We spotlight six notable children’s and YA debuts this season.
Jessica Townsend wrote her first story as a seven-year-old living on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The process made her realize, “This is what I’m going to do, the rest of my life, in one way or another.” That wish came true: Townsend's debut novel, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, is now an international bestseller that is being published in 27 countries, with a film in the works from 20th Century Fox.
Tochi Onyebuchi wasn’t new to writing when the idea for Beasts Made of Night came about. He had already written 15 unpublished novels and wanted to write about the issues he had seen in his work with the Office of the New York Attorney General and the Legal Aid Society’s Parole Revocation Defense Unit. He also wanted to bring his Nigerian heritage to the page. The result is the first of a series set in a fantastical world full of dark magic and danger.
It’s tempting to focus on the similarities between author Celia C. Pérez and María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, the 12-year-old protagonist of her debut novel, The First Rule of Punk. Both are bicultural, both are fans of punk music and making zines, and neither cares for cilantro. But Pérez is just as aware of their differences. “One of the reasons I wrote the book is because I wanted to explore how being Latino is such a different experience for different people," she said.
Though author-illustrator Andrea Tsurumi views the creation of her debut picture book, Accident!, as somewhat, well, accidental, the book is the product of years of picture book appreciation. “I’ve loved combining words and images since I learned to read,” she said. The idea for her first book crystallized in 2015, when Tsurumi and a group of fellow SVA alumni gathered at Books of Wonder in Manhattan for an “illustration jam.”
David Barclay Moore
David Barclay Moore has a unique gift. Not only does he remember his dreams and get story ideas from them, but occasionally he can even guide his dreams. That ability gave him a key piece of what would become his debut novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet. “I had a dream that someone was building a whole city out of Legos, and I was able to envision what the city looked like,” he said. “When I woke up, I ran to my desk and jotted the whole thing down.”
Author-illustrator Molly Ostertag was drawn to fantasy stories at a young age; she recalls hearing The Lord of the Rings read to her before she could read herself, came of age alongside Harry Potter, and loves the work of Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones. Her debut graphic novel for young readers, The Witch Boy, originated with the “idea of a boy who wants to do girly things, because you don’t see that very often,” she said.