Welcome to a special feature spotlighting Ava XOX, the third book in Carol Weston’s middle grade series Ava and Pip!
Carol Weston’s Ava and Pip series follows fifth-grader Ava Elle Wren as she navigates her way through various highs and lows at home, at school and with friends. A s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r speller, aspiring author, younger sister, daughter, cat-lover, and palindrome fiend, Ava is a genuine, candid and spirited young protagonist.
In Ava XOX, Ava goes on an unexpected roller coaster of emotions as she starts experiencing maybe-more-than-just-friends feelings for her best guy friend, Chuck. Surprised to find herself feeling this way, Ava finds herself in an even bigger puddle of emotions when she hears the news that Chuck is suddenly going out with a very bubbly, pretty and popular classmate. Weston has crafted another great- and layered- story here with Ava’s well-developed first-person narrative: not simply focused on the ‘young first crush’ side of the story, we also follow Ava along as she tackles other serious issues including newly developed friendships, trust, body issues, and insensitive and mean schoolmates.
Over the course of reading three Ava and Pip books, I have come to appreciate just how distinctive and refreshing Ava’s voice is. While perhaps not the most immediately cuddly and/or easy-to-love character, I find that Ava is, rather awesomely, a character I grew to like more and more as the series went on. Weston does such a fantastic job of bringing such a unique main character (and multidimensional secondary characters) to life; and the on-going treat of word plays and palindromes will likely inspire readers- if not have them see words and letters in new and unexpected ways. While I have enjoyed each of the three titles in this series- all well-written, engaging and heartfelt- I would argue that Ava XOX seems the strongest yet! I do hope us readers get at least a few more stories featuring Ava and her world!
Readers who like their heroines more robust, a little feisty and a lot relatable, will likely really come to adore Ava. Fans of characters such as Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik or Judy Blume’s Sheila the Great or those who enjoy reading the (mis)adventures of protagonists such as Ramona Quimby, Ivy & Bean or Clementine might especially love Ava’s honest and plucky voice.
Guest Post from Carol Weston!
Describe your book in 140 characters or less?
In Ava XOX, Ava, 11, realizes that her feelings for her best guy friend are more complicated than she thought. Uh oh.
How did you come up with the idea for AVA XOX?
How did I come up with the idea for Ava XOX? I’m the Dear Carol advice columnist at Girls’ Life Magazine and have been for 22 years! So I know what fifth and sixth graders think about and how much miscommunication there is when it comes to matters of the heart. Especially in early middle school. There are girls and boys who aren’t even sure if they are going out or not. They write and say, “We haven’t talked in two months so I don’t know if I should break up.” I thought it would be fun to write about a boy who finds himself almost unwittingly going out with a girl. He says a quick yes and now suddenly she’s calling his home 24/7. Neither Ava nor Chuck want to be in a relationship, but they care for each other so it gets complicated when he seems to have agreed to go out with someone else.
The subplot explores, believe it or not, tween obesity. The New York Times asked me to write a Sunday Dialogue, and I chose that important subject. While most readers agreed that we have to help kids take care of their bodies, it stirred up a little controversy, which I didn’t expect. So I handed over those feelings to Ava. Like me, she wanted to be helpful, not critical or judgmental. But weight is a tricky subject and has to be handled with the utmost sensitivity. I think kids will really like the back and forth on this — as well as the more romantic story line.
Tell us about the main character.
Ava Wren is a good kid who gets in trouble but whose heart is always in the right place. In AVA AND PIP, she feels invisible in her own family, but by helping her shy big sister find her voice, she also finds her own. In AVA AND TACO CAT, she wants a cat for her 11th birthday but gets way more than she bargains for. In AVA XOX, a new girl asks out Ava’s best guy friend and she is surprised to realize that she’s jealous. She also tries to help a girl who is getting teased about her weight—but uh oh, at first her well-meaning advice backfires. Spoiler alert: These are middle grade kids’ books so things turn out okay even if I put my character (and readers) through the wringer!
What is your favorite Valentine card/gift/other that you ever received?
Favorite Valentine? Hmm, my husband and I have been happily married for years but we aren’t all that into gift-giving. When our girls were little, I used to love baking pink heart-shaped cookies with them in mid-February. Does that count? I hope so.
What books formed your thinking or reflected who you were as a child and teen reader?
Early reading? I was big on Archie comics, Dear Abby, Aesop fables. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you! But maybe you can get a triple A education with Archie, Abby, and Aesop. Like Ava herself, I was a little afraid of big books and sometimes judged books not by their covers but their length. I always thought: less is more. Happily, I have grown up. I majored in comparative literature (French and Spanish) and love to read. I will admit, though, that I still appreciate it when writers can come up with a short masterpiece. Or when they spend a lot of time editing so that we are reading is the best they can offer.
Childhood favorites? I loved an obscure book: Henry and the Red Glove. Beautiful and poignant, page by page. I also loved P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? and Sam and the Firefly as well as Robert Lopshire’s Put Me in the Zoo. I was a fairly restless kiddo and at night, rather than read, I sometimes wrote in my diary. I still have those childhood diaries – and those favorite books.
Thank you for asking!
Ava XOX by Carol Weston
February 2, 2016
Hardcover ISBN 9781492620778
Title: Ava XOX
Series: Ava and Pip
Author: Carol Weston
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Praise for Ava and Pip:
“Bold, funny, and real.” –Karen Bokram, editor of Girls’ Life Magazine
“Through Ava’s diary entries, Weston perfectly captures the complexities of sisterhood…a love letter to language.” – New York Times Book Review
“Ava Wren makes reading and writing so much fun, she deserves a T-O-P-S-P-O-T on your bookshelf. This charming dairy will inspire shy kids, young writers, and even reluctant readers. Y-A-Y for A-V-A!” –Dan Greenbury, author of the Zack Files series
“With her engaging voices, jaw-dropping word play, and tales of a good people making not-so-good decisions, she casts the perfect spell. A big W-O-W for AVA and PIP!” –Julie Sternberg, author of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
“You’re gonna fall head over heels for the new book by our very own advice columnist Carol Weston.” –Girls’ Life
Love is in the air—and Ava thinks she’s allergic
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and Ava couldn’t care less. That is, until a new girl, Kelli, asks out Ava’s friend Chuck…and he says yes! What?!? Ava is NOT okay with this. But since when does she think about boys? For the first time ever, words fail Ava. She isn’t sure what she’s feeling (Like? Love? Friendship? Frustration?), or what “going out” even means. After all, fifth graders aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves, are they?
To top it off, Pip’s friend Tanya is being bullied for her size. Ava wants to help—but, uh oh, it’s not as easy as she imagines.
About the Author:
Carol Weston has been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994. She is the author of fourteen books including the two Ava Wren titles, The Diary of Melanie Martin (Knopf), three other Melanie diaries, and Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (Harper Perennial, Fourth Edition). She lives in New York City. Find her at carolweston.com and YouTube.com/GirltalkWithCarol
Excerpt from Ava XOX:
DEAR NEW DIARY,
I’m pretty upset about what happened today.
My new friend Zara asked if I’d heard about Chuck.
“No, what about him?” I said.
“He and Kelli are going out,” she said.
“How do you know?” I asked because this did not seem possible, and, well, Zara has kind of a big mouth.
She said Chuck was on the bus minding his own business when Kelli hopped on and sat right next to him without asking. She was wearing one of her sparkly headbands-she has about a million-and sneaking bites of banana bread even though you’re not supposed to eat on the bus. She offered him a piece. And he took it.
Later, in homeroom, Kelli passed Chuck a note that said, “Do you want to go out?” Zara said it had two circles, one marked YES and one marked NO. At first Chuck didn’t answer, but Kelli made a sad puppy face, so he put an X in the YES circle and passed it back.
And now they are “going out”!!
I have to say, this really bugs me.
Number one: we’re only in fifth grade.
Number two: Chuck and I have been friends since the apple-picking field trip in kindergarten, and Kelli just moved here last year, and I’ve never once noticed him notice her.
It just doesn’t seem right that they’ve said about five sentences to each other-total-and all of a sudden they’re “going out”! How long has she even liked him? Did she start today?
And how can they be going out when none of us is allowed to go anywhere anyway?
Lunch was spaghetti and meatballs, which I usually love, but my insides felt like cold, stuck-together spaghetti. It didn’t help that Zara and my best friend Maybelle were talking about Valentine’s Day, which is Saturday.
Our grade has three Emilys, but only one Ava, one Maybelle, and one Zara, and lately the six of us have been sitting together at lunch. Well, it’s usually all-girl or all-boy, but today, Kelli plunked her tray down at Chuck’s table! I was in shock! The Emilys just giggled, and Emily Jenkins said, “Kelli and Chuck make a good couple.” And everyone agreed!
I swear, that made me want to throw up my meatballs. (Sorry if that’s gross.)
The problem is that I’m not supposed to care as much as I guess I do. Last month, Zara asked if I liked Chuck, and I said no.
Why do I care anyway? Chuck is sweet and funny, but I think of him as a brother.
At least I think I think of him as a brother.
A sweet, funny brother.
We’re just friends.
H-U-H. That’s a weird expression, isn’t it? “Just friends.” As though years of being friends is less important than hours of “going out.”
**READ ON FOR MORE AVA AND PIP AND FIND OUT HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!**
Also by Carol Weston:
Ava and Pip
Hardcover ISBN 9781402288708
Paperback ISBN 9781492601838
Meet outgoing Ava Wren, a fun fifth grader who tries not to lose patience with her shy big sister. When Pip’s 13th birthday party turns into a disaster, Ava gets a story idea for a library contest.
But uh-oh, Ava should never have written “Sting of the Queen Bee.” Can Ava and her new friend help Pip come out of her shell? And can Ava get out of the mess she has made?
Ava and Tacocat
Hardcover ISBN 9781402288739
Paperback ISBN 9781492620808
Ava desperately wants a pet for her eleventh birthday—but gets way more than she bargained for when she adopts T-A-C-O-C-A-T.
When Ava Wren hears about an injured yellow tabby with mismatched ears, she becomes obsessed and wants to rescue him. She even picks out a perfect palindromic name: T-A-C-O-C-A-T. But when Taco joins the family, he doesn’t snuggle or purr—all he does is hide. Worse, Ava’s best friend starts hanging out with Zara, a new girl in fifth grade. Ava feels alone and writes an acclaimed story, “The Cat Who Wouldn’t Purr.” What begins as exciting news turns into a disaster. How can Ava make things right? And what about sweet, scared little Taco?
Now for the Rafflecopter Giveaway!!!
Up for the winnings: 2 sets of the complete Ava & Pip series (Books 1-3)!
The giveaway runs January 26th-February 29th (Open to US & Canada only)
I received digital copies of Ava and Taco Cat and Ava XOX courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky via NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews and for the purposes of this post. Thank you! Review blurbs, images, excerpts, buying links, social media links, as well as giveaway have all been provided by Sourcebooks.