Former Anamosa resident Karla Manternach’s follow up to her first published children’s book, “Meena Meets Her Match,” was released March 24, “Never Fear, Meena’s Here!”
Manternach said writing the sequel went much quicker when she returned to pen a continuation of Meena’s story. When initially creating Meena, first book leaned on what her own kids were like for inspiration. With the sequel, the character she created helped drive her decisions in the writing process.
“It was just about who Meena is and what her challenges are like…and how that might play out in a new story,” she said. “With Meena in particular, I thought a lot about she’s a little girl with a big personality, and she has a big heart, too, but she has lots of ideas and lots of creativity and lots of enthusiasm.”
While those characteristics are what makes her great, it can also be a challenge when she loses track of how her enthusiasm can impact others, and that’s the main conflict Manternach wanted to focus on.
According to the summaryin the sequel, “Meena’s life is more colorful than ever. When she finds a mysterious ring that seems to give her powers, Meena sets out to prove that she’s a superhero. The trouble is, her best friends might not believe her. Meena’s little sister wants to be more than just a sidekick, and worst of all, an incident at school makes everyone think Meena is the one who needs to be saved. But even heroes need help from their friends sometimes. If Meena can figure that out, she might just discover her true powers…and theirs!”
Manternach said the story picks up just weeks after the events of the first book take place, and while some things may make more sense having read the first book, it’s not a prerequisite.
As she traveled with her first book, doing signing at bookstores and reading in classrooms, Manternach was surprised at the range of kids that Meena’s story appealed to.
“I thought of this as a story for third and fourth graders, but I’ve been to a lot of classrooms with first and second graders or fourth and fifth graders. They respond to the book differently, but they’re pretty equally enthusiastic about it, which is pretty fun,” she said. “I’m always amazed by the younger kids and just the sophistication that they bring to their reading…They pick up on context clues readily.”
However, the group that Manternach has really connected with is those dealing with chronic medical conditions or uncertainty, for whom she had in mind when she originally wrote the book. As of March 30, the new book was still the number one new release in the epilepsy category.
The outbreak of a new coronavirus and the travel restrictions put in place as a result have meant that Manternach has not been able to do book events to coincide with the launch of her book. However, she has provided digital readings of the first chapter of the new book and said she hopes to be able to return to Anamosa with the new book once everything returns to some form of normalcy.
While Manternach said she hopes to be able to write a third Meena novel, she has spent much of the past year writing a book aimed at a slightly older audience, more aimed at middle schoolers.
“It’s a little more serious. The character’s very different from Meena. Meena is very gregarious and extroverted, and the main character of the book I wrote most recently is older, but she’s also pretty withdrawn and is dealing with some very different kinds of issues,” she said.
“That was a really challenging and interesting book to write, and I hope I get to see it out in the world.”
That book is currently with her agent being shopped to publishers.
“Never Fear, Meena’s Here!” is available now wherever books are sold. For more information on the book and Manternach’s future projects, go to www.karlamanternach.com. She can also be found @mskarlam on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.