Meet the author: Debbi Michiko Florence

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Tell me a little about yourself: I am the author of the chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi, about a spunky 8-year-old Japanese American girl. The first two books are Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. Book 3, Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl will publish on April 3 and book 4, Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper will publish on July 3. I am a third generation Japanese American, born in San Francisco and raised in Los Angeles. As an adult, I have lived in Michigan, Mexico, Massachusetts, New York, and China. I now live in Connecticut with my husband, a rescue dog named Kiku, a bunny named Aki, and two ducks named Darcy and Lizzy. I love to travel with my husband and daughter. I have my degree in zoology with a minor in English. Before I became an author, I was an education curator at a zoo, raptor rehabilitator, and a teacher.

  1. When you were my age, did you like to read?

When I was your age, I absolutely loved to read! In fact, while I was away in college, my mother ran into my former third grade teacher and she said, “Whenever I think of Debbi, I remember her sitting in the reading chair with a book.” I still love to read and read about 100 books a year.

  1. What was your favorite story?

Back then, my two favorite books were Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. They remain favorites. You might notice that Charlotte’s Web is Jasmine Toguchi’s favorite book. J

  1. How do you get your ideas? Like how was Jasmine inspired? Is she based on you?

My ideas come from everywhere. Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen was inspired by a newspaper article I read about a multi-generational Japanese American family that got together every New Year to make mochi in the traditional way. I wondered what would happen if a little girl wanted to do the man’s job of pounding mochi. Would her family support her? How would she convince them?

Jasmine is the little girl I wished I had been. Jasmine is a lot like my daughter, Caitlin, was at that age. I’m embarrassed to say that I was more like bossy big sister Sophie (I am the older sister).

  1. Is it hard to write a book?

Hmmmm. It is hard work to write a book for sure, but it’s also the best job ever!

  1. What author do you really like right now?

Some chapter book and middle grade authors I’m really loving now are Kelly Starling Lyons, Susan Tan, Kat Yeh, Kara LeReau, Karina Yan Glaser, Elly Swartz, Celia Perez, and Jodi Kendall. One of my dear friends and critique partner, Jo Knowles, has a new middle grade coming out spring 2019 called Where The Heart Is that I read in draft form and I absolutely love it. I could go on and on about more authors!

  1. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?

There are some amazing debut authors, a few I mentioned above. Andrea Wang (The Nian Monster) and Katie Slivensky (The Countdown Conspiracy) had their fabulous debuts with strong girl characters last year and both have new books coming out soon. Also, a chapter book I read in review copy that I really enjoyed is Owen and Eleanor Move In by H.M. Bouwman (4/3/18). And a couple of middle grade novels coming out later this year that I’m dying to read: Front Desk by Kelly Yang and Babysitting Nightmares by Kat Shepherd.

  1. I found out about your books via Multicultural Children’s Book day. Why do you think Multicultural books are important for kids?

Great question! When I was your age, I wanted to read stories like Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time with characters that looked like me and had similar cultural experiences. I think it’s important that readers see themselves in books and movies/TV – to feel seen and heard and understood. And I think it’s important that all kids learn from differences and see commonalities that unite, too.

  1. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Read a lot of books, of all genres. And write, write, write. Most importantly, have fun.

  1. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

Yes! The very first real fan letter I received from a girl in WI made me cry tears of joy. And I’m getting other fan letters, too. I’m making a special scrapbook to save all of these lovely treasures. The best things are hearing that readers love Jasmine, that they relate to her, and that they have learned something new. I get so much joy knowing these things.

Thank you SO much for these fabulous questions, for featuring me and Jasmine on your wonderful blog, and for the truly lovely review of Super Sleuth. It is such a special and meaningful review because you are the reader I write for. (I printed it up to put in my scrapbook!)

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