Kids & YA Newsletter: May 2018



Mommy gives me a bouncy kangaroo kiss on the way to breakfast, a silly monkey kiss when I have food on my face, and a gentle bunny pat when I bump my elbow playing outside. MONKEY KISS is a sweet and sassy story presenting a safe, uplifting way to begin talking to your children about consent. As the #metoo conversation continues around us, it’s increasingly important to introduce our children to the idea that bodies have boundaries. Formerly a corporate lawyer, Beth Silvers is now a life coach and a yoga teacher in addition to being co-host of the Pantsuit Politics and The Nuanced Life podcasts and co-author of a forthcoming book on having grace-filled political conversations. In MONKEY KISS she brings the rituals she loves to share with her own children to open the door to a conversation with little ones about consent and body boundaries, from a chicken high-five to the best kind of all—a mommy kiss. (Please note, this project is represented by Sharon Pelletier.)


“The color blue/is a strange hue./It’s in the sky, but you can’t touch it./It’s in the sea, but when you cup it,/it disappears.” So begins BLUE, Nana Brew-Hammonds’ extraordinary picture book exploration of both the history and cultural context of the color blue. While today we think of blue as ubiquitous, for centuries blue powers and dyes were some of the most sought-after materials around. Ancient Afghan painters ground mass quantities of sapphire rocks to use for their paints, while snails were harvested in mass quantities across Eurasia for the tiny amounts of blue that their bodies would release with oxidation. And then there was indigo, which was so valuable that American plantations grew it as a cash crop on the backs of African slaves. In fact, it wasn’t until 1905, when Adolf von Baeyer created a chemical blue dye (for which he won a Nobel Prize), that blue could be used for anything and everything—most pointedly, that symbol of workers everywhere, blue jeans. Through a loose and evocative rhyming narration, author Nana Brew-Hammond (her debut adult novel Powder Necklace was called "a winning debut" by Publishers Weekly, and she was named among 39 of the most promising African writers under 39) shares all of this information in easily digestible nuggets that young readers can absorb on their own or through classroom discussion. And when Brew-Hammond links Blues music to the pain of the indigo harvest, BLUE sings, “as great and deep as the bluest sea,/as wide open and high/as the bluest sky.” (Please note, this project is represented by John Rudolph.)


When Marisol’s teacher, Mrs. Richardson says, “It’s your classroom. Make it the kind of place you want to be,” and then tells the class every Monday they can move their desks anywhere they want, Marisol thinks fourth grade will be the best year ever. But when the class bully, Paisley, starts kicking one girl out of her “perfect group” each week, Marisol is miserable—especially when it’s one of her weeks to sit by herself. Marisol watches the robins outside the window to take her mind off of her troubles. Paisley continues to kick kids out of the perfect group for random reasons, like not wearing pink on Wednesday or not buying pizza on Friday, or talking to George who nobody is supposed to talk to—ever. After Marisol gets kicked out of the perfect group again for greeting Hiro before saying hello to Paisley, she glances out the window at the robin’s nest and an idea forms. Will Marisol be able to best the class bully and figure out a way to form her own inclusive perfect group? Find out in A PERFECT GROUP by Kate Narita, ( author of 100 Bugs! A Counting Book (Kirkus starred review). Like Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch crossed with Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness, A PERFECT GROUP facilitates discussion of the power structure within a classroom and fills readers with hope that they can be creative agents of change. (Please note, this project is represented by Stacey Glick.)


Twelve-year-old Ella’s grief could grow a garden. Instead, Ella buries her sadness deep down in the depths of herself, refusing to let it sprout into something real. She doesn’t want her uncle to treat her like she’s broken. She doesn’t want the girls at her new school to be wary about befriending an orphan. For all intents and purposes, Ella is fine. Until a dress literally blooms from a button she plants in her uncle’s garden. A round, pearl button Ella buried instead of the seeds she was assigned, hoping that if nothing grew, her uncle would give up trying to find her a hobby. Tending to a dress-growing garden, however, seems like exactly the kind of extracurricular activity Ella needs to escape from the reality of her loss. As Ella experiments with her new green thumb, she finds it harder to suppress her grief in her day to day life. But the more Ella fights her feelings, the more out of control the garden becomes. The button bush grows multiple dresses at a time. Combs sprout from a pine tree. Then Ella grows a locket—a gold, heart shaped locket with pictures of her parents inside. The garden is sending her a message, but Ella doesn’t know how to reply. She will learn, however, that her garden is much more than a place for unusual objects to grow; it is a whole world for girls who have loved and lost, and as loudly as it is calling for Ella, and as much as it understands her, it offers more beauty and more danger than she can even guess. A GARDEN FOR LOST GIRLS is singer/songwriter Adrienne Tooley’s middle grade debut. Combining the fantastical elements of Coraline with the emotional vulnerability and journey of grief in Counting by 7’s, it is a hauntingly beautiful, slyly funny introduction to a vibrant new talent. (Please note, this project is represented by Jim McCarthy.)


Since they were adopted at age six, identical twins Derek and Ryder always held to their story of being extraterrestrial orphans from the distant planet Quaddra. But now, after losing Derek in a model rocket accident, it’s up to Ryder to fulfill their shared dream of becoming the first astronauts on Mars. He sets his sights on space camp, step one of their Mars Plan. But his parents refuse to let him go, urging him to move on past the space obsession they blame for Derek’s death. Still, Ryder can’t let the Mars Plan die, and his new school’s science fair offers the perfect chance to rescue it. If he can win the prize money to pay for camp, his parents are sure to come around. But he’ll have to beat know-it-all Nick Harrison, who’s as driven to disprove Ryder’s extraterrestrial origin as he is to stay number one in his class. Used to following Derek’s lead, Ryder enters a project his brother had thought up shortly before he died. Ryder’s convinced that doing everything Derek would have done will clinch victory. But when disaster strikes, his only hope is to find another way, even though it means moving ahead without his brother. With a strong focus on astronomy sure to appeal to readers looking for STEM topics, THE BOY FROM ANOTHER PLANET is a heartfelt meditation on loss and one boy’s struggle to move on alone—or so he thinks. Told with the poignancy of Ali Standish’s The Ethan I Was Before and Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun, author John Levine makes a stunning MG debut with Ryder’s story. You’ll never look up at the stars the same way again. (Please note, this project is represented by John Rudolph.)


Fourteen-year-old Jo is being raised in an apartment above her aunt’s bar in the same Appalachian town where her mother disappeared fourteen years earlier. Jo is onto her aunt’s secrets. She sees the pastor slipping out of the apartment early most mornings. But Jo has a bigger secret: her twin sister. Jo’s sister isn’t like most people. She lives in the woods. She catches rabbits with her bare hands. She eats those rabbits raw. But still, night after night, as often as she can manage, Jo slips out of her bedroom window and meets her sister in the woods. And together they run. Ecstatically. Fearlessly. Together. Then one night, her sister attacks a boy from town. As the only witness, Jo becomes the main suspect, and she refuses to reveal the truth—that it was her sister. Who no one knows exists. Suddenly it seems like everyone is against her, so Jo does what her sister has always wanted her to do – run away. While hiding in the forest, Jo uncovers the truth of what happened to her mother, a revelation which challenges everything she once believed about her own identity. Now, with the police and her family both searching for her, Jo must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to protect her sister. Can she abandon the life she’s always known and live free of society and its strictures? SOME KIND OF ANIMAL is an astonishing debut from Maria Romasco Moore in which reality feels slippery and the truth…almost an impossibility. It is a novel of secrets and lies and what it means to really go wild. (Please note, this project is represented by Jim McCarthy.)


The swamps of the Mississippi Delta hold secrets, and seventeen-year-old Jessabelle Mayfield has one of her own: Dead people’s things call out to her, an ability passed down through generations of Mayfield daughters. Without her mama alive to guide her, it’s a dangerous gift best left unused, so she only dabbles, finding it more of a nuisance than a gift. That is, until Reeves Parnell, a blueblood born of cotton money brings a mysterious box into her family’s curiosities shop, claiming that it holds the truth about his mother's nearly two-decade-old murder. Though Jessabelle is reluctant to help—and her friends and family warn her away—she knows what it's like not to have a mama anymore. If she can help him find peace, maybe this gift is worth the trouble it's been. But it also means hunting for a killer and cutting deals with a shadowy woman in the swamps to tap into her gift. And if Jessabelle knows one thing, it’s that communing with the dearly departed comes with a price, and she could wind up crazy like her grandmother. Or dead like her mother. Yet, every clue gets her closer to the truth. If Jessabelle can just push past the dead’s whispers that threaten to take her sanity, then maybe she can solve this murder. Maybe she can finally use her gift for something bigger than herself. That is, if the killer doesn’t get to her first. DEAD PEOPLE’S THINGS by Dana Elmendorf is a spellbinding and eerie Southern Gothic mystery where history rises up from the grave and the line between memories and reality is blurred. (Please note, this project is represented by Amy Elizabeth Bishop.)


Everyone thinks high school senior Dean Foster is a lesbian, including his girlfriend. Dean knows he’s actually a trans guy, but it’s fine. He doesn’t need to transition. After all, his life finally looks perfect: a girlfriend he’s falling in love with, a close group of mostly queer friends, and the lead in the school play. When the theater teacher casts Dean as Romeo in what he thinks is an interesting gender swap, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as the boy he knows he really is, not just on the stage, but every day. But can he come out without losing everything? While his friends make plans to head across the country to New York for college, Dean struggles to imagine any future at all after graduation. Emboldened by the peace of stepping out on stage as a boy at night and encouraged by his trans youth support group, Dean tries to figure out what he really wants, and what it would mean to try to build it. Debut author Ray Stoeve’s YA novel BETWEEN PERFECT AND REAL is the story of a school play, a senior year, and a boy learning to embrace his truth, come what may. (Please note, this project is represented by Lauren Abramo.)