When I started this new blog post series, I did it with the idea of sharing the WHY I created my stories, but then I thought…why not share OTHER authors STORY BEHIND “THEIR” STORY? I put the call out and soon I had tons of authors who wanted to share their backstories with my readers. This week children’s book prolific author and my friend, Debbie Dadey, is sharing the WHY she wrote her book, “Mermaid Tales: A Titanic Friendship”. Take it away, Debbie …
Do Kids Still Like Titanic Books?
By Debbie Dadey
When I was a librarian, kids practically fought over Titanic books in my elementary library. I had to admit I was also fascinated by the legendary ship that was like a floating palace. When the opportunity came to write a Titanic book of my own, I was ecstatic. As with any book, I did the research needed. My merkids were to visit the sunken ship as it is today which is slowly disappearing courtesy of the steel-eating bacteria, H. titanicae. When I presented the idea to my editor my heart sank at her words, “Pick another ship.”
Another ship? But the Titanic was the ship of all ships! How could I choose another one? My editor noted that many people died when the big ship went down. True, but unfortunately people probably died in any shipwreck. So, I did something I had never done before, I did it anyway. I’ve pretty much have always acquiesced to my editor’s big demands, but I didn’t this time. My librarian heart felt that kids would enjoy a Titanic ship above any other ship story. My goal when I began a writing career was to focus on writing stories that would appeal to reluctant readers. Would a Titanic story fit the bill?
As it might be the last Mermaid Tales book, I also wanted to write about a character I’d never been able to have before-a mermaid in a wheelchair. Yes, the librarian in me said that there are all kinds of diversity and kids need to see themselves in books. I’d tried with Twist and Shout. I’d written the whole book with Echo in a wheelchair and ended up having to rewrite it with Echo on crutches. A Titanic Friendship released a few years later than Twist and Shout and perhaps the timing was right. Diversity won and there’s a mermaid named Anita in a ‘wheelchair’ of sorts on the cover. She plays a huge role in the story. Yeah!
Do kids still like Titanic books? A large part of the Mermaid Tales audience is girls. So perhaps the question should be phrased, “Are girls fascinated by Titanic stories?” Let me know what you think. My librarian brain is curious, and my writing heart is hopeful that kids will enjoy A Titanic Friendship.
Echo has always been fascinated by human inventions, so she’s especially interested when her class studies the history of the Titanic and the bacteria discovered there, Halomonas titanicae. When Mrs. Karp announces that the class will be going on an ocean trip to the sunken vessel, Echo is thrilled to have a chance to see it, since the ship is decaying and won’t be around much longer.
The ocean trip isn’t the only big news at school—a new merstudent, Anita, will be joining the class! But Echo and Anita immediately don’t get along. Anita is rude to Echo the first time they meet, and all of Echo’s friends seem to like Anita better than her.
As the trip approaches, the merfriends learn that the Titanic site isn’t wheelchair accessible, meaning Anita won’t be able to join the class. Her friends decide to boycott the trip, but Echo has been looking forward to it for weeks. Is Echo willing to look past her jealousy and give up the trip? Or can she find way for everyone to be included in both the ocean trip and her friend group?
A Titanic Friendship is Mermaid Tales #22 from Simon and Schuster/Aladdin
About The Author:
I used to be Debbie Gibson when I was a little kid growing up in Kentucky. I got in trouble for talking too much in school. In fact, I learned Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address by heart because I had to write it so much in fifth grade (punishment for talking). My older brother still lives in Kentucky. If you’re ever in Henderson, KY. stop by Thomason’s BBQ for the best beans and mutton you’ve ever tasted and say Hi to my brother Frank.
Now I live in Sevierville, TN with my husband Eric and our dog Carmen. I’m very proud of my husband-he’s a smart scientist. He worked in industry, but now he teaches pharmacy. Of course, he’d have to be special to put up with a kooky writer like me! My kids are awesome too. My oldest son graduated from Penn State and the University of Colorado and now I call him Dr. Nathan. Hurrah Nathan! My daughter attended Penn State, but now she is in graduate school. My youngest son was the nicest guy I ever knew. He would have given you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Sadly, he died in 2020.
Some people think that the Bailey School Kids series was named after my dog Bailey, but that’s not so. My grandmother’s name was Lilly Bailey and I loved her very much. Marcia suggested using the name Bailey for our books and I liked it. Later, when my family got our new puppy we named her Bailey, too. Bailey was a wonderful dog and it broke my heart when she died. Her buddy, Skippy, died just about a year later. I like to think they are playing together in puppy heaven. Many years ago, we had Cleo and Comet. They died within months of each other as well.
I think my Grandmother had a lot to do with me being a writer. She always kept a diary and I thought that was so cool.
I spend lots of time watching my kids do their activities, like soccer. My youngest son was also into skateboarding and my daughter was really involved in the plays at her school. I also like playing the piano, hiking, scrapbooking, fixing up my log cabin, tennis, reading, and writing of course!
In 2023, Debbie’s newest series will debut with Mini Mermaid Tales for kids in first and second grade.