Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine: A Dusti Bowling Interview and Cover Reveal
One of the millions of things I’d love to study, and never will, is how regionalism affects children’s taste in books. Why is a book in one part of the country adored beyond measure by kids while in another part they wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot-pole? When I moved to Evanston, Illinois I was very keen to see what these Midwestern kids were reading these days. What separated them from their NYC ilk? And there were some small differences here and there, but generally they liked all the same series as other kids. Your Dog Mans. Your Wimpy Kids. Your Owl Diaries. But then a book came along that just floored them. They went just over the moon for it. And it was a little number called Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.
Today, it is my infinite pleasure to not only display for you the jacket of the PREQUEL to that book, but to speak to Ms. Dusti Bowling herself about Aven, writing mysteries, early chapter books, and spin-offs, spin-offs, spin-offs!
Betsy Bird: Dusti! Such a pleasure to speak with you! And what auspicious news you have too. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus has been such a gratifying hit to watch. You’ve already done a sequel to it (Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus) but rather than continue to go forward you’ve doubled back. What made you want to see Aven in an earlier incarnation?
Dusti Bowling: Thank you so much for doing my cover reveal! I’ve always thought about what Aven might’ve been like as a smaller child and what her life would’ve looked like back in Kansas before she moved to Arizona. I loved imagining her friends and grandma, who are only briefly mentioned in the Cactus series. I knew 8-year-old Aven would be interesting and silly, and it turns out I love writing her at that age. She’s definitely fun to spend time with!
BB: Due to the fact that the term “Sleuthing Machine” appears in this book’s title, I’m going to use my own super detective skills to reach the conclusion that there might be some . . . SLEUTHING in this book (how’s THAT for detection!). Is this honestly an out-and-out mystery? And are they as hard to write as people say?
DB: This is definitely a full-blown mystery! Two mysteries actually—the mystery of Aven’s grandma’s missing dog and the mystery of a food thief at Aven’s school. I do find writing mysteries to be quite difficult. Creating the big reveal at the end that will make your reader feel both surprised but also like they should’ve seen it coming is one of the hardest things to do.
BB: Aven’s just one of those characters that kids grow hugely attached to without any outside adult interference. Have you ever thought about expanding her brand at all? Aven picture books? Or, on the complete flipside, Aven YA novels?
DB: I have contemplated an Aven picture book, and some people would even say that Momentous Events is getting close to YA territory, though I fiercely maintain that it’s middle grade, despite her starting high school. I’ve also been mulling over a third Cactus book, which would remain middle grade. I love writing her character and would never rule anything out!
BB: For that matter, does this book read younger than the previous Aven books? Which is to say, is it on the same reading level or is it more of an early chapter book?
DB: It definitely reads younger than the Cactus books. It’s a chapter-book series aimed at 6-9 year olds that I think will appeal to readers who enjoy series like Ivy and Bean and Junie B. Jones. And Gina Perry’s illustrations are completely adorable, as you can see from the cover!
BB: Have you ever considered a spinoff book with one of Aven’s friends?
DB: Absolutely! Readers have frequently asked if I’d consider writing a book from Connor’s perspective. So if there ever is a third Cactus book, it would definitely be mostly about Connor, especially since he wasn’t in the sequel as much.
BB: And finally, what are you working on right now?
DB: I have three more Aven Green chapter books coming after this first one, with Aven Green Baking Machine up next. So if you enjoy Aven Green Sleuthing Machine, I’m happy to say there’s a lot more of 8-year-old Aven Green in the works! And I have a new middle grade novel releasing next fall called Across the Desert, which I’m excited to start talking about soon!
Many thanks to Dusti for so patiently answering my questions and to Blanca Oliviery of Sterling for setting the whole darn thing up.
And finally, here is the cover you’ve all been waiting for:
Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine will be on shelves everywhere April 6, 2021.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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