But what happens when Mya and Naomi don’t get to be partners? Instead Mya is stuck with Mean Connie Tate, the biggest bully at her school. Will she sneak information to Naomi and her partner to help them win? Or will she learn there might be more to Connie Tate than meets the eye?
A touching, rollicking look at friendship in elementary school. Sometimes the person we think is being mean isn’t. And sometimes when we don’t intend to, we become the mean one. And what do you do then? Fast-paced with a satisfying ending, including someone getting lassoed in the hall, The Magnificent Mya Tibbs will leave you smiling and thinking. Mya’s creator, Crystal Allen, talks with me about Mya, friendship, and her own experiences in elementary school.
Christine at Book Club Advisor: Thanks for talking with us today, Crystal! Mya Tibbs loves having Naomi as a new best friend. What did you know about Naomi when you began to write her?
Crystal Allen: I knew that Naomi was a beautiful, but bratty, nine-year-old girl. The more she developed in my mind, the more I began to see her as a child who was the product of beauty pageants that emphasized outward beauty.
BCA: How important do you think it is for young people to know who their best friends are?
CA: It is just as important for them as it is for us. They tell each other secrets, ideas, dreams, and fears. Young people must know who they can trust, and it is usually their best friend.
BCA: How does the label “best friend” impact the way Mya sees other girls in her grade? How you think the need to belong drives Mya in her decisions?
CA: To me, girls see other girls in their classroom in categories: Just a classmate, friends, not friends, best friends. When Mya believed she was best friends with Naomi, she enjoyed all the ‘perks’ that came with that relationship, and was blinded by the glamour. However, once she realized how much she enjoyed being friends with Connie, her need to belong or be accepted by others was not nearly as important as she though it was with Naomi.
BCA: In trying to keep her best friend, Mya hurts Connie, but Connie is cast as the bully. How do you think the labels people are given affect them?
CA: Labels, tags, nicknames, they can all hurt. For some people, they will begin to act just like the ugly name they’ve been given, and it’s even worse when that name doesn’t represent the person at all. That’s how it was with Connie Tate.
BCA: Do some people get away with things because they have nicer labels?
BCA: How did you handle that when you were in elementary school?
CA: When I was in school, there was no “handling that.” The kids with the stellar labels were always believed, or given the best parts in the plays, or leads in the choir, or made ‘teachers helper’ before the kids from the rough neighborhoods or the ones making so-so grades.
BCA: Did you ever have a best friend break up?
BCA: How did you cope with it?
CA: In elementary school, my best friend and I broke up, and then made up, every other day over very silly things. As an adult, best friends come for different seasons in my life. I realize that, and so do they. But, our friendships continue, just on different levels.
BCA: Name calling is a big issue for the girls in this book. How do you think being the name-caller and being the one called names affects the characters?
CA: Growing up, it seemed to me that girls called other girls names more than boys did. They did not fist fight as much as boys, but the name calling was brutal. Mya and Naomi are terrible name-callers. That’s why I have Connie trying to help Mya stop. Words do hurt, and I plan to continue exploring that in future books.
BCA: Characters in this book are full of surprises. Besides a rip-roarin’ good story about a Spirit Week competition, what do you want readers to get out of this book?
CA: I want readers to form their own opinions about others, and not take someone else’s gossip or rumor as truth because they could miss out on a best friend!
BCA: What do you love most about writing?
CA: I love everything about writing, especially the connection I form with my characters.
BCA: What book was your favorite to read when you were Mya’s age?
CA: Charlotte’s Web.
BCA: Mya loves Annie Oakley. Who was your hero when you were Mya’s age? Why did you look up to them? Why do you think we need heroes?
CA: My heroes were Diana Ross and the Supremes because they were three beautiful brown women wearing funky, cool clothes and they could sing! I loved singing! I think we need heroes to remind us that someone doing something we like has already shown us that we can do that, too!
Thank you so much Crystal for talking to me here at Book Club Advisor! Mya Tibbs will be out in paperback January 3! And look out for The Magnificent Mya Tibbs #2 – The Wall of Fame Game (Balzer and Bray 2017)
More from Crystal Allen http://crystalallenbooks.com/
(Click covers to buy indie!)