The Frame-Up

June 5th 2018

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

A Whirlwind Week for The Frame-Up (and its author!)

 

Holy cow!

The Frame-Up is getting a lot of love these days!

I am thrilled that people are enjoying my love letter to art and are excited about the shenanigans that are occurring at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery once everyone goes home…

 

First up, the book just received a glowing review from The Wall Street Journal:

 

Children’s Books: Meeting the People in the Paintings

A girl in a portrait flits into the frames of her gallerymates.

In 1915, the Irish painter William Orpen captured in oils and chiaroscuro the young daughter of a Canadian industrialist. In her portrait, Mona Dunn gazes out with a calm, serious expression, her hands folded in her lap and her golden hair glinting bright against the darkness that surrounds her. The picture, called simply “Mona Dunn,” is the sort that can evoke a strange, intense mingling of longing and belief in the viewer: that if only there were some way to connect with the person in the painting, each would like and understand the other, and yet, of course, it’s impossible.

Or is it? That’s the tantalizing idea that animates “The Frame-Up” (Greenwillow, 364 pages, $16.99), a mystery-adventure by Wendy McLeod MacKnight that takes place almost entirely in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where “Mona Dunn” hangs on the wall in real life.

In this delicious tale, 13-year-old Mona is not merely a figment of pigment: Like her gallery-mates Somerset Maugham, Helena Rubinstein and Max Aitken, aka Lord Beaverbrook, she is wide awake and, after hours, can flit from frame to frame to visit friends or sit in the dappled Italian sunlight of John Singer Sargent’s “San Vigilio, Lake Garda.”

Life for the gallery residents is timeless and pleasant, for the most part, though some do chafe under Lord Beaverbrook’s strict rules. (Anyone wishing to go to the basement, for instance, must first enter Salvador Dalí’s “Santiago El Grande” and answer a riddle posed by the horse and rider at its center.)

“Mona Dunn” (c.1915) by William Orpen
“Mona Dunn” (c.1915) by William Orpen PHOTO: BEAVERBROOK ART GALLERY

Everything changes for the people in the paintings one summer, however, with the arrival of a 12-year-old boy with a name taken from art history. The gentle, unhappy son of the gallery director, Sargent Singer catches Mona making a face at a rude young patron. Incredulous and thrilled, he promises to keep her secret, even as the two new friends notice suspicious doings among the adults around them. In the human world, Sargent’s father seems oddly complacent about a shifty art restorer who is making eccentric demands. In the painted world, Beaverbrook is stricter and Maugham more acid-tongued than ever.

Hanging over the whole story, meanwhile, is a cruel reality. “Sargent will leave at the end of the summer,” a painted friend reminds Mona. “He will grow old. You will not. The path you travel guarantees nothing but heartache.”

Ah, but does it? As if answering a riddle from the Dalí painting, Sargent finds a solution to the conundrum that we discover in the final pages of this clever, satisfying story for art-loving readers ages 11-14.

 

How amazing is that?

 

On Sunday, I travelled to Halifax to receive the Atlantic Independent Booksellers’ Emerging Author Award 2018 for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

It was such an honour and so much fun to meet all the amazing booksellers in the Atlantic region!

 

 

I’m going to be interviewed on Q, one of CBC’s most popular radio programs!

 

The interview, about The Frame-Up, will air on Monday morning, July 16th, at 10:30 a.m. local time.

The program has an average of one million listeners a week (gulp!) and will also air on Public Radio International in the U.S. to another 500,000 listeners!  Wish me luck!

And if you want to listen live, click here.

A special thank you to all of my wonderful supporters! YOU are what keeps the love for THE FRAME-UP going, and it is SOOOO appreciated! Let me know what you think of the interview!!!

 

Until then – see you next week!

 

Book Review and Giveaway Winner

 

Sometimes you read a book at the exact right time.

 

With all of the attacks on the media these days, I am reminded that freedoms are a precious and precarious thing. And given that in the next week we will celebrate Canada Day and The 4th of July, it seems only fitting to think about what makes democracies so great: human rights and personal rights.

So when I spotted BAN THIS BOOK by MG author extraordinaire Alan Gratz, a book I’d been meaning to read for months, I snatched it up.

 

 

Alan has the inherent ability to take complex issues and boil them down to a relatable and personal level for children (and adults). See: REFUGEE if you want another brilliant example. Wait: you MUST read REFUGEE!

Anyway, the story is told from the perspective of shy Amy Anne Ollinger, who accidentally becomes a social activist when her favourite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, is banned from her school library without due process.

And that’s not the only book that’s pulled from the shelves. Authors Judy Blume, Alvin Schwartz, Roald Dahl, Louise Fitzhugh, Mary Downing Hahn, Barbara Park, Day Pilkey, Zilpha Neatly Snyder, and R.L. Stine are also gone.

Amy Anne is outraged, and fights back the best way she knows how: by reading the banned books. And she’s not the only one. In fact, interest in the banned books is so great that it Amy is forced to create Amy Anne’s Banned Books Locker Library, a place that proves as popular as the school library. And with Amy Anne and the other kids on the case, the school board isn’t going to know what hit them!

The issue of censorship is always critically important in a democratic society, and this book does a brilliant and entertaining job of teaching kids to question when someone else wants to do things for their “best interest”. In the end, the book argues that only a child’s parent should be deciding what is and isn’t appropriate for their child to read, something which was always the case in the household I grew up in, though if I am being honest, I don’t believe my parents ever stopped me from reading anything. Though they did sometimes question me!

This book is a must-read and belongs in every library across the world.

 

Giveaway Winner

 

Thanks everyone for entering last week’s contest. John Smith is the winner! Congrats John!

 

Since this weekend is Canada Day and my brother and his family arrive from Alberta on Thursday, this blog is taking next week off. I’ll be back the following week with more news and information, including what happened when I received the Atlantic Indies Booksellers Emerging Author Award on July 7th in Halifax, Nova Scotia!

 

Happy Canada Day and 4th of July. Let Freedoms Reign!

 

 

The Frame-Up is featured in The Daily Gleaner

 

 

I apologize that I can’t include a link, but The Daily Gleaner has a bloody paywall… Sigh…

Still, it’s a wonderful article. Last night, I took 20 people, 19 of whom were adults, on an “author’s tour” of the paintings in The Frame-Up. They loved it! Turns out that not only kids are loving The Frame-Up!

And a shout-out to indie bookstore Linda’s Story Time in Monroe, Connecticut, who made The Frame-Up one of their staff picks!

Some folks from away have asked about how to get autographed copies of the book. Contact Westminster Books here in Fredericton, New Brunswick at1-800-561-7323 or email them atinfo@westminsterbooks.com.

 

 

 

 

News, & a Giveaway!

 

Things are humming along with The Frame-Up!

 

Quill and Quire Magazine

 

 

I was interviewed recently by Quill and Quire, Canada’s premier magazine about publishing in Canada. What an honour!  You can read the story here.

 

Book Signings

 

I did a book signing last weekend at Westminster Books. It was so much fun, especially when kids from some of my recent school visits dropped by!

 

 

Beaverbrook Family Art Day

 

This coming Sunday, I’m back at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery from 1 to 2 pm, signing more books!  Come see me and say hi and then join all the activities!

 

KidLit Authors Speak Out

 

The recent events in the U.S. have been disturbing to say the least. As a mother and a children’s book author, my number one goal is that all children are safe, loved, respected, and receive access to education. Using them as pawns is wrong.  To that end, I gladly (and angrily) signed a petition to end the separation of families at the border, as well as donated money to the organizations fighting for children’s rights. I encourage you to do so, too, both here in Canada, or abroad. The future of our society rests on the care and opportunities ALL children receive, regardless of race and economic status.

 

Giveaway!!!

 

It’s been 17 days since the publication of The Frame-Up, so I thought I’d give faithful readers of this blog an opportunity to win a signed copy!

Leave me a message below and you’ll be automatically entered to win!  I’ll announce the winner next Friday!

 

 

Have a great week! Next week: some recommended summer reads!

 

Another busy week and beginning to brainstorm another book

 

I’m mostly off the road this week and it is a welcome relief, though I absolutely love meeting my readers!

 

What happened this week:

 

On Monday, I presented to 75 kids from Connaught Street School at the Fredericton Public Library.

So much fun!

 

On Tuesday, I was the featured interview on my favourite podcast, The BooksBetween.

 

 

 

Take a listen here, but do not go all the way to the end if you don’t want a spoiler about the ending!  And how great an interviewer is Corrina Allen?

On Wednesday, my friend Patricia Bailey gave The Frame-Up a glowing review over at her website! Thanks Patricia!

I also learned this week that the Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association is awarding me the 2018 Emerging Author Award for IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE!, one of two awards being presented at the association’s summer book fair in Halifax. So thrilled!!!! Huge thanks to my agent, Lauren Galit, and Pig-Face’s wonderful editor, Alison Weiss!

 

 

 

If you’re in Fredericton this week, I’m signing copies of The Frame-Up at Westminster Books from 12 to 2 on Saturday!  See you there!

 

Finally, now that I’m off the road for a couple of weeks, I am turning my attention to writing!  I’ve already turned in my next book to Greenwillow and am expecting more notes on that book any day, but am already plotting book #4. I can’t wait to start writing again!

 

See you next week!  And happy Eid to all who celebrate!!

 

And don’t you think it’s time I gave away a copy of The Frame-Up here, too? I agree. Stay tuned for next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Interviews and Blogposts

 

The Frame-Up was officially launched into the world yesterday, and continues to get lots of nice online love!

Book Riot names The Frame-Up as one of it’s top twenty-one middle grade books for the first half of 2018!

 

Check it out here.

 

 

 

MG BookVillage:

 

I wrote a post over at MGBookVillage about how middle grade fiction can entice children to explore the world around them. You can read it here.

 

Books and Ladders:

 

Click here to read my interview with the wonderful Canadian blogger Jamie over at her Books and Ladders blog.

 

 

Just Another Teen Reading Fiction:

 

The Frame-Up received a lovely review by the blog Just Another Teen Reading Fiction.

 

 

Jedlie Magic Podcast:

 

I’m also interviewed over at the jedlie magic podcast, which was so much fun! Take a listen here.

 

Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb:

 

I had a fun time answering Deborah Kalb’s questions!

 

 

The Frame-Up Book Launch!

 

It was a beautiful sunny day for Lord Beaverbrook Day at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the perfect day to launch The Frame-Up!

Almost 300 people showed up to cheer Mona and the book on, and I was so touched!

If you want to hear my remarks, click here. I start speaking at about 11:30.

 

 

There was so much going on, it was hard to keep up: actors dressed as Mona Dunn, Madame Juliette and Col. Edmund Nugget,  selfie station, scavenger hunt, sweet treats, special tours, and all kinds of art activities!

Some of my favourite moments:

 

Mona and I! How about that costume!!!!

 

 

 

Madame Juliette, Mona, and Edmund Nugent – clearly Edmund is in his youth here, given the state of his facial hair…

 

Mona Dunn’s real-life grandson, Arifin Graham, speaking at the launch. What a lovely man!

 

wrap your head around this: grandmother and grandson!

Selfie Station!!! Kids loved going behind the frame!!!

 

During my tour, some of the kids and Arifin hopped down to get the “proper” perspective on Santiago el Grande!

 

It took me an hour to sign all the books!

 

It was a wonderful day and not one I’ll soon forget!! Only one more week until The Frame-Up publishes!!!

Interview with FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES Blog

 

It was such a treat to be interviewed about The Frame-Up by one of my favourite authors, Patricia Bailey!

 

 

 

You can read the whole interview here!

 

 

I was also thrilled to see that FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES included THE FRAME-UP in its list of fun summer reads!

 

 

 

To read more about it, click here!

 

SO happy to see The Frame-Up getting some pre-release love!!!

Book Launch!

 

The Frame-Up Book Launch is this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery!

 

 

Expect tasty goodies, surprise appearances from some of the paintings, an author tour of the paintings that appear in the book, and much more!

 

The event takes place during the gallery’s annual Lord Beaverbrook Day festivities. To learn more about the other activities that day, click here.

 

HOPE TO SEE THERE!!!

The Frame-Up Characters and Locales: Mona Dunn

 

I always knew who the heroine of my book would be.

I’d seen her many times over the years, and always felt drawn to the mysterious golden girl of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

 

The real-life Mona Dunn was once described as the most beautiful girl in England, and when you look at the face above, one can hardly doubt the veracity of the statement.

But artist Orpen has painted her looking pensive; there is no sense of the devil-may-care girl who was a master equestrienne.

Though I read about Mona while preparing to write the book, the characters is almost entirely made up; I leave it to her family to tell her real story.

But there was never any doubt that this would be the girl who wold change the gallery forever, and who would attract the attention of Sargent Singer.

 

Mona scooted forward and began to pull on her stockings and shoes. “You startled me,” she corrected. She stopped tying a shoe to look up at Sargent. “Please . . . promise me you won’t tell a soul you saw me here. I will be in such trouble!”

 

In the book, it is Mona’s curiosity, and desire to interact with the world in front of the frames, that propels the story forward and forever changes the lives of the residents of the gallery.

What struck me as I wrote about Mona was how tedious it would be to be thirteen years old for the rest of your life.

As far as Mona can tell, nothing is ever going to change. And the arrival of Sargent, with his intensity and friendship, makes her question how she can possible do that for centuries more.

 

“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just . . .” Her voice trailed off. Panicked, heart sinking, Sargent stayed silent, afraid to upset her more. Finally she stopped sobbing and wiped her eyes. “It’s just I forgot how much I missed this world. In the gallery, I can go inside paintings and feel the sun on my face, walk in the grass, swim in the ocean, but somehow, it never feels quite like this.”

 

In the end, Mona becomes the symbol for a newly re-energized Beaverbrook Art Gallery campaign. I can only hope the same occurs for the real-life portrait of Mona Dunn. She is much more mysterious and enchanting than the Mona Lisa, and deserves nothing less than her due.

 

 

On the cover, Mona is looking away. But she will be discovered soon enough.

Giveaway!

Okay Canada – this one is for you!

Since Canadian residents weren’t able to enter the latest Goodreads Draw, I wanted you all to have a chance to win a book from me!

Leave me a message before May 31st and you’ll be automatically entered to win my last The Frame-Up ARC!

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

 

GOOD LUCK!!!

The Frame-Up Characters and Locales: Patsy Ryder

 

Much as I love Mona Dunn, I love Patsy Ryder even more.

 

Painted in the late 1940s by New Brunswick artist Jack Humphrey, Patsy is a visitor to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

“Bonjour, Patsy,” said Juliette. “My name is Juliette. Do you know how you have come to be in this room? I do not believe we have met before.”

Patsy’s voice sounded far away, as if the paper covering her was a heavy dampening curtain. “I just arrived. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here. I was dropped off to be appraised by Director Singer.”

 

It is the fact that Patsy is a visitor that makes her so valuable to the story, as well as her bravery when called to action.

The decision as to whether to use an imaginary or real painting as the the visitor character was never in question: Patsy Ryder is a portrait of my mother.

This is one of a few easter eggs I’ve put in the book, and the most meaningful to me. Even better, on the day of my book launch at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery on May 27th, my mother, who passed away in 2001, will be there, hung on the wall for everyone to see.

I couldn’t be more proud.

 

My mother, at the age she was painted, with her childhood friend, Donald Sutherland. Yes, THAT Donald Sutherland.

 

So when you read the book and reach the part about Patsy, remember: the real one grew up to be someone very special!

 

Love you Mum!

 

 

I’m Presenting at The Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick’s WordSpring Festival this Weekend

 

I’m doing the morning’s keynote address at WFNB’s WordSpring Festival this weekend, and I am so excited!

 

 

I’ll be talking about being a late bloomer in the publishing world, then doing a workshop on writing compelling children’s literature. The festival takes place in Quispamsis from May 11th to 13th.

So excited and pleased to be invited!

The Frame-Up Characters and Locales: The Cotterell Family

 

I’m not going to lie: I LOVE The Cotterell Family

 

 

One of the things that struck me as I was “casting” The Frame-Up was that most of the portraits contained only one person.

But a family forced to live together for three-hundred-and-ten years? Now that was interesting.

And a family forced to live with four rambunctious children, including a baby? It makes me shiver to think about!

Meet the Cotterells: Sir Charles, Lady Cotterell, Baby Frances, Lizzie, Clem and Charles.

 

 

The Cotterells are important to the story: Clem is Mona Dunn’s best friend, partner-in-crime, and desperate to be like every kid who visits the art gallery rather than being stuck wearing foppish seventeenth century clothing; and Sir Charles, the bellyaching patriarch frustrated to find his portrait in a provincial backwater (he’d expected to live in the Louvre) who discovers a passion for movies.

 

Clement Cotterell intercepted Mona on her way to meet Max. “Come and find me tonight. Unless you’re grounded,” he added saucily. “I want to share some sick beats I’m working on.”

 

The idea of a young book from the seventeenth centre wanting to be like all the kids who visit made Clem real to me. Imagine watching other kids with their smart phones, and walkmans before that. How difficult it would be to see how childhood is changing, and yet deep down, Clem is not really any different from Mona or even Sargent and the other kids.

And Sir Charles? He is the curmudgeon who becomes a pussycat.

“I have not witnessed anything as wondrous in three hundred years,” Sir Charles said, bowing deeply. “Truly, I thought the only magic in this world was paintings coming to life. But moving pictures are spectacular. Please, tell Mr. Ben Stiller that I hold him in the highest esteem.”

Sargent laughed. “I don’t actually know Ben Stiller.”

 

What I love best about the Cotterells is how great a family they are, despite sometimes getting on each other’s nerves. And they adore Mona, and worry about her getting hurt because of her friendship with Sargent.

 

Can you spy Clem on the cover?

 

 

 

I can’t wait for you to meet The Cotterells!

The Frame-Up Characters and Locales: Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent

 

How dashing is this painting?

 

Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent, Thomas Gainsborough, 1764, Oil on canvas

 

In the story, Mona needed a friend who was dashing, chivalrous, and larger than life. The romantic ideal in a scarlet officer’s coat. Enter Edmund.

In real life, the painting is nearly eight feet high. It dwarfs the viewer. The subject is sure of himself, elegant, and yet masculine all at once.

I love the idea that the residents are able to expand or contract depending upon the painting they are in. It is fun to think of Edmund being engaged to the tiny Madame Juliette, and yet when they are in the same painting, they are a perfect fit.

 

He takes up a whole wall!

 

Edmund is adventurous, but he is also the voice of reason for Mona.

 

“Do buck up,” Edmund said, patting Mona on the head. “He struck me as an affable chap. Even if he does suspect you are alive, I’m sure he will not break your confidence. That would be most ungentlemanly.” Nothing outraged Edmund more than a loose tongue.

 

Given his engagement to Madame Juliette, Edmund is also Mona’s romantic ideal.

 

Edmund, in his red military frock coat with the golden piping and brass buttons, was the epitome of dashing, thanks to his chivalrous eighteenth-century manners and his elegant oak walking stick.

 

But soon, not even Edmund can reason with Mona, whose desire to live a larger life and be friends with Sargent Singer threatens the gallery residents’ way of life.

 

I love how artist Ian Shoenhorr dips the Edmund on the cover in red:

 

 

Author of Children's Literature

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