With schools, libraries, and bookstores closed, children’s authors have had to suspend their travel plans and appearances during the Covid-19 outbreak. Many publishers are finding innovative ways to spread the word about new releases and connect authors with their readers through digital platforms while maintaining social distancing guidelines. We’ve been highlighting some of the books this season that may not have gotten the attention they were due, including a number of spring’s debuts. Here, we offer five more.
Shannon Doleski. Abrams/Amulet, $16.99 Apr. 7 ISBN 978-1-4197-4080-0
In this middle grade debut, a girl coping with domestic abuse and inspired by the strength of Joan of Arc immerses herself in an ambitious science project: to build a submarine and pilot it across the Chesapeake Bay. A former English teacher and swim coach in New York and Maryland, author Shannon Doleski currently lives in San Angelo, Tex. Before the pandemic hit, she had public events planned throughout Texas. In lieu of a traditional launch, on April 11, Doleski participated in a Zoom party hosted by fellow author Kit Rosewater (The Derby Daredevils, Abrams) and featuring Loriel Ryon (Into the Tall, Tall Grass, S&S/McElderry); the full video is on YouTube. The authors discussed writing for upper middle-grade readers, incorporating STEM elements in fiction, and crafting complex female protagonists. In addition, Doleski hosted a submarine design challenge, with trophies and prizes such as a signed copy of the book, a $20 gift card to a local indie bookstore, and more. Though the contest is now over, the guidelines are still available on her website along with other online resources tied to the novel, including discussion questions and activities.
M. Evan Wolkenstein. Delacorte, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-593-12157-3
PW’s review described Wolkenstein’s book, pitched as being in the same vein as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, as “a masterful mingling of deeply resonant themes, including self-esteem, loneliness, loss, and the rewards of improbable friendships.” Seventh-grader Will Levine is the target of school bullies because of his chin, which is shrinking due to a condition known as micrognathia. While reluctantly volunteering at the local hospital for his bar mitzvah community service project, Will befriends an older boy named RJ who is struggling with an incurable disease. Will learns to step outside of his comfort zone, and his shell, as he helps RJ tackle his bucket list. Debut author Wolkenstein is also an educator, and the publisher is currently finding ways to connect him with students in spite of the lockdown. Since in-person school visits are no longer a viable option, Wolkenstein has been developing a curriculum to share around the book, and has been pursuing more virtual events based in Jewish communities.
The Best Laid Plans
Cameron Lund. Razorbill, $18.99 Apr. 7 ISBN 978-0-593-11491-9
In this YA romantic comedy, sexually inexperienced high school senior Keely Collins enlists her lifelong friend Andrew to show her the ropes so she can pursue her handsome, older coworker without feeling inhibited. According to our review, “Lund takes the right-under-your-nose rom-com trope to the extreme.” The author was supposed to launch her book at her local bookstore, Books Inc. in San Francisco, and was set to make the rounds of the Bay Area. Much like Keely in the book, Lund’s plans were thrown for a loop, but she quickly set up several virtual events, including a launch on her Instagram channel with collaborating couple Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley (Time of Our Lives, Viking); a Root Literary takeover on the agency’s Instagram with Rachel Hawkins (Her Royal Highness, Putnam); and participation in BookCon’s Read-a-Thon on April 11. Lund also joined in Penguin Random House’s Virtual Con on April 24.
The Lucky Ones
Liz Lawson. Delacorte, $18.99 Apr. 7 ISBN 978-0-593-11849-8
Lawson’s novel centers on two teens, May and Zach, who are grappling with the aftermath of a school shooting. PW called The Lucky Ones an “intense, affecting debut” in a review. Before the current crisis, Lawson made several pre-publication appearances, including SIBA 2019 and MPIBA 2019, and the North Texas Teen Book Festival in early March. The publisher had planned a local bookstore launch for Lawson in Los Angeles, but that turned into an Instagram Live conversation on the pub date with fellow Delacorte author Kathleen Glasgow (How to Make Friends with the Dark). Lawson was also originally scheduled to appear at the postponed Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but instead took part in the Social Distance Book Festival—joining the “Love, Loss, and Firsts: New Voices in YA Contemporary Fiction” panel—on April 25.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Roseanne A. Brown. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 June 2 ISBN 978-0-06-289149-5
With comparisons to Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, PW called Brown’s debut—in a starred review—“an action-packed tale of injustice, magic, and romance.” The novel is the first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore, in which a crown princess and a refugee, who are both intent on murdering each other, find unexpected romance. Brown is an immigrant from the West African nation of Ghana and a graduate of the University of Maryland. A former editorial intern at Entangled Publishing, she currently teaches in Japan. Brown’s engagement with the YA community on Twitter has been even more vital, now that in-person promotion is no longer possible. The author participated in an #EpicAMA with the Epic Reads team and author Swati Teerdhala (The Archer at Dawn, HarperCollins/Tegen) on the topic “Maps & Mythos”; Brown is also taking part in a number of virtual panels.