Today we welcome Middle Grade author Iva Valentino for a visit. Her book Black Cats and Ballet Slippers looks awesome!
Brainerd & Fraser: Hello, Iva! We understand that you live in Arizona. We live in upstate New York, which rather resembled Siberia this winter. What’s it like to live someplace warm and sunny? We’re having trouble grasping the concept.
Iva: It’s getting pretty warm and toasty here already, and it’s only March! My husband and I were just talking about turning on the air conditioning. But I have to say that I really love living in the desert! I’m a true desert rat. I am a big weenie about cold weather. If it gets below 80 degrees, that means a long sleeve shirt and pants for me. Or a cardigan—I love cardigans. Haha! I like visiting cold places, but I get a bit grumpy if I have to stay there too long. Clear skies, sunshine, and warm weather for me, please!
B&F: You used to teach middle school science, which is so cool! What was your favorite part of teaching?
Iva: Teaching science was awesome! I really loved a lot of things about it. One of my favorite things was teaching lessons to my classes. I would make every lesson into a show, and I would do jokes, crazy voices, songs, dances, and cheers— just about anything to get my students into the topic! I also enjoyed doing science experiments with the kids. I loved to see them figure things out on their own and learn what science was all about.
B&F: In your book, the science teacher is suspected of witchcraft. Is this, by any chance, based on personal experience?
Iva: I’ve never had a witchy science teacher! Nor have I ever been a witchy science teacher. The idea for Black Cats and Ballet Slippers came around when I moved into a different classroom during my last few years of teaching. The prep room had a LOT of stuff that had accumulated from previous teachers—no one had ever really bothered to clean it out. They just kept shoving new junk on top of all of the old junk. So this is when I started imagining that all of the crusty old unlabeled bottles were potions, crushed unicorn horn, lizard brains, and all the other good witchy things. And then… TA DA!!! Black Cats was born!
B&F: We can totally picture that! What’s the most amazing place you’ve ever visited?
Iva: Trakoscan Castle, in Croatia, is absolutely amazing. It’s up there as one of my favorite places ever. It’s surrounded by a forest and lake, and it looks like a fairytale castle. Whenever I visit my brother in Croatia, we’ll go and I feel like I’m Snow White, traipsing around in the Enchanted Forest!
B&F: That sounds amazing. What’s your favorite quote from a book or movie?
Iva: “Are you not entertained?” ~ Maximus from Gladiator. I thought Russell Crowe (Maximus) was very entertaining indeed!
And now for the rapid fire round!
Cats or dogs? Both! I have a dog, and I’d like to have cats. Unfortunately, the dog thinks cats are tasty.
Ballet or break dancing? Ballet. But I think ballet break dancing would be cool, too!
Bill Nye or Beakman’s World? Bill Nye the Science Guy
Explore a new city or lounge on the beach? Explore a new city—and take a million photos! And then spend the next day lounging on the beach. (Taking more photos.)
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla. All the way. VANILLA.
Gemma Mayfield feels like middle school is a lot to bite off and chew. School, ballet classes, and planning on how to get Trevor Davis to ask her to the Halloween Dance are a tough balancing act. On top of that, Gemma is convinced that her science teacher, Ms. Pruett, is a witch.
When things start getting fishy at school, Gemma knows that Ms. Pruett is behind it all! Students are getting spells placed on them and start to go missing. Gemma and her best friend, Izzie, vow to stop Ms. Pruett from doing any more damage. Will they be able to save Middleton Middle School from witchcraft?