GENIE WISHES is a charming middle-grade novel about a one-of-a-kind fifth grader’s wishes, hopes, and dreams. Written by Elisabeth Dahl, a debut author, the book will be published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, in April 2013. GENIE WISHES is a story about fifth grade—highs, lows, and hamster erasers—as seen through the eyes of the class blogger, Genie. Learn more about GENIE WISHES and learn more about Elisabeth below!
When did you decide you wanted to write a book for middle-grade girls?
When I started the book, I didn’t know the term “middle grade;” I barely even knew the term “YA.” But I was a writer, and writers are routinely advised to write what they know. When I started writing GENIE WISHES, I had a son in elementary school. If there was ever a time to write for children, it was then. So I did. I adore middle-grade girls and boys both, and I especially love how much they’re captivated by books.
How did you get in the mindset to write from Genie’s perspective?
As I was writing the book, I was regularly hanging out with ten- and eleven-year-olds—my son and his friends. I found them kind of amazing—young and old, dependent and independent. They were at a crossroads. Seeing those years from the perspective of a parent provided a clarity that living through those years firsthand had not.
How did you come up with the title, GENIE WISHES?
I named the book tentatively, and then it refused to be called anything else. Once you read the book, I think the name makes sense and feels right (she’s a girl named Genie, tasked to write a blog about Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams, so her blogger name is Genie Wishes), but friends who haven’t read the novel often picture a brass lamp with a curl of smoke—a fantasy novel, which this definitely is not.
What were you like in fifth grade?
Well, I had a green vest I really liked to wear, and a brown velvet blazer, and a pair of wallabies. As much as I liked those things and was generally happy in school and with my best friend, I could feel this enormous groundswell happening in our class. A social stratification was underway. Suddenly, there were the popular kids, the unpopular kids, and the kids in the gray zone between. I was a gray zone kid, smart and sort of nerdy but also outgoing when the situation warranted that.
Are there any characters in the book that are based off real people in your life?
The grandmother definitely has some characteristics of mine, and Genie and I have some things in common, but the only character wholly based on someone in my life is the four-legged one: Lulu, the dog. I have a Lulu now, and she’s exactly like the one in the book.
Sarah and Genie’s friendship goes through a lot of changes in GENIE WISHES and while reading, I admired Genie for how maturely she dealt with it. Is this an important message for girls?
Definitely. In some ways, I think of this as a breakup book—a book about the breakup of a friendship, which is the type of breakup that girls this age often face. Genie handles the breakup incredibly maturely. Many girls wouldn’t at that age. But I wanted readers to experience the loss and grief with Genie and come out on the other side with her too. Genie is fine, ultimately, with or without Sarah. And readers will be too, if they experience something similar.
Why did you choose blogging as Genie’s outlet?
I’m interested in the ways that kids are incorporating relatively new modes of communication into their lives. I thought that blogging would create an interesting split-level narrative; there would be the blog entries (Genie’s public persona) and then her personal, more intimate narrative, a kind of dialogue between her and the reader.
I loved the tiny sketches throughout the book, did you draw those?
Yes. Although I’m not a professional artist, I feel that there’s integrity to having the person who created the character also create that character’s drawings. As a child, I hung on to illustrations in books as much as I did to the text itself. I’ve always loved line drawings in particular, first in books like THE LITTLE PRINCE, then in magazines like the NEW YORKER. I loved how Tom Angleberger uses them in the ORIGAMI YODA series too.
Where did the idea for hamster erasers come from? What kind of animal eraser is (or would be) your favorite?
When my son was in third or fourth grade, maybe, I was hearing a lot about Japanese hamster erasers, and we were spending time at toy stores digging through bins of erasers to find the hamsters. By the time I wrote the book, his hamster erasers had probably been eaten by our pets. Hedgehog erasers are another favorite; I’ll be giving them away at the launch party. But all animal erasers are cute to me—and, no doubt, to Genie as well.
Here is a video of Elisabeth Dahl talking about GENIE WISHES!
GENIE WISHES by Elisabeth Dahl (Amulet Books, 2013) is available now wherever books are sold!
Morgan Dubin is a Publicity and Marketing Assistant for ABRAMS.