The books spotlighted on today’s Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz Panel, moderated by Summer Laurie from Books Inc. in San Francisco, span a space-station friendship, a frantic chase across Europe, and life in a Filipino cemetery shantytown.
Diana M. Pho, editor, Tor/Starscape
Everlasting Nora by Marie Cruz (Oct.)
This authentic and uplifting debut novel about Nora, a girl who lives in a shantytown inside a Manila cemetery, is meticulously researched by a Filipino-American author who grew up in the Philippines. Nora’s story and the unique setting totally blew me away. I was so impressed by [Cruz’s] skill, insight, and heart.
Sharing different worldviews is increasingly important in children’s literature, during a time when we sorely need stories that expand children’s visions of themselves and of each other. More so for people of color, the struggle to have their stories seen, heard, and supported is very real in light of the overwhelming whiteness of our industry. One of the ways that I can reach out, as a children’s book editor of color, is to be visible and loud in support of their stories, and this panel provides the perfect opportunity.
Russ Busse, associate editor, Little, Brown BFYR
Short and Skinny by Mark Tatulli (Sept.)
In this graphic memoir, Mark is having a hard time with bullies, girls, and his self-image, until his obsession with the new, original Star Wars movie helps him figure out that purpose and self-confidence can come from a lot of different sources.
Spotlighting this graphic memoir is great, both because it gives a platform for comics as a medium, and because the book itself is really special. I was initially drawn to the project because the worries and problems that Mark describes are so relatable, so humanly told, and he’s able to infuse really great visual storytelling with his accessible sense of humor. As the book was coming together, we kept getting feedback about how real it feels, and I think being able to be retrospective but also keep the voice of yourself as a kid is a special talent that Mark brings to the table in spades.
Reka Simonsen, executive editor, Atheneum BFYR
I’m Ok by Patti Kim (Oct.)
I’m Ok is the heartbreaking yet hilarious story of Ok Lee, a kid with more than enough personality to get him through the hard times. He is definitely facing some hard times and knows he has to come up with an exit strategy, and fast.
I haven’t been able to stop talking about this book since the moment I read a very early draft and fell in love with the main character. He’s funny, he’s ingenious, he’s smart—and he’s a bit of a smarty-pants, too. Underneath it all he’s struggling with a heartbreak that he tries so hard to hide, and to hide from. As an own-voice story of a boy who immigrated here from Korea, and as an honest portrayal of what it’s like to live in poverty, I think I’m Ok will speak to a lot of kids who don’t often get to see themselves in books.
Rotem Moscovich, executive editor, Disney-Hyperion
Sanity & Tallulah, Book 1 by Molly Brooks (Oct.)
Sanity & Tallulah is Roller Girl meets Star Trek meets Silly Putty. It’s a funny mystery- adventure featuring two girls in space. The novel has it all: best friends, hilarious dialogue, characters you fall in love with and who have agency, STEM-inspired themes that save the day, a diverse cast with cool space-station style, and a three-headed kitten named Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. I mean, need I say more? But truly, Molly Brooks is a huge talent, and a wonderful collaborator. I am proud of every inch of this book, and can’t wait for everyone to read it.
Alex Ulyett, associate editor, Viking Children’s Books
Monstrous Devices by Damien Love (Nov.)
This Raiders of the Lost Ark–type adventure with a sinister Toy Story twist is a gripping tale that makes the big questions—about life, death, truth, and the stories we tell—feel magical. I adore the way its racing plot continually surprises. Damien relishes upending tropes, and just when you think you’ve got the mysteries figured out, he pulls the rug from under your feet, leaving you scratching your head all over again.
But this book is by no means just chases and ever-mounting questions. There are moments of sweet levity, heartwarming intergenerational bonds, and always time for a spot of tea and a snack, even in the face of global catastrophe. Most importantly, there is an ever-present sense of wonder about the hidden mysteries of our world, a feeling deep rooted in every generation of children. In this way, the book is reminiscent of enduring, beloved middle grade classics.—Sally Lodge