Debut novels and fantasy stories of all stripes are among the offerings from agents packing their briefcases for next month’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The fantasy genre, which is booming around the world, hasn’t peaked yet, judging from the books reported here, which include dystopian dramas, supernatural thrillers, two stories about faerie magic, and two more about souls being sold to the devil. Just to leaven the mix, there’s also a tale of a hamster that undergoes a makeover in order to get adopted, and a picture book about a “not-so-chicken” chicken. Here’s a look at some properties that agents will be showing, with an emphasis on titles whose English rights are still available.
The Greenhouse Literary Agency
Macmillan U.K. veteran Sarah Davies, who crossed the pond last summer to set up shop in Washington, D.C., is making her debut as an agent at Bologna. She’ll be highlighting The Devil’s Kiss by debut writer Sarwat Chadda, which gives a new twist to the dark, supernatural teen novel. Fifteen-year-old Billi, the first girl conscripted into the modern-day remnant of the Knights Templar, would happily settle for a normal high school existence rather than life as a secret warrior out to defeat the Unholy. Seductive, exciting Mike turns out to be an archangel with a terrifying agenda, and as the Templars get ready for combat, Billi must choose sides. Davies has a second debut as well: The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43 by Harriet Goodwin, a middle-grade fantasy novel in which a boy’s joy-riding over the moors sends him through the thin divide separating the worlds of the living and the dead. All rights are available for both titles.
McIntosh and Otis
Edward Necarsulmer IV and Cate Martin are bringing two debut middle-grade novels to this year’s fair. How to Cook and Eat Children by Keith McGowan (Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, May 2009), follows the brother-and-sister team of Sol and Edie Honig, as they navigate the treacherous waters of their new town. It’s a “kid-centric and hilarious view of the world of adults and how to conquer it,” Martin says. Matisse on the Loose is a tentatively titled novel by G.B. Bragg (Delacorte, 2009), starring 11-year-old art enthusiast Matisse, who finally has the chance to come face-to-face with the work of his namesake, when it travels to his local museum. He’s put in charge of secretly returning an original Matisse to the museum, but in Matisse’s words, this might not be his biggest problem: “My family is like the sun. It’s dangerous to look right at them. You have to look at them through a little hole in a box.” And 7 Souls by Jordan Orlando and Barnabas Miller (Delacorte, fall 2009) is a supernatural YA thriller set on New York’s Upper East Side; Martin calls it “Gossip Girl meets modern-day Agatha Christie.”
Donald Maass Literary Agency
Agent Stephen Barbara plans to talk up a range of fiction: a mystery, a fantasy and a thriller. Lynne Jonell (Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat) has written a middle-grade fantasy/adventure, The Secret of Zoom, about a sheltered girl who befriends a local orphan and discovers a secret tunnel leading outside her gated compound. Henry Holt has world English rights; U.K. and foreign rights are available. The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo, a debut middle-grade noir mystery, was acquired by Amulet in a five-bidder auction. In the story, an ordinary student gets sucked into a Mafia-like syndicate at his school, which specializes in forged hall passes and black market candy sales. U.K. and foreign rights are available. And in Todd Strasser’s Wish You Were Dead, as a disgruntled high school student posts names on her blog of popular students she wishes were dead, each student on the list soon disappears. North American rights are being shopped.
Stimola Literary Studio
Fiction’s also the main event for Rosemary Stimola. She’s got Free Fall by Anna Levine (Greenwillow, fall 2008), about an Israeli teenager who’s struggling to assert her independence as she falls in love for the first time and prepares for military service. In Soul Enchilada by David Gill (Greenwillow, winter 2009), Eunice “Bug” Smoot learns that her deceased grandfather financed his classic car by offering his soul to the devil. Now, the repo man has repossessed the car and her grandfather is hiding out in the afterlife. The lead character of Vidalia by Sasha Watson (Viking, fall 2008) goes to Paris as an exchange student, but her mysterious host parents and the charming, oh-so-dangerous guy they introduce her to bring unexpected twists.
Nancy Gallt Literary Agency
Nancy Gallt has two properties that have sold in the U.S. but are available to foreign publishers. The Bones of Faerie by Janni Simner (Random House, spring 2009) takes place in an America after a war between human technology and faerie magic has left a devastated landscape along with two bitter rivals: those with faerie blood and/or mutations, and those who fear and shun them. She’ll also have The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau, the fourth and final in the Books of Ember. And Gallt is looking for more foreign publishers for two series she represents: the Humphrey hamster titles by Betty G. Birney; and Michael Reisman’s Simon Bloom series, about a boy who can manipulate the laws of science.
Sheldon Fogelman Agency
Agent Marcia Wernick is showing a new chapter book series, Roscoe Riley Rules (HarperTrophy, May), by Animorphs author Katherine Applegate, about an irrepressible first grader who doesn’t mean to break the rules—he just can’t help himself; six books are under contract so far. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel has a new middle grade series for Little, Brown, called Suddenly Supernatural. Its premise: though Kat just wants to be normal, her mother is a medium, and can see and communicate with spirits; even worse, Kat has just discovered that she can see spirits too. Three titles are under contract, and the first comes out in June. Kimmel’s picture book Glamsters, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (Hyperion, Oct. 2008), stars a hamster who can’t get adopted at Hamster World, so she gives herself a makeover and goes from hamster to glamster. And in Diane Stanley’s The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy (HarperCollins, Dec. 2007), Franny is thrilled to be accepted to an elite boarding school, where the students—from their flawless complexions to their sky-high test scores—are absolutely perfect. Then the Allbright magic begins to rub off on Franny as well. But is this a good thing?
Tracey and Josh Adams say they are “hugely excited” about Found (S&S, Apr. 2008), which kicks off Margaret Peterson Haddix’s new series, The Missing, her first since her popular Shadow Children books. Rights have been sold to Hodder in the U.K. and DTV in Germany. Also from Haddix: Palace of Mirrors, a companion volume to her Cinderella retelling, Just Ella (S&S, fall 2008). A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Napoleon Dynamite in A.E. Cannon’s The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love (Harper Teen, June 2008), and Gym Shorts (Roaring Brook, 2008) by Betty Hicks is a new chapter-book series about a group of sports-obsessed friends.
Barry Goldblatt Literary
Barry Goldblatt will be talking up a “tense, thrilling urban fantasy” called Guardian of the Dead, a debut novel by New Zealand author Karen Healey. Eighteen-year-old Ellie is plunged into a world of Maori myth and legend, a world peopled by a fairy-like race that hungers for the immortality they’ve lost. When Ellie learns of their plot to regain that immortality by killing millions of humans, she must confront an ancient goddess or lose her friends and family.
Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo has been paired with illustrator Harry Bliss for the first time, in Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken (HarperCollins/ Joanna Cotler Books, fall 2008), a picture book about a brave and daring chicken. Caldecott Medalist David Small has illustrated That Book Woman by Heather Henson (Atheneum, fall 2008), the story of how a young man’s life is slowly transformed by books delivered by a Pack Horse Librarian. Agent Emily van Beek will also have, on the fiction side, The Leanin’ Dog by K.A. Nuzum (HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Books, fall 2008), which tells of a girl named Dessa Dean and the special friend she makes in a dog who comes scratching at her door one day.
Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency
Since farts and gore never seem to go out of style, agent Penny Holroyde is selling rights to Scream Street, a comedy horror series for seven-to-nine-year-olds from debut author Tommy Donbavand. Six titles kick off the series, which has been sold to Walker in the U.K.; U.S. rights are available. Demon Chick by Marilyn Kaye is a satirical YA novel about a woman who sells her daughter’s soul to the devil for her own political aspirations. Henry Holt has U.S. rights, and U.K. rights are available. And all rights are available for debut author Cathy Brett’s La Blitz, an illustrated novel featuring Ember Jones—pyromaniac, comic book lover and generally mixed-up kid, until she spends an summer in L.A. with her rock star father and her imaginary friend from World War II.