Monday, February 8, 2016

SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg

SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg (February 2nd, 2016, Penguin Young Readers)

What It's About (from publisher's promotional materials):
It’s 1934 and the Great Depression is hitting the Johnson family quite hard in Wisconsin. Terpsichore, “Trip”, is doing her best to provide for her family after her father loses his job at the mill. With her whole town turning to relief, President Roosevelt has provided them with an option—to become settlers of a New Deal Colony in Palmer, Alaska. Trip tries to make the best of her new living situation by channeling her idol, Laura Ingalls Wilder to embark on this grand adventure. Pro: No homework for kids who have to plant crops with their families. Con: No libraries or radios to entertain each other with after a hard day’s work. Pro: Making a new stake in virtually untouched land. Con: Scarlet fever epidemics. As they face the hardships of turning tents into barns, can Terpsichore and the other two hundred families find their place in the new colony?

Opening Lines:
"It was because Terpsichore was the only unmusical Johnson that she dragged a hatchet across the yard toward a pumpkin as big as a pickle barrel."

Things I Liked About It:
  • Terpsichore is an engaging character who is self-sufficient (and I love that she has all sorts of issues with her problematic name.)
  • Great portrayal of family bonds and friendships.
  • Insight into both the Great Depression, and the fact that FDR had a program to resettle hard-hit families from the midwest to Alaska.
  • The additional material at the back of the book, including a recipe for Jellied Moose Nose.
I had the pleasure of asking Carole Estby Dagg my middle grade mafioso questions!
Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?
There are so many wonderful middle grade writers I’m going to narrow it down to middle grade historical fiction writers. What’s more, I’ll put them in alphabetical order so I don’t have to choose favorites:

Avi, Gennifer Choldenko, Karen Cushman, Karen Hesse, Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, Lois Lawry, Patricia MacLachlan, Katherine Patterson, Richard Peck, Caroline Starr Rose, and Jacqueline Woodson.

What’s on your nightstand now?
(Pause while I lug in the stack so I can type ititles here at the computer)
Last in a Long Line of Rebels, by Lisa Lewis Tyre
All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton
Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Perez
Leaving Berlin, by Joseph Kanon
Recipes for Love and Murder, by Sally Andrew

Like Terpsichore in my Sweet Home Alaska, I don’t like that bedside stack to go below at least three. And six is better.

Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it.
I love happy endings, including the one in Sweet Home Alaska that has friends and family working together and learning to appreciate diverse skills and personalities, reuniting long-ago sweethearts, and concluding with a hearty sing-along.

Fill in the blank: I’m really awesome at…
weaving. I won Best of Show at the county fair a few years back. Here’s a picture of a shadow weave silk and wool scarf I wove for my daughter.

My favorite breakfast is….
French toast with strawberries, but I usually settle for Fiber One cereal topped with fruit and nuts.

If you could visit any place, where would it be?
It would be Hill Top Farm in the Lake Country of England, where Beatrix Potter lived. I’ve also always wanted to visit Prince Edward Island, where Anne of Green Gables takes place.

Carole Estby Dagg was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lived in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. She has degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting. She spends most of her time writing and reading, but her real-life adventures include tiptoeing through King Tut's tomb, sandboarding the dunes of western Australia, riding a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddling with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelling the penguins in the Falkland Islands. She is married with two children, two grandchildren. Her son lives in Palmer Alaska, and that is what inspired her to write this story.


  1. This sounds like a fantastic story. I've always been interested in the depression and Alaska feels like our last frontier. Love Carole's favorite breakfast. Yum!

  2. Sounds wonderful! Thanks!
    - Vi

  3. Another great MG tale steeped in history. That's fabulous!

  4. Thanks for inviting me to your site!

  5. This one sounds great with a unique setting. Loved the interview, too. Carole's background that brought her to writing stories is quite diverse.

  6. AWESOME interview. I like how the author gets right to the point, and is not overly wordy! This sounds like a good one.

  7. I just received a copy of this book for review. I'm hoping to get to it this week. Thanks for this interview. I have a lot in common with Carole.

  8. I think I'd enjoy this one! Great interview!


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