Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 30, 2017

Book Giveway: The Girls of Haviland by Deborah Rafferty Oswald, Ed.D. 

Deborah Rafferty Oswald has a new middle grade book titled, THE GIRLS OF HAVILAND. She has agreed to do the book giveaway. 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.


On the morning of September 2, 1918, the day before fourteen year old Jay McKenna is to leave home to attend the upscale Haviland Seminary for Girls on scholarship, she witnesses a girl falling to her death from a biplane flying over the family farm. Jay is shaken to learn that the girl, Violet Crane, was supposed to start at Haviland as well.

Jay is frightened to attend the school where the news will be nothing but the stunning events that happened on her property. Yet she knows she must leave home. With her three brothers fighting in the Great War raging overseas, Da holds the remaining family hostage with his violent temper.

As the “new girl,” and daughter of struggling immigrant farmers, Jay struggles to find her place at Haviland. She becomes the target of bullying and coercion. While Jay suspects the musically gifted and beautiful Nathalia is behind this, her complaints fall on deaf ears. Thankfully, she befriends Florence, the tough, determined newcomer ostracized because of her skin color. Can Jay learn from Florence how to stand on her own and fight for justice? Can the girls solve the mystery of Violet Crane’s death? Can Jay save her family?


The journey of my YA historical fiction novel, The Girls of Haviland, began in the downstairs research room in my local library over twenty years ago. In those pre-internet days, I could be found poring through large bound archival issues of my town’s local newspapers, looking for inspiration for my novel set in 1918 Putnam County, New York. I’ve always been drawn to the World War I Era, The Women’s Suffrage Movement, and NY Governor Al Smith. I’ve loved weaving together world, national, and state happenings of that time with the local goings on of small town Brewster and Carmel, New York.

The Girls of Haviland  is set in the fictional Haviland Seminary for Ladies, which is based on The Drew Seminary for Ladies, which was in operation from the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.  While the story takes place almost one hundred years ago, I wanted to explore issues that would resonate with contemporary readers. I had the protagonist, Jay McKenna, and her friend Florence Bright, experience bullying, prejudice, and domestic abuse. The plot involves Jay and Florence’s mission to discover what drove a classmate to commit suicide by jumping out of a biplane on Jay’s family farm. This event is inspired by a true event I found during my research, whereby a graduate of the Drew Seminary for Ladies became the first person to commit suicide by jumping out of a plane. I used parts of a note this person left behind in a poem written by a character in my book. Two characters in the story are inspired by prominent women in Brewster. One character is based on Governor Al Smith’s political advisor, Belle Moskowitz. These strong woman support Jay in her journey to escape her daunting home life and fight for social justice.

I met Lisa Fields when I sat next to her during a lunch break at the February 2015 SCBWI conference in Manhattan. We started talking and realized we were both from the Westchester/Putnam County area of New York. Lisa shared some samples of her work with me. This summer, when I was publishing the book, I found those art samples in the briefcase I had brought to the conference, and I contacted Lisa. She was amazing to work with. I was extremely particular about what I wanted, and she was very patient with me. I couldn’t be happier with the way she captured the expression in Jay and Florence’s eyes, as well as her depiction of the Haviland Seminary for Ladies. I sent her a photograph of the real Drew Seminary for Ladies to work from. I also love the way she drew a tree that crosses over the spine of the book, and how she included the biplane on the back cover.

I am a fifth grade teacher who is inspired daily by my students. I assist Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted, at her summer writing workshop for children at our local library. I am about 100 pages into a sequel of The Girls of Haviland, which will send Jay back to Manhattan to meet some powerful female social reformers. Jay will work undercover to expose unsafe factory conditions. After this sequel is published, I will research the summer hotels on Lake Mahopac, New York, at the turn of the century. I hope to continue working with Lisa so she can design more beautiful covers for my books.


I’m a self published author and elementary school teacher. I’m so very excited for the debut of my first YA novel, The Girls of Haviland. I love nothing more than researching women’s history. I am particularly drawn to the history of the Hudson Valley Region in New York, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the World War One years.

The idea for The Girls of Haviland came to me when I saw a picture of students at a private girls’ school taken at the turn of the twentieth century in Carmel, New York. I used this picture and archival articles from a local newspaper to create a historical fiction story that examines issues which will resonate with contemporary readers.

One interesting thing about me is my ability to remember exact dates and details. My friends laugh when I remind them of an outfit they were wearing on a particular day in high school almost forty years ago! I may not remember where I put my glasses this morning, but I can tell you what my brothers and I were served for dinner during the blackout of 1977!

I am currently writing a sequel to The Girls of Haviland, which will send my protagonist, Jay, on an undercover mission to expose dangerous working conditions for women and immigrants.

I am happiest when writing or reading women’s historical fiction outdoors, whether I’m on my front porch or at a beach on the Jersey Shore. I live with my husband, Chuck, and our spoiled Boston Terrier in Putnam County, New York. We have three grown daughters.

Thank you Deborah for sharing your book and it’s journey with us. Looks like a good book. I know the winner will be really happy to add it to their library.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I am very interested in reading this book! Although a picture book writer, I have always been drawn to historical fiction and also enjoy this time period. Hearing journeys to publication makes the journey more hopeful!


  2. I too write and enjoy reading historical fiction. I am tweeting, and posting this to my FB page. Thanks for an opportunity to win such an intriguing book.Best of luck with the book Deborah.


  3. Deborah your book sounds so intriguing! I’ll be posting it on my FB page. I have a friend who hails from Brewster NY and I bet she’ll love to hear about your novel. Best of luck in your publishing journey.


  4. I can’t wait to read this book as I am always fascinated by what goes on behind the closed doors of private institutions. Since I have recently finished a YA novel (out for copy-editing) about a young boy and his troubled journey in a military school, I am keenly interested in seeing how Jay and Florence navigate their challenges in the seminary for young ladies. Sounds delicious.


  5. I can’t wait to read your book! I enjoy historical fiction at any level, especially YA. Best wishes on your journey.


  6. This looks like a splendid book.


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