Educational but entertaining stories about larger-than-life and quirky characters who live in fantastical worlds dominated the Middle Grade Editors' Buzz panel May 31 at the Javits, as Valerie Lewis, the co-owner of Hicklebee's Books in San Jose, Calif., introduced an all-star panel of publishers touting the books they are most excited about for the fall.

Children's book editor Toni Markiet, whom Lewis lauded having worked for HarperCollins for the past 40 years, talked up A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson (Sept.). "Buzz is what started happening when I started reading the manuscript," Markiet said, describing it as a "rollicking pirates' yarn, which grabs you and doesn't let go." Declaring that she "instantly loved" Hillary Westfield, the novel's plucky protagonist who wants to join a pirate's crew rather than go to Miss Pimm's finishing school, Markiet praised her knowledge of pirate lore and "ability to tread water for 37 minutes."

Counting by 7s (Aug.) by Holly Goldberg Sloan, presented by Lauri Hurnick, Dial Books for Young Readers editorial director, is a story "that will make you love people more than you already do." The message of the book, about Willow, a child genius who finds it comforting to count everything by seven, is that "everyone you meet has the potential to be loved, so maybe you should make the effort to get to know them." Willow is an "offbeat" character, Hurnick said, and the background is "vivid" with "spot-on dialogue," as Willow, who has lost her parents in a car crash, finds a surrogate family to whom she can belong. "This is a touching, reassuring, lovely, lovely book," said Hurnick.

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward (Aug.), presented by Razorbill editor Gillian Levinson, is the story of a family whose 13 siblings hold 49,521 world records and, said Levinson, "the most perfect middle-grade novel. It's about caring about people being the most special thing of all." The world of the Whipples is "a very colorful world," she said, and "a lot of fun for an 11-year-old." She added that the author might hold the record for being the tallest person in the room and is an excellent self-promoter; her Web site includes opportunities for visitors to "break records of their own."

Jason Rekulak, Quirk Books' publisher, compared Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab (Nov.), the first novel in a series written by "Science" Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, to the MacGyver action/adventure television series, which ran from 1985 to 1992. "I think we can all agree that MacGyver is the all-time best TV series ever," he said, recalling MacGyver once saving a U.S. senator's life by making a heart defibrillator out of two Ping-Pong paddles and an alarm clock. Nick and Tesla are as resourceful as MacGyver was, Rekulak said, except that their makeshift contraptions "work in real life." The book includes instructions on making one's own contraptions with common household objects. "It's a fun way to introduce kids to science and engineering," Rekulak said, "and it shows kids using science to solve problems."

Editor Elise Howard, the publisher of Algonquin's new imprint for young readers, raved about The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick (Aug.), recalling that she'd first read the manuscript during one of those "publishing dry spells when you think you will never again find a book you'll love." She "fell head over heels in love" with the story and had to reread it immediately to make sure that her enthusiasm was sincere. Herrick has created a mythological world, Howard said, in which an error in the time/space continuum makes the "fabric of time itself begin to unravel." Disclosing that the mythology of The Time Fetch centers on Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Howard said that Herrick will do for Prospect Park "what E.L. Konigsburg did for the Metropolitan Museum [of Art] with From the Mixed-Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."