This morning, five editors of books for middle-grade readers have a chance to reveal their passion for a new novel by a first-time author. Here, these editors share—in their own words—buzz about the “Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz” panel that takes place today, 11–11:50 a.m., in room W184bc. Kenny Brechner of DDG Books will moderate.
Margaret Anastas, editorial director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, talks about Frazzled by Booki Vivat.
Abbie Wu has a lot on her mind. The mere thought of starting middle school is causing mild panic attacks. After all, she hasn’t found her “thing,” and she’s 100% sure that everyone else has. With a voice that any middle schooler can relate to, coupled with Booki Vivat’s incomparable black and white drawings, Frazzled is a glimpse into the complicated mind of a middle schooler who is desperate to find her way. The novel is real, it’s funny, it’s surprising, but it is also about facing your fears and finding out who you are—even if you don’t yet have “a thing.” It’s about finding a cause and finding your voice in the process.
Frazzled is the first book in a new illustrated novel series by Booki. What started as “doodles” in her diary has turned into a unique and charming debut. The pages are filled with laugh out-loud, poignant moments where words and art become one in a way that we haven’t seen in this category. The author is an undiscovered gem, who was meant to bring this story to life.
I am honored and excited to introduce people to Booki Vivat and her book. I hope the excitement I feel for the novel will be as infectious for those attending the panel as it has been in the office. It’s rare that a debut middle-grade novel reaches the level of in-house buzz that this book has already achieved.
Grace Kendall, editor at Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, spotlights Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley.
Gertie Reece Foy is a girl on a mission—to be the best fifth-grader ever so she can show her absent mother that she doesn’t need her—not one bit. But when Mary Sue Spivey, daughter of a famous movie director, moves to town, she puts a hitch in Gertie’s plans that sends her careening into a most delightful and original mess. Zombie frogs, backstabbing best friends, and Swiss chocolate meltdowns ensue, among many other unforgettable adventures.
The thing about Gertie is that she never leaves you. Kate Beasley created a character whose voice seems to always be in your ear. She’s funny and warm and adventurous and stubborn, and your love for her becomes infectious. You want to tell everyone about her and her story, like any timeless tale, and I thought the Buzz panel would be the very best venue to do that.
It’s so rare that an editor gets the chance to talk about her books directly with booksellers and peers in the industry. So often we share the work of promoting a title with other colleagues—in sales, marketing, publicity—and it’s a real team effort. But here, for just a few delicious minutes, I get to introduce this book to my peers in my own words of love. It’s an incredible opportunity to share and spread the joy of book publishing.
Lisa Yoskowitz, executive editor of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, shares news of Wade Albert White’s The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes.
This novel invites readers into a world of magical floating tiers and presents a unique blend of science fiction and fantasy as three 13-year-olds are burdened with a quest. To complete it, they’ll need to travel to strange new tiers, solve clever riddles, and triumph over time, foes, and bureaucracy—or face the horrible consequences.
When a truly original and exciting middle-grade voice comes along, people take notice. We at LBYR fell so in love with this debut author’s remarkable new voice that we acted quickly to pre-empt this book and its sequel, The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me). That same enthusiasm led us to submit it for Buzz panel consideration. The series starter invites us into a world where classic fantasy and science fiction meet, without ever taking itself too seriously. The cast of characters is diverse, and main character Anne is the kind of kick-butt heroine readers of all ages will root for.
Set in an expansive, lush universe that will especially appeal to video game fans, the narrative is further defined by heart-stopping action scenes, rewarding friendships, excerpts from clever and hilariously informative (invented) manuals, creative magic, and a really fun tongue-in-cheek attitude toward authority and middle-grade tropes. We think it has broad appeal, and are so pleased that the BEA committee agrees. It’s so valuable to a book (especially a debut) to have that stamp of approval, and really exciting for the publisher to be able to introduce a great author like Wade to booksellers through the authors’ Stage panel, and to be able to rave about the book during this Buzz panel.
David Gale, v-p, editorial director, of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, offers words of praise for James R. Hannibal’s The Lost Property Office.
This novel blends history, science, and Victorian style in a modern-day magical quest. Thirteen-year-old American Jack Buckles learns that he is the 13th generation of “trackers,” a centuries-old U.K. ministry, and that his father, who he thought had died, is actually being held hostage. He will be released only if Jack can find the “ember,” the object that started the Great Fire of London in 1666—in order that the fire can be recreated now.
This is the sort of book that you cannot put down. I bought this at auction from a partial manuscript, and everyone in-house was eager to read the rest of the manuscript. And when it came in, it didn’t disappoint. So many good books are published each year that trying to identify to booksellers those first novels that demand their attention can be extremely hard. I value Buzz panel for letting everyone know what we are standing behind.
Ann Kelley, senior editor of Random House’s Schwartz & Wade Books, eagerly describes Ross Welford’s Time Traveling with a Hamster.
This is an original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life. On his 12th birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that eventually takes his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back 30 years not only requires imagination and courage, but also requires lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe.
With a literary edge and tons of commercial appeal, this debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice. Not only do the five of us at Schwartz & Wade Books love it, but the book has received a lot of in-house enthusiasm from marketing, sales, and publicity, so we feel strongly that we have a winner here. The story is original and emotional, and it really feels like the kind of book that will fly with great word of mouth.
We are convinced that if people read it, they will be as moved by it as we are. Plus, we think it has a lot of kid appeal, so it will be good to have an opportunity to talk that up. We like to say that Time Traveling with a Hamster is like Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. That sounds fun, right?
This article appeared in the May 13, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.