Episode 423: Making the Shift from YA to a Chapter Book Series – Interview with Kathryn Holmes

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Holmes. We’ll be talking about making the transition from YA to a chapter books series and her book Madison Morris is NOT a Mouse!

Have you signed up to be a DIY MFA Radio Insider yet? This is an exciting new monthly newsletter especially for our podcast listeners. Every month, you’ll get an email from our podcast producer with recaps of the most recent episodes, a curated Listening List of episodes on a particular theme, and other fun goodies we only share via email. Best of all, it’s free to join! The theme for August is Middle Grade, and you can become an insider by signing up with your email at diymfa.com/insiders.

In this episode Kathryn Holmes and I discuss:

  • The best ways to incorporate learning in a chapter book to fuel kids’ curiosity
  • How to blend grounded worldbuilding with a magical element in a story
  • The role authors must play in amplifying the work of diverse voices

Plus, her #1 tip for writers.

About Kathryn Holmes

Kathryn Holmes is the author of the Class Critters chapter book series, which includes Tally Tuttle Turns Into a Turtle, David Dixon’s Day as a Dachshund, and Madison Morris is NOT a Mouse! (publishing August 16th, 2022). She also wrote the young adult novels The Distance Between Lost and Found and How It Feels to Fly. Kathryn grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, daughter, and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs.

You can find her on her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Tally Tuttle Turns Into a Turtle

It’s Tally Tuttle’s first day of second grade, and she’s so nervous that she feels like she ate butterflies for breakfast. Feeling shy and scared during roll call, she wishes she could retreat into a shell . . . 

Then she transforms into a turtle! She’d heard that Mrs. Norrell’s class was special, but she hadn’t expected this. Tally likes having a shell to hide in, but there are other parts of turtle life—like the fear of being stepped on—that aren’t exactly ideal. And once she’s tired of hiding, how can she change back into a girl? Tally will have to forge her own transformation back to herself and come out of her shell—both literally and figuratively!

In this new chapter book series for ages 6–9, Mrs. Norrell’s second grade classroom has magic that allows kids to transform into animals to learn life lessons. Each book will follow a different kid and their animal adventure, and will include fun natural science facts about the featured animal in the back matter.

David Dixon’s Day as a Dachshund

When Mrs. Norrell invites her students to bring something they love from home for Show and Tell, David Dixon sneaks in his new dachshund puppy, Bandit. But during the presentation, the puppy escapes. David races off into the school building by himself to find Bandit. As he runs away from Mrs. Norrell’s classroom, David turns into a dachshund!

At first, he’s delighted by the transformation. He tracks down Bandit, and the two of them have a blast eating the day’s lunch, jumping in the suds-filled sink, and running around on the playground. But he doesn’t want to be a dog forever . . .

In the Class Critters chapter book series for ages 6–9, Mrs. Norrell’s second-grade classroom has magic that allows kids to transform into animals to learn life lessons. Each book will follow a different kid and their animal adventure, and will include fun natural science facts about the featured animal in the back matter.

Madison Morris is NOT a Mouse!

The third book in a humorous and heartfelt chapter book series about a second grade class where each kid turns into an animal for a day

Madison tries her best to spread joy and be helpful, even when people like her Great-Aunt Joelle seem to think that she can’t do or say anything right. Still, she goes into Mrs. Norrell’s class with her head held high, ready to brainstorm ideas for her group project on activism. But after her Great-Aunt Joelle shoots down her ideas, she starts to wonder if maybe she isn’t really cut out to be a leader or change-maker. Then, something strange happens: Madison turns into a mouse!

Her voice is high-pitched and squeaky, her heart beats furiously in her body, and she’s so so small. Luckily, one of her kindhearted classmates, Tally Tuttle, helps to get her to safety so no one squishes her by accident. Will Madison be able to navigate her own insecurities and the unexpected dangers of being a mouse—and turn back into herself before the end of the day? Or will she be stuck eating cheese and hiding from cats for the rest of her life?

In this new chapter book series, Mrs. Norrell’s second grade classroom has magic that allows kids to transform into animals to learn important life lessons. Each book follows a different kid and their animal transformation and includes fun natural science facts about the featured animal in the back matter.

If you decide to check out the books, we hope you’ll do so via these Bookshop.org affiliate links: Tally Tuttle Turns Into a Turtle, David Dixon’s Day as a Dachshund, Madison Morris is NOT a Mouse! where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you, and you get to support independent bookstores! As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 423

(Right-click to download.)

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