Midnight at the Shelter by Nanci Turner Steveson

Hello, Nanci Turner Steveson! Happy, happy Monday! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! I’m grateful you’re back to share Christina Hess’s cover illustration and Kathy Lam’s cover design for Midnight at the Shelter, your fourth fabulous middle-grade novel! Please take us on a tour of the cover! 

Nanci Turner Steveson: Thank you, Mr. Schu! I absolutely LOVE this cover! It says everything. I mean look at those adorable characters coming at you — you can tell they are on a Very Important Mission, right? And they are. They have a shelter full of dogs to save and it’s the middle of the night. What could possibly be happening? So many questions, but this illustration makes me want to jump right into the scene and go with them. That’s the main character, MahDi (pronounced Ma Deé) front and center. He’s a three-legged rescue dog from Thailand who looks like a cute baby fox and is a real dog, the beloved sidekick of my vet. MahDi is small in stature, and he may only have three legs, but he is large and in-charge inside, with a heart of gold and a job pairing people with pets that he takes very seriously. The other two on the cover, lovable-beyond-belief terrier Ozzie on the left, and the toothless, tailless, one-eyed cat, Domino on the right, are MahDi’s real-life partners in crime. All three came from different shelters around the world. In fact, all the dogs and cats in the book were based on real-life rescues and their stories will melt your heart.

Imagine you’re booktalking Midnight at the Shelter to 200 5th graders! What do you share with them?

Nanci Turner Steveson: The inspiration for this story came to me in an unusual way. My vet, known as MomDoc in the book, and I were at the same social event when she approached me and said she had an idea for a book for kids. As an author of books for children this happens fairly frequently so I listened to her (thinking she wanted to write the book and just wanted to share her idea with me) but when she told me the end of the story, I gasped and said, “Oh, my, I have to write that book!” Three years later, here we are, with MahDi and Ozzie and Domino ready to take readers on the adventures of a lifetime. I mean, there is friendship and puppy-love, mountains to climb, bikes to chase, midnight escapades, games of Rodeo in the street, and souls both lost and found. This book is a true testament to the power of love between animals and humans, and a reminder that there are shelters full of dogs and cats, chinchillas and bunnies, parakeets and turtles, all waiting for Just the Right Home. I can’t wait for kids and adults alike to dive into MahDi’s world and meet everyone!

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Dogs and cats are like peanut butter and jelly. Completely opposite, offering two totally different textures and flavors, satisfying different needs in different humans, but mix them together and wrap them in soft hearts and yum, yum, you’ve got a Love Sandwich!

Story is everywhere. Seriously. We look for story in everything. Story is how we have survived as a species. It’s how we connect with each other, how we stay safe or find courage. Story is how we learn about each other. It’s how we fall in love and make friends. It’s how we learn what matters to us and what doesn’t. We learn the history of a rescue dog and we know that’s the one for us because her story filled a little hole in our heart. We learn about someone else’s struggles, and because of their story, we know we want to help people who are less fortunate.

Stories show us how to overcome obstacles, like avoiding the hungry tiger, or protecting ourselves from a tornado, and seeing how to deal with grief and loss.

Stories build us up and give us a sense of wonder.

Stories are bonfires and bedtime.

Friendship and family.

History and possibility.

Roots and branches.

Stories are everything.

Come sit beside me, I have a story to share.

(That is beautiful, Nanci!) 

John Schu, you should have asked me about how tricky it was to learn how to tell a story through the point-of-view of a dog. Lots of dogs. And a sassy cat. It wasn’t easy, I spent a good amount of time sitting under tables at restaurants, trying to see what the world looked like from that perspective (true story!). I brought the real MahDi and Ozzie to my house to sit with me and my own rescue dog, Sufi, while I wrote (I invited Domino but, being a cat, he declined). I even stuck my head out the passenger side window in a car going down the highway a few times and while my ears didn’t fly behind me like a dog’s, my lips kind of blubbered and it was fun!

But the truth is, once I got deep into this and started telling the stories of all these animals MomDoc and I knew and loved, the voice flew from my heart. This is my fourth published book and while I love my characters from all of them (don’t tell, but we still chat), having the privilege of speaking on behalf of shelter animals waiting to be found was a profound honor. I’m still pinching myself.

Nanci Turner Steveson grew up with a book in one hand, the reins of a pony in the other. An author of four middle grade novels (HarperCollins) she is also the education director for a professional theatre in Jackson, Wyoming. Nanci is a lifelong horse-girl and can name every type of wildflower and tree that grows on the mountain she explores on her horse alongside her 100 lb rescue dog, Sufi. Nanci is on the board of Jackson Hole Writers and runs the Almost Authors writing camp and conference for kids. She is dedicated to getting books in the hands of the homeless, and homes for all the abandoned dogs and cats in the world. 

Look for Midnight at the Shelter on November 1, 2022. Pre-order here


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