Children’s and Young Adult Newsletter 15: October 2016


Marvin Johnson is a geek. And geeks like Marvin—trying to get into Harvard, so obsessed with 90s pop culture he wears Hammer Pants, planning to write his way out of the hood—don’t get invited to parties hosted by gang members in abandoned buildings. Except that lately the kinds of people who throw these parties have been taking a greater interest in Marvin, and Marvin’s twin brother, Tyler, seems to be taking a greater interest in them. Attending the party is a chance to keep an eye on Tyler and for Marvin and his best friends, Ivy and G-mo, to flirt with girls, but what starts as harmless fun turns into a gang battle, followed by a police raid. The next day everyone’s looking for Tyler: Marvin, his mother, the cops, and a threatening caller who expects Tyler to show up with drugs within 48 hours. Attempting to keep himself and his mother from falling to pieces, to figure out where his brother is before the voice on the other end of the phone gets there first, and to make peace with the person his brother might just be, he doesn’t have a chance to prepare for the possibility that he’s already too late. When Tyler turns up dead, the cops blame the gang battle, but a girl who was at the party leaks a video online that tells an even more chilling story. Mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, terrified as his mother unravels, and overwhelmed by the ticking clock on his plan to escape and build his future, Marvin will have to figure out what justice and freedom really mean.  Inspired by the author’s personal experience, Jay Coles’ A NIGHT DEVOID OF STARS is The Outsiders meets the Black Lives Matter movement, a contemporary YA about grief, self-discovery, family, belonging, and being black in America. (Please note, Lauren Abramo is the agent on this project.)

Alice Whitcross has grown accustomed to seeing darkness in the world around her. Monsters hide in the coal smoke that swirls around Industrial London. Her mother and brother were lost years ago when they walked out of the family home and never came back. Now her father has died as well, and her very ability to pay for her own existence is threatened. With everything that has happened, the only thing Alice has left to lose is her sanity. Leaving London behind her, Alice travels to Kirksby—the tiny town in the north of England where she lived as a child—and to the home for which she’s yearned for years. She arrives full of hope for a new life, but what she finds there defies her every expectation. Her home is in ruins. Her past holds sinister secrets Alice could never have dreamt. Her mother is not dead. And on the moors outside this small town, something is lurking that could destroy Alice and everyone she holds dear. New friendships and old enemies collide in a fight against the evil around her. Even if Alice wins this battle, will she ever be able to escape from her own demons, and accept the darkness—and the light—that resides within her? A PLACE BENEATH THE HILL is a young adult historical fantasy set in London and Northern England in the late 1890s. With romance, mystery, and gothic-style suspense, this story could be described as Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw meets The Daughter of Smoke and Bone—one in which horrific creatures from folk stories really do lurk just outside of the realm of everyday life. A stunning YA debut from Cynthia Platt, the author of two picture book and a consulting editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, A Place Beneath the Hill is gorgeous, creepy, exciting, and wonderful. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.)

Twelve-year-old Dáo believes he was cursed when his mother misspelled his Chinese name, making it look and sound like “upside-down luck.” The curse has ruined everything for him and his wheelchair-bound sister, starting from the moment they were born, when their world-traveling dad mysteriously vanished. But when a slick-haired boy named Nico shows up in a suit and coattails talking about a magical hotel with doors that lead all over the world, Dáo sees his chance to find out where his dad went and bring him home. Once inside the hotel, Dáo makes a deal with the creepy concierge to join the staff and gets to experience the magic for himself. He rides enchanted elephants through Africa, walks through ancient halls beneath the Great Wall of China, swims through glittering grottos in Bermuda making up the Hotel’s pool, and discovers cities far different from his safe Dallas home. But it’s not all fun and games. Dáo soon finds himself facing off against militant maids and sabotage from the Hotel’s enemies. And as he builds alliances with the Hotel’s international staff, he uncovers a people-stealing plot far more sinister and threatening than anything his bad luck has brought before. Dáo’s willing to pay any price to find his father, but when his bargains put those he cares about in danger, including his sister, he must fix his mistakes or risk losing his family and new friends for good. HALF-WAY HOTEL by debut author Sean Easley is a mesmerizing middle-grade novel that will keep readers asking for more. (Please note, Erin Young is the agent on this project.)

When teen runaway Greta and her boyfriend, Tate, land dream-come-true summer jobs on Pemberton, a private island off the coast of Maine, Greta hopes she can put her troubled past behind her. The Wilshires, Pemberton’s enigmatic owners, throw extravagant parties where celebrities and billionaires drink from champagne fountains under giant chandeliers, and all Greta has to do is lure the right kind of guests to the island. She’s an excellent Lure, good at identifying lies and manipulating secrets—and the Wilshires have a close eye on her potential. But Greta grows increasingly uncomfortable about Luring, despite the shiny beaches and glittering evenings, and begins to realize there’s a dark side to the island, including grave consequences for Lures who do not meet expectations. So when Tate disappears, leaving her a series of cryptic messages, Greta plans a risky flight from Pemberton, deciding that the freedom of reality is better than the comfort of a golden lie. Marjorie Brimer‘s startling YA debut, THE LURES OF PEMBERTON ISLAND, is Gatsby-meets-Gone Girl for Gossip Girl fans—unputdownable and unforgettable. (Please note, Sharon Pelletier is the agent on this project.)

Eleven-year-old Liza loves her life aboard the cruise ship, the Scandinavian Sapphire. As the Captain’s daughter, she spends her days reading her favorite pirate novels, frequenting foreign ports along the Baltic, and being tutored on the pool deck by her BFF Aunt Mel. But her high seas life is rocked when Mel’s old flame, Henry Weston, joins the staff as the ship’s new resident guitarist. The more time Mel spends with Henry, the more Liza believes he resembles the pirates from her books. It can’t be a coincidence that Henry boarded when the ship began hosting a royal jewel exhibit—the ultimate pirate booty. In order to convince her dad that Henry’s plotting to steal more than Mel’s heart, she recruits her friend-of-the-cruise, Tilly, to spy on him. Mysterious meetings in Denmark, “band practices” at odd hours, and possible tampering with the security cameras have Liza convinced that her suspicions are correct. Until she sends Henry adrift in a lifeboat and discovers that he does have a secret mission on board…but it’s not to pillage and plunder. Jessie Oliveros, author of the forthcoming The Remember Balloons, introduces a precocious protagonist sure to appeal to fans of Kay Thompson’s Eloise. A HIGH SEAS HEIST is a fun middle grade read in which Liza learns that people aren’t always what they seem and that sometimes adventures are best left in novels. (Please note, Mike Hoogland is the agent on this project.)

When Abraham Lincoln was a very young boy, he lived with his family in the deep dark woods of Kentucky. It was Abe’s job to take the grain to the mill, wait for it to be ground into flour, and heft it back home. But the narrow road that wound like a huge rusty snake through the Knob Creek hills to Hodgen’s Mill was full of distractions. Baby birds fell out of nests. A frog squirmed in the mouth of a slithering snake. Opossums got stuck in stumps. Often, Abe just had to stop and help—especially when he found a dog at the base of a cliff with a broken paw and bleeding. Although he was just seven, Abe was a clever boy, so he made a splint for the dog’s paw and brought him home. That dog, Honey, became Abe’s beloved companion as they bumped and scrambled their way through the hills and hollows of Knob Creek. But then one day, Abe got himself in a serious jam, stuck in a deep cavern. Would Honey be able to return the favor and save Abe’s life? In her nonfiction picture book, ABE’S HONEY, Shari Swanson shares this little-known story from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, which was recounted by his best friend at that time, Austin Gollaher, in his memoirs. Young readers will recognize even in his youth the qualities of compassion and intelligence (and distraction) that made Lincoln our greatest president, and the frontier setting will provide a great starting point for classroom and shared-reading discussions. And who doesn’t love a boy-and-his-dog story?  (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent on this project.)

Ida and Kwesi attend the same high school, but their lives have never intersected. Ida’s a bit of a loner whose mother runs a yoga studio and makes her co-teach any classes she can. Kwesi is an immigrant who relocated to the States from Kenya after being adopted by Mother Ruthfirst who found him wandering a refugee camp as a young child. Ida has precisely one friend, Millicent (annoying, but what can you do). Kwesi sticks close to the school’s other African students who know that friendships with white kids are useless. “One moment you’re laughing about something and the next they are cold as ice. They’re rude…They’re only interested in how freaky we are.” But after Kwesi is suspended for his self-portrait in their shared art class (performance art; live chicken; brilliant; poorly received), Ida becomes desperate to get to know him. And in spite of his friends’ warnings, Kwesi gives her a chance. They’re two oddballs who connect through their shared warped outlook on life. Romance blossoms. But can they hold together when their lives couldn’t be more different? When a war criminal who Kwesi suspects slaughtered his biological family is discovered to be living shockingly close to their town, the two teens are tested in ways that force them both to dig deep and discover who they really are, what matters, and whether there is room in their lives for each other. SUNDAY’S BOY by New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist Laban Hill is a soul-shaking, heartbreaking look at how experience can and can’t be shared and the possibilities (and limits) of empathy. It’s an extraordinary story about two incredible teens facing life’s hardest questions. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.)

Twelve-year-old Titus Macomb believes in true love and fairytale endings. He lives like his icon, Romeo, in constant pursuit of his Juliet. When his parents split, he’s more determined than ever to prove to them, and to himself, that true love lives on. FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING by Sean Lamb is the story of Titus coping with his parents’ impending divorce, determined to show them that love is real and alive in the Macomb family. He’ll go to great lengths to prove his point, even if he has to get married and start his own family. His first marriage proposal blows up in his face, but that doesn’t stop him. It inspires him to write romantic poetry about his journey while he pursues his first true love, Violet. It sounds easy enough, but Violet isn’t all she appears to be. Titus discovers that love isn’t as simple as falling head over heels, although most of the time he feels like he’s tumbling out of control. With his best friend Jess by his side cheering him on and sometimes trying to help him avoid making a fool of himself, he tries to pursue his dreams while things at home fall apart. Now he must decide what’s most important: his safety and sanity, Violet’s love, or keeping his family together. If he can’t make up his mind, he could be left with a broken home, broken bones and worst of all, a broken heart. (Please note, Stacey Glick is the agent on this project.)

Niko Molozov has spent most of her seventeen years shut away in a subterranean biomine called the Barrens, helping her scientist father oversee acres of Vaccinium angustifolium. It’s important work, tending to the world’s only source of pharmaceutical-grade, cancer-busting blueberries. Niko knows that. But she can’t help wishing that saving lives didn’t have to cost her a life of her own. She hungers for a chance to feel the sun on her skin; to finally meet someone her own age; even to taste ketchup again. When bioengineer Alec Perdue and his two teenage sons join the Barrens, Niko dares to think her luck has changed. Sure enough, she’s soon basking in the attention of Leo Perdue. But the more time she spends with the Perdues, the more she questions their motives. Trapped underground, cut off from help, Niko comes to realize that whom she decides to trust won’t only determine the fate of the biomine’s multimillion-dollar pharma-crop, but also the lives of everyone who calls The Barrens home. Inspired by news reports of working biomines in North America, Erika David‘s THE BARRENS is speculative YA that will appeal to fans of Suzanne Young’s Program series and Resurrecting Sunshine by Lisa Koosis, and especially to readers with STEM interests. (Please note, Eric Myers is the agent on this project.)

Eleven-year-old Margo, who is allergic to nuts, doesn’t mind being stuck at the nut-free lunch table—even if she’ll never be able to taste a Snickers or Almond Joy—because her close-as-a-sister best friend, Cleo, always sits with her. Margo and Cleo, both of whose parents are divorced, call themselves the “O Girls,” and love using words that start or end with the letter O. They do everything together, and the Upper West Side townhouse that Cleo’s family shares with her aunt, uncle, and cousins is Margo’s second home. But the cozy relationship Margo has depended on is suddenly disrupted when Alexandra returns to their school after a year in London, and sets her sights on Cleo. With her chauffeured car and backstage access to Broadway, Alexandra lures Cleo in and pushes Margo away—until she finally pushes too far. Even Margo’s mom’s identical twin sister starts making Margo feel like a second fiddle, leaving her feeling even more uncertain and alone. Unfairly branded as a bully by the principal after she sends Alexandra an angry text, Margo needs to find a way to seize control of her life. Although Cleo decides to come on their long-planned weekend to visit Margo’s dad, the ill-fated trip ends up pulling the girls farther apart. Ultimately, Margo must summon the bravery not only to stand up for herself, but to save her own life. In the middle-grade debut of Diane Debrovner, the deputy editor of Parents magazine, OUT OF THE LOOP will ring true to girls at an age when the unconditional love of their parents and their close childhood friendships aren’t quite enough anymore. (Please note, Stacey Glick is the agent on this project.)

Twelve-year-old Jack Finn lives on a fog-shrouded island with only his shriveled, grotesque Aunt Elsbeth for company. When Elsbeth isn’t locking Jack in the dreaded Crab Closet, she’s forcing him to watch her endless Shirley Temple-style tap dance routines—and even to pluck her chin hairs. But one day the fog on the island clears and memories Jack didn’t know he was missing start to return. Jack realizes he’s a Legend Leaper with the ability to jump into the story of any object he touches. Unfortunately, he also remembers that seven years ago he accidentally “leapt” his mom and dad into a legend and left them behind. If Jack doesn’t rescue his parents before the fog returns at the end of the day, he’ll lose his memories again and forget his parents ever existed. The only problem is…Jack doesn’t know what legend he left them in! With the help of two young members of the Legend League (a secret society that returns objects stolen from legends), Jack leaps in and out of stories searching for his parents and the one object that can save them. In her debut Middle Grade novel, THE LEGEND LEAGUE, Riley Roam sets a tightly-wound action fantasy set against the backdrop of a phantasmagorical world, in the manner of Django Wexler’s Forbidden Library and James Riley’s The Story Thieves series. Co-owner and star of Page Turner Adventures, a children’s theater company, Roam performs approximately 100 shows a year before young audiences at schools, theaters, libraries, and festivals all over the country, and also publishes a quarterly children’s-book newsletter that goes out to over 3500 parents, teachers, and librarians. (Please note, Eric Myers is the agent on this project.)

Samantha Patton’s older sister, Olivia, has been missing since the spring. Now Sam is facing the start of senior year with two broken parents, a grief-filled question mark about what happened to Olivia…and another question mark about the girl next door, Rowan. Rowan and Sam have been best friends forever, but now Sam thinks they might be falling in love. How can she figure out what that means for her—what that means about her—without Olivia? How will she make things right with Parker, the boyfriend she thought she loved? How is she supposed to get up every day and go on with her life if Olivia doesn’t come back? When another local girl disappears, the question marks take on a new sharpness, and Sam finds herself hoping for the wrong answers as she negotiates small happiness in the face of tragedy. Sara Walters‘ taut, lyrical YA debut, THE LANGUAGE OF LEAVING, explores the treacherous path of grief in the absence of closure and the sweet trial of navigating your own sexuality in the spotlight of adolescence. Walters is earning a PhD in Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee, and her writing has been published in a number of literary journals. (Please note, Sharon Pelletier is the agent on this project.)

Most kids love their birthdays, but Caity does NOT. And now she is refusing to celebrate it.  Caity is fed up with the fact that she is the only person in her family who wasn’t born on a holiday. Her sister Martha gets fireworks on her birthday, July 4th. Her brother always gets extra candy on his birthday, which is Halloween. When Caity refuses to bring a special snack to school for her birthday, a resourceful teacher comes to the rescue. Together they learn that every day is a special day somewhere in the world—including the day Caity was born! Acclaimed journalist and author of JUNK: Digging Through America’s Love Affair with StuffAlison Stewart‘s real-life family inspired HAPPIER BIRTHDAY: Her birthday is July 4th, which is her youngest niece’s birthday as well; her sister’s birthday is New Year’s Day, as was their grandfather’s; and her other grandfather was born on Halloween, as was her brother-in-law. And her son’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo! Featuring a list of 365 holidays and special days around the world, Happier Birthday will help any reader who feels uneasy about their birthday to realize just how special they (and their birthday) are! (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent on this project.)

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