Tell us about yourself!
Hello, readers, I’m Amanda Cleary Eastep. I used to be a kid, and now I write books for kids. Even when I was young, I wanted to write children’s books when I grew up.
Tell us about your books.
The Tree Street Kids live on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine, but their 1990s suburban neighborhood is more than just quiet, tree-lined streets. Jack, Ellison, Roger, Ruthie, and Midge face challenges and find adventures in every creek and cul-de-sac—and God’s big love in one small neighborhood.
Children need stories that make them laugh, educate them in fun and intriguing ways, and nurture their moral imaginations by inviting them to ask—along with the young characters—what choice would I make in this situation?
My characters are ethnically diverse (white, Black, Polish immigrant, Hispanic), and the faith of the characters is authentic to their ages and their varied family experiences (although I write from a nondenominational, biblically based perspective).
What kind of child are you trying to reach with your books?
Readers eight to twelve, especially boys, will feel welcomed into this group of friends who enjoy real-life adventures in a time (mid-1990s) that isn’t much influenced by technology. Kids who like science and nature, history, literature, and sports love the fun fact “sticky notes” throughout the print books.
Each book, while told through the first-person point of view of ten-year-old Jack Finch, brings forward each of the other friends and focuses on a theme.
Jack vs. the Tornado (book one) introduces Jack, a big life change via a move, and storms (figurative and literal—it is tornado season in the Midwest).
The Hunt for Fang (book two) looks at Jack’s care of his little sister Midge and the friends’ care and stewardship of creation, especially pets and wildlife.
Lions to the Rescue! (book three) focuses on Ellison, Jack’s best friend, and the tension that can arise when friends have different interests and cultural backgrounds.
Mystery in Crooked Creek Woods (book four) is the first true mystery in the series. Readers learn more about Jack’s friend Ruthie, and together the kids solve a neighborhood mystery, write one of their own, and learn what it means to love an enemy.
Books five and six (Thanksgiving and Christmas settings, releasing in 2024 and 2025, respectively) will delve into what it means to be a family and what it looks like to extend love to those who have hurt us (aka Buzz Rublatz, neighborhood bully!).
Give us a little flavor of some great characters or the setting.
From Jack vs. the Tornado, book one:
Henrietta [my pet chicken] clucked softly as I watched dark clouds march in and take over the yellows and oranges that had settled on the horizon.
A gust of wind rushed in behind the clouds and slammed the hayloft door against the outside wall of the barn.
I jumped out of the bucket seat to grab the end of the rope before it snaked outside and out of my reach.
Henrietta fluttered up into the air in a cloud of white feathers and frustration.
I snatched the end of the rope. Hand over hand, I took up the slack. A little more, a little more until I was in a tug-of-war with the wind. The rope was now almost short enough for me to pull the door totally shut and latch the hook.
The wind grabbed the edge of the door and threw it open again. But I didn’t let go of the rope.
The door swung wide and yanked me with it.
What inspired you to write this series?
First, the Tree Street Kids stories were inspired by my three now-grown children who were kids in the 1990s.
Next, setting the series in 1995 has made the stories a fun read aloud for parents of readers eight to twelve too since most of these moms and dads were their kids’ ages in the ’90s.
Finally, realistic Christian fiction for children is less common than fantasy, and I want young readers to see that adventure can happen in their own backyards.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
Reading books, as well as listening to my grandmother’s stories of her childhood, inspired me early on to want to write my own stories. I wrote my first story as a young child.
But it was the books of C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, especially, that made me want to be an author one day.
What’s one middle grade book you always recommend?
I recommend many, but if I could only recommend one, it would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because it was that book that the Holy Spirit used to enlighten the eyes of my heart to the strength, power, lovingkindness, and sacrifice of Jesus as my Savior.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Spend time observing, especially nature. Creation is one of God’s great books (Augustine). Through it, we learn about our Creator, about ourselves, and about the beautiful stories God is weaving around us every day.
Good writers never stop observing.
What formats are your books available in?
Find them here.
What’s next for the Tree Street Kids series?
Lions to the Rescue (book three) and Mystery in Crooked Creek Woods (book four) released together in July 2022.
Book five will release in 2024, and book six is coming in 2025.
How can parents find you?
If you’re in the market for middle grade books, I’d love to share my series with you! Power Pup is a funny Christian superhero series for readers 9-12.
For investigative journalist Alex Digger, reporting truth and busting bad guys with best friend Mittens Meow is just an ordinary Monday.
Turns out, this Monday is anything but ordinary.
When an earthquake threatens the citizens of Bowwow, a superhero calling himself Power Pup swoops in to save the day!
But the town’s troubles don’t stop with the tremors. Ordinary citizens are breaking out in wild, angry, public outbursts. Local police are baffled. Businesses fear opening their doors.
Can Alex, Mittens, and Power Pup use their super teamwork to discover what’s going on and save the city from chaos?