Senior publicist, Disney Publishing Worldwide
One book that I had been meaning to read—I had major “read-gret”—but never quite got around to until recently is Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. If you are a fan of high fantasy I cannot recommend it enough. With deft writing, characters that resonate as real and complex, and a unique world and magical system, Truthwitch is a character-driven epic fantasy at its best. This book has it all: swoon-worthy romance, an uplifting and powerful female friendship, and at its core a beautifully woven world that readers will never want to leave. It is truly a must-read.
Associate designer, Candlewick
This past summer I traveled to Prince Edward Island, so I figured I had better read Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery before I arrived. It was a good year to be surrounded by strong female characters, and Green Gables is in no short supply of them. I quickly fell for Anne’s fiery personality, exuberant tales, and her ability to make the best of every situation she found herself in. Marilla, not to be overlooked, is as steadfast as they come. Montgomery’s vivid description of the landscape did not disappoint either—the island is gorgeous.
Executive editor, Sterling Children’s Books
I’ve been a children’s book editor for 23 years and have always felt sheepish that I had never gotten around to reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (published in 1943). I’d always heard it was “sad” and “heavy”—maybe for that reason, I put off picking it up. But on a trip to tiny Hobart, N.Y., in the Catskills (home to six bookstores) I spied a beautiful edition and vowed to make it my summer pleasure read. And what a pleasure it was.
The flap copy in my edition hooked me from the get-go: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan and the world of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that made her. It is a story of tears and laughter, cruelty and compassion, so crowded with life and people and incident that no description can begin to convey its spell.... [It] will be remembered because within the compass of its characters is all of humanity: the good, the bad, the pitiful and the ridiculous and those with stardust in their eyes.”
I was so taken by how fresh and modern a character Francie seemed: rebellious and curious, kind and daring—100% her own person. Also, it was an eye-opener to linger in the everyday life of Williamsburg long, long before it became such a fashionable place to live.
An added bonus: because the edition I bought was from the original publication year, it is a true artifact of its time: the back cover is an ad for war bonds, sponsored by the book’s author. And a note in teeny type on the front flap is a war-time reassurance to readers: “This book has not been condensed. Its bulk is less because of government paper quota regulations restricting all publishers.” Fascinating.
Executive editor, Lucasfilm
I finally read Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It and proceeded to devour the entire four-book series. It depicts a scenario in which an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it out of its orbit; this leads to a chain of catastrophic events on Earth, including tsunamis, earthquakes, and erupting volcanoes. It all feels entirely too plausible, and the horrifying thrill of that was part of the appeal for me. The first book is told entirely from the perspective of a teenager named Cynthia, and the reader only knows as much as she does about what is happening in the world. She and her family must survive without electricity or gas and by scavenging whatever food they can. It’s a story of survival but also about appreciating what is truly important in life after everything else has been stripped away.
The second book in the series, The Dead and the Gone, is about a completely different character—a teenager named Alex in New York City—and at first I was resistant to the idea, but my doubts disappeared almost instantly. Navigating a densely populated city like New York in the wake of apocalyptic disaster is a fascinating subject, and the character of Alex is a compelling one. Eventually Alex and Cynthia meet, bringing the world Pfeffer created together into one family. I tore through all four books over the summer.
Art director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
This year I finally read The Impossible Knife of Memory by the glorious Laurie Halse Anderson. Right away, I was put in the shoes of the main character, Hayley. In only a few pages, the reader is grounded in the character, the world she lives in, and the core emotions of the book. And then it just gets better and better from there—the emotions are powerful. This book is honest, masterfully written, and so needed for our world today. I loved it.
Publicity assistant, Random House Children’s Books
This spring, I finally got around to reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It’s very rare that a book moves me to tears; I’m honestly not quite sure it’s ever happened before. However, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda had me full-out ugly-crying in the airport. This was not because of feelings of overwhelming sadness, but because it’s such a happy and uplifting story. It deals with issues like homophobia and loneliness and ultimately tells young, queer kids that they, too, can have happy endings. Each character felt lifelike, and Becky has a gift for writing authentically about teens. I loved each character, and reading about Simon and Blue’s relationship was like experiencing first love all over again. There’s a blurb on the front that says the book is a remarkable gift, and it absolutely is a gift. It’s pure candy: sweet, fun, and so heartwarming.
Senior editor, Capstone
I finally read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (and then the two sequels) by Jenny Han. It’s about a half-Korean, half-white high school student, Lara Jean Song Covey. When she decides she’s not in love with a boy anymore, she writes him a love note, which she puts in a box. Somehow, those letters all get sent to the five boys to whom she wrote.
As an adopted Korean, I loved reading a story written by another Korean, and as a mother of a biracial girl, I loved that her protagonist is biracial, too—and that it’s not part of the character’s identity, just a fact about her. Lara Jean’s an introverted girl who doesn’t feel like she’s the main character in her own story, and she continues to grow and develop along with the trilogy. She experiences real-world teen girl problems and they’re not sugarcoated (although the situations are still “safe” enough to put parents and librarians at ease).
I’m so excited for the movie to come out. Even though the actress portraying Lara Jean isn’t of Korean descent, it will be incredibly refreshing to see an Asian lead—and an adopted Asian, at that.
V-p and publishing director, Wendy Lamb Books
One of my favorite books this year is the middle grade novel Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier (as told to Michele Cuevas). It’s a disarming treasure that made me laugh out loud. The cover is terrific, and so are the author’s comical illustrations.
Jacques Papier—snarky, wise, loving, and hilarious—shares the twists and turns of his job. First, Jacques must cope with realizing he’s imaginary, which brings on an existential crisis. Luckily, he discovers Imaginaries Anonymous, a support group where he meets colleagues like Roller Skating Cowgirl, and Stinky Sock, the imaginary friend to the world’s messiest boy. All of them face the inevitable: what happens when your child grows up? New assignments, new roles, over and over and over...
Read it and you will understand why Jacques says, “You’re only as invisible as you feel, imaginary or not.”
Publicity assistant, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
I passed by Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton when I was working at Barnes & Noble earlier this year, and was immediately hooked by the cover. I didn’t even realize at the time that it was the sequel to Rebel of the Sands, because the covers looked so different, but I recognized the name. During my break I checked on my phone and, lo and behold, there was Rebel of the Sands, sitting in my iBooks library for over a year, unread. That night, I finished it. And then I downloaded the second one and finished that too.
Rebel of the Sands is as if Aladdin, 1001 Nights, and a Wild West movie had a beautiful, magical baby. So much of the world is recognizable and yet so utterly unique, filled with magic and djinn and bandits but also with trains and guns. Amani is such a strong character who really drives the story forward, who isn’t afraid to adapt and do what she must to protect herself and those she cares about (I mean, she’s a gunslinger, how cool is that?) Alwyn Hamilton has created characters and a world that is refreshing and rich and utterly captivating. It might have taken me far too long but I’m so glad I found Rebel in the Sands and can’t wait for the conclusion to the trilogy next March.
Senior editor, brand, licensed, and media tie-in publishing, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
As a young boy, I saw Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret hundreds of times—always being read by girls. I was always curious what was happening in those pages. But I was way too self-conscious and insecure (and even scared) to be caught reading a “girl’s book.” Cut to a few months ago when I saw a girl reading it on the subway. I was like, “I’m an editor; it’s my job to read that book.” I bought a copy and devoured it in one sitting.
My thoughts? Blown away. I can’t believe this was written in 1970. Not only did the story hold up—proving its status as a classic—but I was shocked that it pushed so many boundaries in such a delicate and sensitive way as to be appropriate for young readers. Blume navigates religion, puberty, and first crushes in a way that I’ve rarely seen done so well. Though I don’t know if I would have been able to grasp the complexities, part of me wishes I had been brave enough to read it as a boy so I could have better understood girls and what they had to go through at such a young age. This book was a purely fantastic read that I’ll revisit again.
School and library marketing associate, Disney Publishing Worldwide
On my way back from ALA Midwinter this year, I got the chance to catch up on the Lumberjanes comic series from Boom Studios, and I am so glad I did. Since then I’ve been devouring every Lumberjanes adventure I can get my hands on, whether at my local comic shop, bookstore, or library. The adventures of Ripley, Molly, Jo, April, and Mal are just awesome. I had to beg for a galley of the middle grade novel from Abrams at ALA Annual this summer, and somehow I was lucky enough to get one. Mariko Tamaki’s prose expansion of the graphic novels is a delight, and I can’t wait for more.
Marketing operations assistant and job traffic coordinator, Scholastic Trade
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch was actually published in 1980, and I have a vague memory of having this book read to me as a child. I couldn’t remember the story line, so when I saw the book earlier this year and recognized the cover, I decided to pick it up and give it a quick read. The story amazed me, especially with the knowledge that the book was written in the ’80s. The book has all the typical characters that you would expect from a fairy tale: a prince, a princess, and a dragon, but this is no “damsel in distress” story. I fell in love with it because of the strong female lead—she’s clever, resilient, and isn’t afraid to be herself. It’s the type of book I can imagine reading in the future when I have children of my own.
Editor, Knopf Books for Young Readers
I’ve been hearing glowing reviews of Kate Milford’s writing for years—always from people whose taste I respect—but not until recently did I find the time to pick up Greenglass House and see for myself. It had been a while since I’d fallen for a new middle grade voice (or a “new-to-me” middle grade voice), and it had somehow come to pass that my submissions pile was overflowing with gritty, 14-plus YA. Between the middle grade dry spell, the flood of teenage grit, and the general tenor of 2017, things were feeling pretty bleak, but Greenglass House proved to be the perfect antidote. Reading this book was like wrapping up in a cozy, quilted blanket from which I would have been content never to emerge. What a storyteller! What an observer of character! How delighted I was to meet Milo and see him come into his own as the mystery unraveled. I suppose I could kick myself for taking so long to become acquainted with Kate’s wonderful storytelling, but considering that the sequel is newly available, I think my tardiness was rewarded.
Susan Van Metre
Executive editorial director, Walker Books U.S.
For a decade some of my favorite authors and editors have encouraged me to read The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, convinced I would love it. But somehow I never managed. Maybe it was the sense of sadness around the book, because I knew Siobhan Dowd had died young and there would be no more books to follow if I did fall in love with it. But a trip to London and a ride on the Eye with my ecstatic daughter made me pull it out at last. It’s narrated by Ted, an incredibly bright and funny kid with Asperger’s, whose cousin, seemingly impossibly, disappears during a ride on the London Eye. With the help of his fed-up but loving sister, Ted investigates and manages to solve a mystery that flummoxes the adults around him because his mind works differently. I read mysteries because I love great family portraiture, which they so often provide. Ted and his family are so real on the page, with their squabbles and hugs and deceits and confessions. I am sad that the hugely talented and compassionate Siobhan Dowd has left our children’s book family.