Congratulations to Ellen Booraem and her recently released middle-grade novel, River Magic. This book is a wonderful mix of real-life challenges, friendship, adventure, and a little bit of magic thrown in. I asked Ellen about her own writing adventure.


What was your inspiration for River Magic?

I volunteer as a middle-school writing coach in my local elementary school. Several years ago a couple of seventh graders wrote companion stories about dragons. The stories were so good and the writers had such a good time that I got jealous and decided I wanted to write a dragon story too. What’s more, I wanted to RIDE a dragon.

At the same time, I had a human character living in my head who desperately wanted a home. She was born after a conversation I had years ago with a local school superintendent, who said his secret dream was a gifted-and-talented program that was not focused only on the academically and artistically gifted but also would accommodate “the kid who can take an engine apart and put it back together in 20 minutes.” That’s Donna, though she’s a carpenter instead of a car mechanic—a girl who’s not that great in school but is a whiz with her hands. I was thrilled that I finally had a story that suited her.

What was your favorite part about writing River Magic?

I loved writing Donna’s first-person narration. My only other first-person book had a precocious narrator who spent most of her time with adults and not much with other kids, so she talked about the way I do. Donna is not good in language arts, is not a big reader, and does spend a lot of time with other kids, so I had to adapt her language accordingly. I also wanted kind of a Maine cadence to her speech, and I needed to hit the right balance so she didn’t sound like a Bert & I recording. She was a fun challenge.

What’s one thing you’d like kids to take away after reading your book?

A sense that all talents deserve admiration, even if they don’t result in A’s on your report card, and that wonder is waiting right outside your front door. (Oops. That’s two things.)

For more information, visit Ellen’s website at