Kids & YA Newsletter: February 2018


When eleven-year-old Jingwen immigrates thousands of kilometers to Australia, he thinks he might as well have landed on Mars. Everyone speaks English which sounds like Martian to him, so school is torture and making friends is impossible. To make things worse, his mother has to work nights, so she’s never home to distract and comfort him, and that also leaves him to take care of his (extraordinarily annoying) little brother, Yanghao. The only thing that can distract him from the loneliness is thinking about Pie in the Sky, the cake shop his father would have opened in Australia if he hadn't passed away unexpectedly before the move happened. Unable to get through his schoolwork or make friends, and still reeling from the possibility that his last words to his father were unkind, Jingwen throws himself into baking all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky. It will keep him occupied, let him savour memories of his father, and keep Yanghao fed (and quiet). Only problem: their mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven or cook anything while she's at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake more and more elaborate cakes, the lengths they have to go to keep the cake-making a secret from Mama become greater and greater. Remy Lai’s RULES FOR MAKING CAKES is a hybrid of graphic novel and prose. El Deafo meets the immigrant experience in her hilarious, emotional novel of cake disasters, alienation, annoying siblings, and deep loss. It is hopeful and heart-rending, and Lai executes each word and each illustration with grace, heart, and whimsy. (Please note, this project is represented by Jim McCarthy.)

On October 4, 1957, Americans craned their necks and searched for a small speck of light traversing the night sky. Like a shooting star that never burnt out, it passed over the country at a rapid clip. On the radio, a high pitch “beep-beep-beep” that emitted from the light played on repeat. That light and sound emanated from Sputnik, the first manmade satellite—one created by the U.S.S.R. It was the beginning of the space race, and the U.S. was left in the starting blocks. But through engineering, ingenuity and innovation, America not only caught up to the Soviets, but lapped them. WE’RE GO, FLIGHT! HOW AMERICAN ENGINEERS BEAT THE RUSSIANS TO THE MOON is the story of the space race from the perspective of the brilliant minds at Mission Control for a middle grade audience. Set against the threat of Soviet dominance, the drive to develop and control technology to land a man on the moon will be told through the engineers, designers and controllers who made it happen. Though much has been written of the astronauts who traveled to the moon, not much has been said about the many people who got them there safely—and brought them back. Written by Rebecca E. F. Barone, a technical writer with degrees in Mechanical Engineering herself, this is a fast-paced and exciting STEM book that kids will actually want to read. (Please note, this project is represented by Michael Bourret.)

Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been asked to assist an inspector with an investigation into the murder of a Korean noblewoman, who, it’s revealed, is a secret Catholic. In Confucius Korea, a Catholic priest is wreaking havoc on the closed-off country, swelling the numbers of Catholic converts—and their dead bodies, as a vicious backlash sweeps the nation. Seol must help Inspector Han, a man with his own troubled background and childhood, collect secrets and testimonies from women who are not allowed to speak to him, due to strict Confucius rules on modesty. As they travel from mud-covered alleys to exquisite mansions in search of clues, the two forge an unlikely bond. But their partnership is tested when Seol learns of his disappearance on the night of a murder and becomes suspicious, starting her own audacious investigation. With no one to confide in, Seol finds herself thrust into an adult world where she must confront painful realities and the staggering price of betraying Inspector Han, a man with far deeper ties to her past than she could possibly imagine. Evocative and sinuous, TEN THOUSAND RIVERS by June Hur is an elegant debut that plunges readers deep into a city filled with intrigue and unrest, where those seeking justice and answers about their history must contend with those who would do anything in the name of honor. (Please note, this project is represented by Amy Elizabeth Bishop.)

Bookish, stubborn Yasmine knows that as soon as she reaches puberty, and becomes, in the eyes of her close-knit Muslim community, a maiden, she will be “taken inside” and live in strict gender seclusion according the rules of purdah, in which no unrelated man can lay eyes on her. But before that fateful and fast approaching day, she will test the boundaries of her freedom, careening through her neighborhood on the long-coveted bicycle her father first told her was “only for boys” before he relented and bought her one, cutting through the turquoise surf in a western-style bathing suit that would scandalize her innumerable aunties, sneaking into the church to gaze at curious images of saints with her “infidel” best friend, Penny, and harboring a fast growing store of secrets that will test the bonds of family, identity and obedience. Set against the backdrop of a fading colonial citadel in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, STAY DAUGHTER is the true story of a teenager and a community at a watershed moment, when a girl might imagine a future less cloistered than those of the women around her, might feel the forces of family that bind and support—and dare to resist. Rich in texture, sights and sounds of her native Ceylon, suffused with warmth and curiosity of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, Azad’s vivid coming of age tale ushers readers into a seldom-glimpsed world of doting aunties, whispered scandals, and seemingly unbreakable codes of conduct. Yasmin Azad was born and raised in Galle Fort, Ceylon. She was the first woman in her community to obtain a university degree. She moved to the US in her twenties, and enjoyed a distinguished twenty-five-year career as a mental health counselor. She lives in Boston, where she is an active member of the Grub Street literary community. You can find an essay adapted from STAY DAUGHTER in Solstice(Please note, this project is represented by Jessica Papin.)

In 1915, 13-year-old Cathy Truenorth’s summer is looking up when Brooklyn orphan and boy genius Neeley Keenan moves into her house to work as a mechanic with her father and his friend, the famed inventor Nikola Tesla, at his nearby laboratory. Now that Neeley’s arrived, she’ll be able to work directly with a skilled engineer and have more excuses to visit Tesla’s lab. Plus she’ll have a friend more real than the ghosts who roam her family’s home—unseen by all the phony mediums her mother brings in to contact Cathy’s twin sister Maisie, who died when she and Cathy contracted polio two years earlier. If anyone asked Cathy, they’d know Maisie was the one spirit who didn’t stick around Northstar House. When Cathy and Neeley discover that the Truenorths’ cruel butler has been receiving letters from Tesla’s nemesis Thomas Edison and skulking about in secret passageways, they seek to unmask him along with the latest con-artist medium. But with German spies operating on Long Island and Tesla’s latest invention having terrifying implications in the wrong hands, Cathy and Neeley may have become entangled in an adventure that’s far more dangerous than they bargained for. Debut novelist Kelly WintersTHE SPIES OF NORTHSTAR HOUSE is a brilliant historical middle grade adventure combining espionage and engineering with a protagonist trying to find her way through grief. Though Cathy and Neeley are fictional, the story is loosely based on historical events, including WWI German spies and Tesla’s invention of a mysterious “death ray” at his Long Island laboratory. (Please note, this project is represented by Lauren Abramo.)

River is dead, and, like most dead girls, there’s anger in her nature. Murdered a day before her seventeenth birthday, she remembers nothing about her life but the murder that ended it, and she spends her days trying to track down her own killer. She lives with a community of other dead teenagers who share a cramped Boston apartment, pick up odd jobs, and bother the living. But as more and more girls are found murdered, River reaches a new boiling point, and the once fine-line between the world of the living and the dead begins to blur. Meanwhile, Ji Soo, River’s roommate and a girl who’s been dead and back a couple of times is hiding her own secrets as she watches the victim count in Boston grow. She keeps one eye on River, her charge, and one eye on the talented and dangerous Dufour family, who make deals with the dead. And then there’s a living boy named Elijah Vasilyev, a Russian immigrant, gifted hacker, and medium who’s working with the two occult-savvy Dufour siblings to uncover the murderer. As the number of dead in Boston threaten to throw off the delicate dance between the living and the dead, they must join forces to catch the killer of girls before the world as they know it is destroyed. Sharp and darkly humorous, DEAD GIRL DYING by Paige Cober speaks to the cost of justice and the power of girls who take matters into their own hands. Readers of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab will be eager to see this smart and gorgeous novel on shelves. (Please note, this project is represented by Amy Elizabeth Bishop.)

When twelve-year-old Lulu Carter develops a photographic memory the same time her beloved Gram begins to lose hers, she blames herself. Is Lulu somehow stealing her grandmother’s memory? When Lulu finds a brochure to a Nursing Home, it solidifies her fear that her parents will send Gram away if they knew how fast her memory is deteriorating. Determined to cover for Gram while searching for a cure, Lulu investigates how the brain works and what makes us keep some memories while we lose others. Discovering that a traumatic memory can cause amnesia, Lulu is convinced all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down the painful memory in her past. With the help of her best friend, Olivia, she discovers a journal written by Gram when she was thirteen. The only catch is it’s written in Russian when Gram is supposed to be French. Translating the journal takes them on a journey in Gram’s mysterious past that reveals secrets she’s kept from her family. Lulu reluctantly turns to her maybe crush, Max, to help her investigation. Lulu needs Max’s hacker skills, and his uncle’s FBI know-how to help uncover the buried secrets. When the truth is finally revealed, Lulu realizes she has no control over Gram’s memory. Her parents help her see she doesn’t need to shoulder the responsibility by herself, and that she can trust them with her own secret. Jennifer Camiccia’s MG debut, THE MEMORY THIEF has structural elements like The Thing About Jellyfish and will appeal to the same readers who loved the classic Walk Two Moons. It will not only entertain young readers, but make them think as well, about the power of words and memory. (Please note, this project is represented by Stacey Glick.)

Pacey isn’t that thrilled when she has to babysit Mina, her younger sister. Mina is just so annoying and such a tattle tale! When Pacey goes to find Mina in her room after a fight, she’s shocked to see her sister astride a real, live, talking unicorn—and to see that Slasher, Mina’s stuffed toy unicorn, has also come to life! As the trio go to escape out the window onto a rainbow bridge, Pacey manages to grab Slasher’s leg, and she’s dragged to a fantasy world of man-eating plants, mimicking monkeys, and boys turned to statues. Pacey has to harness all of her smarts and bravery to find her sister and bring her home from this fantasy land before Mom and Dad get home! In the early reader graphic novel PACEY PACKER: UNICORN TRACKER, author/illustrator J. C. Phillipps tells a story of sibling rivalry and love with a fantastical twist. (Please note, this project is represented by Michael Bourret.)

Sheriff Owl likes things nice and quiet in his town, especially when everyone is getting ready for the annual jubilee. So when a badger comes to town and sets up a soda shop, Sheriff Owl is none too happy—especially since Badger only sells root beer, and Sheriff Owl doesn’t care much for root beer. Sure enough, the next day things in town have started going sideways. First, Mayor Fox loses his tie collection, then Granny Pig’s quilt goes missing, followed by Raccoon’s cakes and Young Rabbit’s fiddle. Worse yet, when Sheriff Owl investigates, he finds a map of the town bank taped to the back wall of the soda shop! Surely, this Badger is up to no good. Will Sheriff Owl be able to catch this varmint before he ruins the jubilee and runs off with the cash? Or is it possible that things aren’t quite what they seem? Find out in SHERIFF OWL AND THE BAD NEWS BADGER, a new picture book by Brandon Todd ( Like Amy Timberlake’s The Dirty Cowboy crossed with Margie Palatini’s The Web Files, SHERIFF OWL AND THE BAD NEWS BADGER makes for a playful western mystery that will have young readers on the hunt for clues—that is, if they can stop giggling first! (Please note, this project is represented by John Rudolph.)

Ummi loves everything about being an umbrella—playing in the wind, providing shade—except for one thing: Ummi does NOT like the rain. There’s so much of it, and it’s so cold! Ummi’s parents can’t believe that he’s afraid of the rain. After all, being in the rain is what every umbrella does best. They try everything to help him get over his fears, even practicing in the shower. But nothing works. Until one day Ummi meets a new friend in the park, and learns that sometimes the best way to deal with your fears is to take care of someone else. Host of the celebrated Pantsuit Politics podcast and author of the forthcoming Keep it Nuanced Sarah Stewart Holland loves children’s books that help her see the world from her children’s perspective, and has penned one of her own in UMMI THE UMBRELLA, a sweet and funny story about accepting your fears and learning to face them. (Please note, this project is represented by Sharon Pelletier.)