Okay, friends.... this is such a good blog tour! Not because of anything I did, though. What I have for you is a SUPER fun Q&A with the author and an AMAZING giveaway. This giveaway includes FOUR signed copies of the book and a full class period SKYPE! I mean.... really... that's pretty cool!
Read this post, because this is one of the most fun sets of answers I've gotten from an author, and then be sure to go all the way down to the end to enter to win. (Prize provided by the publisher and the author.)
THE TREASURE OF MAD DOC MAGEE by Elinor Teele
The small, run-down town of Eden is the only place Jenny Burns has ever called home. The roots of the trees are in her bones, the air of the mountains is in her breath, the lakes and rivers are in her blood. And that’s why, when her father loses his job and tells Jenny that they may have to move on from Eden, she knows she can’t let that happen.
The fever of New Zealand’s Central Otago gold rush still runs in the veins of Eden, and everyone knows the legend of Doc Magee: how he found the largest gold nugget anyone had ever seen and hid it somewhere in the hills before he disappeared. Jenny and her best friend, Pandora, know that if they can find the gold it’ll solve all their problems. But the way is fraught with mysteries, riddles and danger—and those are just the threats they know about. Before her quest is over, Jenny will have to face challenges from within as well as from without.
And now for a Q&A with Elinor Teele!
Did any particular childhood fascinations help spark ideas for the story?
I learned about the broad outlines of the Otago Gold Rush during high school summers in Arrowtown—our family often used to hike up Sawpit Gully and similar tracks in Central Otago. At the time, I was woefully unfit, so my experiences of the mountains were more in the line of Pandora than Jenny. I’d visited the Lakes District Museum and seen the abandoned mining works along the rivers. (And listened over & over to Banjo Paterson’s bush poetry on the car trip from Christchurch.)
After I learned how to get up a mountain, I gained a deeper appreciation for the landscape that Jenny adores. When I was writing my doctoral thesis and working remotely, I spent a fair amount of hours rambling in the area. I particularly love the Arrow in the autumn.
But the idea for the book didn’t come together until I was on a road trip with my brother to the West Coast (of New Zealand). It was raining—just for a change—so we decided to duck our heads into the Hokitika Museum. It had a great display on the Gold Rush, including vignettes of its one-of-a-kind characters.
I briefly thought about centering the book on the West Coast, and then I realized, duh, there’s a diverse & fascinating history on your parents’ doorstep.
Note: If anyone’s interested, there are some wonderful New Zealand novels (for adults) about the South Island during the Gold Rush years.
What bits of research for this story were the most interesting for you? Was there anything that was especially hard to find out? Were there any cool tidbits you loved but weren't able to fit into the story?
When I started, I knew next to nothing about the Chinese-Kiwi experience in the 19th century. I’m still learning, but at least I’ve had a glimpse! It was a real pleasure to correspond with Charlie Chin, who acted as a consultant. I particularly enjoyed digging (pardon the pun) into Kam’s experience with his garden—what kinds of herbs & medicinal remedies he might have used, his ideas of balance & healing, even how he would have ordered seeds in the 1870s.
Kam is particularly close to my heart. He’s the oldest in his family, and a teenager, so I reckoned he would be hitting the big questions of adulthood. When you’re born in one country and grow up in another, how do you decide between obedience & honor & tradition (the old world) and freedom & nature & imagination (the new world)? How can you reconcile your dreams of independence with a father who valued Confucian ethics? That’s why Kam is relatively serious and careful in his speech. Thanks to advice from Shenwei Chang, his brother became more of a cheeky Kiwi kid.
In a perfect world, I would have liked to explore the experiences of the adult women—I wasn’t able to dive into all the diaries and letters written in the time period. In my head, there’s a three-part mini-series set in the Rush years that provides the entire backstory for Mrs. Quinn and Gentle Annie. I also have some ideas for the love story between Jenny’s mother and father.
I love unique chapter headings/quotes. Can you talk to us about how you chose yours?
Every chapter begins with an illustration and a quote from Galen’s Anatomy—it’s a textbook that plays a key part in the girls’ treasure hunt. Kids might notice that Galen is wryly commenting on the content of each chapter, particularly when the girls start exploring the territory.
For example, Chapter 10 begins with an illustration of the heart and Galen’s quote: “Where is folly bred? In the heart or in the head?”.
• At this point, the girls think they have discovered where the nugget is hidden—in the bank, the geographic heart of Eden. But it turns out this may be a foolish thought.
• It’s an emotionally charged chapter—many folks are in love, remembering past loves, or pretending to be in love. Somebody may even be having a “heart attack.”
• The bank has two atria. It’s also guarded by a statue carrying a sword, a reference to the xiphoid, a sword-like structure at the center of the chest.
• The quote is a riff on The Merchant of Venice—another work about the dangers of money. Mr. Grimsby, who appears in this chapter, is a former Shakespearean actor.
There’s a humorous chapter for the humerus, a mud-soaked chapter for the intestinal tract, and a trek down the Longshank for chapters involving the leg. It all goes back to the picture of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man in Magee’s office—the human body as a microcosm of the world.
I have some more clues on my website. My long-suffering editors had to work through an annotated draft where I noted all the Easter Eggs!
What would you pack as emergency or travel gear if you were going on a treasure hunt like Jenny?
First off, calories. Lots of them. Second off, an excellent pair of boots and two pairs of warm socks. Take care of your feet.
I’d also add a map, a collapsible shovel, wet weather gear, gloves, quick-drying layers, a Tilly hat, a wool hat, a sleeping bag, a water bottle, a pocketknife (shades of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin), bandaids, sunblock, painkillers, tape for sprained ankles, a compass, a lighter & matches, a flashlight & batteries, water purification tablets, a toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, and soap.
If you’re Pandora, you’re going to insist on cheese and an emergency beacon. If you’re Jenny, you’re probably going to forget half of it.
Throw it all in a Macpac and you’ll be good to go.
And just for fun... there are many "what five things would you include to help others understand you" memes going around on Twitter. Here's my favorite: What five items would someone include in a salt circle to summon you?
Am I being summoned to heaven or to hell? (Sorry, the Shakespeare never ends…). I’d probably go with:
1. A fountain pen
2. Dark chocolate
4. A vial of water from the North Atlantic
5. A scrap of a red velvet theatre curtain
About the Author
Elinor Teele is the author of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin (Walden Pond Press, ISBN: 978-0062345103) as well as a playwright. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2005. Elinor lives with her family in New England. You can visit her online at www.elinorteele.com.
Explore the world of Elinor Teele's stories, plays, and HarperCollins books for kids.
Notification -- I received a free copy of this book with no requirement to participate in this blog tour. I received no other compensation.
US/Canada only.... YOU can win a Skype with the author and FOUR autographed copies of the book! She is willing to do up to a full class period (50 minutes) with your class, and she'd love to chat with you ahead of time to plan it so that it can be fun and interactive for your class. This is an INCREDIBLE offer! My students adore Skyping with authors and it's such a wonderful experience!
Elinor just wants you to know that she's in a play in mid-November, so she'll be extra busy around then.
For a chance to win (I'll pick a random winner on 9/29), please comment on this blog with your thoughts about the book or a possible Skype for your class. You can win an extra chance by replying and retweeting this post on Twitter (I'm @mariaselke). I'll email you or contact you via Twitter by 9/30 to get your specific information for the publisher. You'll have 24 hours to reply to me with your information or I'll move on to the next winner.
Check out the Educator's Guide on Walden.com
Visit other stops on the Blog Tour September 10-21
Monday September 10 Novel Novice
Wednesday September 12 Book Monsters
Friday September 14 Walden Media Tumblr
Saturday September 15 Maria's Melange
Monday September 18 Writer's Rumpus
Thursday September 21 Bluestocking Thinking