in search of goliathus hercules book tour & giveaway

in search of goliathus hercules by jennifer angus blog tour

Happy Thursday, and welcome to the blog tour for Jennifer Angus’ middle grade debut novel, In Search of Goliathus Hercules!  I adore middle grade books (the ones created especially for that magical age range of 8-12 years old), and this one is a great fit – after all, it features the Victorian era, bugs, fantasy and outlandish adventures.  Jennifer was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions, and there’s a giveaway at the end.  I hope you’ll fall in love with Henri’s story, too!

jennifer angus author photo
Jennifer Angus is a professor in the Design Studies department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She received her education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (BFA) and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA). She has exhibited her work internationally, including in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Spain. Angus has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Wisconsin Arts Board grants. Based on the storyline created for one of her art installations, In Search of Goliathus Hercules is her first book.

If you’d like to see some of her artwork–her medium is bugs!– there are some great videos on her website.

Now on to the interview!

1. Goliathus Hercules was inspired by one of your art exhibitions. What are you favorite things about using art to tell a story? What are your favorite things about using the novel form?

My favorite thing about using art to convey a narrative is that ultimately the viewers can make up their own story. Nothing is in black and white but there are cues to give them some ideas of a possible narrative. I love hearing what people think the story is about. They often observe things I hadn't thought about and come with really imaginative ideas. It's really a lot of fun, a bit like those picture books that have no words.

I suppose my favorite thing about using the novel form is that I have been able to draw on my life experience to fill in details of the story. For example, I have lived on a remote island in the central Pacific (Tarawa in the Republic of Kiribati) and so I know what it is like to look different from everyone else and stand out. I spent two years living in Thailand and hiked extensively in the jungle so I have had a cobra cross my path and been on the look out for rampaging wild elephants. I've also been in the jungle at night and with no reflected lights from the city it's very dark and there are a lot of strange noises! It's scary. Names and dates in the story have personal significance for me too since they primarily come from my family.

2. Were you a reader growing up? If so, what were your favorite books as a kid?

I was most certainly a reader when I grew up. Of course it was before the days of the internet and videos. My mother was very strict about how much television we watched so we had a choice of either being outside playing or reading.

My favorite books were The Phantom Tollbooth, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and since I'm from Canada, Anne of Green Gables. There are a lot of books in that series so they took up quite a bit of my reading time. I also enjoyed the three books in the Born Free series about Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness in Kenya.

3. What's one disgusting/extremely cool thing you learned while researching your book?

Since I work with insects in my art work I already knew quite a bit about them. Much of the book was written while I was traveling in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala. I was on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua when I did a hike up to a volcano crater. We had to go through jungle to climb to the top and on the way the guide stopped to show us some beetles who live in decaying wood. The beetles he explained were able to make sounds to communicate with each other. I actually heard the beetles make noises and that gave me the idea that perhaps there is an insect language.

4. Do you have any hidden (or not so hidden) superpowers?

I sense the feelings and thoughts of inanimate objects, in particular those that are derelict and unloved. They are the witnesses to thoughtless and often cruel behavior. They end up standing at the curb on garbage day and I try to rescue what I can. If they had been horses they would have been sent to the glue factory.

5. If you could host a dinner party for any fictional characters, who would you invite, and what would you serve?

I would love to have tea with Alison Uttley's Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel and Hare. We would have exactly what Grey Rabbit served at her party - pink cakes, white cakes, sponge cakes, mince pies, potted cob-nut sandwiches and roasted chestnuts. When I was a child these stories really captured my imagination although I would say I loved the illustrations more than the text. The food was always inventive, well described and when I went into the woods it got me thinking about just what was edible.

6. What are you reading now?

I recently read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and loved it! As a visual artist I'm a big fan of description and I loved the elaborate descriptions of the circus tents. I also recently read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. There's a world's fair in my book so I really enjoyed the account of the Chicago Fair - the preparations, the importance of landscape architecture to the whole event and of course the true crime story.

I've been meaning to read The Night Circus myself!  Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

I hope you’re still interested in the giveaway for a signed copy of In Search of Goliathus Hercules!  To enter to win, simply fill out the FORM.  One entrant will win a signed copy of the book, provided by the kind folks at Albert Whitman & Company.  Giveaway is open to US and Canadian mailing addresses only, and will end on June 20 at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Prize will ship directly from the publisher.  Good luck!

Want to learn more about the blog tour?  Tomorrow’s stop information is listed below:

Friday, June 7
Review of book, giveaway, kick off to 48-hour Book Challenge

Oh, and before you go, check out some of these amazing photos of Jennifer’s exhibition!

in search of goliathus hercules by jennifer angus book cover
The fantastic story of Henri Bell, a near-orphan who in 1890 is sent to live with his ancient great-aunt and her extensive button collection. One rainy afternoon, Henri strikes up a conversation with a friendly fly on the windowsill and discovers he possesses the astounding ability to speak with insects.

Thus commences an epic journey for Henri as he manages a flea circus, commands an army of beetles, and ultimately sets out to British Malaya to find the mythical giant insect known as Goliathus hercules. Along the way he makes friends both insect and human, and undergoes a strange transformation of his own.

Artist Jennifer Angus, known for her Victorian-inspired exhibits of insect specimens, brings her distinctive sensibility to the pages of her first novel.

Fine print: Review copy, signed giveaway prize and blog tour organized/provided by Albert Whitman & Company. I received no compensation for this post.

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