Interview with Deborah Lakritz, author of THINGS THAT SHIMMER

Set in 1973, Deborah’s middle grade novel THINGS THAT SHIMMER (Kar-Ben, 2024) follows Melanie, a middle schooler desperate to join the cool clique in school while also dealing with her mother’s PTSD. But when she befriends a new student, Dorit, who has experienced past trauma of her own, Melanie learns the importance of friendship. This thoughtful story has real-world resonance and relatable characters. I look forward to learning more about the novel and Deborah’s writing process. Welcome back, Deborah!

In your novel, Melanie and Dorit deal with serious life issues.  What challenges did you face writing about these topics for middle-grade readers?

I wanted to be honest and not sugarcoat the struggles they were going through with their families while not traumatizing tween readers. I wanted to make sure readers would feel feeling if they’ve been going through issues like these in their own families, but I didn’t want to create more anxiety for them in telling Melanie’s story.

Deborah Lakritz

The story is in the 70s. How important is the setting to this story?

It certainly is a universal tween friendship story that could have been set in today’s times, but there were so many important things going on in our country in 1973-1974, with Watergate, the Yom Kippur War, the rise of feminism. I think setting it in these times gave the story a flavor and an immediacy that wouldn’t be felt today. Just the way information was obtained was so different: the morning newspaper and the evening news were the main sources for information on Watergate, and what was happening in Israel. If someone living in Israel didn’t answer their phone, you didn’t really have any other options except to wait until you heard from them. The people directly in your life were your primary influences. So many things.

What were your thoughts when you first saw the cover for THINGS THAT SHIMMER? 

I was thrilled with the cover from the moment I saw it! Lara Paulssen did a brilliant job of capturing a feeling and a time period.

What do you hope your readers take away from the story?

I hope those readers who are struggling with issues in their own families will feel seen. I hope readers who are constantly judging themselves and measuring themselves against the people in their school who they believe are more than they are will pause and take a moment to reflect on how wonderful they themselves are, and how many assumptions they are making about the people they’re building up in their own minds. I hope the story will encourage readers to recognize the precious friendships they have and to nurture them.

Dorit’s family is Israeli and deals with issues that are relevant to today’s world. Do you think THINGS THAT SHIMMER will be more significant for today’s young readers than you might have imagined when you wrote the book?

Yes! I was amazed at first that my book was coming out within a year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and that it might be an opportunity for readers to look back and explore the history of that time. But then October 7th happened and all of a sudden, we were dealing with a current situation. I think people who read Things That Shimmer will identify with the fear Dorit and her family experience when Israel is unexpectedly attacked. They may identify with the way the Jewish community comes together in difficult times. They are seeing another generation of young Israelis losing friends and family members to war. On another note, they’re also seeing a (former) president in the midst of serious legal battles. I worked on this book for a long time and never expected such parallel experiences as it was being released!

Thank you, Deborah.

Deborah Lakritz is the author of several picture books including award-winning PJ Library selection, Say Hello, Lily. She can usually be found in a cozy cafe working on books for children of all ages. She and her husband live in Wisconsin where they raised five children.

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