Welcome to the My Life in the Fish Tank Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee on September 15th, blogs across the web are featuring original guest posts from Barbara, plus 5 chances to win My Life in the Fish Tank and swag! Sounds FINtastic, right? That's what I thought too, so here's my stop along the tour with a post from the author herself, and of course a proper introduction to the title in the spotlight...
My Life in the Fish Tank
From acclaimed author of Maybe He Just Likes You and Halfway Normal comes a powerful and moving story of learning how to grow, change, and survive.
When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.
It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.
The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?
Abnormal Standard Time in My Life in the Fish Tank
by Barbara Dee
by Barbara Dee
Sometimes when you write something that's highly personal, you wonder if anyone else will get it. This is what happened as I wrote the Abnormal Standard Time chapter in My Life in the Fish Tank. In part it was based on my family's feeling of disconnectedness the year my oldest son was in treatment for cancer. My two other kids still went to school every day, we ate dinners together most nights, we shopped for groceries and walked the dog--but even as we all did our best to carry out our normal routines, life for our family was surreal. No matter how hard or how well we "coped," we were in a different world from everyone we knew. Time for us was measured by hospital routines and doctor appointments, not by the calendar or the clock.
In My Life in the Fish Tank, ZInny's world is similarly split into a "before" and "after" her brother's car accident and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. After that accident, in a chapter called "No Month, No Date, No Time," Zinny considers how life has gotten weird for her family:
Sometimes I think we could have different systems for telling time. I mean like one system for when you go to school, hang out with your friends, play soccer on weekends, blahblahblah. We could call it something like Normal Standard Time.
But there would also be another system, another calendar completely, for when things get weird, or when bad things happen.
Because one thing you notice, when those bad things happen, is that calendars and clocks stop making any sense. Even if they work perfectly okay, even if the batteries are good, and the cords are plugged in, and all you need to do is turn the page on the cute Rescue Dog of the Month calendar that's hanging on the fridge, they don't communicate anything useful. Or even anything your brain can understand.
At least that's how it seemed in our house.
It was like, after it happened, we were in a different time zone from everybody else.
A parallel universe.
And we needed some kind of new, not-yet-invented time measurement. Abnormal Standard Time.
Also a compass and a map.
I decided to use a fractured timeline in My Life in the Fish Tank for two reasons. I wanted to show Zinny gradually coming to terms with her brother's illness as certain events trigger memories--some good, some painful-- of his behavior. Also, I wanted to dramatize the concept of Abnormal Standard Time, making everything that happened in the past part of the family's very intense present.
As I've shared Advance Review Copies of My Life in the Fish Tank with educators, librarians and bloggers this past spring and summer, one reaction I've heard repeatedly is how the Abnormal Standard Time passage rings true in our new Covid reality. Nobody knows what day it is. Weeks are endless. Months bleed into other months. Time has gotten weird--for everyone.
One day (and I hope soon), most of us will be back on Normal Standard Time. As Zinny notes, the normal can seem boring and mundane--"you go to school, hang out with your friends, play soccer on weekends, blahblahblah." But when those routines are taken away from you, you realize how precious they are, and how much you miss them.
My greatest wish is that we'll emerge from the pandemic in good health-- with a new and abiding appreciation of Normal Standard Time.
About the Author...
Barbara Dee is the author of eleven middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.
Blog Tour Schedule:September 14th - Crossroad ReviewsSeptember 15th - BookhoundsYASeptember 16th - Good Choice ReadingSeptember 17th - Satisfaction for Insatiable ReadersSeptember 18th - Word Spelunking
- One winner will receive a hardcover copy of My Life in the Fish Tank, bookmark, and button
- Check out the rest of the stops on the tour for 4 more chances to win!
- US/Can only
- Ends 9/27 at 11:59pm ET