Thursday, December 5, 2019

Interview with Vila Gingerich, Author of the Celeste Books (Mennonite Fiction)

Celeste, Book One
by Vila Gingerich
Middle Grade Historical / Mystery 
208 pages
ages 7 to 12

Ten-year-old Celeste sees everyone as a possible criminal. After she deserts her little sisters to chase a suspect, her parents make rules.

If her giant imagination causes more trouble, she’ll lose phone privileges, mystery books, and free time. If she can learn responsibility, they’ll buy the binoculars she needs for sleuthing.

Celeste vows to win the prize. Then a thief targets their Mennonite community and her peace-loving church people do nothing to stop it. Celeste fears Grandma or her best friend Lexi could be next.

But is going after the thief a responsible thing to do? Can Celeste solve the mystery and win the binoculars?

Celeste, Book Two
by Vila Gingerich
Plain Day Press
Middle Grade Historical
209 pages
ages 8 to 12

Sixth grade is almost over. Celeste loves Kansas—her grandparents, her trailer house on the edge of town, almost everything—but Dad is moving them north to Wisconsin. To a stinky dairy farm, at that.

Far from Sunflower State Mennonite School and her friend Lexi, Celeste struggles to adjust to a place where school feels like prison, winter lasts forever, and her only pal is a Siamese cat. Worst of all is the barn full of scary cows to feed.

Can Celeste find something likable about this place? Maybe Sally or Rita, her new classmates? Or the calf she saves? (Definitely not Ronnie, of course!)

With so many tough changes, Celeste must grow and be strong, no matter how it hurts.


Today, we have a special guest here on Bookworm for Kids—author Vila Gingerich!  I was lucky enough to meet her in person during a library visit. She's a wonderful person to chat with. Thanks so much, Vila, for agreeing to take the time to stop by here today!

One of the things, which caught my attention while speaking with you is the type of books you write. Your stories hit a niche seldom found in middle grade literature. What inspired you to write these tales?

For as long as I can remember, every time something interesting happened my grandma said, “Vila, you should write a book about this.” So one day I decided to do it.

When it came time to decide on a premise, I remembered how, as a kid, I never read a book about Mennonite girls like me. So I decided to write one.

As a teacher and a mother, what do you believe are the biggest challenges children growing up in the Mennonite community face.

First of all, I’m not a mother. Okay, with seven years’ worth of students behind me, maybe I am. One of the biggest challenges facing Mennonite kids is the big one facing all kids and all people, really. Mennonites are slower to embrace new things, but technology can still take too big a place in our lives. Mennonite kids hunt, fish, read, sing, hike, ride bike, and play outside more than the average American kid; but I worry about our teens becoming attached to their phones and technology and thus losing some of our healthy, social way of life.

What is your favorite part about writing? And what would you rather eat worms than do?

I love revising. In fact, instead of writing new stories, I’ll procrastinate by digging up and revising old ones. I like seeing the big picture, adding details, perfecting a phrase. On the other hand, I’d rather eat worms—fried or otherwise—than market my books. Everything in Mennonite culture (and my own personality!) goes against promoting oneself.

Many authors were avid readers during their childhood. What were your favorite books while growing up?

Your blog is not big enough…My mom started me off with a steady diet of Little Golden Books, Romona Quimby, and Laura Ingalls. Then, as a schoolgirl I loved detective characters like Nancy Drew and Mandie Shaw. Later I fell in love with L.M. Montgomery (The Blue Castle is my absolute fave), Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Gene Stratton Porter, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Some favorite titles of my youth were (and still are) The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Little Women, The Count of Monte Cristo, Johnny Tremain, The Girl of the Limberlost, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. There. That’s a start.

What book are you reading right now?

At school, I’m almost finished reading The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw to my students. Next on the list is The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy. At home in my free time, I’m reading The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos. My husband and I spent seven years in Romania, so I’m loving the Bucharest setting. I’m also reading On Writing by Stephan King and Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Brenzen.

When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do? 

I love to read, travel, cook/invent new recipes, explore museums and restaurants, and drink good coffee.

What was your biggest wish as a child?

To see the world and write about it. I’m lucky to have made a good start. I’m hopeful there’s more in my future.

Traveling the world would be a wonderful thing to do. Here's wishing you lots of opportunities in that direction...and of course, tons of success with your writing.

And here's more about Vila...
(This is her bio as found on Goodreads.)

Vila Gingerich grew up in Mennonite communities across the Midwest. She spent seven years doing volunteer work in Romania and now lives on fifty acres in Missouri with her husband, cats, and an overgrown veggie garden.

She was a winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children fiction contest and her work has been published in Highlights for Children and Purpose magazines. She is currently working on the second book in the Celeste series, Full Moon, Half a Heart.

Vila teaches sixth through eighth grades in a private Mennonite school. She tells her students that everyone has a special talent, good books take you places, and sometimes it’s okay to add on your fingers.

You can learn more about Vila at  

1 comment:

V. Gingerich said...

Thank you for the shout out, Tonja! I enjoyed the interview, meeting you, and (especially!) reading your lovely book! :)