cover image What I Came to Tell You

What I Came to Tell You

Tommy Hays. Egmont USA, $15.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60684-433-5

Twelve-year-old Grover loves making weavings out of leaves and branches he finds in a nearby bamboo forest, but he has other things on his mind, too. Mostly his mother, who was recently killed in a car accident, but also his younger sister, his pretty new neighbor, and his difficult relationship with his father, who works all the time and doesn’t even pretend to appreciate Grover’s art. In his middle-grade debut, adult author and North Carolinian Hays makes good use of the novel’s Asheville setting: Grover’s father runs the strapped-for-cash Thomas Wolfe house, and Asheville comes across as a cosmopolitan place with a small-town feel. Indeed, even as Grover is keeping an eye on his sister and his new neighbors, a lot of people are watching over him. Though the book spans just a few months, it’s packed with incident and complex connections between a range of characters. Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest. Ages 10–up. Agent: Neeti Madan, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)