January 11

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Cover Reveal for OVER THE TOP by Alison Hughes

I encounter a centaur regularly on one of my bike-riding routes, and I think he’s at least partially responsible for me writing this book.

 

He’s a statue, of course, but what a statue! Bronze, eight or nine feet tall, his horse body frozen in full gallop, his human half triumphantly waving a huge bronze flag.

 

He stands magnificently, ridiculously, on the front lawn of a massive, ornate house. His flag bears the house number.

 

I’ve biked past this house with its ludicrous centaur for years, wondering about the extravagant, over-the-top people that must live there. But I’ve never seen them. Not once.

 

So, I invented them.

 

OVER THE TOP, my new middle grade novel, begins with Diva and her family buying a new house. And, you guessed it, the house with the centaur is on the market.

 

But because as a writer I get to have fun, I’ve embellished the house. It’s pink. With turrets. A glitzy sort of castle.

 

Twelve-year-old Diva is highly attuned to the embarrassment factor of living in a ridiculous pink castle, especially since it’s just down the street from her new school.

 

But her party-planner mother, extravagant extrovert extraordinaire, adores the house. And, as usual, the whole family gets pulled into her larger-than-life plans. Diva’s had to live with her middle name, “Cleopatra,” while her nine-year-old brother deals with his name, “Hero Augustus.” They’re very aware of their mother’s over the top tendencies.

 

I’ve always been intrigued by families that include both introverts and extroverts. Very often they understand and respect each other’s differences, but sometimes, as with my fictional family, there are times when they definitely don’t.

 

Quiet, reserved Diva struggles to fit into her new school and make friends. Living next door to mean-girl Miranda doesn’t help, especially when Diva’s mother thinks they’re destined to be BFFs. And when Miranda spies Diva acting as a “mermaid mascot” at one of Diva’s Mom’s children’s parties, things take a turn for the worse.

 

But in a turn for the very worst, Diva’s mother decides to cheer Diva up by throwing her a massive birthday party, inviting the entire sixth grade, possibly the last thing in the whole world that Diva would ever want.

 

Humiliations pile up as Diva gathers her courage to audition for The Wizard of Oz, her new school’s play, and is cast in the baffling role of The Yellow Brick Road opposite Miranda’s irritable Dorothy.

 

But it’s during the school play—in something she’s chosen to do, and on her terms—that Diva manages to stand up to Miranda and find her own place and her people. And she and her mother come to understand and value each other’s perspectives, too.

 

When I judged a middle grade children’s writing contest, I noted recurring themes running through the stories: fear of embarrassment, the importance of supportive peers, the subtle and excruciating forms bullying takes, and dread over not fitting in. It’s a tough age.

 

I’ve tried to weave together many of those themes in OVER THE TOP and sprinkled the whole thing liberally with humor. Because humor is an antidote to almost anything.

 

I hope OVER THE TOP is a book both introverts and extroverts will enjoy. It’s definitely one for any centaur on your list.

 

I’m delighted to share Laura Horton’s beautiful cover art with you. Thanks for reading!

 

OVER THE TOP, released Aug. 3/21 with Running Press Kids, is available for preorder now.

 

Alison Hughes has published 16 books for children, which have been translated into Dutch, Korean, Turkish and French. Her books have been a Junior Library Guild selection and listed as best books of the year with both the Bank Street College of Education and Resource Links. In Canada, she won the national Writers’ Union Writing for Children Award and has been a finalist for the Governor-General’s Literary Awards, the Alberta Literary Awards, and nine times for provincial children’s choice awards. She works as a University Writing Advisor/Editor, gives workshops and presentations at schools and libraries and volunteers with child welfare and literacy organizations. She lives with her family in Edmonton, Alberta. www.alisonhughesbooks.com