Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hi, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview in our interview series! For this interview, we were able to sit down with Sherrill Joseph, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse. Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse is a fun and entertaining book that contains all the elements for a great mystery novel, including alluring characters, a plausible plot, historical value, an eerie atmosphere, and vividly described scenes. The mystery in Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse starts during a lightning storm in an empty mansion and will keep the reader on the edge of their seats until the very end! Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse is the second book in the Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery series to win a Mom’s Choice Award, the first being Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets. Keep reading to find out more about Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse and the author behind it, Sherrill Joseph!
MCA: Hi Sherrill, congrats on your two Mom’s Choice Awards! Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse is such an entertaining read and the perfect book for any lover of a good mystery and the perfect follow-up to Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets. Can we first start the interview by finding out a little bit about yourself?
Sherrill: I was born a fraternal twin and lexical-gustatory synesthete in San Diego, California, where I still reside. My loyal companion is my adorable poodle-bichon rescue Jimmy Lambchop. He and I walk and ponder writing topics twice daily. I also power walk, do yoga and weight training, and hope to resume tennis soon. Of course, reading and writing are my passions. Other passions include my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, and soon-to-be-born grandson this May, who live on the East Coast. I travel there and beyond when I can.
The mystery genre took hold of me—and hasn’t let go—when I was a fifth-grader and discovered Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries. They compelled me to want to write and publish my own mysteries for kids someday. I put my bachelor’s degree in English literature to work during my thirty-five-year career as a literacy teacher in grades K-12. When I retired in 2013, the Botanic Hill Detectives and their mysteries sprang to life.
MCA: A thirty-five-year career in education, that’s amazing! How did your teaching career influence your writing career?
Sherrill: Two years before I retired from teaching literacy, a fifth-grade student rekindled my interest in writing for kids when she challenged me to write a mystery better than the one we were reading in Book Club. Some of my wonderful students, including my then twelve-year-old twin cousins, became the prototypes for my four detectives. My knowledge of English conventions and writing from teaching also compel me to produce what I hope are books that are examples of good writing for my children’s readers.
MCA: I’m sure you have a great understanding of children’s wants and needs after such a long career of working with them! What have your goals been since starting your writing career?
Sherrill: I strive to present positive, role-model characters of varying ethnicities, abilities, and disabilities to help foster accepting, anti-racist kids who can feel comfortable wherever they find themselves in the world. I also feel that kids are the best people on the planet and don’t often get enough credit for being remarkable, so I feature them as the heroes in my books. I try to create worlds, positive characters, and situations to help kids learn by example how to develop grit so they can cope with life’s challenges. Finally, I love infusing ancient to more recent history into my books since it brings the past to life and can potentially help my readers know and make sense of the world.
MCA: What were some of the books that inspired your writing?
Sherrill: Nancy Drew (The Secret of Red Gate Farm; The Password to Larkspur Lane were favorites) and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries (The Mystery of the Green Cat; The Secret of the Samurai Sword) enthralled me as a child. I still read those for fun and inspiration. As an English major in college, I came to love the classics and still do, especially the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”) and the mysteries of Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone; The Woman in White). As to contemporary writers, I am awed and inspired by the writing styles of Hazel Gaynor (The Cottingley Secret) and Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun), in particular, for their use of metaphor and descriptive language. For children’s authors, I enjoy Steven K. Smith (The Virginia Mysteries) and Nancy Springer (The Enola Holmes Mysteries).
MCA: I was going to say, Eucalyptus Street very much reminded me of a Nancy Drew novel! Can you discuss the characters within Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse?
Sherrill: My detective character Rani Kumar, like me, has lexical-gustatory synesthesia. That’s where we taste or smell something when we hear a word or name. For example, Rani says her name makes her taste raw green beans. My name Sherrill makes me taste cherry jelly. My last name Joseph makes me taste a Mounds candy bar (coconut and dark chocolate). Rani loves to wear saris since they remind her of her native India and her grandmother, who makes them for her. She is smart and athletic. Rani’s father is Dr. Devi Kumar, a professor of geology at the local university. Her mother is Gajara Kumar, a manager at the local airport for Far Horizons Airlines. They moved to California from India when Rani was five years old.
Lanyon “Lanny” Wyatt, like me, is a twin and loves old movies, Sherlock Holmes, and vocabulary building. He is the head of the Botanic Hill Detectives agency from nonstop, logical thinking. The others call him “Lanny the Lexicon” when he defines words. His name Lanyon was my grandmother’s maiden name.
Alexia “Lexi” Wyatt is Lanny’s twin sister. She loves poetry and song lyrics. She is tender-hearted, the first to cry, but also the first to pursue the villain. She has an annoying habit of squeezing the forearm of anyone near her when she gets nervous. The twins’ parents are famous in their careers as an archaeologist (Dr. Ian Wyatt), and an art historian (Dr. Rebecca Marlton). Lexi and Rani are best friends.
Moki Kalani is a transplant from Hawai‛i to California. He is a foodie and the comedian of the group, who often doesn’t appear to be listening but still absorbs the essentials of a situation. He moved to California with his father, Sergeant Daniel Kalani with the local police department, when he was eight after his mother was killed in a car accident in Honolulu.
Isabela and Tomàs de Cordoba are among the last of their old family and live in a mansion on Eucalyptus Street. Isabela hires the detectives to find an enormous emerald hidden by her great-grandfather in the 1940s somewhere on the premises. She is twenty-one and more formal than her eighteen-year-old brother Tomàs.
Everyone else—except the villains, of course—works to support and nurture the kids. Uncle Rocky, the Wyatt/Marlton family’s houseman, cook, and friend is a hoot! Bruce Wilding is the kids’ young tutor who keeps them up to date in their studies when they’re on a case. And I love Dr. Leland Abbott’s intelligence, admiration of the kids, suave charm, and sophistication. He is the head of the ARC—the Antiquities Research Collective, where some gemstones of antiquity are housed that play into the mystery. (Q/A #6 and 7 next page)
MCA: Why was it so important for the characters within Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse to be polite and respectful?
Sherrill: I write to entertain kids but also to show them, through my mature, polite, role-model detective characters, how to approach challenges with courage and teamwork so they develop grit for life.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Sherrill: You can improve the world and your own life by showing up for challenges as a polite, respectful, open-minded, big-hearted helper.
MCA: That’s a beautiful message to leave us with. Thank you for a great interview, Sherrill! We hope to be seeing more books from the Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery series in the near future!
You can learn more about Sherrill Joseph and her award-winning book, Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.