Rebecca Behrens contacted Storymamas about reading and reviewing her newest middle grade book, The Last Grand Adventure and we are so happy she did! The book takes you on a historical and emotional journey as a grandmother and granddaughter embark on an adventure of a lifetime from California to Kansas. Bea has agreed to spend the summer with her grandmother, even though they haven’t seen each other in years. Bea is excited (and worried) about what adventures she might have in the retirement community home Pidge just moved into. Bea is soon to find out that they aren’t staying put and are embarking on a cross country road trip to Kansas to reconnect with the long missing, Amelia Earhart, who is Pidge’s sister!
I found this book so full of heart. Rebecca has done a fabulous job of creating these two very different characters, Pidge, who is full of gumption and works on impulses, while Bea is strategic and thinks things through. Their relationship forms as they work through the bumps in the road. It made my heart warm as I read this story and I felt that these two related strangers begin to understand and become better people for having experienced this trip together. It’s as if you are on the adventure with them. While reading, there are parts where I’d cross my fingers in hopes that the mishaps they experienced along the way got resolved or I’d smile as I was reading a part about how Bea would love to take out her camera and capture the world around her. The story draws you in. Whether you want to know if Amelia will remember to meet them, if you’re looking for a story of friendship, hoping to catch the many references to the 70s time period, or just want to go on an adventure of a lifetime, this book is for you!
We are so happy Rebecca answered 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.
3 ?s about The Last Grand Adventure
What three words would you use to describe your book?
Heartfelt historical adventure
What were some of the things you learned during the research/writing process that you didn’t know before about Amelia Earhart?
I learned so much about Amelia’s life and accomplishments! Some favorite research discoveries are that she often wore exclusively brown (her high-school yearbook captioned Amelia “the girl in brown who walks alone”); she was a poet; a woman pilot, Neta Snook, taught her how to fly; Amelia had her own clothing line; she suffered from chronic sinus problems and even had surgery for it (which surprised me, considering that pressure while flying must have sometimes made it worse); and that she liked to eat tomato juice and chocolate while on long, ocean-crossing flights–on her groundbreaking Pacific flight, she treated herself to a cup of hot chocolate.
The strangest theory I read about her disappearance was that she and Fred Noonan could have been eaten by giant coconut crabs on Gardner Island (now called Nikumaroro). I really hope that didn’t happen!
Bea and Pidge are such wonderful, complex characters, which traits of them would you say you most identify with? Or are they based on someone you know?
Both are fictional, although I used many details from the real Muriel Earhart’s childhood to help me create the character of Pidge and make her story factually accurate. I also borrowed a few of my own grandmothers’ personalities and quirks (and some household details, like a scratchy green sofa and bowl of gumdrops) to create Pidge, and I drew on my experiences as a younger sister, too. While researching Amelia’s life, I became very interested in details about her sister, Muriel. Their relationship was both extraordinary and ordinary–they had the same kind of rivalry and squabbles and enduring friendship that most siblings can relate to, I think. Probably because I could relate to that aspect, I fell in love with the idea of writing about a famous figure’s little sister.
Bea, I relate to much more strongly. Like her, I’m sometimes hesitant to dive into an unknown adventure. I love to travel, but it takes me a while to get used to a new routine (or lack thereof). I also share Bea’s curiosity. She’s a great observer, in her journals and through her photography. With Bea, I really wanted to create a character who is brave not because of a lack of worry or uncertainty, but because she works through those feelings and then goes on to have an exhilarating, eye-opening experience.
3 ?s about You
If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
I know from friends in the field that it’s more painstaking and less swashbuckling (a la Indiana Jones movies), but I’d still love to be an archaeologist–which I suppose is another form of historical storytelling. 🙂
What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
Walk Two Moons. Decades later, and I still remember the summer I read, and reread, and reread it as a kid. It’s a beautiful story with richly detailed characters (and come to think of it, it’s another kid-grandparent road trip!). For me it was absolutely a heartprint kind of book. In terms of recent releases–Orphan Island was lovely and deep, and I think about that story a lot, wondering what happened to the characters after the last page. My fingers are crossed that there will be a sequel or companion novel.
What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
This is technically in my freezer–a half-dozen doughnuts from the 116-year-old bake shop in my neighborhood, which announced it’s closing this summer. I’m stockpiling all my faves. So I guess my love of history even extends to my sweet tooth!