Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 6, 2017

Book Giveaway: Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly McGhee

Congratulations to author Holly McGhee on her new book MATYLDA,BRIGHT & TENDER, published by Candlewick Press. They have agreed to participate in our book giveaways. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.

Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

I began writing my debut middle-grade novel, the book that would become Matylda, Bright & Tender, in the summer of 2012. But around page twenty-five, I had to put it down. Because I knew that one of my main characters was going to die, and I couldn’t bear it. Here were these two nine-year-old best friends, in fourth grade, Sussy Reed and Guy Hose, whose parents call them spaghetti and meatballs because they’re usually found together, and one of them was going to have to go on without the other. I didn’t touch the story for an entire year.

I needed that time to get ready. Because Sussy’s story of surviving without Guy has a plum line straight to my heart, and I knew that in order to write it, I’d have to revisit a terrible, fatal car accident I was in when I first got my license, an accident that was my fault. I’d carried my grief around like a rock in my pocket for decades, and it was finally time to try to make something beautiful from it.

During my time away from the story, my son had a birthday, and he received a check for fifty dollars from his grandparents—all he wanted was a leopard gecko. At the pet store, he chose one and named him Speedy. That summer I was left in charge of Speedy for a week, which meant I had to catch live crickets, so Speedy could stalk his prey. I’m squeamish around insects (and anything that jumps really) but I did it for Speedy and I did it for my son—and I fell totally in love with our gecko . . . there hadn’t been a lizard in those first 25 pages I wrote . .  but my time with Speedy must have paved the way for Matylda . . .

I still wasn’t writing though, until the fall of 2013, when I had a dream, in which my fingernails were blue, my body temperature was low, and the world was coming to an end. I understood the dream to be an urgent message—my fingertips are what I use for typing, and they weren’t getting any oxygen . . . if I didn’t start writing again . . . a creative part of me would die.  I was scared. And that’s when I renewed my commitment to Sussy Reed and Guy Hose. I began typing every morning on NJ Transit during my commute to New York where I work as a literary agent, and I also typed at night, after everybody had gone to bed, often with my eyes closed. I never looked at what I typed until the next day; the words came from a place so far down inside of me that I had to wait for the morning to see what I got.

And as I walked back through my own grief, with Sussy Reed on one side and Matylda on the other, that rock in my pocket began to dissolve—as the worst thing that ever happened to me became a love story. . . a love story of nine year old best friends that doesn’t end when one of them dies, a love story of a great warrior lizard who is granted her only wish—to have her broken heart mended, a love story of a family who are there for each other during the most difficult time, and a love story of a little girl, who learns to love herself by loving the lizard she is left with.

It became my love story too, as I saved myself by allowing my imagination to take me where I needed to go, as I let my fingers type my way out of deep grief and into joy, as I learned that just like my characters, it’s possible to be sad and happy at the same time.

I wrote this book for myself, in part because I wish I had had someone like Guy’s mom to fold me in when this terrible thing happened. But I also wrote it for my readers; and my deepest wish is that this story helps them through whatever they might encounter in life, just as it helped me. And that even more, that they know that when they’re ready, they can dig deep and find the promise of joy in the very thing that made them sad . . . and that they can make something beautiful from it.


Holly M. McGhee grew up in the Steuben Valley of upstate New York. Her aspirations varied over the years, from wanting to be a gas-station attendant (she liked the big roll of dollars they usually carried and the smell of gas), to meteorologist (she spent many hours watching the weather channel on her grandmother’s television) to gymnastics. She was especially passionate about being a gymnast, and she built a balance beam in her backyard, from a 4 X 4 piece of lumber and two sawhorses. She eventually gave up that dream, after growing too tall and getting too many splinters.

She started writing in 2007 under pen name Hallie Durand when the character Dessert Schneider barged into her life one morning while she was pleasantly reading on New Jersey transit. Dessert demanded that her story be told, in her own words, and so Holly obliged. She has written three chapter books about her in all (Dessert First, Just Desserts, and No Room for Dessert). Under her pen name, she has also written three picture books, two about a boy named Mitchell who likes to drive and knock things down (Mitchell’s License and Mitchell Goes Bowling) and one about her son Marshall who believes that gingerbread men can run (Catch That Cookie!).  

When her first middle-grade novel was sold, she decided to integrate both sides of her publishing life, as a writer and literary agent and founder of Pippin, and from here on you can find her books under her given name Holly M. McGhee.  Matylda, Bright and Tender in Spring 2017 from Candlewick Press and Come with Me, a picture book for all ages, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre, on September 5, 2017 from G. P. Putnam’s.

OTHER COOL LINKS:
Podcast:
 
 
One of my favorite interviews:
 

 
Thank you Holly for sharing your book and journey with us. Can’t wait to read MATYLDA,BRIGHT & TENDER.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Beautiful cover design!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy, you made this look so pretty! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holly,

      My pleasure! I plan to start reading it tonight.

      Kathy

      Liked by 1 person

    • And I can’t wait to read it! I started getting choked up from Kathy’s intro, then reading all that was behind this, Holly, tears did roll. I can only imagine what this book must be like. I want to FEEL when I read, especially books with such meaning, and I just know this is going to really hit the spot. Kathy, when’s the drawing? I may not be able to wait!

      Like

  3. I just finished reading a copy I got from my local library! Thank you, Holly & Kathy, for sharing the story of how this book emerged. Knowing that you set it aside for a while because it wasn’t ready to be written has helped me feel less guilty about taking so long with writing and revising my current novel, which has at times led me to experience very strong emotions.

    I like your “backstory” about the crickets – my daughter is raising a tank full of them in her room as future meals for her crested gecko (I will have to take over next year when she goes away to college).

    Like

  4. I”m frightened about the tankful of crickets—keep the lid down Andrea! So glad to lighten your guilt too ❤

    Like

  5. Looking forward to experiencing this book! Shared on FB and Twitter!

    Like

  6. Wow – what an emotional journey! Thank you for sharing how this book came to be – joy, sadness, pain and hope all rolled into one – just like life! I can’t wait to read this.

    Like

    • You’re welcome. I want to be a good steward of Sussy’s story and am happy to share my own story behind it.

      Like

  7. Wow, reading this story’s genesis and hearing your personal journey has tugged my heartstrings hard. I must read this book! Thank you for sharing this Kathy and Holly. I look forward to what I know will be a truly beautiful love story!

    Like

  8. Not only does this story sound just wonderful, especially from my being a die-hard love any-and-all animal lover, but Holly’s perspective and inspiration on how its writing came about makes me want to pick up and dive in deeper to the MG novel I’m working on. Thanks for featuring this, Kathy, and Holly, for sharing your process. Jeanne

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re very brave to share your personal story, Holly. I can’t wait to read the beautiful book that has emerged from it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Holly, I’m eager to read Matylda, Bright and Tender to learn how you handled grief for young readers. I know it’s hard to go there as a writer. And I only killed off a goldfish!

    Like

  11. Such a terrible burden to have carried all these years. I can’t wait to read about Sussy, Guy, and Matylda.

    Like

  12. This book is really something I NEED right now as I work through a death in my own WIP. I love your journey Holly and appreciate all theat has gone into this story. I am tweeting and sharing this on my FB page as well as reblogging.

    Like

  13. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    Holly’s writing journey is such am amazing one I had to share it with you.

    Like

  14. Can’t wait to read this!

    Like

  15. Holly- thank you for having the courage to share your exquisitely honest and heartfelt story. I’m quite sure this book will help children explore their feelings in a safe way, just as it helped you.

    Like

  16. Cool cover and a great publisher! Congratulations! Thank you for the contest!

    Like

  17. ❤❤

    Like

  18. Thank you for a beautiful book❤

    Like

  19. This sounds like a touching and important book. I’m going to recommend it to my daughter (but she’ll have to fight me over who gets to read it first).

    Like

    • excited to hear what you both think, esp. cause you know the back story now!!

      Like

  20. I enjoyed your article. I have lost both of my parents in the last 4 years. What a wonderful way to help with your grief. I also thought I would be a weather girl.
    I look forward to reading your book, I reared 2 boys too. Know too well about critters.

    Like

    • nice to meet a fellow recovered meteorologist / thank you for sharing your story too.

      Like

  21. Thank you for sharing! I pressed a link to my blog 🙂 Can’t wait to read!

    Like

  22. And I wanted to mention how amazing it is how stories grow when we put them aside, into something so much greater when it’s not rushed. It’s this wonderful, organic “happening” that has such a serendipitous feel to it, as if it were destined to be exactly what it would become ONLY having taken that path.

    P.S. I can’t handle insects and there is NO way I would’ve been able to actually catch crickets. For years they were the bane of my existence till my mother found the perfect “safe” repellent 😀 Lots of credit to you on that one, Holly!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Kathy, I of course forgot to mention I always tweet which automatically posts to facebook 😀

    Like

  24. I can’t wait to read this book! I shared on Twitter and Facebook.

    Like

  25. Such a touching story about your life and the accident you had to deal with and how you finally got your story out.

    Like

  26. This sounds so good–I can’t wait to read it. There will be tissues. Sharing on Facebook as well.

    Like

  27. I admire your courage in facing your grief.

    Like

  28. Wow. Beauty from the ashes. Thank you for being brave enough Holly. I am very excited and at the same time a little afraid to read your story. I have a feeling Sussy might stay with me a while afterwards… Thank you for sharing this with us all Cathy.

    Like

  29. I shared Holly McGhee’s interview on my FB page and Twitter, I wanted all my writer-ly and reader-ly friends to know what goes into bringing a book to life. Healing through writing is such a powerful experience. Thanks for sharing your story Holly and thanks Kathy for bringing your readers such wonderful posts.

    Like

  30. What a great story. Some of the best stories are the hardest to tell.

    Like

  31. Thank you for sharing your painful and beautiful journey, Holly. “The light comes in when we open the shutters.”

    Like

    • yes, shutters must stay open, even when the glare of reality hurts our eyes xo

      Like

  32. Sounds like a great story.

    Like

  33. […] first became aware of Matylda, Bright & Tender through Kathy Temean’s blog. While reading the beautiful post written by Holly herself about the book’s “journey,” I cried and knew it would be a […]

    Like


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