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 -, -


  1. Hannah and Martha, thanks for having me today. I loved the intereview as it was different. I also enjoyed your sweet little reviews of the first two books. I also understand that you shared the information with your class and that the teacher is going to check out my books as well as the librarian (we love our librarians). I can't wait to possibly be doing a homeschool conference in Richmond next summer (my brother currently lives in VA Beach) and maybe get to meet you and your mom.

    Thanks for hosting me and see you all in the postings - E :)

  2. I loved the twist on the interview!
    Best of luck in your writing career, Elysabeth!

  3. Wasn't that fun? She asked some very interesting questions, ones I've not really been asked before. I like fun things like this. Thanks for stopping by, Darcia. See you in the postings - E :)

  4. I too enjoyed the twist to your interview. Well done Hannah! Your questions have provided me with the opportunity to getting to know Elysabeth better. wishes for your continued success!

  5. Thanks for letting me interview you. I really had a lot of fun. If ever in Va Beach we'd love to meet you Elysabeth. Please let my mom know when your new books come out. I want them all!!
    Hannah Swirzinski

  6. Donna, I'm glad you enoyed the twist and are getting to know me a little more. I'm glad you stopped by.

    Hannah, books 3 and 4 are coming - hopefully by the end of May I shall have both of them in my hands (waiting on illustrations and layouts - lol) - so patience. I'm writing or should say rewriting #5 now and working on #6 also. Question for you - have you and your mom looked at the study guides yet? If so, how do you feel about them? Were they on target, too hard, too easy? What kinds of things would you like to see in the study guides? let me know (you can email off the blog with your answers to the questions) - E :)

  7. What a great idea for a series! Kids love mysteries and they should make learning fun. Hannah did a wonderful job interviewing the author.

  8. E.. My mom and I looked at the study guides and I think they are fantastic. I felt it was a great mix of easy and hard questions. I know my teacher, Mr. Clark, would adore having fun ways to teach us about the states. You've made it easy for teachers to use the books for learning.
    I promise I won't give him the study guide until he reads the book :-)


  9. Janet,
    Thank you for the compliment. I loved doing it and I'm available for any other authors interested in a kids point of view.


  10. I think I need to get Hannah her own profile and picture for the blog.
    Elysabeth, thanks for letting her do this. She has had so much fun and has loved reading and responding to the comments.

  11. Great interview, Hannah! I've enjoyed Elysabeth's books as well, and I'm in my 40s, so they're just as fun for adults as kids!

    Good job!

  12. Hannah, you cracked me up. You promise not to give him the study guides until he's read the books. But you are at an advantage as you've seen the study guides and know all the answers, so that wouldn't be fair to your classmates - but I do love your enthusiasm about the books and everything.

    Martha, you made me laugh - I did adore the way she signed off on the interview - future author, reviewer and artist. That's ambition and I'm sure she will do well with her endeavors.

    Janet, the series is fun. I'm learning lots of things I never knew. I love researching and finding fun little facts and trivia type things. I hope to get #6 written within the next few days and then work on my rewrite for #5 (since I'm behind on getting everything to the publisher right now). I'm trying really. Work will keep me busy for a bit and then I'm hoping to write during the evenings (once I get to the point where I'm doing my work and stopping at a decent hour - not working until midnight or later - lol). I can't wait for Reservations and Altitude to come out.

    Rena, thanks for stopping by. I know other adult reviewers have enjoyed the series too so I'm glad that I've hit on something that everyone can enjoy as well as learn a little something about our United States -

    See you all in the postings - Mrs. E :)

  13. What a fun and unique interview!

    Hannah, you did a fantastic job!

    Elysabeth, that's such a talent to be able to do mysteries. I know I don't have it in me

    Your series is a wonderful tool to help children learn about geography.

  14. I enjoyed reading this interview. I write for children as well as adults and so appreciated knowing about this lovely series. And I enjoy both reading and writing mysteries.

    Jacqueline Seewald

  15. Karen, these are easy mysteries since the state is the unknown and I've given them all the clues necessary to figure out the state. I've tried other mysteries but don't have it in me to do them, although I love reading them.

    Jacqueline, that is the talent- being able to write for both groups. Good luck with your writings. Hopefully my series will make it into the school systems across the nation and I'll get known that way - lol. It's not like I'll ever be on the NYT bestseller's list or anything. Just making learning fun - E :)

  16. Interesting and unique post. I enjoyed it.

  17. That is a clever twist. Janet Evonovich has a series progress from A to Z. James Patterson uses nursery rhymes. I use single word titles. I think authors need to do something a bit different or unique to try and separate themselves from the rest.

    Stephen Tremp

  18. I agree, Stephen. I'm having fun with the series and am learning a lot of new things. Glad you stopped by - see you all in the postings - E :)

  19. As the artist of the JGDS series, Hanna, and knowing you want to become an artist yourself, if you have any questions about the illustrations in either, book just let me know.

    Aidana WillowRaven

  20. WillowRaven,
    I would love to be an artist one day. Do you hide anything special in each pictures. The illustrator/author in the Arthur series hides his kids names in most of his pictures.

  21. Interesting way to do an interview. Always good to hear things from a fresh perspective!

  22. Thanks for having me today, Hannah and Martha.

    I'm glad everyone enjoyed the interview. I look forward to more fun interviews and blog postings during the upcoming blog tours - see you all in the postings - E :)

  23. I do sometimes, Hanna, depending on the book... lol.

    Sometimes I use classic symbolism (from the masters of fine art) and in many of my illustrations, my son ends up being a model.

    As far as the JGDS series goes, I am too busy trying to best represent the clue... lol. Some of them are a challenge to visually interpret.

    As with most artists, we are motivated by what inspires us, things we like. But with this series, the clue doesn't always touch on a subject I would naturally draw, so I find myself really looking into what I find attractive about any particular clue. It has broadened my sense of 'beauty'.

    Make sense?

    I have learned a lot with this series, so far, and look forward to the completion of next 48 books.


  24. What a wonderful interview! Great job, Hannah! :)


  25. Hannah,
    I can't wait to see the books. Don't forget to bring them to school.
    Mr. Clark

  26. Mr. Clark, nice to meet you (virtually that is). I also do virtual class visits via Google Talk or Skype if interested in having me speak with your class. Check out my website for more details - Mrs. E :)

  27. WillowRaven,
    Wow 48 more books. That's a lot of pictures.
    Nature and flowers inspire me. I like to draw landscapes.

    Mr. Clark, I'm brining them in on Monday.
    Thanks everyone for the compliments. I had a lot of fun doing this post.


  28. Yep. 48 more ... lol.

    I think drawing and panting nature and flowers is one of the most popular reasons artists are inspired to become artists.

    My fascination is animals and people, though people are always the hardest thing to draw.

    If you would like to see some animals I have done recently, check out my blog:

    Also, feel free to send me some of you work. My email is



About Me

My photo
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States