Sixteen year old Helen Schwann was abandoned on the steps of a church as an infant. The only reminder of who she was is a necklace that was wrapped in the blanket with her, which she kept through the years, hoping it would reveal her parent’s fate and her true identity.
Just when she finally accepts her life’s mystery she meets two people that tell her things about herself that she never knew, teach her to accept who she is, why she is here, and show her that the way to one’s true self is through the heart of another.
‘A Cygnet’s Tail’ is an intriguing adaption of the children’s tail of the Ugly Duckling that Susan Burdorf has updated for today’s young adults.
I just finished reading "A Cygnet's Tale" by Susan Burdorf. It is 199 pages long. When I first started this blog some authors started to give me their books, so I could write a review on them. This is one of the first books that showed up on my kindle, so I started to read it day and night.
Helen is a foster kid that moves in with the Greens. She has been bullied since kindergarten for being overweight and having white hair. She doesn't know anything about her parents, since they left her at a churches doorstep a few days after her being born. Since her history teacher just had surgery, a substitute is filling in; and when she gives the class a heritage project, she isn't aware of Helen's problem. Helen decides to look for clues involving her past, with Travis (her crush) right by her side.
I have been bullied my whole life, so I understand what it's like. I wasn't surprised when I saw how many kids didn't go to school, because of bullies. This book shows us that even if you don't know it, their is someone right in your school that is being bullied, too! Bullying is not right and in this book one of the bullies, Rachel, finds that out the hard way.
After I talked to Susan Burdorf about her being part of the act, #AuthorsAgainstBullying, she gave me the okay to interview her.
1. What made you want to be an author?
I Started writing when I was very young. I was in third grade writing that essay we used to have to do every year called "What I Did Over the Summer" and it took me an hour to write about all the fascinating things I had done that summer. One of my teacher's had remarked to the other that Ishould be a writer and that is when I knew writing was what I wanted to do with my life. If my life had turned out differently I would have been a journalist but instead I went to college, married, raised a family, and didn't give writing a thought until I got the itch again a few years ago. I wrote a zombie story for an anthology, got some great comments back about it, and I haven't stopped writing since.
2. Do you write other genres or is YA your focus?
I have several books in the works that range from Paranormal to Steampunk to Sci-Fi and they are in YA, NA, and Middle Grade...so I guess you could say that while I love writing YA, I am not afraid to try my hand at any genre in which I feel I have a story to tell.
3. Why did you write your book about bullying?
Bullying is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I am a Girl Scout Leader and in our troop we had a little girl who was asked to leave our troop because she was bullying the other girls. Her reaction shocked me and stayed with me all these years. It was as if being a bully was no big deal - when of course, we know it IS a big deal. It is a morally wrong way to put ourselves above another. As bullying escalates, due to our inaction or inability to control the damage of bullying, I see young people devstated by the aftershocks of sanctioned abuse at the hands of their peers. I see inaction as the fuel that encourages bullies, and it makes me so angry. Schools are breeding grounds for bullies, and even when a zero tolerance in regards to bullying is put in place it is rarely enforced. And that saddens me. I wanted to reach out to those who are bullied and let them know they are not alone. That someone cares. I hoped, by writing Helen's story, that others might reach out to me or to those around them, and rebel against the bullies and those who allow this to happen. Helen's story, in A Cygnet's Tale is about finding herself, and in spite of all that she has endured she does that. I want others to read about her and find their strength in her strength.
4. Who does Helen most remind you of?
Helen is most like me. I am shy, and try to stay in the background. I was bullied as a child, but unlike Helen, I never found the strength to get through it with grace and courage. I just survived until I was out of high school and away from those that bullied me in high school. I wrote into Helen all the things I wished I had had the ability to do at that time, but I found out, while writing her story, that I DID have that kind of courage, I just never used it. I hope others will find their courage sooner than I did. Bullies will always be around, it is just who we are as people, but I hope people will realize that if we stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, that we will start the change that needs to happen. No child should be afraid to go to school. Or afraid to go to the movies. Or be afraid to go to the park without being picked on. The attitude of "kids will be kids" needs to become obsolete. We need to look at each person as a valuable part of humanity as a whole no matter what they wear, or how they talk, or the color of their skin.
5. Do you have any friends or family that have been bullied?
Yes, I do. And I remember how each of them felt when telling their stories. There seemed to be a common thread running through all of the stories - bullies are permitted to exist because people look the other way. This needs to stop. Now. With us.
6. How did you come up with the idea for Helen to be a foster kid?
I needed Helen to be in a vulnerable place, to feel she had no one to turn to except for herself. And then to gradually realize that she was stronger when she let her guard down and let others into her life. She found out that risking it all meant she would get it all, but that it would require her to sacrifice some things, too. Anything we want so bad, has to somehow change us. I also felt that as a member of the foster care system she has a perspective on her peers that is uniquely her own.
7. I really liked this book, so I was wondering... Do you plan on writing a second book for "A Cygnet's Tale"?
I am so very excited to hear that you liked my book. I love to hear from fans, both good and bad, about my writing (of course, good is better!). As for a second book, "A Cygnet's Tale" was always intended to be a standalone book, not part of a series, but as I was writing this I found that Max, Helen's foster brother, kept trying to insert his story into the book (more about his alcoholism and cheating on the exam were cut out of this book) and I am toying with the idea of exploring his character too...so it is not too improbable that Max, Helen, Travis, Trent, Rachel, and Grace might have more stories to tell.
8. Thank you so much for letting me read your book and taking time to talk with me!
Thank you so much for letting me chat with you for a little while. If you, or anyone else has more to ask or comments please feel free to contact me on my facebook page (my website is currently under construction) at www.facebook.com/susanburdorfauthor.
I am available to talk to student groups, girl scout or boy scout troops, schools, libraries or anyplace someone wants to talk books and writing. Contact me on my facebook page for scheduling and in the meantime know that I am an author against bullying #AuthorsAgainstBullying