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Cover Reveal: THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY by Rebecca Balcarcel

The Other Half of Happy, Rebecca Balcarcel’s debut middle grade novel, arrives on August 20th. I have the honor of debuting the cover today, but first I had a question about the book.

Travis: Hi Rebecca. I’m most interested in where the initial idea for the story came from, and how the final book remained the same or changed from that initial idea. Could you explain that?

Rebecca Balcarcel: Quijana’s story grew out of the real-life moment when my abuelos flew all the way from Guatemala to visit, and I couldn’t talk to them. They spoke only Spanish, and I spoke only English. It pained me at age twelve, and it pains me now. And book reader that I was, awake to the power of words, the conversation we couldn’t have felt like a serious loss. This moment and others like it laid the foundation for the book, and they remain the heart of Quijana’s story.

The writing, however, changed a lot. Trained as a poet, I started by writing a stack of poems in the voice of a bi-cultural girl. But I could tell that she had much more to say. She wanted to talk about her neuro-diverse brother, her closest friends, and her cool grandmother. I fleshed out her world, but the manuscript was still slim when I first sent it out. I worked hard to give her more decisions to make and more consequences to face. The book doubled in length, and now Quijana has room to tell her whole story.

A little about the book (from the publisher):

Quijana is a girl in pieces.

One-half Guatemalan, one-half American. One-half crush, one-half buddy. One-half kid, one-half grown-up.

How do you figure out which parts of yourself are most important? Which pieces come together to make a person whole?

As beautiful as a poem and emotionally resonant as a thunderstorm, Rebecca Balcárcel’s stunning debut is a heartfelt, poetic portrayal of girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

And now let’s have a look at the cover for The Other Half of Happy, by Rebecca Balcarcel. It’s designed by Alice Seiler, and illustrated by Nadia Hernández.

(Click to enlarge)

The Other Half of Happy cover

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.