BookExpo’s 2020 Middle Grade Buzz editors take to the virtual stage on Friday from 2-3:15 p.m. ET, to spread the word about upcoming titles they are looking forward to introducing to the children’s book world. Here is a hint about what they’ll have to say.
Wesley Adams, executive editor of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, on Chance: Escape from the Holocaust, Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz’s first middle-grade book, a memoir chronicling his family’s eight-year odyssey to escape the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union:
As his longtime publisher, we at FSG were immediately ensnared by Chance as a particularly exciting moment in Uri’s storied career: for the very first time in more than five decades of creating books, Uri is undertaking by far the longest narrative he’s ever written to reveal the exciting story of his survival as a refugee from the Nazi invasion of Poland. Illustrating his text in loose, almost sketchbook style, Uri captures an impressionistic portrait of himself as a very young artist on the run with his mother and father, in a tough yet approachable treatment of a difficult subject that is truly the capstone to a remarkable book-making career.
Phoebe Yeh, v-p and publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, on Kelly J. Baptist’s Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero, which introduces a boy who discovers a love of poetry after finding his late father’s journal, which is filled with stories about a superhero who bears his name—and whose powers he wishes he had:
I was lucky. I got to meet Isaiah Dunn and his talented creator, Kelly J. Baptist, early. Isaiah made his first appearance as the hero of the winning entry in a short story contest sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, later published in the anthology Flying Lessons & Other Stories. Immediately, I was captivated by Kelly’s strong narrative voice, and by how skillfully she captured Isaiah’s voice with compassion and humor. We knew that Isaiah had more to tell us, this time in the novel Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero, giving voice to homeless—but not helpless—children.
Andrea Davis Pinkney, Scholastic v-p and executive editor, on Aida Salazar’s Land of Cranes, in which Betita, a Latinx girl who knows she is a crane, learns to hold on to hope and love, even amid the darkness of a family detention center for migrants and refugees:
As soon as I read Land of the Cranes, I was ushered in by its captivating urgency. My first thought was, “This book will change lives.” Aida Salazar’s poetry enfolds readers. Her word-music gently lifts us—up, up, up. Here is one of those singular novels that is so gripping, you will want to immediately read it again after you get to the last page so that you can re-experience its power. The beauty of Aida’s storytelling invites us to fly. Young Betita’s plight reminds us that every child can rise on the wings of hope. Land of the Cranes is etched in my heart.
Maggie Rosenthal, associate editor of Viking Books for Young Readers, on Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall, a dark and twisted story set in a sleepy town where three 13-year-olds disappear every 13 years:
From the initial pitch, I was hooked by a spooky tale that centers on the can-do power of kids working together—but what convinced me that we had something extra special on our hands as Thirteens took shape is the subtle focus on found family. The story opens with the protagonist, Eleanor, recovering from a traumatic event that took her mother from her and forced her to relocate, and yet she still finds a way to trust new friends and get outside of her comfort zone. That beautiful heart at the core exists happily alongside a deliciously creepy villain; I find that unusual combination completely irresistible.
Reka Simonsen, editorial director of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, on Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner, which stars a girl with a sensory processing disorder who must find her own voice after her world turns upside down:
I haven’t been able to stop talking about Jamie Sumner since I fell in love with her debut, Roll with It. In it, she brought to life a smart, feisty, loveable girl with cerebral palsy who refused to let her wheelchair define her. With this new book, I’m even more blown away by Jamie’s ability to tell an honest, heartfelt story about what it’s like living with a sensory processing disorder—a disorder that many people don’t understand—and what it’s like living in poverty. I think Tune It Out will speak to so many kids who don’t often see themselves represented in books.
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