Amanda Cleary Eastep is a middle grade kids/children’s author. Amanda knows kids because she’s still one at heart. When she is forced to act like an adult, she edits nonfiction books by grownup authors. In her much-anticipated series debut, the Tree Street Kids. Readers will quickly connect with this loveable band of friends and finding out how they came together on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine Street. Set in a 1990s suburban neighborhood, and located in the Chicagoland area, the characters find adventures, challenges, and God’s great big love in their own small neighborhood.

In this interview, Amanda talks about book number 2 in the series, The Hunt for Fang.

FF: The Hunt for Fang is the second book in The Tree Street Kids Series where the kids head for camp, talk about how this book continues from Jack vs. the Tornado.
As the Tree Street Kids Series moves from Jack vs. the Tornado to The Hunt for Fang, Jack Finch has mostly made peace with the move to the suburbs. His friendships deepen, and his neighborhood boundaries begin to expand. Maybe a little too much because someone ends up lost in the expansive forest preserves at the edge of the neighborhood. Jack also has his first run-in with the local bully, Buzz Rublatz.

FF: The dynamic of the kids and their friendships is so much a part of the story. For example, Ellison and Jack are different, yet they get along. Share some of the friend dynamics in The Hunt for Fang.
While it’s an intentional decision for my characters to be diverse (that includes not only ethnic diversity, but intergenerational), those friendship dynamics are also authentic to the kinds of friendships my children and I enjoyed, nurtured, and still do. The opportunity for diverse friendships may not have been as common in the suburbs in the ’90s as they are today, but I want to encourage readers, wherever they live, to be open to having friendships that reflect the diversity of the Creator.

FF: The detail you put in both books is amazing, tell the audience about your research process.
Research is one of my favorite parts of writing a book. I have a natural curiosity about lots of things. And because I’m a nonfiction editor, I’m a stickler for finding reliable information and sources (just ask the authors whose books I edit.) Interesting, and seemingly random, facts can play an unexpected role in the plot. An example is the bomb shelter in Jack vs. the Tornado—I wanted a “fort” to replace the one Jack lost when he moved away from the farm. I thought of all the different kinds of places a kid might discover in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. People are often coming across these forgotten shelters from the 1960s, so I stuck one in the next door neighbor’s back yard!

FF: Throughout the book you have included extras like Midge’s Phenomenal Facts, Ellison’s Bookmark, and Roger’s Riveting History, tell us about these different elements you have added.
Including Midge’s Phenomenal Facts, Ellison’s Bookmark, and Roger’s Riveting History notes happened organically as I was writing and developing the characters. It started in book 1 with Jack imagining his challenges as video game scenarios. I didn’t want these fun facts I researched to end up as footnotes though. Moody’s designers came up with the coolest idea: each fact looks as if it’s handwritten on a notecard and taped onto the page.

FF: What faith messages do you want readers to take away from The Hunt for Fang?
The message I want readers to take away from each book is that Jesus loves them. But I also chose a foundational Bible verse for the theme of each book. In The Hunt for Fang, the theme is stewardship of what belongs to God, and the foundational verses are Job 12:7-10.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.”
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

FF: What role do you think that fiction has in the life of a middle grade reader?
Fiction can play a huge role in the life of a child. What we read, especially when we’re young, can form us. That’s good and bad news, depending on what a child is reading. (Or an adult for that matter.) Good books, those based (intentionally or not) on biblical truths form the moral imagination, which happens when they engage both the intellect and the emotions. I first read about the idea of moral imagination in Vigen Guroian’s book Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Childs Moral Imagination. Before reading the book a few years ago, I understood the concept and how it worked itself out, but I hadn’t had the verbiage. Learning that gave words to my why I write for children. terminology. In his book, Guroian quotes G. K. Chesterton, who said that an authentic moral education doesn’t happen without a voice of authority, an unshaken voice, handing down the truth of our human tradition: “That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child.” So whether we’re catechizing our children or engaging their imagination through a fairytale or a middle grade series, the message to me as an author is clear: my “sure enough” must be founded, not on ethics or values or moral relativism, but the absolute Truth of Jesus Christ.

FF: In addition to Jack vs. The Tornado and The Hunt for Fang, you have two more books coming out in The Tree Street Kid Series, when can readers look forward to those books?
Books 3 and 4 are in the early stages right now. They’ll release in summer 2022. Here’s a sneak peek:

Book 3, Lions to the Rescue! (working title)…If getting tackled is the best way to make new friends, that’s okay with Jack Finch. After all, starting fifth grade at a new school is even rougher than pee wee football. But how can he join the Lions and help Ellison build the Most Epic Bookmobile Bike Ever? Jack devises the perfect game plan–until he fumbles it with the most epic bike crash ever and a game day disaster. Book 4 (It’s a mystery–literally!)

Book Summary:
The Tree Street Kids live on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine, but their 1990s suburban neighborhood is more than just quiet, tree-lined streets. Jack, Ellison, Roger, and Ruthie face challenges and find adventures in every creek and cul-de-sac—as well as God’s great love in one small neighborhood.

In The Hunt for Fang, Book 2 in the Tree Street Kids Series, Jack and his friends learn some survival skills at the church’s summer camp. They’ll need them! Determined to find Ruthie’s lost cat and protect Jack’s new puppy from Fang, the local wildlife, the kids head deep into the woods. Just when they think they’ve cornered the “enemy,” the kids realize someone has gone missing. Is Fang up to no good? Or will faith and friendship be enough to see the kids make it out alive?

The Hunt for Fang
Tree Street Kids #2
Amanda Cleary Eastep
Moody Publishers
Genres: Middle Grade Kids, Children’s

ISBN-10 : 0802421032
ISBN-13 : 978-0802421036

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About The Author

Amanda Cleary Eastep is not related to Beverly Cleary but wishes she were. She is, however, a children’s writer, and the Tree Street Kids is her debut series. Amanda knows kids because she’s still one at heart. When she is forced to act like an adult, she edits nonfiction books by grownup authors.