Guest Post – Seaglass Summer Author Anjali Banerjee Joins Us
Summer is nearly here and there couldn’t be a better time to recommend a great Summer story! Today we welcome author Anjali Banerjee, whose book Seaglass Summer was recently nominated for the 2014 Bluestem Book Award, the Illinois Children’s Choice Award. Read on for a unique interview, learn more about Seaglass Summer, and bonus, the author shares some pictures of her cats too!
In Anjali Banerjee’s middle grade novel, SEAGLASS SUMMER (Wendy Lamb Books), eleven-year-old Poppy Ray has always wanted to be a veterinarian, even though she has never had a pet. So when she spends a month over summer vacation with her Uncle Sanjay, veterinarian and owner of the Furry Friends Animal Clinic on Nisqually Island off the coast of Washington, she is in for big surprises. She learns that there’s more to taking care of animals than the stethoscope and cotton swabs in her Veterinarian First Aid Kit. During her time at Uncle Sanjay’s clinic, and with the aid of some seaglass and intuition, Poppy learns about life and death, love and compassion, and the pain and joy of working with animals.
Here is Studebaker (“Stu”), Uncle Sanjay’s beloved dog in SEAGLASS SUMMER, in a live interview with Anjali about the book:
Stu: How long do we have to sit here and talk? Can we go for a walk? Can we, can we? What’s that noise? Something fell over. The glass thing with the flowers inside, the ones I tasted. My tail might’ve been wagging too hard. Can we fix it? The vase, not my tail. Look, squirrel!
Anjali: Is that a question about the book, Stu? In SEAGLASS SUMMER, you do go for many walks on Nisqually Island with Poppy and her Uncle. She meets neighbors and falls in love with the lush, Pacific Northwest island, which starts to feel like home to her, even though she’s from Los Angeles. Her uncle gives her useful advice about what it takes to care for ailing animals and their humans.
Don’t worry about the vase.
Stu: Worried? Did someone say worried? Are you worried, Anjali? Here, let me lick your face. Feel better now? Can we go for a walk?
Anjali: Um, Stu, I’m not worried now, although I did get worried when I was writing several drafts of the book. Sometimes it takes many rewrites to find the heart of a simple story. Hey, stop it. My face is all wet. You did that to Poppy when she first arrived on the island – you knocked her over and licked her face. And you didn’t give her much space to sit in her uncle’s rickety truck.
Stu: Truck? Are we driving to the beach? Where’s my leash? Here it is. Oops, dropped it. Open the door. Seagull!
Anjali [sighs and pets Stu): Poppy longs to work with her uncle, but at first, she also feels out of place on the island. I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say she ends up wearing “island gear” instead of her regular clothes.
Stu: What are clothes? Oh wait. Oh no. I remember that word, “clothes.” Is it Halloween? If it is, I do not want to be “banana dog” again. Excuse me while I disappear.
Anjali: Don’t worry; I’m not going to dress you up in a costume. We can go for a walk when the rain stops. These islands get a lot of rain. I live on the mainland, though, on the Olympic Peninsula, about a three-hour journey from the islands.
Stu: Journey? I love going on journeys. I’ve been on many journeys in the truck. I get to sit in the front.
Anjali: Yes, I know. As I was saying, Poppy bravely rides the ferryboat on her own from Seattle, all the way across the rough waters of the Puget Sound to Nisqually Island, with only a ferry worker as chaperone. Her parents see her off at the Seattle dock. They’re on their way to India. They wanted Poppy to go with them, but she convinced them to let her stay with Uncle Sanjay and work with him in the Furry Friends Animal Clinic. Did you know that most of the clinic stories in the book came from real life? I spent some time sitting in on appointments at a local veterinary hospital, and I got to see some pretty interesting things, like tapeworms, roundworms, and cute dogs and cats.
Stu: Cats? Where? I’ll just take a look out the window—
Anjali: Stu, stop barking. Get down. You’ll break the glass! See, this is the kind of thing Poppy deals with – unexpected naughty behavior. I’m talking about the cats in the book. There is no cat in here right now. But my husband and I live with five rescued kitties in our house. It takes a lot of work to care for them, to keep them occupied, brushed, fed, hydrated, healthy and happy.
Stu: Happy? I’m happy. Except when I’m sad. You have a house? Can we go there? Where are the cats? I’ll just run around and look for them.
Anjali: I don’t like what you might have in mind for the cats, but at Uncle Sanjay’s clinic, you’re very well-behaved. You usually stay in his office down the hall—
Stu: Am I being punished? I haven’t done anything. I didn’t pee. But I do have to pee. I’m saving it up for marking the mailboxes. When are we walking?
Anjali: I was talking about the cats—
Stu: You’re trying to distract me. I knew that. You can’t fool me. I’m going to sit here by the door, like this, very straight and tall. I am not going to move, or breathe, or fart—
Anjali: That’ll be the day. You can’t help yourself, and Poppy has to sleep with you and your smelly farts!
Stu: I’m going to stare at you until we go to the beach.
Anjali [petting Stu]: You do love the beach. The beach in SEAGLASS SUMMER is based on the beautiful beaches of the islands off the coast of Washington state. You can spot many treasures like sand dollars, clam shells, and colorful stones. I once saw a baby seal hiding out on a beach on Whidbey Island. Nisqually Island is fictional, a composite of other islands, mainly San Juan Island, Whidbey Island and Lopez Island. But in SEAGLASS SUMMER, Nisqually Island is real for you, Poppy, Uncle Sanjay and all the island residents – and close to my heart. Just as you are close to my heart.
Stu: I love you, too. You are in my heart. But I don’t have heartworms. I get medication for that.
Anjali: Whose interview is this, anyway? The rain has stopped. Come on, let’s go for a walk. [Anjali opens the door.]
Stu [runs outside]: Yay, squirrel. Smells! Flowers. Grass! We’re going to the beach. Mailbox!
Anjali Banerjee is also the author of Maya Running and Looking for Bapu, both from Wendy Lamb Books. She was born in India, grew up in Canada and California, and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction has appeared in several literary journals. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Readers can visit her online at www.anjalibanerjee.com.
Seattle Public Library video about SEAGLASS SUMMER:
Bluestem Award nomination book trailer for SEAGLASS SUMMER:
Many Thanks to Anjali Banerjee for joining us today and sharing this lovely and funny interview with Stu!
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