HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8My Writing and Reading Life: Holly M. McGhee, Author of Matylda, Bright & Tender
My Writing and Reading Life Holly M McGhee Author of Matylda Bright and Tender

My Writing and Reading Life: Holly M. McGhee, Author of Matylda, Bright & Tender

The Children’s Book Review | March 17, 2017

Holly M. McGhee, who formerly wrote under the name Hallie Durand, is the author of three picture books, including Mitchell’s License and Mitchell Goes Bowling, both illustrated by Tony Fucile, and a chapter-book series. She lives with her family, her antisocial dog, and her two leopard geckos (Speedy and Midnight) in Maplewood, New Jersey.

I write because …

If I’m not working on something of my own, I feel like my soul is withering a little bit. When I’m writing my universe expands / I like the possibility that my characters might surprise me when I put my fingers to the keyboard.

I read because …

As a literary agent, I read manuscripts every day, hoping for something wonderful; it’s part of my job—but I also read to feed my spirit / books often influence the way I think about the world; reading expands my universe too.

My latest published book is …

Matylda, Bright & Tender, my first middle-grade novel.

I wrote this book because …

I was afraid not to. I had started it in the summer of 2012 & I was 25 pages in . . . and I knew something terrible was going to happen to the nine year olds at the center of the novel. I couldn’t bear it, so I put the book down for over a year . . . and then I had a dream that my finger nails had turned blue and the world was coming to an end. That’s when I knew that if I didn’t use my fingertips to type my story, a part of me would die. To be honest, it was that fear that got me writing the story again. I finished the first draft 12 months later.

Best moment …

It was kind of the best and worst . . . when I was writing through the terrible thing that happens in my novel, I had to close my eyes and go back to my own childhood to get the emotions right, and I typed with my eyes closed—not allowing myself to read the words till the next day. Then I’d open the document in the morning, so curious about what had come out on the page when I allowed myself to go back into my childhood that way. It was a gift—moving the words out of me and onto the page.

My special place to write is …

I love going to Philly. I have had very good fortune writing there; it’s just an hour away from New York, and I love the spirit of that city. I go for a few days or a week at a time.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

I like to pack scissors and a tape dispenser in my suitcase when I go to write, a stapler too, pencils and a pencil sharpener, cause sometimes it’s more effective to cut and paste dialogue (literally).

Currently reading …

March Book one (and 2&3 are next in line). I feel so lucky to have heard Congressman Lewis & Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell read from the book in New York. It’s amazing, and it gave me hope.

Favorite bookshop …

Right down the street in Maplewood we have [words] Maplewood, owned by Jonah Zimiles, and in New York, I love Kinokuniya at Bryant Park, which is just around the corner from our office. We go there almost daily . . . I also love the Flying Pig in Vermont (and the women who own it!) and McNally Jackson in Soho and Secret Garden in Seattle.

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write…

This is an impossible question of course, as there are so many, but I always go back to Black Beauty. It’s the only book Anna Sewell wrote and I just can’t forget how hard Black Beauty worked, with the harness pulling her back into a painful position daily, and the grace with which she accepted it—and it’s written from the heart. I always cry when I think about it / when I read it, yet I want to go do it again. From what I’ve read, Anna Sewell drew from her own life and her own crippling illness . . . she died several months after the book was published. I can’t say enough about the power of Black Beauty.

Favorite illustrator …

Gotta tip my hat to two of my favorites who are no longer with us / who were my close friends: Fred Marcellino & William Steig (whom I first met when he was 85) / I love them both!

A literary character I would like to vacation with …

Dorothy Parker / Mary Oliver.

When I am not reading or writing I am …

Roasting vegetables, watching The Voice, doing planks. Living with a family of musicians. Taking care of my 26-year-old house plant & my leopard gecko Speedy. Walking the streets of Manhattan and working as a literary agent to some of the best writers in the world . . .

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Matylda, Bright and TenderMatylda, Bright And Tender

Written by Holly M. McGhee

Publisher’s Synopsis: In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.

Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Candlewick | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763689513

Available Here: 

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Discover more books like Matylda, Bright & Tender, written by Holly M. McGhee, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with   , and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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