Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

Adoption Themes in Aleks Mikelson and Zaria Fierce by author Keira Gillett

Today’s guest post from author Keira Gillett takes a look at adoption themes that run through her fantasy novels, the Zaria Fierce trilogy and Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well. I love the fact that her two main series characters are not only adopted, but come from loving homes where they consider their adoptive families their families, period. And don’t miss the super-awesome giveaway at the end of this post! Thanks again for Keira for her loving, sensitive look at adoptive families.

Adoption Themes in the Zaria Fierce Series

There are many references in literature in which guardians for kids are these terrible people. I feel very strongly that there are ways for kids to have adventures in books without mean, cruel, negligent, or abusive adults. Enter the stargazer – a device I invented that freezes time so Aleks, Zaria and the gang can go on adventures around Norway, saving their friends and the world, and not panic their parents.

In real life and in fiction, there are many reasons why kids are available for adoption, because there are many family backgrounds for both birth families and adopted families, which lead them to the decision to choose adoption. My younger sisters are adopted, and my parents, especially my mom, has always been very open with them and with my older brother and myself.

Knowing all this, I wanted a better reflection of adoption to be portrayed for my sisters, and maybe other adoptees like them, because it was very important to me to show that an adoptive family can be nice, and yet a decision to reunite or a desire to reunite can still be part of the equation. That’s why both Aleks and Zaria have nice parents. They love their parents and can’t see living with their birth families.

As for the birth families being different, as important as it was to show that adoptive families can be nice, it was also important to show a balance in the portrayal of them in as sensitive a manner as possible, as I know adopted children may superimpose a pleasant scenario over a harsher reality, if they knew and remembered their birth parents, or similarly spinning pleasant stories about why they were available for adoption, if they didn’t. Or the pleasant fantasy of what it might mean to be reunited. While these pleasant scenarios may pan out for some adoptees, others may be disillusioned, if they seek out and meet their birth parents.

It was easy to create these two scenarios, because my characters have different motivations and backgrounds. For instance, Zaria’s birth mother gave her up for adoption in order to protect her from cruel and manipulative dragons who, if they knew of her magical ability, would seek to kill her. Zaria can understand it and forgive her birth mother. That said, she feels closer to the woman who raised her and doesn’t want to hurt Merry’s feelings by letting her know she reconnected with Helena, which as a side note, is another feeling adoptees may face and internalize, because they do love their adoptive family. Zaria’s in the happy position that she could tell Merry, and Merry would understand, but Zaria herself isn’t ready. It’s new for her, and she’s still working out her feelings on the matter.

For Aleks, he grew up in a family with another adopted family member, Ava, his Grams. It gets even more complicated, when one considers that Ava and he both come from the same place and the same fey family, a few generations apart. Fey lore has had the idea of changelings for a long time, and it was easy to build upon this, especially taking into consideration the rest of the lore surrounding fairies as being cold and cruel, which holds true in the Zaria Fierce Series. Ava warns Aleks about the terrible dangers he’d face if he ever returned to Niffleheim, where changelings are killed on sight. The fey are very power hungry, and it’d be a bad idea to altruistic behavior. He got very lucky in Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword, because Zaria’s wish on the well granted him protection, and in the end the children won – with Hector’s help – their freedom and a personal escort out of Niffleheim.

To add to all that is the overarching theme of magic. Zaria learns she has magical talent, and as she embraces it, her magic becomes part of her identity. Aleks has always known he had it and that it made him different. To him, being and feeling normal, as well as fitting in, is extremely important, which coincides with another potential desire for adoptees, who may look around at all their friends in traditional family units and feel the same desire to be normal. As revealed in Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, Aleks has the chance to become human (his idea of normal) on his sixteenth birthday if he stays and celebrates it at home with his adoptive family. It’s a very appealing prospect, but in doing so he will lose his magical fey gifts. It’s not something that concerns him, because he doesn’t feel like he needs them, and he thinks that this is an easy decision for him to make.

And it might be, except for unlike Zaria, Aleks doesn’t have the luxury to choose when and how he interacts with his birth family. Appearing at his window one day is his fey sister Nori, and she’s telling him he has to return to a place filled with unimaginable danger to stop a dragon nobody can remember except her. It takes a huge amount of bravery to go back, and coupled with that decision to return is a choice and opportunity to become human that may be taken out of his control. He risks not only his life, but his identity in going back. His road ahead is filled with many pitfalls, and with his fairy powers on the fritz, it’s going to be harder to navigate than he first thought.

 

Giveaway: To celebrate the release of Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, I’m hosting a giveaway for interested readers. The winner will receive a dragon scale necklace, that I made, and a Dropcard containing a digital copy of Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest and other goodies. Open internationally. Ends 8/13/2017.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog asking me a question, or sharing with me your favorite Zaria Fierce character, or sharing your favorite book featuring an adopted character. To get a bonus entry share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #zfgiveaway1. For another share your favorite Zaria Fierce book cover on Instagram using the same hashtag #zfgiveaway1. Good luck!

 

Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well (Book 4 in the Zaria Fierce Series)

“It’s time for you to come home.”

First Aleks’ mom loses the car keys, which he finds in the fridge, and then Christoffer forgets how to get to Aleks’ house. On the surface it doesn’t seem so bad, but events become more disturbing as the day progresses. Something strange is happening in Norway, and Aleks Mickelsen is the only one who can stop it. Too bad for us, the last thing he wants is another adventure.

 

 

About the Author: Keira Gillett

When she’s not working or writing, Keira Gillett loves to play tabletop games. Nearly every week Keira gets together with her friends to play. It’s no wonder she invented a game of her own for her Zaria Fierce Series. You can find the rules to this game within the second book and make your own version of it through a tutorial on her website. She’d love to hear from you! Why not send her a picture of you and a friend playing the game?

Find her at http://keiragillett.com/

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Aleks Mickelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well reunites Zaria Fierce and friends!

Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, by Keira Gillett/Illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan, (July 2017), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1942750086

Recommended for readers 9-13

Keira Gillett couldn’t leave us hanging after Zaria Fierce’s last adventure, Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Slippers. And thank goodness! The friends have reunited for a new adventure, but this time, Aleks, a changeling approaching his 16th birthday – and the deadline to decide whether to embrace his human family or retain his fey abilities – is the star of the show. It all starts on a crazy morning: Aleks’ mom loses her car keys, which he finds in the fridge. It’s only the first in a series of increasingly chaotic events that culminates in his unpleasant fey sister, Nori, making an appearance; she tells him that Fritjof, a chaos dragon, is trying to escape and wreak havoc on the world and that he and his friends must help stop him. Aleks finds himself pulled into an adventure that he really didn’t want to be on, dealing with a sister he really doesn’t want to know in this latest installment.

I have wanted to know more about Aleks since I first read that he was a changeling – and that his grandmother is, too! Readers won’t be disappointed; we learn more about Aleks’ origin here, and I love the inner conflict raging with Aleks as he realizes that there is no black and white situation: he initially thinks it’s not a big deal at all to give up his fey gifts, but learns that not only can his ability to find things be a huge help, he learns that his fey side is very much a part of him. Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone? Aleks may just have to learn that lesson that hard way. I loved seeing how the group of friends has matured – crushes are a big part of the story now! – and how new friends from the previous series are now part of the group, like Hector, the Hart of the Forest. Big plus: my favorite wyvern, Norwick, is back, as is my favorite curmudgeon, Mr. Brown(ie). Take a look at this graphic, from illustrator Eoghan Kerrigan’s DeviantArt page:

A fellow blogger, Brenda at Log Cabin Library, put it perfectly when she said, “There’s just something so comforting about returning to Zaria and the gang”. I couldn’t agree more. Keira Gillet’ts writing gently draws you into a fantasy world via modern-day Norway; the group of friends are as familiar to me as they are to one another. I enjoy reading their back and forth teasing, and catching up with what they’ve been up to since I last spent time with them. When the action starts, I’m ready to join the group on their new adventure. Eoghan Kerrigan has outdone himself with his beautiful fantasy illustrations, and fantasy cartographer Kaitlin Statz provides a map that really helps make this world more real; there’s a lovely Narnian/Tolkienesque feel to a book that starts off with a good map.

You don’t need to have read Zaria’s trilogy in order to jump in with Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well – there’s enough exposition throughout the book to update you – but if you want to feel more a part of things, I’d highly recommend it. A nice addition to middle grade fantasy shelves. Ms. Gillett had a midnight release party for her latest book that I, sadly, had to miss (I was so close, too… darn need to sleep); if you missed it, too, you can watch it right here, thanks to the magic of YouTube. Sign up for Keira Gillett’s author newsletter and get 10 free downloads of Eoghan Kerrigan’s work, too!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Zaria Fierce returns in the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes!

zariaprologue-360x570Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes, by Keira Gillett, (Jul. 2016, Keira Gillet Books), $14.99, ISBN: TK

Recommended for ages 10-13

Keira Gillet’s Zaria Fierce trilogy comes to a huge conclusion with the final book in her adventure, Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes. Picking up where Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword left off, Zaria and her friends need to rescue the Stag King’s son, Hart, stop Koll and his fellow dragons, and save Zaria’s birth mother, Queen Helena. No pressure, Zaria.

Zaria also feels the crushing weight of these responsibilities – and the part she played in them, when tricked by the dragon, Koll – and it’s taking its toll on her. Thankfully, her friends aren’t going to let her confidence flag; they’re there for an adventure, and they’re not going to let anyone, be it a dragon that personifies fear, or a fierce water-wyvern, stop them.

That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story. They won’t give up on Zaria, even when she’s ready to give up on herself; in turn, she will do anything to keep her friends safe. Even fight a dragon.

There are so many wonderful moments in this book, but to start talking about them would lead to spoilers. Suffice to say that Keira Gillett takes us on a hero’s journey, in the guise of a young girl whose entire life is upended one morning as she crosses a bridge to get to school. Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes brings us to the end of one story, and a wish to return to this universe soon.

Recommended for middle grade collections where fantasy is popular. I’d book talk this with other hero’s journey tales like CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson/Magnus Chase series; they’ll have a firmer frame of reference when you present the series with these popular fantasy tales. Talk up Zaria as a strong female character who overcomes her fears and self-doubts to outwit monsters, and save herself and her friends!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Keira Gillett author visit!

Corona Library had a visitor this week: Zaria Fierce author Keira Gillett!

keira and roe

We had such a great time. Keira is awesome – personable, ready to jump in and talk, and great with the kids. My Corona kids are a little nervous when meeting someone new, but she knew just how to get them talking: she decided to raffle off a set of her books! The kids mobbed the table, and a few finally started to ask her about the books.

When it was time for our reading, I moved everyone into our meeting room so the kids doing homework could stay focused on homework and so Keira didn’t have to yell (with almost 100 kids in my children’s room after school, our library is most definitely a living organism – apologies to Dr. Ranganathan). The kids gathered ’round, and Keira read a selection from Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest; she put on different voices (that is precisely how I imagined Olaf!), she had a wonderful reading speed and volume, and her audience was rapt. No one said a word, and if you know my Corona kids, that is an accomplishment!

After the reading, I tried to give some gentle prompts to get the kids talking. They tend to be shy, and they’re still working on learning how to discuss books, so we didn’t get much, but Keira and I had a brief Q&A session, her awesome boyfriend, Neil, donated an additional set of books to our library (thank you!!), and I picked a raffle winner. We took some pictures, I gave out Zaria Fierce coloring sheets, and the kids went back to their homework and books.

It was a great experience, and I’m so grateful to Keira Gillett and Neil for coming to visit, for their support of Queens Library (did I mention that we’re the only library in Queens to have the Zaria Fierce books? You can make a request!), and I can’t wait to let you know when I hear more about the third book in the series. I got a sneak peek at some of the artwork, and all I can say is WOW.

What I’ve learned: author visits are a great way to get kids to sit for a program. They’re often shy – at least my kids are – about asking questions, though, so make sure to have some basic questions prepped for a Q&A: the writer’s inspiration, what she/he does for a living in addition to being a writer, likes, dislikes.

Raffles rock: Kids love a chance to get something for free, sure, but it’s also about that moment of recognition when the name comes out of the box/hat/whatever you have the names in. Use that raffle gathering time to promote the book, steer kids to the author to talk about the book, get them excited about the book and the reading.

Authors are amazing: The patience and generosity an author exhibits when surrounded by a bunch of kids cannot be measured. Pay it forward: have their books available, booktalk them like wild, and let the author see their event promoted in the library. Know what the book’s about, and make the author and her/his entourage feel comfortable. Next time, I need to grab some bottled water and have snacks available.

Wrap it Up: Make sure to introduce your author to your manager and assistant manager. It’s respectful to both administration and your author. And write up the experience, provide some pictures, get bragging rights out there so people know what a great program you had.

Here’s some video from Keira’s reading. Enjoy!

Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

An interview with author Keira Gillett!

I recently read and reviewed a new middle grade fantasy series, starring a brave female protagonist named Zaria Fierce. Author Keira Gillett brings back some older elements of Norse mythology in this series; we have dwarves, ice giants, and trolls causing trouble in Norway, and a young teen and her friends are all that stand in their way. It’s a pretty tall order for a young girl, and why do these folks keep calling her “princess”? The series is great fun and features diverse characters that will excite readers and pull them into the story.

I was lucky enough to get author Keira Gillett to answer a few questions for me. Technical librarian by day, author by night – when does she sleep?

Rosemary: Zaria is a big reader – I love that! What do you think are some of the books on her bookshelf?
Keira Gillett: I think Zaria and I would have similar bookshelves. We’d certainly would be able to swap our favorite books with each other as we both love middle grade and young adult fantasy books. Not only would Zaria have popular book series like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, and Artemis Fowl on her shelves, but also classics from Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, Ronald Dahl, and C.S. Lewis.
Rosemary: I loved the use of Norse mythology in your story. Did you grow up reading books about myth and legend, like Zaria?
Keira: I always liked fantasy, mythology, and folklore. I would say I probably grew up more on fairy tales and their retellings – like Ella Enchanted – the most. One of my favorite books is Half Magic by Edward Eager (and I recently found out it’s a series, who knew? Zaria would. She’s cleverer than me. I just got the rest of the books to read and I can’t wait.)
My love for Scandinavia comes from my parents hosting foreign exchange students (a set of twins) from Finland. I was very young, I think possibly turning five years old when they first came to America. At eleven, I went to Finland and met them (all grown up) and played with one of their children. It’s a beautiful country, and I can’t wait to go back and wander about Finland some more and also to explore Sweden and Norway for the first time. I hope it’s soon!
Oh, and there’s these pictures books that I loved that the twins gave my family. One was Louhi, Witch of North Farm, about a witch who skied on the sky and stole the sun and moon. Another is the Wild Christmas Reindeer about a young girl who has a hard time training Santa’s reindeer. The last one is this wonderful little Christmas story with trolls I think instead of elves. I loved reading that, and I’m going to have to call my mom to get the name of the book because I can’t seem to Google it! 
Lastly, I love the movie the Polar Bear King, which is based on the Norwegian fairy tale of White Bear, King Valemon. A similar tale is East of the Sun and West of the Moon. So as you can see, my love and fascination has been long in the making!
Rosemary: When will we get to read about more of Zaria’s adventures?
Keira: The next adventure for Zaria Fierce and her friends will be Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes. It’ll continue where Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword left off. Will Zaria fix her past mistakes? Will she stop the plans of the dragon, Koll, and Olaf, the river-troll? Will she get to use her magic powers? Join me and find out on July 1, 2016!
Make sure to head over to Keira Gillett’s author page for a great interview between Keira Gillett and audiobook narrator Michele Carpenter, and hear an excerpt from Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword. Both audiobooks can be found in their entirety on Audible. Don’t miss out!