We began by discussing our overall impressions of the book and the magical elements of the story. We spent a lot of time talking about the main character, Isabelle Bean, and what kind of a person she is. We analyzed the various descriptions of her throughout the story and came up with our own adjectives to describe Isabelle including easy going and quirky.
We talked about her family, how she is the only child to a single mother who is an orphan, and how that might have affected her and her relationships with other kids at school. We felt that because she didn't have a lot of family, she spent more time alone and relied more on herself and her imagination than she might otherwise have.
We spent time discussing the other characters including Grete and Hen and their relationships with Isabelle and why the children of the 5 villages believe Grete is a witch. We all felt it was extremely unfair for Grete to have been branded a witch when she wasn't a witch at all, in fact she was a kind and caring person. We liked that Isabelle helped her in the end and was able to convince the other children that Grete wasn't a bad person.
Overall we really enjoyed Falling In and are looking forward to reading more books by Frances O'Roark Dowell!Following our discussion, we had the priviledge of interviewing Frances O'Roark Dowell by telephone. We all had a lot of questions for Ms. Dowell and she generously took the time to answer each one in great detail.
We began by asking her to talk about the character of Isabelle. Ms. Dowell told us that her books go through a series of drafts and in the early stages of Falling In, there were two main characters: Isabelle and Charley Bender (another character in the story who in the final version is a minor character). As she revised her work, she found she was more interested in the character of Isabelle, someone who is quiet but not shy and who knows herself well. A character who is confident in who she is as a person. So she decided to focus on Isabelle and found that she became a great contrast to the character of Charlie.
One member of our club wanted to know if she has any plans to write a sequel to Falling In and at the moment she does not. She has written a couple of books that have had sequels (Phineas L. MacGuire and The Secret Language of Girls/The Kind of Friends We Used to Be) but in general she likes to finish her stories. She likes to write until she's satisfied that she knows what she wants to know about her character. She also enjoys leaving some things open ended, for example in Falling In, will Isabelle ever find her way back to the other world? The answer to that question is anybody's guess.
We asked her if she'd always wanted to be a writer and she told us that she's always loved to write but that as a child she preferred writing poetry and had aspirations in many different fields including art, law and radio. But all throughout her life she's always been writing and in her late 20s she starting thinking about being a full-time writer.
Ms. Dowell has many hobbies including playing the fiddle (a hobby she has been pursuing for about a year), knitting, making quilts, reading and walking her dog. She also enjoys keeping up with baseball and although she lives in North Carolina, is a fan of the Boston Red Sox! (Good taste!)
She is working on a new book and is waiting for her editor's notes on her most recent draft. There will also be another book in the The Secret Language of Girls series. She loves going to conferences and meeting librarians, teachers and other writers and she loves visiting schools and talking with children about books.
Ms. Dowell was delightful and charming on the phone and we really appreciate her taking the time to speak with us. Thank you!
Overall, it was a fantastic way to start off a new year of Book Buddies! Thanks to all the Book Buddies members who read Falling In and joined us for our meeting. See you in October!