For the second year, BEA’s programming includes separate sessions offering five editors of young adult and five editors of middle-grade books a chance to share with booksellers and librarians word of a forthcoming book that they believe is especially promising.
The Young Adult Editors Buzz Panel will be held today, 10–10:50 a.m., in Room 1E14/1E15. Participating editors and the novels they are spotlighting are Aimee Friedman, Scholastic senior editor (Skinny by Donna Cooner); Andrew Karre, editorial director of Carolrhoda Books and Darby Creek (Skylark by Meagan Spooner); Gillian Levinson, Penguin Young Readers Group editor (Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz); Janine O’Malley, senior editor of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers (Crewel by Gennifer Albin); and Kari Sutherland, HarperCollins Children’s Books editor (What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang).
O’Malley recalls reading the Crewel manuscript a year ago and deciding “I would do whatever it took to buy it.” Since her colleagues in-house shared her enthusiasm, O’Malley says they moved quickly to win the novel at auction just days later. “What I love most about Crewel is that it takes place in a beautifully constructed world where teenage girls known as Spinsters are given control over every aspect of life,” she says. “It blends science fiction, romance, adventure, suspense, and gorgeous writing to make for an utterly incredible debut.”
On the value of the buzz panel, O’Malley says, “It’s not often that editors have the opportunity to speak directly with booksellers and tell them why they love a particular book. Having worked in a bookstore after college, I know the value of hand-selling a book to a customer, and I’m thrilled to be able to turn the spotlight on Crewel in a similar way.”
Karre says that it is easy for him to rave about Skylark, in which a teen is forced to escape into the wilderness when her city tries to use her as a human battery. “For all the heat surrounding the great boom in dysto-postapocalypto YA of the last couple of years, I still think there’s more to be said about what this particular subgenre means to the literature of adolescent experience,” he notes. “In particular, I’m proud of the way Meg’s novel answers the universal YA question: ‘What will happen when I’m finally done being a kid?’ ”
Karre views today’s panel as “an opportunity for editors to do one thing they probably ought to do best: advocate for books at a rhetorical level that borders on raving lunacy yet lucidly conveys the enthusiasm we still have for books we’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing for months, if not years.”
The Middle-Grade Editors Buzz Panel takes place tomorrow, 11–11:50 a.m., in Room 1E12/1E13. The following editors will talk up these novels: Virginia Duncan, v-p, publisher, of Greenwillow Books (The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann); Steve Geck, editorial manager of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris by Marissa Moss); Alvina Ling, editorial director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin); Kate O’Sullivan, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, executive editor (Malcolm at Midnight by W.H. Beck); and Jason Rekulak, creative director of Quirk Books (Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle by Charles Gilman).
Duncan has high praise for The Peculiar, which focuses on brother-and-sister changelings who are drawn into a web of intrigue in Victorian England. “This is the kind of book you remember in a very visceral and powerful way,” she remarks. “When I initially read it and learned that the author was just 18 years old, I was stunned. The world of The Peculiar is astonishing and inventive, and even now I am still discovering new details and connections and allusions.”
Not surprisingly, the editor is eager to spread her excitement about the novel. “I’m thrilled to have a chance to communicate my enthusiasm as an editor and as a reader to the booksellers and librarians who are all so tremendously important in introducing a new storyteller like Stefan to the readers who will embrace his work,” she says.
O’Sullivan concurs, noting, “It’s an editor’s dream to have the ear of so many important booksellers.” Malcolm at Midnight, which features art by Brian Lies, centers on a rat, a classroom pet who must prove his innocence when the leader of a secret society of classroom pets is kidnapped. “Illustrated middle grade is one of my favorite genres, and Malcolm won my heart from the very beginning,” the editor says. “He’s so well-intentioned yet misunderstood—something many readers will relate to. The story has everything: humor, action, and an unforgettable cast. It’s just the type of adventure I would have loved in fourth or fifth grade.