Friday, April 16, 2010

It's my pleasure to introduce Elysabeth Eldering

Oops, maybe I better introduce myself.  My name is Hannah, I'm 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. I'm taking over my mother's author interview this month. I'm interviewing Elysabeth Eldering, author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery trivia series. I also had the pleasure of reading both of her books. Below is a brief description of her series. (I got this part from her)

Matt Patterson, Guy Lombard, Mary Beth Patterson and Jolene Ariette take on the newest handheld game to help them in their study of social studies course of US History (geography and trivia information about each state). Each book in the series will be presented as the game giving them "clues" which are basically facts and trivia information that can be found most any place about the states. The kids have to guess the state by the end of the book. Readers are encouraged to participate in guessing as well. Guesses may be changed during the story as no one is expected to get the state immediately. Some clues are more helpful than others and some are just downright fun. This is a fun way of learning something you never knew about state history and geography.
There are bonus clues to five territories throughout the series, one per book with a total of ten per each of the territory (Guam, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, US Samoan Islands). The ten clues will not come consecutively; the five territories will be one clue every sixth book for each of the territories. There will be a bonus clue section at the end of the series, recapping the clues, which book they appeared in and what the territory is in that book.

The first book in the series is STATE OF WILDERNESS.

I really liked this book because I love to uncover clues. Each clue was very interesting. Some were really funny. I loved discussing the clues and possible answers with my mom. I didn't want to put the book down so I begged my mom to let me stay up so I could finish it. The characters are fun and there are lots of great websites in back of the book.

The second book in the series is STATE OF QUARRIES

This book was a little more challenging but I still really liked it. Just when I think I figured it out, a clue comes along and makes me change my mind. This is a great way to learn about the United States. My mom and I also enjoyed trying to guess the identities of the territories.

After enjoying her books so much I thought I'd ask her some important questions.

Hannah: Where were you born?

Mrs. E: Yokahama, Japan - My father was in the Army and was stationed in Japan as his first duty. One of my brothers was also born in Japan.

Hannah: Did you write stories when you were a young girl?

Mrs. E: No. I started writing just after I turned 40. I was challenged by some friends to write and post something on the forum for everyone to critique.

Hannah: What persuaded you to write books about all of the states?

Mrs. E: I entered a fan mystery contest in 2005. We were given a list of eight words to use as clues in the story. I was on a mother-daughter trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and was telling the other mothers about the contest and one of the girls piped up and said, "I know, you can write it like a scavenger hunt on a train." The eight items were a page from a dictionary, the sound of a train whistle, a headless Barbie, a wig, a tattoo, a soiled ballet slipper, the scent of Obsession and footprints in the snow. I used all but the last two and made my scavenger hunt with a mystery destination (each item was two-fold, a clue to the next item and a clue to the mystery destination). After we got the results back and I had placed second place, I sent the story to an editor with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI, which I'm now a member) and asked her to give me a direction to make a series with each state being the "mystery." She sent me back some wonderful advice.

Hannah: Did you ever think of a different subject to write about before this series?

Mrs. E: Yes, I wrote for some other contests, placing second in one other contest and placing first in one which meant my story was published as an e-book. I also had another YA short story published as an e-book from a contest entry but there were many folks that month who were published in addition to the winner of that month's contest, so I can't really tell what place that story was.

Hannah: How did you decide on your first two states?

Mrs. E: Randomly. When I first got my contract, I contacted all the states' travel and tourism departments asking them if they had items like lapel pins or other state items that I could either buy at below cost or they would give me to use as giveaways for the books. The first eight that responded were put in that order and then I added my state, my publisher's state, her daughter-in-law's state (she's an administrator in the school system), and the teacher's with whom I've been doing virtual class visits state. I sent out the remaining states to some friends and asked them all to pick four. As they sent their choices back, I went down the line, their 1's, 2's, 3's and 4's were the next in the order of the states.
Hannah: How do you decide what clues to use?

Mrs. E: This is the hardest part of the stories. I use several online resources and have all my facts and trivia type information gathered. I have to pick clues that I feel characters and readers would be able to react to as well as my illustrator would be able to illustrate. I try to keep them fun and interesting, so that the readers are learning but not realizing they are learning something and they have similar reactions that my characters have. I only have to really put in 25 clues as the final two will be the same for every state - the state flower & geographical center/state bird & state capital. The 25th clue will be something the state is better known for as close as I can come up with. I have to make sure I don't have any clues that are ideals so my illustrator can illustrate them. I get stuck sometimes deciding what to use but so far, it's all worked out.
Hannah: Have you visited all of the states in the U. S.?

Mrs. E: No. I've lived in or visited at least 14 of the 50 states. My goal is that by time my youngest graduates high school and I have enough books out so they are self-supporting, I can travel and do many school visits. I'd like to visit every state at least once and maybe some several times. I am starting some travels this summer by attending some homeschool conferences/curriculum fairs in four states. I'm hoping to do some homeschool conferences in states I've not been to starting next year.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. I can't wait until the rest come out. I 'm going to have the entire series on my bookshelf.

Hannah Swirzinski, future author, interviewer and artist
Make sure to check out all of this.....
STATE OF WILDERNESS, Book 1 of 50 now available.

STATE OF QUARRIES, book 2 of 50 now available

STATE OF RESERVATIONS, book 3 of 50 coming April/May 2010

STATE OF ALTITUDE, book 4 of 50 coming May/June 2010

STATE OF SUCCESSION, coming summer 2010

STATE OF NATURE, coming fall 2010
Teacher's guides are available through special order from They are available only as a PDF download. The teacher's guides will contain six research projects/discussion questions, a science experiment based on one of the clues in the book (where possible), a secret message puzzle (cryptogram, word search, scramble or other such puzzles alternating per state), and an end of book quiz (about fifteen per book - a mixture of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and True/False questions).

Books may ordered from
Vivian at,
from me directly -, -

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Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States