Back to Book Trailers, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister

My favorite things: music, books, movies. The order varies, but the list explains why I love book trailers.

The trailer for Charlotte Agell‘s middle grade novel The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is one the best I’ve seen.

One of the things that’s so wonderful about this trailer is how true to the book it is. The trailer captures the essence of The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister. In this case, I read the book first then saw the trailer. My review of the book is below.

India is one of my favorite characters in Middle Grade fiction today. She’s even got her own blog, which is adorable and much more organized than mine. Of course India’s creativity might have something to do with her multitalented creator Charlotte Agell who probably gives India a hand once in a while. Click on India’s pic to visit to her blog.

The Siren behind the music for India’s book trailer is Charlotte’s son, Jon Simmons. The music is perfect; it expresses both India’s sweetness and her quirkiness.

Jon is also part of a pop/rock band based in Boston called The Crosswalk Kings. Look for a post about his music soon on Sirenstories


I finished reading The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister on the beach. The pages have a little sand in between them now, and I think that would make India happy.

India loves the outdoors, and author Charlotte Agell has included some beautiful descriptions of inland Maine in this entertaining and moving story about a sweet-natured nine and a half-year old girl who takes her fairly complicated life pretty much in stride. In a world full of little drama queens, I found India’s attitude refreshing.

Besides being an excellent and economical writer, Charlotte Agell is a gifted painter. An adorable watercolor portrait of India and the family pet bird, Beatrice Strawberry graces the cover of the book. I’d like to see Ms. Agell put out a version of India with full-blown watercolors of all the characters and their homes. I want to see paintings of things like “the lilac bush hidden in the fog” that India sees when she can’t sleep early one morning and steps outside to sit on her front porch swing.

Wolfgang, Maine, where the book takes place, is a front porch kind of town and by the time I’d finished the book I wanted to go there. Although there are no watercolors other than the front and back cover and jacket flaps–they feature more great pictures of India with the bird and her dog Tofu, the jacket designers obviously knew a good thing when they saw it–the book is full of sketches: clever drawings of India and things she likes, plus–just as important–things she doesn’t like. The sketches are accompanied by comments that made me laugh out loud.

India has a unique voice. Her backstory is rich. The settings are beautifully rendered. The book is colorful in every sense of the word, as is India’s slightly wacky artist mother.

India was adopted, and we learn she has questions and issues around that, but the book isn’t a big drama. Instead, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is a story, told by showing us small wondrous details in what seems like a very real little girl’s life.

I found myself wondering what will happen in India’s future, especially as far as she and her best friend, a boy named Colby, are concerned. Snowstorms in June, whale songs, yearning, and insightful comments fill this book that begs to be part of a series. A sequel won’t enough for those of us who have fallen in love with India McAllister.

I checked out this book as a possible gift for my niece who is India’s age. Unlike India, she’s not an avid reader. I’m pretty sure this perfect book of adventures will change that. I couldn’t put it down myself. It’s sweet and funny, and the way India’s small but complicated family comes together in the end left me with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face.

Confession: I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Agell‘s work. Her picture books are among my favorites, and my son, who is five, feels the same. The paintings that illustrate her books are so beautiful, I’ve been tempted to tear out certain pages and frame them.

My son and I love Charlotte’s book To The Island so much, that I used the text, with only a few alterations, as the lyrics for a song. Below is the super rough version I recorded on my laptop, at home, with my son.

I hope to go into the studio one day and do a better recording, but for now, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed singing it. The words are so simple, but to me, they’re a metaphor for some of life’s more profound passages.

Breasts. There. Was that really so hard to say?

I’m posting this essay by Charlotte Agell in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and because I love her book The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister as well as many of her other books. I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I did!

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are awash in a sea of pink solidarity, of ribbons showing our support, of fund-raising efforts. We worry, we pray, we drive our friends to chemo, we bake them pies – and not just in October. So why, oh why, is it so hard to talk about … breasts?

A review of my latest book for children states, “the sketch of the plaster breast that hangs on the family’s living-room wall may provoke more than giggles.” Apparently, the reviewer was right. The breast has elsewhere in library circles been called offensive, which I in turn find shocking. The sculpture is a tribute to bravery equal to a belly cast of a pregnant woman. In the book, it’s there on the wall to honor the one India’s artist mom lost to cancer. It’s based, in fact, on a friend’s true story.  Even India’s fourth grade buddy Colby understands. It’s art. It’s supposed to make you think! India knows that some people stare a bit too long at it. The plumber for example. And India wonders why breasts make people act funny. What if mom put a plaster cast of her nose or her foot on the wall? Would it be different?

The answer, it seems, is yes. We are uncomfortable, as a society, talking about a part of our body that everyone has – men, women, and children.  (Well, almost everyone has breasts – some have suffered their surgical removal, and elect to remain without.) Like noses and most other things, breasts come in all different shapes and sizes. As another survivor friend points out, pretty much the first thing any of us sees is our mother’s breast. But after that, where do breasts go? Undercover, under wraps? Plastically jutting out of Barbies, displayed on primetime TV, revealed cartoonishly at halftime during the Super Bowl? The mixed message unsettles.

For an early picture book of mine, the publisher asked that I change the (very discrete) nursing picture to one of a bottle-fed baby. This astonished me, a Swede by birth. Nursing is risqué? Well, the editor explained, they’d otherwise not be able to sell the book in the South. I grumbled but redrew the picture. I’m not categorically against bottles – one of my children had one, one didn’t. And it turns out, this was savvy thinking – at least financially. That book went on to be featured in the kindergarten curriculum in Alabama and Georgia, places not ready, perhaps, to encounter breasts in children’s literature … even breasts only hinted at behind a paisley shawl.

Here in Maine, it didn’t seem to be much of an issue. I published a series of small books about the seasons. The spring one featured a new baby brother, nursing, laundry, mud. Nobody said anything. It wasn’t that I was crusading for the La Leche League, but it was my reality, and that of most toddlers I knew. Moms nursed babies. Big sisters played and sulked in the quince bush pretending to be princesses. Breasts were not an issue.

I suppose I should have understood that I really wasn’t in Sweden anymore when strangers passing by the hedge in a small Maine town, saw my toddler daughter frolicking naked in her tiny pool, and loudly proclaimed, “Gross.” Anna didn’t hear them (she was too busy being a dinosaur), but I did, and my heart sank. Poor teenagers … to think a two-year- old’s naked dancing was disgusting. What did they think of their own bodies, I wondered.

Bodies way up in sun-starved Scandinavia are not considered gross, or necessarily sexual. Even breasts! Children in particular are allowed the freedom to feel air on bare skin. A breast out in public isn’t cause for alarm. Skinny-dipping is considered normal (although probably done less flamboyantly than some would imagine – mostly in small family coves and after saunas). Later, I lived in Hong Kong where nudity was not casual at all. I understood: practices were different depending on where you were. Moving to Maine during the end of the hippie era, there was an open feeling. Nylons? Fine. Unshaved legs? Fine. Both at once? (Maybe not so much.) But still I was unprepared for what happened recently. The line drawing of the plaster cast of the breast on the wall elicited the word “offensive” – from a Maine librarian, no less. Librarians are my heroes – defenders of freedom of information, lenders of books, champions of liberties. I’m thinking that this was a ‘rogue’ librarian.

But her comment made me think: why is it okay for our kids to see endless violence, but not breasts? If the breast on the wall in the book were an entire body, would that have been okay with the annoyed librarian? Does the fact that the character’s father is gay play into the supposed offense? Maybe it’s time to rethink what our norms are. Families come in all forms, and, some hero mothers fight breast cancer. India’s mother triumphs, and celebrates. I wish this outcome for each and every woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis. Let’s hear it for breasts!

If you click on the picture, you’ll see the book trailer for Charlotte Agell’s latest book The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister. There’s a lot of arguments for an against book trailers in the publishing industry. This one is a work of art!