PJ Gardner Switzer
The Books That Made Me: Celesta Rimington
This week's guest is a good friend and amazing middle grade author. Celesta writes fabulous stories that mix the fantastical with the real, plus beautiful stories of healing. Let's get to know her better through the books that made her.
THE BOOKS THAT MADE ME . . .
I loved reading from the moment I could hold a book and pretend to read by looking at the pictures. My mother made library trips a priority, and I remember how badly I wanted to be old enough to have my very own library card. I was in awe that with a library card, you could leave with a stack of books and not have to pay for them (so long as we took them back, of course!) I remember the moment I began to love to read novels, and it was Beverly Cleary’s books. As a child, I often felt awkward and fiery like Ramona Quimby, so I connected with her character. But then, I read Henry Huggins and realized I enjoyed a different point of view. Other books that made me a reader were Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls, No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
Want to write
As a fourth grader, I decided I wanted to be an author because of Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Mildred D. Taylor, and Scott O’Dell. I also read The Prydain Chronicles and The Chronicles of Narnia, which made me want to write fantasy. As an adult, I read Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Ida B. . .and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan, and I wanted to write books that also had that kind of incredible heart with themes of friendship and family.
Stay up all night
I stayed up all night to read Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. For those who’ve read my debut novel The Elephant’s Girl, you may understand my great interest in the mystery and the focus on elephants and finding family in Leaving Time. I also stayed up all night to read (and re-read) a novel called Small: A True Story That I Sometimes Wish Was Just a Novel, by Eva Napier. Small is written from the perspective of a mother who adopted a young orphan girl from Ukraine who had the most severe case of Reactive Attachment Disorder any doctors had ever seen. The novel grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. Middle-grade and YA books I couldn’t put down include The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad and Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams.
Laugh out loud
I think humor is deceptively difficult to write! Ones that have been successful in making me laugh out loud are My Life as a Potato by Arianne Costner, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, and Horace and Bunwinkle by PJ Gardner!
The Diary of Anne Frank made me incredibly angry. I first read the book as a child and I cried often, wanting so badly for Anne to have survived. Other powerful, angry reads of mine include Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis, and That’s What Friends Do by Cathleen Barnhart. These books show the experiences of racism, bullying, and violation of personal space and boundaries—all are beautifully-written and promote important conversations.
About Celesta Rimington
Celesta Rimington has never been able to talk to the wind or summon a muse like the characters in her books, but she still believes in magic—the magic of helping young readers discover the fantastic in themselves. Her middle grade novel,The Elephant’s Girl, won the 2020 Reading the West Book Award and is on several state lists, including the 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. Her most recent middle grade novel,Tips for Magicians Crown Books for Young Readers), is a Junior Library Guild selection. Celesta is an elephant advocate and a musical theater performer, and she lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two children, and a five-pound Yorkie named Winston.