Children's (Middle Grade)
That’s what 10-year-old Sophie Washington thinks until she runs into Lanie Mitchell, a new girl at school. Lanie pushes Sophie and her friends around at their lockers, and even takes their lunch money. If they tell, they are scared the other kids in their class will call them snitches, and won’t be their friends. And when you’re in the fifth grade, nothing seems worse than that.
Excitement at home keeps Sophie’s mind off the trouble with Lanie. She takes a fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico with her parents and little brother, Cole, and discovers a mysterious creature in the attic above her room. For a while, Sophie is able to keep her parents from knowing what is going on at school. But Lanie’s bullying goes too far, and a classmate gets seriously hurt. Sophie needs to make a decision. Should she stand up to the bully, or become a snitch?
“Nice glasses,” smiles Mariama, one of my other good friends in our class. Mariama’s family moved to our neighborhood from Nigeria last year. Some people make fun of her because she dresses different sometimes and talks with an African accent, but she’s really nice.
“Thanks, this is my first time wearing them,” I say. “I was a little nervous this morning.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be because they look really good,” she assures me. A few of our other classmates come through the hall, and no one seems to pay too much attention to me wearing glasses. Seems like it’s not a big deal after all.
“Hey Soph,” calls Chloe, rushing over to join us at the lockers, “those are some cute specs. I may get some with red frames to match my uniform logo.”
“You’re supposed to wear glasses to see, Chloe,” Mariama and I laugh.
“Well, they can be used for fashion, too,” she informs us.
We compare notes on last night’s science homework and grumble about the many review packets Mr. Simpson assigns.
“He must really want us to become astronauts,” Chloe complains.
“Yeah, it took me over an hour to get mine done,” I say.
Suddenly, I hear Mariama whistle under her breath.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
I see Lanie moving in our direction.
You mean she bothers Mariama, too? I think to myself.
“Hey, Miss Tarzan,” Lanie says, turning toward our friend. “I see you’re wearing that necklace from Africa that you promised me,” she says, pointing at the string of colorful wooden beads my friend is wearing.
Mariama, who is at least a foot shorter than Lanie and probably 15 pounds lighter, starts to shake.
“My mother gave me this necklace,” she says, “and it was a gift from her mother to her.”
“Well, it’s going to be my gift now,” Lanie snarls, reaching out to grab it.
“Why don’t you give it a rest?” says Chloe, moving to block her.
“And who’s going to make me?” Lanie smirks.
I feel my face getting hot under my new glasses. I am so tired of Lanie bothering everybody and spoiling all our fun. If I wasn’t so scared of people calling me a snitch, I would march right down to the principal’s office and tell on this bully.
“Leave her alone, Lanie,” I say through gritted teeth.
“And who’s going to stop me?” she asks.
Lanie laughs and shoves me against the locker.
“You couldn’t stop a flea.”
“Come on, Sophie, let’s just go,” Chloe urges.
But I’ve had enough.
I shove the bully back.
“I said, leave her alone.”
Lanie looks surprised for a second.
“Fine, if she won’t give me her necklace, then I’ll take yours.”
She yanks my precious silver friendship chain from my neck and knocks me to the floor so quickly that my new glasses fall off.
“Sophie!” Chloe and Mariama rush over to help me as the bully hurries off down the hall.
“I hate her!” I reach on the floor for my new glasses and see that the glass is cracked in one of the lenses.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m the author of the Sophie Washington children’s middle grade book series and I live in Houston, TX with my husband and three children. I’ve worked as a journalist and I’ve done freelance feature writing for a Houston-based family magazine for the past nine years.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
My hobbies include reading, biking, swimming, spending time with friends and family, and travel. I’ve visiting 42 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and spent a year and half studying and traveling in Europe during college.
Where do you get your ideas?
My Sophie Washington book series is fictional but the stories are based on reality. Sophie Washington: The Snitch, for example, came about after my daughter and her friends were being bullied at school and I was shocked that they were more concerned about being called “snitches” by their other classmates if they told than what they were going through with the bully. Each book in my series deals with common middle grade issues, like bullying, social media and video game use, and puppy love, with a Texas twist. Sophie lives in the suburbs of Houston, TX and sees eight-foot-alligators, wild boar and buzzards in her neighborhood, goes muttin’ bustin’ at the rodeo, fishes in the Gulf of Mexico and has other experiences unique to the area.
What book do you wish you had written?
There are so many wonderful books out there that I’ve enjoyed through the years. I think I’d choose the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. When I finished reading her books I was sad my time with Harry, Ron and Hermione was over, and I was awed at the world the author created while I was reading the book. I’d like to play with more fantasy writing in the future.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a planner but as I follow my plans, I can sometimes morph into a pantser. When writing my books, for example, I start with a general theme or idea then write headings for my chapters to use as loose outlines. As the stories progress, planned directions might change based on where my characters lead me. With book marketing I make general plans, but if events pop up that I want to take part in, or based on results of promotions I’m running, I might switch up what I’m doing. I plan, but I also go with the flow.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter 12, “Lights, Camera, Action,” was my favorite chapter to write in the book. The kids have gotten fed up with being pushed around by the bully and decide to stand up to her. One of them gets seriously injured in the process.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I’d love to bring Lanie Mitchell, the bully from Sophie Washington: The Snitch, back in a future book to show what has happened to her after she left Xavier Academy. Hopefully she has grown from her experiences.
What has been the best compliment you’ve been given as an author?
One reviewer said that I was able to write my books from a genuine child’s voice, painting Sophie realistically as a child of her age would be. This made me feel like I had really reached someone.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad?
I take time to read all my reviews. It’s encouraging to see that people actually are reading my work and taking time to comment on their experience with it. I sometimes send thank you messages to readers who take time to post positive reviews. I’ve been blessed that, so far, my reviews have been more or less positive, but I do consider suggestions that some have given on ways I can improve.
What is your greatest source of joy?
Spending time with loved ones and making great memories, be they through down time or exciting adventures, is my greatest source of joy.
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Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Tonya Ellis remembers hiding in the restroom from a few bullies during her elementary school days. She encourages kids to speak out if they are being mistreated. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist, written for newspapers and magazines and won awards for her books. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys reading, biking with her husband and two sons and daughter, and travelling to interesting places. SOPHIE WASHINGTON: The Snitch is the second book in a series about Sophie and her friends.