Let’s Go on a Pond-cation: An Eva Evergreen-Inspired Virtual Vacation through Japan with Julie Abe and Xiaolong!

Let's Go on a Pond-cation! Let's travel with Julie Abe. An Eva Evergreen-inspired virtual vacation though japan with julie abe and xiaolong.

Today is a very special and exciting day, friends! I have the spectacular Julie Abe, author of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch visiting us at the Pond for our very first Let’s Go on a Pond-cation guest feature, where we explore the real places that have inspired fictional places and worlds!

During Asian Heritage Month in May, I had the absolute pleasure of Julie visiting us to talk about her recently released middle-grade debut and the Japanese influences in Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical WitchIn Julie visit’s today, we’re doing something pretty unique and fun that we have never done before: instead of staying in the Pond, we’re going on an adventure! Julie is going to talk a little bit more about the adventure you are going on today, so without further ado, a big welcome to Julie Abe!


Hi, traveler! I’m Julie Abe, author of the middle grade fantasy Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch. It’s a middle grade fantasy about a 12-year-old girl with just a pinch of magic, who must pass her witch’s test or she’ll lose her powers forever.

An illustration of Xiaolong the axoltol, holding onto a broomstick, smiling, and waving at you!Much of Eva’s story was inspired by the time I’ve spent living in and traveling through Japan. We’re all stuck at home now, so with the help of our friend Xiaolong (cosplaying as Eva Evergreen!), we‘ll be taking you all on a virtual vacation of my top spots. I even found recent photos of all these locations, thanks to the magic of Instagram! 😉

Leave your passport behind, sit back, and enjoy!

Chiba Prefecture

I was born in a town in Chiba Prefecture, so it seems fitting to start our journey here. Most think of Japan either as the skyscrapers of Tokyo or the rolling rice fields. But I think of Japan as bright blue skies and cozy small towns, like Eva’s hometown.

An illustration of Xiaolong the axoltol, wearing a witch hat and riding a top a flying broomstick, flying over a Japanese temple.

Fun Eva fact: There’s a temple like this one in the background of the cover of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch!

Bakery

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An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl wearing a witch hat and sitting on a bench, happily eating a baked bun.Let’s stop by a bakery, first. We have to have fuel up before our trip, right? I love Japan’s cute bread. Just look at these cat-shaped loaves. They even come in different flavors—cheese, azuki, french toast, and chocolate.

Tasty Eva fact: Eva loves bread, too. Her father is a realm-famous baker, renowned for his yuzu creations. He even sends Eva off on her journey with some of his croissants!

Tokyo

Let’s go to a small suburb of Tokyo—Shimo-Kitazawa. I lived here for a little bit, in a tiny but wonderful apartment. Shimo-Kitazawa is one of the best spots in the Tokyo area for hunting for vintage clothes or hanging out in cute and quirky cafes, like this one!

evaevergreen 4 - tokyo

Fun Eva fact: Eva and Ember would love Shimo-Kita! It’s the perfect place to spend a day wandering around and exploring.

Izu Peninsula

Eva fact: Auteri, the town that Eva travels to during her witch’s quest, draws a lot from the Izu Peninsula, and you may see some descriptions about Auteri in Eva’s story that were inspired by Izu! If you’re looking to visit a beautiful coastal town, you’ll enjoy the Izu Peninsula.

Xiaolong the axolotl, posing next to a red draw bridge.

I was heading back from a trip to the Izu Peninsula on the morning of the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit off the eastern coast of Japan. It was an absolutely heartbreaking day, and Japan is still recovering from the aftermath. In so many ways, that day and the days following that truly shaped Eva’s story, years before I began writing it.

Last stop: Kyoto

evaevergreen 6 - kyotoWhen I get asked about Japan travel recommendations, I always mention Kyoto. It’s the old capital of Japan, and one of the most gorgeous spots I’ve been to, anywhere in the world. There’s just something so classic about the winding streets and wood buildings. It’s also famous for its delicious matcha, too!

Fun Eva fact: Eva and Ember would love Kyoto. In particular, they’d enjoy Kiyomizudera (a temple overlooking Kyoto) and the ramen area of Kyoto Train Station, a floor featuring mini-stores from some of the top ramen restaurants around Japan. (Like me, Ember loves food.) The architecture in Kyoto also inspired quite a few buildings in Eva’s story.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour throughout Japan. If you’d love another Japanese-inspired trip without having to board an airplane or even leave your house, I’d love for you to read Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch!


Please check out Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch! It’s one of my favourite middle-grade books this year – an absolute delight in every way and so comforting. If you’d like to read a review, here is my own review of Eva Evergreen! Here is the blurb, for any readers who may not have heard of it before:

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

book cover for eva evergreen, semi-magical witch by julie abe. the cover depicts a young girl wearing a witch's hat and robes, riding a broomstick in the air over an idyllic town with clear blue skies, and with her hand outstretched holding a wand. an orange flying fox with a star on its forehead glides next to eva.

Blurb:

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.

Find this book on:
Goodreads | Indiebound | Blackwells | Book Depository | Kobo | Amazon


Xiaolong the axolotl, wearing big glasses on her head, holding a suitcase, and a camera around her neck.Thank you so much for joining Julie and I on our first ever Let’s Go on a Pond-cation feature!

I’m hoping that this will be a new feature at the Pond, where authors and I take you, our lovely friends and visitors, on an adventure to the real life places that inspired the fictional places in their stories! I want to thank Julie for this idea, and for kindly letting the Pond adapt this wonderful idea of hers to go on more adventures and pond-cations in the future.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Go on a Pond-cation: An Eva Evergreen-Inspired Virtual Vacation through Japan with Julie Abe and Xiaolong!

  1. 😭😭😭❤️❤️❤️ I always love your art but these are the most adorable drawings of Xiaolong ever! Looove everything here and I’m looking forward to Eva Evergreen (getting the paperback which comes out in October, so I can also read it on my birthday hehe 🥰)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OHHH I heard of this but somehow I didn’t know it drew a lot of Japanese influences! I need to pick it up! I’m a little glad Julie Abe mentioned the earthquake here because I feel like a lot of people have forgotten it and we need to remember for the sake of the people who died and for the people whose lives & towns & homes were destroyed 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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