Friday, February 14, 2014

Mooncalf by Linda Zern: Character Interview and Excerpt

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Interview with Leah Breck, Protagonist of Mooncalf

 Where do you dream of traveling to and why?

The moon. Everyone wants to go there, because it’s important to beat the Russians there and because it would be so exciting. Girls aren’t allowed to be astronauts, not yet.  Do you think they should be? I do. Olympia, my best friend does too.

 Who is your favorite author?

 I like T. H. White and E. B. White. I don’t know why they only have letters for names. I don’t think they are related.

 What do you think makes a good story?

 The best stories make you laugh and cry. Those are the best.

 Tell us about your family.

 Sure, I can tell you about my mom and dad and my brother. My mom has black hair and wears a lot of my dad’s sweatshirts. She’s sad because we moved away from Rose Marie Drive way out to the country. The country makes her sneeze. She’s allergic to it. I think my mom misses her friends.
I know my little brother, who’s mostly a brat but sometimes he’s okay, misses his friends. He keeps saying that he wants to run away back to Rose Marie Drive, but my Dad doesn’t miss anyone. He’s happy in the country.
He’s happy showing me how to feed baby cows with a big baby bottle. I wish he hadn’t showed me wrong, that’s all. I didn’t know Dads could get something important like that wrong. I didn’t know Dads didn’t know everything.  

 What was the scariest moment of your life?

 When my dad left us to go to Texas, after those astronauts died in the fire. He made me the boss of feeding our baby calf but they die. Did you know that? They die all the time. I’m so afraid that our baby calf will die and it will be my fault.

 What books have most influenced your life?

 I don’t know about influence, but we all had to read those books about some kids named Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot. They were pretty silly, but that’s how we learned to read, and those books in the library about myths from around the world. I love those, so does Olympia.

  What book are you reading now?
  Yeah, I would like that, to tell you about the book I’m reading now. I’m a pretty smart kid. I mean I think I am and my new friend Olympia too. We love to read. I’m reading a book by a man named T. H. White. I’m not sure what the T. and the H. stands for, but I like his book. It’s called Mistress Masham’s Repose. It’s a chapter book and that’s groovy and far out. It’s about a girl named Marie who finds a bunch of little people called Lilliputians a man named Gulliver brought home with him. Marie wants to keep one for a pet, but it’s not right. It’s a chapter book. Did I already say that? Well, it’s a chapter book, but it has pictures. I don’t know what Olympia is reading right now.

 As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  Miss America, all the girls want to be Miss America.

 What are your favorite TV shows?

I like Laugh In, because my family watches it, all together, and it makes my dad laugh. I don’t really get all the jokes but I like when my dad laughs. And I like when that Goldie girl dances and says “sock it to me.”

 What songs are most played on your Ipod?

What’s an ipod?

 What is your favorite meal?

 My mom makes fried chicken and I LOVE it and at school the lunch ladies make homemade yeast rolls and green beans with bacon. Olympia, my best friend, she loves the yeast rolls.  I always give her mine at lunch and she gives me her green beans. We like to share.

 What group did you hang out with in high school?

  I don’t know yet. And I never will.

  Do you play any sports?

 Not really. At PE we have to get ready to take the President’s Physical Fitness Test.  It’s important that we’re faster and better than the Russians.

 What are you passionate about these days?

 Olympia Crooms. She has hair that looks like it’s going to a party. It bounces.

 What do you do to unwind and relax?

 I like to make homemade Valentine’s for my class—with glitter.

 If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?

 I’d tell my little brother that I was sorry for not being nicer to him when I had the chance.

 What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?

Probably Charlotte’s Web. It made me laugh and cry.

 Who should play you in a film?

 I like that girl in Pollyanna, that girl Hayley Mills.

 Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?

 The mornings are my favorite. I can go to school and see Olympia and learn. I love to learn. I love Olympia.

 Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

Not really.

  What would we find under your bed?

Probably my big dumb dog Blarney. If it’s storming he gets scared and sneaks in the house to hide. Big dumb dog.

 Tell us about your favorite restaurant.

We got to go to the new McDonalds on highway 50. It’s the first one ever built in Orlando. We can’t go very often. It’s too expensive. That’s what my mom says.

 What makes you happy?

Brushing Olympia’s hair because it’s so easy to braid and twist and decorate with barrettes, that makes me happy.

  What is the next big thing?

The Spelling Bee.

 If I came to visit early in the morning would you impress me as being more like a chirpy bird or a grumpy bear?

 I wouldn’t be chirpy or grumpy; I’d just be me.

 What one word best describes you?

I’m a mooncalf.

Mooncalf cover
Mooncalf by Linda Zern

Over Olympia and Leah's heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies.

But on Miss Brinker's school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn't. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.

Olympia's father works other men's orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah's father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.

At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.

Praise for Mooncalf

"One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it's difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book. Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word--each adjective, verb, and noun. Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded. Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it. And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don't go away once you've finished the book. They stick with you. It's hard to forget Mooncalf."" ~ The Thousander Club

"I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it." ~Lacey Smith

Mooncalf award
The bus engine growled, loud enough to rattle the windows.
“Hey! There’s a big, red monkey riding on the roof of that car,” a girl sitting behind Leah hollered.
“No, it’s a dog—a big, red dog. And it’s surfing right up on top of that roof.” Across the aisle from Leah, a boy with big horse teeth pointed, screaming with laughter.
“That is so far out and gross!” someone else said.
“Hey, green sweater girl!” One of the big kids in the back of the bus started yelling at one of the little kids sitting in the front of the bus.
Leah was one of the kids sitting in the front of the bus, and she was little.
She did not turn around. He couldn’t be yelling at her, not on her first
day at a new school. He’s not. It was a mistake. Leah looked down at her green sweater and started to count the pearl buttons. Why couldn’t she be a turtle with no ears and disappear inside her green sweater shell? It was probably pretty quiet inside a turtle’s shell.

Author Linda Zern

LindaLinda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck.

She wrote her first children's chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer's Digest called "the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing."

Florida Publisher's Association was kind enough to award her little book the President's Book Award for best children's book of 2005.

Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at

Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world.

The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.

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