Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)
I’ll say this time and time again, because I firmly and strongly believe it: middle-grade literature is such an exciting and transformative space right now. From the wealth of diverse stories coming out in middle-grade to the wonderful and empowering stories that center on children from a diversity of backgrounds, middle-grade is delivering some of the coolest and best stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
Earlier last year, I had the utmost pleasure and fortune of crossing paths with Julie Abe. When her book was announced, I was delighted. Japanese-inspired fantasy! About a twelve year old girl facing the possibility of losing her magic forever! And witches!
Because of Julie’s kindness and generosity, I was able to read an advanced readers copy of her debut, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch. I decided to read it on my birthday – and what a wonderful present I gave myself in doing so. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is now one of the most delightful middle-grade stories that I have read. It has everything that I love: a wonderful and relatable heroine, an empowering story about ‘doing your best’, and a luscious world that was gorgeous and a wonder to discover. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is the sort of story that has so much love in it – and I am so excited for you all to read it come August 2020.
Today, I have the honour of Julie herself visiting the Pond! She visits Xiaolong and friends as a shiba inu wearing a yukata, holding a wand and an onigiri! But before we talk to Julie, I am honoured to properly introduce you all to her middle-grade debut, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch.
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe
A charming new middle-grade fantasy adventure, about a young witch whose pinch of magic just might be more than enough, perfect for fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Aru Shah and the End of Time.
Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic…
Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:
ONE: Help your town, do good all around.
TWO: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.
The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.
When she lands in the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.
If you think Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch sounds delightful, then you are absolutely right. I had the privilege of finishing this book earlier this year and it is incredibly lovely and cute. Readers will feel inspired by Eva’s determination and bravery, and will feel empowered to follow their dreams.
Author Interview: Julie Abe
Xiaolong: Hello Julie! A huge and warm welcome to The Quiet Pond. We are super happy to have you visiting us today! For our friends out there who are only meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Julie: Hi Xiaolong and dear friends of the Quiet Pond! Thank you for inviting me here, it’s a beautiful place to visit.
I’m Julie Abe, author of the middle grade fantasy, EVA EVERGREEN SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH, and here’s 3 quick facts about me:
- EVA EVERGREEN is my debut, though I’ve been writing for years and years (I’ve written more than 10 manuscripts that will probably never see the light of day!)
- I adore baking bread in the shape of animals! One of my favorite creations to date is a Sailor Moon bread in the style of Luna, the cat! (You can see some of the bread I’ve baked on my Instagram, www.instagram.com/julieabebooks)
- I was living in Japan during the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011—and it heavily influenced Eva’s story.
Xiaolong: I had the privilege of reading your middle-grade debut, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch earlier this year and I loved it! But for those not familiar with it, could you tell our readers what Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is about?
Julie: I’m so glad you enjoyed Eva’s adventures!
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is the story of a girl with a pinch of magic who must pass her witch’s test or she’ll lose her magic forever.
(Also – if you order from a participating indie bookstore, you’ll also get a really cute gift! More info coming soon!)
Xiaolong: A significant ‘conflict’ across Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is that Eva only has a ‘drop of magic’ – which leads to delightful shenanigans balanced with some pretty high stakes. What was your thought process behind Eva being ‘semi-magical’?
Julie: It all stemmed from my own writing journey and not feeling like I was “good enough”. I’m not naturally talented at writing (I’ve written for years and years and years as practice! Even though Eva’s my debut, I’ve written 10+ manuscripts which will probably never see the light of day), and I don’t feel like I’m really good at, well, anything in particular, haha! It felt natural to write about a character who loves magic, but isn’t very good at it, and no one particularly believes in her skills. But Eva’s full of pluck, so she’s determined to prove that even though she’s semi-magical, she can pass her witch’s test!
Xiaolong: Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch takes place in a magical and enchanting world that I loved discovering through Eva’s eyes. What were your influences when creating the world in the story?
Julie: I was born in Japan, though I mostly grew up in the U.S. Eva’s world is heavily influenced by Japan, even some aspects people consider very westernized, like bread. Traditionally, most people think that Japan is very much all about rice, but when I go to Japan, I always find myself following delicious scents and finding myself in charming little bakeries! I loved adding touches of modern Japan that I know and love into Eva’s world.
Xiaolong: A big theme in Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is friendship and ‘doing your best’. What were your motivations for writing a story with these empowering themes?
Julie: To be completely honest, it was because I was struggling. I wrote Eva at a time when I never felt good enough at writing and nothing would ever happen to my stories, but Eva’s character was so full of hope that she kept me writing.
As I wrote Eva, my partner and my close friends encouraged me and gave me hope, and that also inspired the theme of friendship, and that we’re not alone. Together, I believe, we can do more, achieve more, and help others.
Xiaolong: Eva Evergreen comes out in August and I can’t wait for everyone to meet Eva! What do you hope readers will take away from the story?
Julie: I can’t believe it’s almost August! There’s a lot going on in the world right now, so I hope Eva and Ember’s journey will give readers an escape, and they’ll feel like their hearts are warmed by the time they finish the last page.
Xiaolong: This is a question I like to ask at the end of all my author interviews – but what is a food that feels like ‘home’ to you – wherever and whoever that may be?
Julie: So many choices! I love a refreshing bowl of matcha shaved ice or natto (soybeans) or fresh-baked corn rolls…
But I think ‘home’ is onigiri (rice balls). A few years ago, my mother-in-law made me and my partner a few onigiri to take to the airport—it’s a really great meal on the go. Even though our flight was delayed for hours, biting into that onigiri made me feel so content, no matter how long the wait, and made me feel at home.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit the Quiet Pond, Xiaolong!
About the Author
Julie Abe is the author of EVA EVERGREEN, SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH, releasing in 2020 (Little, Brown Young Readers), and the second book in the series, releasing 2021. She has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea. Find Julie online at www.julieabebooks.com.
I was so excited to have Julie visit the Pond today! As you could probably tell, I was a huge fan of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, and I can’t wait to see what will be Eva’s next grand adventure.
A huge huge thank you to Julie for visiting! It was an honour to have her share Eva with all of us. I hope all of you are excited to read her book; it’s absolutely wonderful and you will not regret it, especially if you need something soft and lovely right now.