MacKids Spotlight: Julie C. Dao

MacKids Spotlight: Julie C. Dao

MacKids Spotlight: Julie C. Dao


Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena is a middle grade action-packed laser tag adventure that follows Clip and Sadie Chu, siblings who must learn that they’re far better off working together than competing for the ultimate victory.

Meet the author, Julie C. Dao, and read about the inspiration behind the book below!

When describing Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena, what’s your elevator pitch? 

Julie: Two ultra-competitive siblings battle it out in a haunted laser tag arena that may be trying to trap them.

What inspired you to write Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena

Julie: I grew up in the 90s and watched so many amazing shows on Nickelodeon. My favorites were the game shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple, where teams of kids entered a “jungle” to compete in obstacle courses and other physical challenges. Team Chu is an ode to those shows, and also to the competitiveness between siblings (I have two brothers)!

Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Julie: My parents were not supportive of my dream, so my childhood librarians and teachers were the only adults who ever made me feel like becoming a writer was possible and meant for me. I still remember my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson, very fondly because she always encouraged me and commissioned poems from me to be read in the school play.

What is the first step in your creative process? What is your favorite step in your creative process? 

Julie: The first step in my creative process is to write a summary of what I think or hope the book will be. My favorite step is diving into writing the first draft, because it feels new and fresh and exciting.

 What advice would you give to young writers?

Julie: The only way to get better at writing is to keep doing it. If you want to get published, you need to sit down and finish something all the way through. Then you start the next project, and the next, and the next.

What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?

Julie:  I was always a huge fan of series like the Babysitters Club, but if I had to name one book, it would be A Rat’s Tale by Tor Siedler. I got a copy of it from the Scholastic Book Fair and it still sits on my shelf today as one of my favorite middle-grade recommendations.

What was your favorite game to play with your brothers growing up?

Julie: I am the oldest sibling and I was always the mastermind, so I would make them play all kinds of stuff: this restaurant game where they were always the servers and I was the rich lady ringing the bell for service, this wedding service we ran for all of our stuffed animals, and bunkbed challenges where you had to get on and off the top bunk in various ridiculous ways!


Julie C. Dao is the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand LanternsKingdom of the Blazing PhoenixSong of the Crimson FlowerBroken Wish, and Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena. She leads many workshops for places like the Highlights Foundation and enjoys school
visits. She lives in New England.

PRAISE FOR Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena:

“An action-packed tale of sibling rivalry where thrills and challenges highlight the importance of family and teamwork. This book will delight readers with its fast pace and captivating worlds. Dao has once again crafted a must-read story full of immersive adventure.” —Adrianna Cuevas, author of Pura Belpré Honor book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and Cuba in My Pocket

“Laser tag has never been cooler! Both a wild, rollicking adventure and a sweet and nuanced sibling story, Julie C. Dao’s middle-grade debut is first on the leaderboard for me.” —E.L. Shen, author of The Comeback

“Julie Dao delivers a thrilling, pulse pounding joy ride of an adventure brimming over with humor and heart. Readers will love following bickering siblings Sadie and Clip into their wildly imaginative and sinister game of laser tag that will test their skills, their nerve and their love for each other. Team Chu forever!” New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed

Read more author Q&As here!