In this first installment of our new ongoing series, we asked editors to tell us about a book of theirs, published during the pandemic, that they wish had gotten more love.
Kieran Viola, editorial director, Disney Hyperion
Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (June 2020) is a fantastic debut YA novel that was unfairly torpedoed by the pandemic. We did everything we could to support it, but with the world on pause, it felt like there wasn’t much we could do. The timing broke my heart, not only because I devoured this book when it came in on submission, but because this is exactly the type of escapist read teens needed at that moment. Hood is the story of Isabelle, a girl who lives with her mother just outside of Sherwood Forrest. When Isabelle is arrested for defending an innocent man, she is forced to go on the run, and meets up with the Merry Men—a ragtag group of outlaws living under the protection of the legendary Robin Hood. The twist? Robin Hood is Isabelle’s father and Isabelle is the only person who can save him from a nefarious plot. Hood is a pulse-pounding, action-adventure story with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter and just a hint of romance. The author is a huge talent, and her newest book, Curse of the Specter Queen, is the first in another incredible adventure series—like Indiana Jones, but with a cool, young female protagonist. Her star is definitely on the rise!
David Linker, executive editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books
For me, it was Peanut Goes for the Gold by Queer Eye star Jonathan van Ness. It is this really funny, touching, exuberant book about a gender non-binary guinea pig who is determined to do things their way. It’s a genuinely uplifting story, with a great message that promotes inclusivity and resilience. But the book published at the end of March 2020. It was just impossible to get the message out for obvious reasons, but also practical ones. We couldn’t travel Jonathan—who’s HIV positive and immuno-compromised—to do all the media and events we’d been planning for months. The book sold nicely but it never became the bestseller it should have been, given Jonathan’s profile and how truly joyful the story itself is.
Sally Morgridge, senior editor, Holiday House
We published Caroline Brooks DuBois’s stunning debut novel in verse The Places We Sleep in August 2020. It received a starred review and was named to both the Kids Indies Next list and the Indies Introduce list, and I still wish it received more attention! This powerful story explores the months after September 11 from 12-year-old Abbey’s perspective. I was 12 on 9/11 and I fell in love with the book for its honest portrayal of the cataclysmic shift in our country as seen by a preteen. Abbey’s voice spoke to me in a way that few characters ever have, never mind the fact that she lives in a military family in Tennessee while I experienced 9/11 in N.Y.C. In gorgeous narrative verse, Caroline depicts a country preparing for war, a family divided, and a girl desperate to feel at home. The Places We Sleep is truly an exceptional book; I want to put it in every middle school library across this country.
Sarah Shumway, executive editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I wish more people were seeing the absolute adorableness that is Sloth Went (June 2020) on shelves. It’s a very fresh young picture book, written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Benson Shum, about a sloth and his epic journey... to poop! Based on the fascinating fact that sloths risk their lives every time they (slowly) descend from their tree abode and cross the jungle floor to do a very specific dance and poop at the base of another tree, it’s a perfect relatable tale for the potty-training set. Because going to poop on the potty can be scary! I signed the delightful readaloud text at the tail end of potty-training my own child, and I know we would have been better off (and very amused) to have had this book at hand to help reach that milestone, and also just to giggle at the art and the sweetness of sloth.
Amy Fitzgerald, editorial director, Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab
I edited Jennie Liu’s YA novel Like Spilled Water, which was published in September 2020, as pandemic fatigue was fully setting in. With winter looming and months of lockdown already behind us, this felt like a particularly challenging time to try to bring a non-escapist book to readers’ and gatekeepers’ attention. This tautly written, subtly suspenseful story is set in contemporary China. When Na’s younger brother—her parents’ favorite—dies shortly after failing his college entrance exam, Na sets out to learn more about his death, uncovering family secrets and rethinking her own life plans in the process. I would love for more readers to join Na as she strives to honor both the complex truths of the past and the possibilities of the future.