Their story began with luck. Courage rewrote the conclusion.
Ever since her mother’s death, the First Daughter Una has suffered through years of loneliness in the Official Residence of the Magister Populi. She yearns for how things used to be, when her life was filled with love and laughter and especially, her mother’s presence. But when a new stepmother and the birth of a younger brother seem to sideline Una from her family, Una really misses her mother. In a grand but empty gesture, her father, the Magister Populi, announces a contest to find the rare silva flower as a surprise for Una’s birthday. Una sees through his and decides to search for her mother's family.
Julien’s whole world is his baba. The two spend their days searching for herbs and plants to sell in the market. But when Baba is arrested on false charges, Julien’s only hope to save his father is to win the palace contest--to find the elusive silva flower. The courageous Julien goes searching for the flower hoping the reward offered for finding it will be enough to get his father out of jail.
Una and Julien’s separate searches lead them to each other. Luck and fate entwine their destinies and offer the reward they were both unknowingly seeking: the feeling of belonging. The scent of archangels and the sounds of silva flowers weave through this lively heartfelt tale of adventure and family, whether born or found.
“Johnson's lyrical novel . . . tenderly depicts growing friendship.” —Publishers Weekly
“Charming . . . the book undertakes a delicate exploration of family ties and belonging.” —Foreword Reviews
“. . . a captivating feast for the senses. Johnson describes sights, smells and sounds in exquisite detail . . . . Immersive and sensitive, The Other Side of Luck will be enjoyed by middle grade fantasy readers in search of a story full of magic and heart.” —BookPage
“Johnson's story is sweetly satisfying, particularly excelling at stunning descriptions of sensory awareness . . . . the moving and compelling quest underscores the universality of human struggle and the power of friendship to pull each other through.” —Booklist
“Lyrical prose captures a fairy-tale setting . . . a fascinating premise set in a unique sensory world.” —Kirkus
Let your imagination light the way.
After his brother’s disappearance and his father’s tragic death, eleven-year-old Ishmael lives a monotonous and grief-filled existence on his family’s meager farm. In a world without color, the only break in his sorrow is a strange light that pierces a pane of glass in the barn and splinters Ishmael’s world into a spectrum of color he never knew existed. But even that can't lift Ishmael’s heavy burden. When the worries become too great for him to bear, Ishmael sets out to find his older brother Luc and bring him home. His search takes him to the Commons, where he discovers a place of wonder and beauty that intrigues him and calls to his heart.
In The Splintered Light, Ginger Johnson creates an astonishing universe filled with color amid the gray.
"Johnson takes a familiar coming-of-age arc and wraps it in a gorgeously built world that asks readers to plumb the nature of creation."
"[T]urning ordinary attributes into things of wonder"
Teacher resource for
The Other Side of Luck
This downloadable 14-page guide for educators can be used to navigate classroom discussions about The Other Side of Luck or kindle ideas for independent and group projects. It includes per-reading questions, group discussion questions, and STEAM activities suitable for grades 4-8.
Click icon below to access.
Ginger Johnson is available
for a host of
virtual school visits & workshops
individual 1-hour presentations ($250)
to full-day visits ($600)
to weeklong workshops ($2500).
The Writing Process
Useful & Productive Critiques
The Path to Publication.
Teacher resource for
The Splintered Light
This downloadable 21-page guide for educators can be used to navigate classroom discussions about The Splintered Light or kindle ideas for independent and group projects. It includes pre-reading questions, group discussion questions, and STEAM activities suitable for grades 4-8.
Click icon below to access.
The Splintered Light Chapter 1 Read Aloud
Ginger Johnson enjoys talking to children, teens, and adults about reading, writing, and good stories. She is available for a host of virtual school and library visits and workshops, panels and other presentations.
Individual 1-hour presentations ($250)
Full-day visits ($600)
Weeklong workshops ($2500).
Useful and Productive Critiques
The Path to Publication
Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be an astronaut. Then in fourth grade, I wanted to be a pharmacist or a scientist (like Mrs. Murray in A Wrinkle in Time). Sometimes I wanted to be a chef or a baker. Definitely a Rockette (you should have seen my high kicks). By high school graduation, I mostly wanted to be an art teacher because I really loved my art teacher. Then I turned to English: composition and rhetoric and creative non-fiction. I didn't have the guts to try writing fiction until I was well into adulthood.
What is the first thing you wrote?
The first thing I remember writing was a poem in 2nd grade, titled "I Love Spring." It was published in Our Best in '80 Buffalo Public Schools.
The grass is green.
The flowers are blooming.
I love spring.
I love spring.
The sun is shining.
Birds are singing.
I love spring.
I love spring.
I remember this because I was called into the Mr. Catalfamo's office--the principal--to be questioned about whether I did this by myself or had help (Really? #notthatgood) I was shaking in my shoes.
Where do you come up with ideas?
The real question you should ask me is when do you come up with ideas? My answer is, sadly, at about 4:00 am. I know. I'd rather be asleep then, too.
Is The Splintered Light the first book you've written?
Nope. It's actually the second. The first one was a young adult American fairy tale titled Keeper and Pawn, set in 19th century New England. If game theory and fairy tales had a baby, this would have been it. Perhaps someday it will see the light of day, but if not, I consider myself lucky to have written it, because I learned a lot about writing along the way.
Are your characters like you?
It's all fiction, my friend. That said, I once took a figure drawing class in which I learned that no matter whose face an artist draws, that face will always resemble the artist. I suspect any character I write will have the Ginger Johnson DNA stamp. All of my characters will have a bit of me in them.
Ginger Johnson earned a BA from BYU, a MA from Indiana University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She likes circles better than lines (especially when they’re rainbows) and lives with her family in a large Victorian house in Massachusetts.
Photo by Carter Hasegawa
Not as Brief
When Ginger Johnson was six, her mother asked her what she wanted for Christmas. “A typewriter,” she said. She didn’t get a typewriter, but instead had to make do with pencil and paper for her writing endeavors. Thankfully, she now works on an iMac.
Since those early days, Ginger has earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Marion Dane Bauer prize. In 2014, she received Honorable Mention for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Splintered Light (Bloomsbury) was released September 4, 2018. Her second novel, The Other Side of Luck, was released August 10, 2021, also from Bloomsbury.
Ginger currently lives in Massachusetts, though she has been known to call both Vienna and Bermuda home.
Ginger Johnson spent much of her early life reading, and she earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, studying literacy and teaching writing. She was formerly a teaching artist for Arts in Education, training teachers and visiting elementary schools in western New York to bring the arts in an interdisciplinary manner to elementary-age students. She created and implemented a summer literacy program (including aspects of both written and spoken literacies for children participating in the Youth in Arts summer camp at the Madame Walker Theater Center in Indianapolis. She was an Indiana Teachers of Writing (ITW) Writing Project Fellow. After earning an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she now spends her time mostly writing. She usually lives in an old house in Massachusetts, where you can often find her writing by a bay window seat or up in her art studio on the third floor.
Ginger Johnson grew up in Buffalo, NY in the very last house on a dead end street. In her beginnings, there was always a book. Her mother told her she could read before she started kindergarten, and she started kindergarten at age four.
There was the typewriter thing at age six (#lostcauses). Her grandfather's 1929 Underwood was rather difficult for her small fingers to operate, so her mother gave her a gnome gnotebook instead. She began keeping a journal of her scintillating seven-year old life, noting for all to see that she was a cheerful little thing:
By the time she was in fifth grade, her mother was in graduate school studying to become an elementary school librarian. Long Saturday afternoons were spent in Lockwood Library at the university: Mom at the copier with piles of coins, her sister claiming the best of the blocky chairs available, she in the stacks.
There was one single row of children’s books, mostly books that sported shiny gold Newbery stickers. Her favorite books were Newbery award winners: A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia, The Westing Game, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. They were quickly joined by Tuck Everlasting, Summer of the Swans, My Side of the Mountain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Great Gilly Hopkins, A Ring of Endless Light.
She remembers, though, mostly spending those afternoons with E.L. Konigsburg. Oh, they weren’t on a first-name basis, she and E.L., but nevertheless, she became great friends with Claudia and Jamie, wishing more than anything that she could stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and that she could go to an automat (What was an automat, anyway?).
Yes, she still wrote in her journal, and she even sometimes wrote stories (something about sliding through the seat cushion of the car into another world, a sort of sci-fi take on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), but her favorite thing to write was letters--mostly because she liked to get letters in return. Here's a prime example, written when she had just turned twelve.
Sunday, Jan. 21, 1979
Dear diary, today I am going to the Art gallery and church. The boys were noisy. It was cold in church. Today was a terrible day.
Not much of a naturalist, was she? Also, she did know how to spell disgusting; she was just being emphatic. One more thing: always watch out for the BARE HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!
The summer before high school, she graduated to reading Agatha Christie and J.R.R. Tolkien while in England with her grandparents.
When in Rome . . . (or London, as the case may be).
After earning a BA in English from Brigham Young University and a MA in English from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and reading and writing lots and lots of things meant for adults, she was ready to return home to the land of Narnia and Terabithia and places where tesseracts are real and drinking from a stream can make a person live forever. This time, she thinks she'll stay here for good.