'Starring Jules' book signing in Port Washington
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Ask Grace Ain, 8, if anything about the second-grader in her mother's series of "Starring Jules" books is based on her, and the Port Washington third-grader flips to the very first page of the very first chapter of the very first book.
The character of Jules is singing a jingle to her younger brother, and this is how it goes: "That's how you make a fizzy ice-cream cone / That's how you do it / That's how you do it."
When Grace was 4, she once sang that to her baby brother while blowing bubbles in a cup of milk, Beth Ain says. When mom overheard it, she thought she should someday, somehow use it in her writing.
And so she did -- to launch the series named in the "Best New Series" category of Parents Magazine's 10 Best Books of 2013. The first book, "Starring Jules (As Herself)" came out in March 2013; the second book, "Starring Jules (In Drama-Rama)" was released in September, and a third book, "Starring Jules (Super-Secret Spy Girl)" is out this week.
Ain will be doing a reading and signing of the third book Sunday at The Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington. All of the books are published by Scholastic.
Ain, 38, started writing the Jules books when she and the family -- which includes 6-year-old first grader, Elijah, and Jonathan, a corporate lawyer -- were living in Manhattan. She'd been writing historical fiction for older kids, but after Grace started preschool at the JCC on the Upper West Side, Ain became interested in observing the younger set.
"There just started to be so many moments," she says. "Her friends were quirky and funny and were all so entertaining. I took a break from 'angsty Y.A. fiction' and moved into 'angsty 7-year-old fiction.'"
The series is about a family that lives in Manhattan. In the first Jules book, Jules is accidentally discovered and asked to audition for a mouthwash commercial. In the second book, she is cast in a pilot for a TV-sitcom. In the third, she's on a road trip to film a movie during the summer between second and third grades.
"She's constantly in situations where she has to step out of her comfort zone," Ain says. "Kids, if you think about it, are always in situations where they have to step out of their comfort zones."
Ain has already finished writing the fourth and possibly final book in the series, which will be published at the end of the summer.
The Ains moved to Port Washington in 2010. "I sort of hit my city ceiling," Ain says. "I started to feel very exhausted by the city and getting the kids around every day."
She fell in love with Port Washington. "I love the water, it's an interesting town. It doesn't feel like the sprawling suburbia I was so afraid of. The first time you go to the supermarket and open your trunk and can put all your stuff in, it's not so bad."
The Dolphin Bookshop has also been a blessing; Ain often writes there while her kids are in school and spoke there for the launch of the first two Jules books. "They've just been blockbuster events," says Debbie Klein, a book buyer for the Dolphin. "She just has the kids mesmerized."
Ask Elijah Ain if anything about the character of Big Henry, Jules' younger brother in the book, is based on him, and he needs a little help from Grace to answer.
"If he was allowed to, he'd step on the table," Grace says.
And Jules and Big Henry have to share a bedroom in their apartment, like Grace and Elijah used to. And Elijah had dinosaur rain boots, like Henry wears in the book.
One of Ain's favorite parts of her experience as a chapter book author is when Grace's friends read and comment on the series. "They say, 'I like it when Jules does this,' or, 'I think Charlotte is so mean.' It's super cool," Ain says. "You're just like, 'Is this for real?'"
WHAT "Starring Jules" Book Signing
WHEN | WHERE 3 p.m. Sunday at The Dolphin Bookshop, 299 Main St., Port Washington