We profile six children’s book creators to watch whose debuts published this past spring.
If there were a poster child for the Flying Start awards, given by PW semiannually for the most striking debuts in children’s and YA books, it just might be Angie Thomas, a Mississippi church secretary who wrote a cri de coeur on race in America during her lunch hours at the bishopric. “A book I was so afraid of has touched so many people, and more than that, has shattered so many myths,” says Thomas.
The initial inspiration for Pablo Cartaya’s The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora came after Newbery Medalist Matt de la Peña spoke at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where Cartaya was pursuing his M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults. “I had been writing for a long time, but Matt sparked something new. He was Latino like me, and it spurred me to explore my identity,” he says.
Though Stephanie Garber began writing her first novel as a way to unwind from her job as a college resident director, it quickly became more than just a hobby. After multiple rejections from agents and publishers, Garber endeavored to write a book that she, as a reader, could get lost in—a YA fantasy set in a bright, colorful, over-the-top world. The end result was Caraval.
Tiffany Jackson always wanted to be a novelist, but struggled to find a home for what would become her first published book, Allegedly, which tells the story of a black teen accused of killing a white child. She conceived of the novel for adults, thinking the content was too dark for the teen market, but “stumbled into YA.”
The idea for Train I Ride came to Paul Mosier while listening to “Mystery Train,” the 1953 song written by the American blues legend Junior Parker and most famously recorded by Elvis Presley. “I heard that lyric, ‘Train arrives, 16 coaches long,’ and I wondered, who is singing? Where is the train going?” Mosier recalls.
Haitian-born and Brooklyn-raised Ibi Zoboi first captured the attention of the publishing world as a finalist for Tu Books’ inaugural New Visions Award. Her debut YA novel explores “what happens when economic disparity and a rich culture, like that of Haiti and Detroit, clash, and what happens to a teenager in the center of that clash.”