The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen
Book One, Second Edition
Genre: Middle Grade / Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: June 12, 2016
# of pages: 70
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It’s the beginning of summer and Uncle Mike and Aunt Melanie invite Mackenzie for an extended summer vacation in their hometown of Houston, Texas. On the first day, Mackenzie finds her cousins, Cristen and Chloe, helping their parents prepare a special meal. Come and learn about the holiday and celebration of Juneteenth with this first book in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a cultural journey of joy, family, and fun!
Summer Vacation is the first installment in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a five part journey of family love and fun. Each adventure finds the cousins learning history, exploring cultural themes and traditions, and discovering the joy in the world around them.
PRAISE FOR SUMMER VACATION
“I read Summer Vacation by Belinda Everette. I thought it was educational regarding the true history of Juneteenth and portrayed realistic events in the lives of the characters. I did pass it on to one of my daughters with a special interest in children’s books. This seems to be a good moment for this kind of story, with increased interest in African-American history with readers of all ages.” — Ronne Hartfield, Co-Chair, Harvard University Arts Education Council, Executive Director, Art Institute of Chicago, Author
“Summer Vacation is very good. This book is entertaining and informative. The author has given us a unique way of presenting history to our children. This book should be published in Spanish and other languages to share this history with other cultures.” — Irma P. Hall, Academy Award nominated American Actress, Poet, Author, Language Educator (ret), Dallas Public School System, 30 years.
Wanting to hone my craft and give more substance to my writing, I enrolled in a “Beginning Short Stories” class at Rice University, the fall of 2014. Sitting in class, I was feeling a bit intimidated, largely because the majority of my classmates had experience with the instructor, having taken a class he offered the previous semester. Discussions and lecture points invariably had references to concepts and ideas made in some prior class, and I consistently felt like I had just walked up to a group in the middle of a conversation. I felt like I was constantly trying to catch-up to the rest of the class, or worse, I felt like perhaps it was something I should have known and I was too embarrassed to ask for clarity or more information and went off to research on my own.
Suffice it to say, for my first assignments in the class, I felt compelled to write about subjects that I was familiar with or had a great deal of experience. The objective was to be viewed as a subject matter expert on or an SME. (An acronym from my Corporate America days. The use of acronyms in that environment was so prevalent, we used to joke that we were bilingual.)
I chose to write about the African-American holiday, Juneteenth, from the historical beginnings through the current day observance and traditions. It felt like a safe topic for me, and the critique, I hoped, would not be too harsh; after all, I was the only minority in the class and how much would anyone else know? I anticipated providing an educational yet entertaining essay for my classmates by sharing the thoroughly researched facts of this Texas holiday and the celebrations that acknowledged its significance. Juneteenth is the celebration of the end of slavery and it never occurred to me that anyone other than African Americans celebrated or were aware of the Juneteenth holiday.
After the critique and discussion of the story was over, after I took notes and incorporated the commentary from my classmates, and after I collected the twenty-one edited copies of my story, I listened to a fascinating story of a Juneteenth celebration steeped in history, tradition and rites of passage, that happened annually right here in Houston.
Our instructor would, on occasion, pepper his lectures with stories from his youth, tales of growing up as an only child, and of course, a bit of family drama here and there. It helped us with data retention and kept mundane subject matter interesting.
Throughout his childhood, his family belonged to a country club. He recalled many summer afternoons at the club, but one event, prominent in his memory, was the annual carnival held at the club every June. The carnival, he explained, was a very big event, complete with Ferris wheel, assorted rides, popcorn, cotton candy and everything one would expect to see and experience at a festive carnival. It became, he explained, a family tradition, to go to the club in June for the carnival.
He told us his earliest memory of the annual carnival at the club, was around the age of six. After a few years he began to wonder about the reason for the big party, the big carnival. Finally, at the age of eleven, he asked one of his parent’s friends, in passing as he enjoyed the carnival one Saturday afternoon. He remembered walking toward the Ferris wheel, when he saw his dad’s friend and recalled tugging at the hem of his shirt tail to get his attention.
“Mr. Bob,” the little boy asked, looking up at the older gentleman. “Why do we have this party every year? Why do we have all these rides and this carnival?”
His father’s friend looked down at him with a big smile, and answered, “It’s Juneteenth son! We’re celebrating Juneteenth!”
Our instructor paused for moment, as he told his story. He looked down at the floor for a moment and the classroom was very quiet. You could almost see the inner turmoil his mind was processing. The muscles in his jaw area twitched slightly, as if he was trying to reconcile what he saw with what he knew about the holiday.
The moment passed and he looked around the classroom before he started to speak again. He explained that by that age, he knew what the meaning of the Juneteenth holiday was. He learned about the holiday and its meaning in school.
The instructor went on to tell us that after his father’s friend answered his question and walked away, he stood there and looked around at all of the activity at the carnival. He saw that the only people enjoying the carnival were white, and black people were working, serving drinks, operating the rides, passing out food, or picking up trash.
I thought about the irony in that story for a very long time. Long after I completed the assignment, long after I finished Rice, long after I celebrated the next Juneteenth holiday. I thought about telling that story. I considered how I would explain that story to a child, how I would explain the dynamics of the carnival, the people working, the people celebrating the holiday.
By the end of 2015, I wrote the first three books in my children’s series, The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, and the first book, Summer Vacation, was inspired by that story.
Like most people, when life throws lemons, you make lemonade and that was certainly the case for Belinda Everette, the author of The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen book series. After twenty-six years as a Senior Vice-President for several Fortune 500 financial institutions, life circumstances required a change. Belinda put down her briefcase, enrolled in Rice University’s creative writing program, and began to pursue her lifelong dream of writing.
When not writing, Belinda supports several of her favorite charities which focus on providing housing and improving living conditions for those in need, including Houston’s Star of Hope, Covenant House, and Houston Achievement Place.
“Family is my greatest joy,” Belinda adds “nothing is better than a houseful of family and friends with lots of children running around, enjoying a delicious meal and good Christian fellowship.” Cooking, entertaining, and music along with daughter Ashley, son-in-law Ron, and grandchildren, Mackenzie and Evan, keep live full and happy. Belinda and her constant companion, a four-year old Shih Tzu, reside in suburban Houston, Texas.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
1 Grand Prize Winner wins:
Signed Copies of Summer Vacation and It’s Just A Song, plus a tote bag
2 Other Winners each win:
Signed Copies of Summer Vacation plus mouse pads
July 20 – July 29, 2016
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Check out the other great blogs on the tour!
7/20 Hall Ways Blog – Review
7/21 Country Girl Bookaholic – Excerpt #1
7/22 Reading By Moonlight – Author Interview #1
7/23 Margie’s Must Reads – Review
7/24 StoreyBook Reviews – Guest Post
7/25 The Crazy Booksellers – Excerpt #2
7/26 Missus Gonzo – Review
7/27 Byers Editing Reviews & Blog – Author Interview #2
7/28 The Librarian Talks – Promo
7/29 My Book Fix Blog – Review
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