The Write Life

'Art of the Swap' set in Newport, brings Gilded Age to life for kids

By Laura LaTour
Posted 5/3/18

The recently published book "The Art of the Swap" brings the Gilded Age to life for children in a fun and engaging way. Featuring a body-swapping, time-travelling plot, an art heist mystery, and …

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The Write Life

'Art of the Swap' set in Newport, brings Gilded Age to life for kids

Posted

The recently published book "The Art of the Swap" brings the Gilded Age to life for children in a fun and engaging way. Featuring a body-swapping, time-travelling plot, an art heist mystery, and real-life historical details, The Art of the Swap immerses readers in life at The Elms in Newport over 100 years ago.

“My family has always loved taking historical vacations,” says Kristine Asselin, co-author of The Art of the Swap. “We have pictures of my daughter at four years old taking notes as we toured an historical property in Richmond or D.C.” On a more recent trip to Newport, Asselin and her now teenaged daughter were touring one of the smaller mansions. “The docent pointed to a blocked off stairway and said that was where the caretaker lived. I turned to my daughter and said, wouldn’t it be cool to live here?”  

And that was all it took to create the character of twelve-year old, Hannah Jordan, resident of The Elms and the caretaker’s daughter, and to spark the story of The Art of the Swap described by the publisher as “Freaky Friday meets Downton Abbey.”

Asselin started researching the Newport mansions and found an old Yankee Magazine article that mentioned Harold Mathews, caretaker to The Elms for over thirty years and single father to a young girl. “He was an amazing resource and gave us an incredible backstage tour of the mansion.” Many of the anecdotes Mathews shared that day wound up sprinkled throughout the book. “Hannah mentions roller-skating through the halls and having a sleepover on the back deck...those tidbits came directly from Harold.”

Asselin, is a resident of Littleton, Mass, girl scout mom, and the author of over a dozen non-fiction books for kids, but Art of the Swap is her first foray into fiction. Asselin attributes the ease of her publication to the influence of her co-author Jen Malone.

“We were on our way to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writer) event and chatting about what we were working on,” recounts Asselin. “When Jen heard my idea she said ‘I’d love to write that book with you, if you’d have me.’”

Jen Malone, who has published nearly a dozen young adult and middle grade books and edited the recent book, "Best. Night. Ever.: A Story Told from Seven Points of View", brought the proposal to her editor at Simon and Schuster. The two had a publishing deal before they had even written more than a half dozen chapters.

“It felt magical,” said Asselin, “Working with Jen was amazing, we really had a very similar vision and work ethic.” The two banged out an outline, came up with a mystery for their young protagonists to solve featuring a stolen portrait by famous painter Mary Cassatt, and figured out a believable way for the two young girls to swap places in time. The result is a fun romp through the decadence of The Gilded Age, and a way for kids to think about how much things have changed in the past century, and how much things have stayed the same.

Author Kristine Asselin will be appearing at Barrington Books, 184 County Road in Barrington, on Sunday, May 6 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. to discuss her book, autograph copies and answer questions. Call 401/245-7925 for more information about the event. You can find out more information about author Kristine Asselin at kristineasselin.com and Jen Malone at jenmalonewrites.com.


Laura LaTour is an avid reader and former bookseller. She is currently working as a freelance writer and publicist. Tell her your stories at: Laura@LaTourCreations.com.

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