“How a love of language and travel influenced The Magic of Melwick Orchard”
If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?
Flight? Invisibility? Super strength?
I’d choose Omniglotism, also known as the ability to speak every language in the world. Imagine the places you could go, the books you could read, the people and cultures you could connect with if you had a power like that.
As you can probably tell, my love of language is connected with my interest in travel. When I was a child, I dreamed of exploring the wide world and I’ve been globetrotting ever since, visiting more than 50 countries to date. Whenever I travel, I carry a notebook. In it, I sketch things I see, jot story ideas, and gather vocabulary—often in different languages. These words are like candy: sweet, colorful, delightful morsels worth savoring.
Some of my favorites include Selamat Pagi, which means Good Morning in Malay and sounds as cheerful as birdsong.
In Italian, I adore the term Aspirapolvere, which translates to Dust Breather—an infinitely cooler name for the humble household vacuum cleaner.
I also love words for which there is no English equivalent, such as the Japanese Komorebi, which describes the dance between light and leaves as the sun shines through treetops. It’s like an entire poem compressed into a single, miraculous word.
When I began writing my debut middle grade novel, The Magic of Melwick Orchard, my fascination with language inevitably found its way onto the page, primarily through the voice of Junie. In the book, 6-year-old Junie mashes and mixes words together in a process I call Frankensteining—an idea inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel, my travel notebooks, and a design exercise I learned in architecture school which involves cutting and pasting building plans of the same scale to generate new structures.
This process produced some of Junie’s signature vocabulary, such as perfecterrific (perfect + terrific), worstible (worst-most-horrible), and squg (a squeezing hug full of love). Even the mysterious Melwick Orchard is a hybrid, combining part of my mother’s name, Melissa, with my father’s nickname, Wick.
Some of the most rewarding early feedback I’ve received from readers has been their connection to these invented words. One 9-year-old reader, inspired by Junie’s wordsmithing, described feeling nerve-cited (nervous + excited) about leaving for sleep-away camp for the first time. Teachers and librarians have also reached out with their plans to use the book in conjunction with creative writing and literacy exercises in the classroom. In response to this, we developed several extension and enrichment activities within the Melwick Orchard Reading & Discussion Guide devoted to wordplay. The Reading Guide is aligned with Common Core Standards and is available as a free download through my website (https://www.rebeccacaprara.com/educators).
If you would like to share your own linguistic creations or feedback about the book, I would love to hear from you. Readers can contact me at CapraraBooks@gmail.com or connect with through social media @RebeccaCaprara.
The Magic of Melwick Orchard releases September 1, 2018 with Carolrhoda Books. For every pre-ordered copy of the book, a donation will be made to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization raising funds for childhood cancer research.
Rebecca Caprara graduated from Cornell University and practiced architecture for several years, before shifting her focus from bricks to books. An avid globetrotter, she has lived in Italy, Singapore, and Canada. She is now growing roots in Massachusetts with her family.
The Magic of Melwick Orchard
Author: Rebecca Caprara
Coming September 1, 2018
Published by Carolrhoda/Lerner
ISBN-10: 1512466875 / ISBN-13: 978-1512466874
First edition: Hardcover; 376 pages
Middle Grade Fiction (Age Range: 8 – 14 Years)
About the Book: After more moves than they can count, Isabel and Junie’s family finally put down roots. People in town whisper strange stories about the abandoned orchard behind their new home, but the sisters are happy to have acres of land to explore and trees to swing beneath. For the first time in a while, life feels perfecterrific.
But then Junie is diagnosed with cancer and everything changes. Isa’s mom falls into a deep depression, and mounting medical bills force Isa’s dad to work longer and longer days. As for Isa… well, she’s slowly becoming invisible. No one seems to notice that her clothes are falling apart, her stomach is empty, and her heart is breaking.
In an act of frustration, Isa buries her out-grown sneakers in the orchard. The trees haven’t produced fruit in decades, but the next day something magical happens: a sapling sprouts the strangest, most magnificent buds Isa has ever seen. When they bloom to reveal an entire harvest of new shoes, Isa feels inspired. Can she use the magical tree to save her family?
Thank you, Rebecca, for the wordly perfect post!