah, for this chance to BUZZ about my middle-grade titles and my picture books! You ROCK!
Teachers and librarians, I’m currently booking author visits for 2020, and I’d love to come to your elementary school. Find out more on my site.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Nancy Viau.