The Fish Test for Nanny X

When people think of writers researching stories, they often think of nonfiction. But writers research fiction, too. Details —like the way it feels to cast a fishing rod or do a loop on a roller coaster — need to be right for a fictional story to seem real. For Canary in the Coal Mine, I did research by visiting exhibition mines, walking the streets of Charleston, exploring an old company store, and listening in the dark.

For Nanny X, which is out today from Holiday House Books, I ate.

My main task was to figure out which smelled and tasted worse: a peanut-butter and sardine sandwich or peanut-butter and anchovies.

Which smells worse?

Which smells worse?

I should begin by saying I have a history with sardines. In my post-college years, one of my housemates liked to make himself a snack of sardines and feta cheese, which he claimed tasted delicious. But my other housemate and I could tell what he’d been eating, long after the evidence was gone. The smell lingered. In the end, we either banned it from the house or made him eat it outside on the porch. So my bet, in the anchovy-sardine competition was definitely on the sardines.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut while the sardine smell did turn out to be stronger, my crew and I decided there was something more disturbing about the anchovies. In a taste test, we all thought the sardines tasted better. The anchovies made us gag. Which means the anchovies won the place of honor on Nanny X’s sandwich. We lined them up on the peanut butter, just so.


And then we closed the sandwich and took a bite. I will spare my test subjects the humiliation of displaying their spitting photographs here. But below is my tentative taste test.

Verdict: BLECH.

When we try out new food items, we have a list of things we consider when we give those food items a proper review.

Appeal: Doesn’t look as awful as you might think.

Texture: Not so bad. We eat peanut sauce with Asian food so there is half a chance peanut butter might be okay with fish.

Taste: (Insert barfing noises here.)

Would you eat this again? No thanks.

Just one bite

Just one bite




Posted in food, middle grade, Nanny X, researching | 2 Comments

Around the Internet

Thanks to everyone for these recent posts about Tea Party and Nanny X!

From Margie Myers Culver: Polite Protocol and Cloak and Diaper.

From The Mixed Up Files: An interview and giveaway for Nanny X

From Library Laura: Answering some great questions about Nanny X

Some Nanny X reviews:

From Booklist

From Kirkus

From Publishers Weekly

An interview on my alumni blog is here.

A story on me and Mary Crockett, my Dream Boy coauthor, is here.

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Pinkies Up!

This gallery contains 16 photos.

                Look who’s been dressing up for tea this week! Authors, editors, librarians, the team at Katherine Tegen Books, the folks from my indy bookstore and the Washington Nationals! (And Sock Monkey. You should always give … Continue reading

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Are you ready for the Tea Party?

I’ve been on pins and needles waiting for the publication of How to Behave at a Tea Party, my book with illustrator Heather Ross, and now the date is here!

In the book, Julia and Charles have different ideas about what getting ready for a tea party means. For Julia, it’s a fancy hat and little sandwiches cut out with cookie cutters. For Charles, it’s overalls and a lot of burping. So what about you? How would you get ready for a tea party? Show us in a photo on social media, with a note that says you’re ready for the party and a link to this site: We’ll be using the hashtag #howtobehaveatateaparty on both twitter and Facebook. And if you want to tag @harpercollins on Twitter or HarperCollins Children’s Books on Facebook, you can do that, too.

We’d love to see what you come up with this week! Because everyone loves dressing up, right?

I’m just not sure whether to channel my inner Julia:

Or my inner Charles:

Either way, I’m ready for the tea party!

Thanks to Heather, our editor, Katie Bignell, everyone at Katherine Tegen Books, and YOU.


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I am always nervous when a book comes out. I’m combating my nerves by watching old episodes of the Love Boat. If ever I needed an open smile and friendly shore, it’s now. I’ve been trying to watch the episodes in order. Tonight’s episode stars Charo. Again. Better than warm milk.


Posted in anxiety, how to behave at a tea party, picture books, Tea Party | 2 Comments