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MY LIFE AS A POTATO by Arianne Costner
Apr 2nd, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

An Interview with Arianne Costner

Buying links: IndieBound | B & N | Amazon | Book Depository

Published March 24, 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Description from Goodreads:

For anyone who has ever felt like a potato in middle school, this hilarious story about a boy forced to become the dorkiest school mascot ever will have readers cheering!

“A grade A, spudtastic (not to mention FUNNY) debut. Arianne Costner sure knows middle school and middle schoolers!” –Chris Grabenstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good. 

After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit . . . right? 

Excerpt from Page 1:

I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but the fact is clear: I, Ben Hardy, am cursed by potatoes. That demon veggie has been out to get me for years.

Evidence #1: When I was five, I tripped over a bag of potatoes and broke my arm. I had to wear an itchy green cast for six weeks.

Evidence #2: My mom makes the world’s gluey-est mashed potatoes. They’re great for craft projects. Not for eating.

Evidence #3: There’s a faded scar above my left eyebrow. What happened? Let’s just say I got on the bad side of a cat named Tater Tot.

Then, two weeks ago, right in the middle of seventh grade, my family moved from Los Angeles to South Fork, Idaho–aka “the Potato Capital of the World.” The people here worship the veggie like my dad worships the Lakers.

Case in point: my new school’s game-day shirt. Today about half the school showed up wearing one. When I reach the cafeteria for lunch, I realize my friend Ellie is part of that half.

“You have to get one, Ben. Where’s your school spirit?” Ellie plunks her lunch tray down and tosses her long black braid over her shoulder. On her shirt, a cartoon potato flexes its bulky biceps and flashes the kind of smile that should be reserved for clowns in horror movies.

Out of all the mascot options–the Cougars, the Eagles, the Saber-Toothed Tigers–my new school just had to be the Spuds. This crosses a line. At my last school, we were the Wildcats, ferocious and intimidating. All a potato can scare is . . . well, me, I guess.

Interview:

Question: Share with readers a novel secret—something that readers will never know just from picking up the book. It could be a place you included in the novel, a name you gave to a character inspired by another person, special research you did.

Answer: The principal in the book is based somewhat off a man I know in real life. When I was drafting, out of laziness, I gave that character his name with the intention to change it later. I didn’t remember I did this until the final copyediting stages! Luckily, I was able to change the name to something else just in time. That might have been a little awkward.

Question: Why potatoes? 😍

Answer: When I taught seventh grade, my students were strangely obsessed with potatoes and thought they were hilarious. When I got the idea to write about a secret mascot, a potato seemed the perfect fit! Besides, I have a friend who lived in the district in Idaho with a Spud mascot. I think that’s pretty cool and unique! Go Spuds!

Question: Why did you want to write for MG kids?

Answer: This age is just the best! I love the funny awkwardness of middle school and the hope that’s inherent in middle grade literature. 

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Best vacation? Beach, Disney, Big city going to museums and historical places, skiing. Oh, DEFINITELY Disneyland. No hesitation. Except for right now, because we are social distancing. (Cries softy.)

Laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming? I love putting clothes into the washing machine and starting it. It makes me feel productive while only taking a minute or less. Now folding–that’s where it gets me. But at least I can fold while watching a show.

Flying, sailing, walking, driving? I’m actually terrified of airplanes. I’ll be boring and go with walking. I’m truly a scaredy-cat. 

Movies at home or movies in a theater? At home, in bed please.

Peas, carrots, Brussels sprouts, spinach? Carrots. 🙂

Additional info:

On my website, I have tons of resources for kids and parents! The educational resources include teaching guides with vocabulary activities, discussion questions, and writing prompts. Then, I have a tab called “Potato Fun” that has a “What Kind of Potato Are You” quiz, some funny potato facts, a recipe, and a dance tutorial for one of Ben’s favorite dances. 

Students! Write to Arianne: I also have a swag envelope I’m sending to any kid who writes me and tells me what their favorite part of the book was. The gift includes a giant laminated potato bookmark, a super potato sticker, and a signed and stamped bookplate (picture on website.) I thought this would be a fun activity for kids stuck at home. 

About Arianne:

Arianne Costner lives in the middle of the desert with her husband and three children. She is a former English teacher who believes that writers should crack up at their own jokes. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing the piano and composing music. Her favorite kind of potato is the tater tot, with mashed potatoes coming in close second—as long as they’re not gluey.

Fun Facts:

  • I am the oldest of five brothers and sisters. 
  • My author idol is Gordon Korman.
  • My birthday is Christmas Day!
  • At one point in time, I dreamed of becoming a Zumba teacher. That never happened. But maybe one day. 
  • I consider myself very non-picky and will eat almost anything except brussel sprouts. 
  • I lived in Chile for 18 months and it holds a special place in my heart. Speaking of food, I ate a chicken foot while I was there. It wasn’t terrible.
  • Music is my second passion. I play the violin and teach piano lessons. My favorite composers are Chopin and Rachmaninoff. One day I dream of publishing a book about a string quartet.

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