New Kids On The Block 2019 with Gillian McDunn

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2019? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at [email protected]. I would love to collaborate with you!


About Gillian McDunn

Gillian McDunn has lived in California, Missouri, and North Carolina, and is a fan of both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her family. Like Cat, Gillian grew up as the big sister to a younger brother with special needs. Caterpillar Summer (Bloomsbury) will be released April 2, 2019.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


Caterpillar Summer is the story of the girl, her brother, and the summer they will never forget. Since her father’s death, Cat has taken care of her brother, Chicken, for their hardworking mother — but on an unexpected island trip to visit grandparents they never knew, Cat has the chance to be a child again.

For this interview, Cat and Chicken sat down with author Gillian McDunn to ask a few questions about her debut book.

Cat: Today I am going to interview Gillian McDunn. She has a brand new book coming out called Caterpillar Summer. It is for kids ages 8-13 and it comes out April 2, 2019.

Chicken: Is it a book about caterpillars?

Gillian McDunn: It is about a girl who is nicknamed Caterpillar and a summer where a lot of changes happen.

Cat: Oh, Caterpillar is my nickname, too!

Chicken: I have a question for you, Gillian McDunn.

Cat (Sighing): Chicken, this is my interview.

Chicken: Just one question?

Cat: Okay. Go ahead.

Chicken: Gillian McDunn, what is your favorite shark and why?


Gillian: I like whale sharks. They are enormous and look so peaceful when they glide through the water. I also like their polka dots. What about you?

Chicken: It is hard to pick just one. But today I like cookiecutter sharks. They take a bite out of their prey in a circle shape that looks just like a cookie cutter was there!

Cat: Back to the interview. You wrote a book about summer. What is your favorite season?

Gillian: I love the way summer feels. It’s a time when regular routines get shaken up, whether that means vacation, camp, or the joy of having lots of unstructured time. When I think of summer I think of trying new things, visiting different places, and maybe learning something new about myself.

Cat: I can’t wait for this summer. We are going to visit our friend Rishi in Atlanta.

Chicken: Do you know what? Our mom writes books, too. Picture books. Lots of them.

Cat: That’s true. They are based on me and Chicken. But in the books, I’m a caterpillar and Chicken is a real chicken.

Chicken: Chicken is the funniest! He is very silly. Caterpillar is serious. She is maybe a little bit boring.

Cat: Caterpillar is not boring.

Chicken (Whispering): Yes, she is.

Cat: I know this story is fiction, which means that you made it up. But was the story based on anything real in your life?

Gillian: Even though it’s fiction, there are lots of little parts that are still true. I had a little brother named Andy who had multiple disabilities. I loved him very much and felt like it was my job to help keep him safe. I also love the beach – it’s my very favorite place to be!

Cat: I understand there are important grandparent relationships in the book. What happens there?


Gillian: The kids end up spending a few weeks with grandparents they’ve never met before. The grandma seems okay, but the grandfather is grumpy and always disappearing. The girl in the story tries to figure out why.

Cat: That’s interesting. We’ve only met our daddy’s parents, never our mom’s.

Gillian: Hey guys, I have a question for you. What do you think it would it be like to live on an island?

Chicken: I would love it. There would be ocean everywhere. I would go swimming and play with the sharks.

Cat: That sounds dangerous. No one plays with sharks!

Chicken: I would play with them every day.

Cat: I think being on an island would be okay. It would depend on what the island was like. I would have to watch Chicken carefully because he sometimes likes to take off running, and that scares me.

Chicken: I don’t mean to scare you.

Cat: I know you don’t mean to, Chicken. But it scares me anyway.

Chicken: I’m sorry. I’ll try not to.

Cat hugs Chicken and he leans against her.

Cat: Okay. Gillian, before we finish, is there anything else you’d like to say about Caterpillar Summer?

Gillian: I’d like readers to know that there are serious things and fun things that happen in this book. There’s a lot about families and a kid who takes on a lot of responsibility. There’s also a fishing contest, bike rides, miniature golfing, kite flying, and delicious ice cream. The kids search for sea glass and shark teeth. It’s an unforgettable summer.

Chicken (Eyes widening): Did you say shark teeth?

Gillian: I did! The island in my story is based on a real North Carolina island, where you can find fossilized shark teeth if you know where to look.

Chicken: I want to know more about this. Right now.

Cat: Maybe we can talk more about it after the interview is over. For now let’s say goodbye to Gillian and good luck with your book!

Gillian: Thanks, you guys, I loved talking to you!

Chicken: Now, about those shark teeth…

Title Caterpillar Summer
Author Gillian McDunn
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date April 2nd 2019 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

This beautifully written, emotional debut perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt or Ali Benjamin tells the story a girl, her special needs brother, and the summer they will never forget.

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

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