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Ahh, spring! Can I go outside now?

Well, I live in New Jersey where spring weather is a bit iffy—75 and sunny one day, a blizzard the next. Best to keep my nose buried in the books a while longer.

Thankfully, a gorgeous book just arrived! Meet APPLE AND MAGNOLIA by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Patricia Metola.

What a sweet cover! And it earned THREE starred reviews! Thankfully, Laura Gehl agreed to an interview!

Laura, you know this blog is all about story ideas…so how did this idea germinate?

The seed for this idea came from research I read several years ago about how trees communicate with one another. That research is more widely known now, but at the time it was completely new to me. The fact that trees can send one another nutrients, and can warn one another of danger, struck me as something extraordinary and amazing. APPLE AND MAGNOLIA grew out of my desire to write about this real, special relationship between trees.

But this story isn’t just about trees, is it? Tell us how Nana’s character came into play.

You’re right, the story isn’t just about trees. The story is also about Britta’s unwavering belief in the face of doubters. Britta is convinced Apple can help when Magnolia falls ill, and she doesn’t let Dad and her older sister Bronwyn dissuade her. But I wanted Britta to have a supporter in addition to the doubters…because I hope all kids can find a supportive adult in their lives, whether a relative or a teacher or a coach. That’s where Nana comes in.

How did the story grow from early drafts to the final?

Britta’s attempts to help the two trees feel closer to one another (the scarf, the string telephone, the lights) changed over time…I remember my critique partners helping brainstorm ideas for that! As I got closer to the final draft, I added in tree language, like “Britta felt a seed of hope start to grow” and “Britta’s hope blossomed too.” Also, my initial title was TWO TREES, which of course grew into APPLE AND MAGNOLIA.

Why did you choose those two trees, an apple and a magnolia?

Choosing two trees was hard. I wanted trees with beautiful spring blossoms, I wanted one to be a fruit tree, and I wanted trees with names that sounded somewhat like human names (sorry, Brazil nut tree!). I liked that apple trees and magnolia trees can both have pink flowers but that the two types of blossoms don’t look similar in shape or size. Also, I have a magnolia tree in my yard, which I love!

What do you hope readers will take away after reading APPLE AND MAGNOLIA?

I hope kids take away from this book that trees are connected to one another, that we are connected to trees, and really that all living things in our world are connected. I also hope young readers leave this story with the realization that when they face doubters in their lives…even bigger, older doubters…they don’t have to listen. When kids disagree with adults, sometimes kids are the ones who know what they’re talking about!

Amen to that! Kids can be so much more intuitive than adults.

Laura, thank you for sharing this beautiful book with us. I understand there’s also a discussion guide and activity resource at flyawaybooks.com/book/apple-and-magnolia

And blog readers, you can win a signed copy of APPLE AND MAGNOLIA! Just leave one comment below.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!

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TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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