I know I’ve said it before, but one of my favourite things about social media is making new friends with people all over the country and world that have similar interests. Today I’m excited to be chatting with one of my Instagram friends Bethany Loveridge, a fellow fan of middle grade books and aspiring author. Bethany’s Instagram account is always packed with amazing recommendations for readers 8-12 (ish) – she reads for pleasure but also for research for her own writing, and the breadth of her reading is evident from the range of books that pop up on her page. Bethany is currently working on a manuscript, which I happen to have had an early read of and think is fantastic! Check out our chat below for a bit more info, and to get some great recommendations for your middle grade summer reading list!
Hey Bethany! Big thanks for joining me on my blog today! First, I was wondering if there is a particular book you’d love to find under your Christmas tree this year?
I tend to buy middle grade books I’m interested in as they’re released (or I pre-order them), so I love being gifted special edition copies of my favourite books. I recently bought the Looking for Alibrandi: 30th Anniversary Edition, and it is a sparkly treasure. On my dream booklist are beautiful, hardcover copies of Playing Beatie Bow and A Wrinkle in Time.
Oh! And The Folio Society have recently released the most fantastical edition of Howl’s Moving Castle – I’d like that too!
Here in Australia at Christmas time summer is just getting started. Do you enjoy summer, and what is your favourite thing about it?
I absolutely do not like summer. My theory is, you can always put more clothes on, but you get to a stage where removing any more layers would be socially unacceptable. I love woollen coats, breathing out clouds and the way my hair feels in winter. While we’re discussing things that make me a weirdo, I also don’t like the beach, or the film, The Notebook. But my favourite thing about summer is Christmas!
Do you like to plan a summer reading list? What’s on your tbr for this summer?
I don’t formally plan or make lists, but thinking about this question, I realise I have physical spots around the house that I use as a sort of reading schedule. A shelf for books I need to read and review (they aren’t colour-coordinated into the rest of the bookshelf), a towering pile by my bed which are my current and immediately next reads, a stack on my bedhead which are sequels or prequels or classics that I really want to read and like to look at, and a scattering on my desk that I’m using for research for my own writing. There are definitely also some books I put straight into the bookshelf but have no short-term plans to read (I will get to them one day).
I’m also yet to read two very much anticipated new releases, Seven Wherewithal Way: Across the Ice and Into the Jungle by Sam-Ellen Bound and The Bookseller’s Apprentice by Amelia Mellor. I love that I have these to look forward to, I know they’re going to be awesome!
Do you have a particular genre or type of book you especially like to pick up over summer?
Summer is for epic, sweeping adventures and staying up late reading! In primary school, Christmas holidays were spent at Nonno’s farm, reading the newest fantasy books my cousin had picked up during the year, and my uncle’s impressive collection of The Phantom comics.
In high school, I spent the first day of holidays at the library, borrowing every fat book with a dragon sticker on its spine. This is how I discovered an all-time favourite, The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb (and I think anyone connected with me on Instagram will be aware of my love for dragons and mythical beasts).
I don’t get nice long holidays anymore, and I feel sad if I stay up too late, but I still associate this time of year with devouring as many stories as possible and tackling series. Actually… I’m looking at a box set of A Series of Unfortunate Events – it would be great to go through those again!
What’s your perfect summer reading situation?
At the risk of giving a boring answer, my ideal summer reading spot is in bed – aircon pumping, cold hydration (mineral water or iced coffee) and one-handed snacks nearby (but nothing that leaves residue on my fingers). Some of the best summer reading snacks are frozen peas or pre-cut apple, but I’ll never say no to hot chips. Is that a boring response? Consider this… I don’t have to worry about sunburn, ant bites, other people, animals, or any other thing distracting me from my book. And if I get really sleepy? I’m already in bed!
I think I should add – if I found a perfectly shaded, padded spot with a mountain view and a cool breeze – that would obviously be divine, and I would get out of bed for it.
I love middlegrade books, and I know you’re a fan too. Can you please share your top 5 middlegrade book recommendations for people to check out this summer?
Here are five, firm summer recommendations (in alphabetical order)
– A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr
– Mountainfell by Katharine Orton
– The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr
– The Ghost Locket by Allison Rushby
– We are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad
This list will give you tears and spine-tingles, good snacks, mystery and danger, lots of heart-warming moments and a couple of heckin’ cool adventures. And a dragon.
Finally, can you please tell us a little bit about your writing and what you’re working on?
I am passionate about reading and writing middle grade fiction. Late in 2020 after a particularly vivid dream, I began writing a story that has since set-up camp in my head and heart. I’ve included all my favourite elements: Australian historical fiction, girl power, time-travel, a few twists, and a good dose of ecology/environment (okay, there’s no dragon, so not all my favourite things).
I’ve just completed the first manuscript and was lucky to have the guidance of two amazing literary people as I wrote – Kristina Schulz (as a 2022 ASA Award Mentorship recipient) and superstar author, Leanne Hall (as a 2021 KYD Mentors Program recipient). I’m now through a first draft of the second story and have three planned.
Bron, you read an early draft, so you know there’s more tea than I’m spilling, but the manuscript is out on submission, so I’m keeping a little quiet. Once I’ve signed a publishing contract let’s shout it from the rooftops, okay?
Meanwhile, everyone should come and hang out with me on Instagram and chat about fantastic middle grade books!
Believe me, as soon as Bethany has that publishing contract we will TOTALLY be shouting it from the rooftops! I’m so grateful as always that people take the time to answer these questions for me to share here and give such great recommendations! Make sure you follow Bethany on Instagram and check out her website too!
If you’d like more recommendations from the fabulous authors and readers I’ve been chatting with you can see more of these posts here.