“Zoey and Sassafras” author reveals secrets to wrap up Reading Challenge

Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem, Third Grade Reading Challenge wrapped up April 23 with the contest’s 31 top finishers logging into a Zoom meeting with Asia Citro, author of “Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows. 

Author Asia Citro responds to a question during a Zoom meeting with 31 Third Grade Reading Challenge participants.
Author Asia Citro responds to a question during a Zoom meeting with 31 Third Grade Reading Challenge participants.

With coronavirus concerns upending the reading challenge in early March, organizers Joy Feldman, Kathy Smargiassi, Heather Orsen and Brina Burke worked to move the event online.  

The Zoom meeting served as a final celebration to wrap up this year’s challenge. 

The students patiently waited their turns to ask thoughtful, insightful questions of Citro, whose book was one of six used in the challenge this year. 

One question was “Why did Citro switch careers from science teacher to author? 

After her daughter was born, Citro explained that she did some tutoring while she was a stay-at-home mom. Citro started blogging after her son was born. That led to her write her first three books, and the writing has continued ever since. 

Another student asked Citro to name her favorite book. 

Oh, that’s a tough call,” Citro said 

She mentioned children’s book illustrator Carson Ellis and The BFG” by Roald Dahl. As a child, she loved reading Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman. 

And her favorite author? 

“I really couldn’t say,” Citro said. 

Citro said she loved to read as a child and she gets inspiration from all authors. Her continued love of reading and books inspires her to write. 

How much writing does Citro do now? 

She said she wrote the first draft of her first book in just one day, but now she writes about 20 pages per day on each draft. Citro’s eighth “Zoey and Sassafras” book will come out soon and features a new, nearly microscopic creature called a “bip.” 

Speaking of Sassafras, Citro said it’s her favorite character. 

“I’m kind of a sucker for cats,” Citro said as one of her three cats walked behind her during the online meeting. “Sassafras is a combination of all of my favorite cats.” 

A student asked why doesn’t Zoey have any siblings. Citro said it’s because she herself is an only child (and so is her husband), so she writes what she knows 

The student responded: “I liked it because I’m an only child. 

Citro said her daughter, who’s now 11, likes her books. Her daughter even writes Zoey’s “notes” for the books and reads everything Citro submits to the publisher. 

“She’s a fantastic copy editor,” Citro said. 

Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson was also in the meeting and thanked all the students, teachers and coaches for seeing the Reading Challenge through after moving online. “Thanks for your commitment and excitement,” Thompson said. “You guys really rock.” 

Before signing off, Citro added: “Keep up the great reading!”