Stephanie, Associate Editor

Acclaimed author Margarita Engle’s forthcoming young adult novel, Your Heart My Sky, is the story of two teens who fall in love while struggling to survive during one of the darkest periods in Cuban history. Engle, the former National Young People's Poet Laureate, has won countless awards for her writing, including the 2019 NSK Neustadt Prize.

Here's how Engle's publisher describes her latest verse novel:

The people of Cuba are living in el período especial en tiempos de paz, the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation. Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: She finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply, so he wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food. A chance encounter with an enigmatic dog brings Liana and Amado together. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts—but is it enough to withstand el período especial?

Your Heart My Sky will be available on shelves at libraries and bookstores everywhere on March 23, 2021. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to reveal its gorgeous cover, which was illustrated by Gaby D'Alessandro and designed by Rebecca Syracuse, and to share our discussion with Engle about Your Heart My Sky—and an exclusive excerpt from the book.

How did you feel when you saw the cover of Your Heart, My Sky for the first time?
When I first saw this cover, I was thrilled by the expressions on the characters’ faces. They are people I felt I knew so well, and the illustrator captured their wistfulness as well as their hopes. Struggling to survive in a time of unexpected hardships, they remind me of the entire world now, with our own wistfulness for the innocence of a few months ago and our desperate need to remain hopeful. The colors are perfect, too, so tropical and yet gentle. The abundance of fruit makes me aware of the characters’ imaginations. It’s magic realism, a true Caribbean reality.

Your Heart, My Sky takes place during a period in Cuban history commonly referred to as “the special period,” an economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, lasted nearly a decade and had an enormous negative impact on the everyday lives of Cubans. What initially drew you to the idea of setting a story in this period?
I returned to Cuba in 1991, after a 31-year absence. The drastic hunger shocked and saddened me. I experienced the surreal survivor’s guilt of possessing a U.S. passport that would allow me to leave, escaping the near-starvation that my cousins were forced to endure. I spent the ’90s traveling often, carrying suitcases filled with food, vitamins and medicine. I wrote about el período especial at that time, but I discovered that most adult readers in the U.S. weren’t interested or didn’t believe me. So now I’ve written about it again, hoping that young readers will be more empathetic and compassionate.

Like many of your books, Your Heart, My Sky is a novel written in verse. Could you recommend some of your favorite poets or poetry titles for readers to explore while they wait for your new book to be published?
A few of the YA verse novelists I admire most are Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson, Padma Venkatraman and Nikki Grimes. I also hope readers will also give my verse memoirs a try, if they’re interested in my personal experience with Cuban history. Enchanted Air is a verse memoir about my childhood and early teen years, while Soaring Earth is the high school/college companion book.


The tall boy who gazes at me
is even skinnier than the rest of us.

He’s skeletal but appealing
in a days-on-earth-are-numbered
sort of way.

He must be courageous
to skip la escuela al campo!

As soon as that admiring thought
flashes across my mind, I realize that
I’m brave too.

Sometimes it takes a clear view
          of someone else
before I can see my own
          unexpected self.



The girl’s curious eyes make me want
to go home and look at myself
in an effort to see what she perceives:
Bones barely concealed
by skin, my face the same deep brown
as this old mirror’s scratched
mahogany frame.

The girl has no way to know that I crave
so much more than food—I need freedom
to speak out, demanding my right
to reject silence.

My older brother is already in prison
for the same crime that I plan to commit—
evading the draft by staying away on the day
when I’m ordered to report for military duty.

Our grandfather fought in Bolivia,
our father in Nicaragua and Angola,
enough bloodshed to leave both of us
unwilling to join future battles.

I glare at the mirror.
Wavy patches.
Blurry streaks.
As if I’m already
fading away
in a prison cell.

What if I don’t have the courage
to keep the pact that I made with my brother,
speaking up, explaining to the government
why we need to choose peace?

But this country is not at war right now,
unless you count our constant struggle
against hunger.

Maybe I should let myself be trained to kill,
become a soldier, gun-wielding, violent,
a dangerous stranger, no longer



The dog and I crouch,
watching ourselves
in a shallow tide pool,
shimmery bronze faces
rippling as we hover
above pink anemones
and purple sea urchins.

We gobble
odd-shaped creatures
raw, then glance
at ourselves again,
the dog’s hair short and straight,
mine long, wet, and twining
in dark ringlets like tendrils or seaweed.

Our eyes resemble four sleek black planets
floating in the tide pool’s
miniature galaxy.

Do canines understand mirror images,
or can they only recognize themselves
by smell?

I’ll never know, unless I learn
the ancient language of dog songs.

After a while, we rise and climb
the steep, brightly flowered hills of town,
passing old houses with climbing vines
that enclose wide-open windows and doors,
an invitation for the sea breeze, doves,
butterflies, wasps,
perhaps also thieves. . . .

At home in my kitchen,
I check the refrigerator,
finding it empty as usual.

No electricity either.
Just invisible


The singing dog

If he can somehow manage to urge them
toward each other, then neither one will feel
so completely alone, and his unusual instincts
tell him that these two are so perfectly
right for each other that if he fails
to meet his natural goal they will wander
like detached spirits, souls just as starved
as bodies. . . .

The last time a singing dog worked at matchmaking
was in the human year 1519, when a violent pirate
named Hernán Cortés had stolen a ship and anchored
on the island’s southern shore,
recruiting all the Spanish men
of Trinidad de Cuba as soldiers,
then seizing all the native Ciboney Taíno men
as enslaved porters for an expedition
of slaughter and conquest, across the western sea
in Aztlán, land of Moctezuma, ruler of Tenochtitlán.

Only women, children, and singing dogs
were left behind in the village of Trinidad,
along with one guard and one prisoner,
a pacifist called Uría, half Ciboney
and half Canary Islander, a poetic scribe
who loved to write
and refused to fight.

A singing dog led a Ciboney girl called Arima
to the little prison, where she freed Uría,
then helped him escape, and showed him
how to thrive in el monte, wild mountains,
dense jungle, her home.

Now this new boy called Amado is peaceful like Uría,
and the girl named Liana is brave like Arima,
so the modern dog’s task is clear—
just guide these two young people until
they accept each other’s companionship.
Some matches are simply
meant to be.

If you lived in another time and place,
you might think of the singing dog as a winged thing:
A guardian
who specializes
in love.

Author photo by Marshall W. Johnson

Acclaimed author Margarita Engle's forthcoming young adult novel, Your Heart My Sky, is the story of two teens who fall in love while struggling to survive during one of the darkest periods in Cuban history. We’re thrilled to share our discussion with Engle about Your Heart My Sky as we reveal its cover and an exclusive excerpt.

As you might guess from the title, bestselling author Renée Watson's next YA novel, Love Is a Revolution, is a love story—about loving another person, loving your community and, above all, loving yourself. Watson’s 2017 YA novel, Piecing Me Together, received a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award. Her picture book Harlem's Little Blackbird was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Here's the official synopsis of Love Is a Revolution from Bloomsbury, Watson's publisher:

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the emcee. He’​s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer organizing events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard and how self-love is revolutionary.

In Love Is a Revolution, plus-size girls are beautiful and catch the attention of hot guys, the popular girl clique celebrates strong friendships between women, and the ultimate love story is not just about romance, but showing radical love to the people in your life—including to yourself.

Pick up Love Is a Revolution from your local bookstore or library on February 2, 2021! In the meantime, you can see its stunning cover, which was illustrated by Alex Cabal, designed by Jeanette Levy and art-directed by Donna Mark, and read a Q&A with Watson and an exclusive excerpt of the book.

How did you feel when you saw the final cover of Love Is a Revolution for the first time?
The cover took my breath away. I love everything about it: Nala’s bold stance, the expression on her face, the brown lipstick, the bright yellow shirt, even her nail polish and bangle bracelets. Every detail was intentional, and I’m very proud of it. I appreciate my editor, Sarah Shumway, who always invites my input and feedback when it comes to covers. So many times in literature, big bodies are erased or portrayed in defeated, downtrodden ways. I am intentional about having girls with big bodies on covers who are happy, content and fashionable. I truly believe that representation matters, and that includes body diversity as well.

Alex Cabal’s art is always vibrant and striking. She did the U.K. edition of What Momma Left Me, and I was thrilled to work with her again for Love is a Revolution.

Could you give us a little introduction to Nala and share where she’s at when readers meet her? What do you hope readers will love about her? Are there any pieces of you in her?
Readers meet Nala right when she’s at the crossroads of figuring out what activism means to her and how she’s going to show up in the world. She’s pretty confident and sure of herself, but still, there are moments when she feels insecure because she fears that she is not “woke” enough. She’s certainly an imperfect character—she exaggerates (and flat-out lies) to get the attention of a boy she has a crush on. She also loves her family fiercely, and I hope readers enjoy her sense of humor and her bold personality.

My temperament is very different from Nala’s, but one thing I do have in common with her is being Jamaican. I’m really excited to share this part of my Jamaican heritage in a book. It’s the first time I’ve written about a Jamaican American family.

Throughout the book, Nala talks about a (fictional) singer she loves. The song lyrics are in the novel, and they are all about loving your body, loving yourself. The lyrics really inspire Nala, and I hope readers are empowered by them, too.

There’s such a need for stories of Black joy. What joys do you hope Love Is a Revolution represents to readers?
Nala understands that while it’s necessary to bring awareness to social issues, it’s equally important to spend quality time with loved ones, to enjoy simple things like listening to your favorite song on repeat or indulging in your favorite dessert. Harlem is the perfect backdrop for this summertime love story, and I really enjoyed the scenes where Nala is carefree, roaming the streets of her neighborhood and hanging out with friends. Even with all that’s happening in our nation with conversations about equity and anti-Blackness, Black youth are still living their everyday lives, still laughing, still dancing, still loving, and I wanted that represented on the page.

Love is a revolution. What an awesome, powerful statement to choose for the title of a book! How did you arrive at it? How does it reflect what you hope readers experience when they read the book?
There’s a scene when Nala’s grandmother tells her, “The most radical thing you can do is love yourself and each other.” After I wrote that sentence, the title came to me. I think the word love gets used so much that we forget how heavy of a word it is, how serious and hard it is. Love is patient, generous, forgiving. It’s not easy to be patient, generous or forgiving. The definition of revolution is “a sudden, radical, or complete change, a fundamental change in the way of thinking about something.” Love—true love, of self, family, neighborhood, romantic partner—changes you, pushes you to be better. Practicing that kind of love will bring about the change so many of us want in our daily lives. That concept is at the heart of the novel.

Imani walks over to us and sits next to me, in the middle of her birthday crew. The lights dim even more, and once it is completely blacked out, there is cheering and clapping. The stage lights are too dark at first, so I can’t really see the person talking. “Good evening, everyone. We’re here tonight to remember Harlem, to honor Harlem, to critique Harlem, to love Harlem . . . we’re here tonight to Inspire Harlem.”

There are shouts and whistles and so much clapping.

Then, finally, the lights rise.

And I see him.

“My name is Tye Brown, and I will be your host for the evening.” While everyone is still clapping, he says, “Tonight’s going to be a special night,” and then I swear he looks at me and says, “Sit back and enjoy.” I almost yell out I will! Oh, I will! but I keep it together and settle into my seat.

I whisper to Imani, “Who is he? I’ve never seen him before.”

“Tye. He’s new,” she says.

And I turn to Sadie and whisper, “I mean, if I had known guys like that were a part of this, maybe I would have joined too.”

Sadie laughs.

“Shh!” Imani scolds us.

I sit back, give my full attention to Tye. He explains what Inspire Harlem is and talks us through how the night will go. Then, his voice gets serious and he says, “Singer and activist Nina Simone said, ‘It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.’ This isn’t your typical talent show. Each act has thought about the message in their art, the mission behind their performance.”

A few people clap when he says this.

“This is a supportive, brave space—please only show love for everyone who has the courage to come to the stage,” Tye says. And then, he smiles the most gorgeous smile I have ever seen and says, “Let’s begin.”

I don’t believe in love at first sight. I don’t even know if I believe that there’s such a thing as a soul mate or one true love. But right now, in this moment, I am ready to profess my love for Tye Brown.

OK, fine, I don’t really love him. I don’t know him (yet), but there are some things I know about him in just the first 30 minutes of the talent show and those things, I love.

3 Things I Already Love about Tye Brown

1. I love his dark skin. The way his white shirt contrasts against his deep brown complexion. I love his style. How his shirt has the letters B L A C K across his chest, making him a living poem.

2. I love the way his deep voice bellows out, filling up the space, how his voice is electric shock waves when he needs to amp up the crowd, how it is a warm hug when he welcomes each person to the stage.

3. I love that when the fourth person gets choked up with tears because he can’t remember the lyrics to his rap, Tye comes from back stage and stands next to him, putting his hand on his shoulder. I love how they just stand there for a whole minute and the audience is silent, how Tye asks, “Do you want to start over?” I love how Tye stands there while the boy performs, never leaving his side, bobbing his head and moving to the beat.

Yeah, those are the things I love about Tye. It was definitely worth coming out in the rain tonight.

The next person up is a girl named Gabby. Her hair is pulled back in a neat ponytail, and I can’t tell if the glasses she is wearing are for necessity or fashion. She sings a song she wrote just for this event, and that alone should make her the winner. I feel sorry for the people coming after her.

The next performance is a group of steppers. They have the crowed hyped. By the time they are done, I think maybe they might beat Gabby. But if they do, it’ll be close. I completely tune out during the next act. A girl is singing some type of Heal-the-World song, and I am bored and barely listening to her. It’s not that she can’t sing—the song is just corny. To me anyway. All I am thinking about is when will Tye be coming back to the stage. But once the girl stops singing, the lights come up for a short intermission.

Most people rush to the bathrooms. I walk over to the snack table—I want to get something to drink and also, I see that Tye is standing over there. I am trying to think of something to say to him, but I can’t even get my mouth to open. Up close he is even more handsome and now I can smell his cologne. I just want to run away and look at him from across the room.

“Enjoying the show?” Tye asks. He is talking to me. To me.

“Um, yes, I—I’m really, yes, I’m enjoying it.” Get it together, Nala Robertson. Come on.

“Are you new to Inspire Harlem?”

“Oh, no. I’m not a part of it. Hi, I’m Nala. Imani is my cousin. She invited me.”

“Oh, Imani? That’s my girl. I’m Tye.” He shakes my hand, which I think is kind of formal, but holding his hand feels like holding silk and I want to hold on to him and never let him go. Tye lets go and fills his water bottle. He takes a long drink.

Say something, Nala. Say something. “Inspire Harlem is a great program. Imani really likes being in it.”

“Yeah. I love it so far. I’m excited about what we’ve planned for this summer. Did Imani tell you about it?”

“No,” I say. But of course she did. I just want to keep talking to him.

“All summer long we’ll be having awareness events—I’m the team leader for our community block party. You should come,” Tye says. I have never heard someone sound so excited about a community service project. Tye steps away from the table because we’re holding the line up. I realize I don’t even have anything in my hand, no water or plate of veggies and dip to play it off like I didn’t just come over here to talk with him. “What about you? What are you up to this summer?” he asks.

“Oh, I’m, um, I’m . . . I volunteer for an organization that offers activities for elderly people in the neighborhood. We do, um, like arts and crafts stuff with them—nothing super important or at the magnitude of Inspire Harlem,” I say. He doesn’t need to know that really, I am just talking about the one time last month when I spent the day at Grandma’s helping her put a puzzle together.

“That’s great that you’re doing that,” Tye says.

“Yeah, some of them don’t have family that come visit and just need to get out of their apartments and do something. We do all kinds of activities with them.”

“Like what?”

“Um, well, like I mentioned, arts and crafts . . . um, knitting. We also have story time, not like kindergarten story time, but I read novels to them and sometimes we just play games and build puzzles.”

All of this is a true-lie.

I’ve done these things with Grandma and her friends. Just not with a formal group of people or with an organization. But I had to say something. I mean, I couldn’t tell him that I’m spending my summer watching Netflix and trying out the summer flavors of ice cream at Sugar Hill Creamery.

Ms. Lori, the director of Inspire Harem, walks over to us. “Tye, we’re just about ready to start the second half,” she says. “Five minutes.”

“Okay.” Tye refills his water bottle one more time. “Nice to meet you, Nala,” he says.

Author photo by Shawnte Sims. Excerpt from Love Is a Revolution used with permission of Bloomsbury Publishing.

Bestselling author Renée Watson's forthcoming YA novel, Love Is a Revolution, is a love story about loving another person, loving your community and loving yourself. We're thrilled to share our discussion with Watson about Love Is a Revolution as we reveal its cover and an exclusive excerpt.

Readers have waited patiently to return to the fantastical world of Kristin Cashore's bestselling Graceling Realm books. Cashore introduced the world of the Seven Kingdoms in 2008's William C. Morris Award finalist, Graceling. The tales continued with Fire in 2009 and moved to the neighboring kingdom of Monsea with 2012's Bitterblue. In January 2021, readers can finally make their long-awaited return to the Graceling Realm with the publication of Winterkeep.

Here's the official synopsis of Winterkeep from Dial, Cashore's publisher:

For the past five years, Bitterblue has reigned as Queen of Monsea, heroically rebuilding her nation after her father’s horrific rule. After learning about the land of Torla in the east, she sends envoys to the closest nation there: Winterkeep—a place where telepathic foxes bond with humans, and people fly across the sky in wondrous airships. But when the envoys never return, having drowned under suspicious circumstances, Bitterblue sets off for Winterkeep herself, along with her spy Hava and her trusted colleague Giddon. On the way, tragedy strikes again—a tragedy with devastating political and personal ramifications. Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda waits and watches, a fire inside her that is always hungry. The teenage daughter of two powerful politicians, she is the key to unlocking everything—but only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

Pick up a copy of Winterkeep from your local bookstore or library on January 19, 2021! In the meantime, scroll down to see the exquisite cover of Winterkeep, which was illustrated by Kuri Huang and designed by Theresa Evangelista and Jessica Jenkins. We're also thrilled to share the gorgeous new covers for each of the Graceling Realm tales, as well as our discussion with Cashore and an exclusive excerpt from Winterkeep.

How did you feel when you saw the cover for Winterkeep and the redesigned covers for the previous Graceling Realm novels for the first time?
I was blown away. The artist, Kuri Huang, creates images of such color and depth. It was a fascinating process, too, because with the way the artist works, we saw early sketches that turned into rough color representations, then eventually led to the gorgeous, detailed, layered images that you see now. So in the beginning, I wasn't sure where it was going. It was exciting to watch it go to such a beautiful place! I couldn't be happier.

Winterkeep features a person of color on the cover. What does this mean to you? What do you hope it will mean to readers?
Winterkeep is told in multiple perspectives, including those of characters from my previous books and some new characters, too. Arguably the most central character, the person at the heart of the book, is a young woman named Lovisa Cavenda, who's a student at the Winterkeep Academy and the daughter of Keepish politicians. Like most people in Winterkeep, Lovisa has brown skin and dark hair and eyes. And since our conceit with these new covers is to show a main character on the cover, Lovisa was the obvious choice. It was important to me that the woman on the cover look and feel like Lovisa! It wouldn't have made sense to represent her any other way. I hope readers agree.

I couldn’t help but notice that Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue (and your stand-alone novel, Jane, Unlimited, for that matter) are all essentially named after their protagonists, whereas Winterkeep seems to be titled after its setting rather than after a person. Does this reflect a change in the lens of the story? Is Winterkeep the story of a place rather than of a person?
Titles are always so tricky! Since this book, unlike my previous books, is told in multiple perspectives, it didn't feel entirely right to try to name it after one character. The other titles in the series are each a single word with a fantasy-ish feel, so after a lot of consideration, Winterkeep felt like the best choice. We also considered Winter Keeper, which would have brought it back to the idea of character, but it was a little vague, and it broke our one-word tradition. So we went with Winterkeep. (I spent an entire writing retreat with friends years ago agonizing over what the place should be called, even creating a whiteboard with options, but that's a whole other story!)

Winterkeep is a land my readers won't have seen before, wintry and beautiful, with an elected government, airships, telepathic foxes and powerful fuels that are creating an environmental crisis. And while I suppose on some level, Winterkeep is the story of a place, really it's the story of people, just like all my other books. I tend to write pretty character-driven books. I'd say it's the story of families and friends, working to figure out how to take care of each other and the earth.

I hear that you’re a fan of wintry settings but not of winter itself. Could you share a few of your favorite literary winters and what you love about them?
There are some passages in the Kingdom Books by Cynthia Voigt that broke my heart open with their winter imagery. I think I've been drawn to those settings ever since! There's something so delicious about reading a book that has all the atmosphere of winter, snow and harsh beauty, wanting to be a part of that story but not really. Wanting to imagine being a part of that story, while in fact you're comfortable and cozy inside. I suspect that some of my childhood wintry reads, like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, also worked on my heart this way. As I was writing Winterkeep, I had the great good fortune to participate in an artist retreat on a tall ship in the Arctic Ocean for two weeks, sailing around the coast of Svalbard. The landscape entered my heart in the same way, like a little seed of magic taking root. I don't think Winterkeep is my last wintry book!


Giddon was carrying a sleeping child through a rocky tunnel when he got his first clue that something was wrong in Winterkeep.

The child’s name was Selie, she was 8, and she was not small. In fact, Giddon was starting to wonder if she was growing while he carried her. Surely she was objectively heavier now than she’d been when she’d held her arms up to him two hours ago, a gesture that hadn’t surprised him, for the children always wanted Giddon to carry them through the tunnels. He was bigger, more interesting and less anxious than their parents, or so the children thought. Giddon was actually quite anxious during these missions for the Council, these smuggling journeys through the tunnels from Estill to Monsea, but he buried his worries deep, where they couldn’t reach his eyes or his voice. It was more helpful to seem calm and reassuring.

So he carried Selie calmly, with exhausted shoulders and dead arms, wading through streams, trying to measure the fatigue in the drawn, white faces of her family, stepping carefully from rock to crevice to stone on an uneven path lit by the lantern of Selie’s older sister, Ranie, who, at 19, kept giving Giddon sly, flirtatious glances. He was used to this, too, on these missions. He’d gotten in the habit of mentioning his beloved girlfriend frequently in conversation. Giddon didn’t have a girlfriend. It was another thing he pretended, to keep things simpler.

He put up a hand to stop Selie’s head from lolling. Children are bizarrely flexible, thought Giddon. Sometimes it seemed like her head would roll right off her body and plop onto the rocks. And Selie was the reason for this journey through the tunnels to Monsea, for she was a Graceling, Graced with mind reading. In Estill, Gracelings were the property of the new government, which exploited their special abilities however it saw fit. There were all kinds of Graces, ranging from skills as banal as imitating bird calls to more useful capacities such as speed on foot, predicting the weather, fighting, mental manipulation or mind reading. In Monsea, where Queen Bitterblue made the rules, Gracelings were free.

The Council—which had no other official name, just the Council—was a secret international group of spies, rescuers, fighters, plotters and consultants, headed by Giddon and a few of his friends—Raffin, Bann, Katsa, Po—that came to the aid of anyone anywhere in the Seven Nations suffering unjustly under the rule of law. The Council had started small some 14 or 15 years ago—Katsa had started it—but now its reach was vast.

Giddon and his friends had, in fact, assisted the Estillans with the coup of their corrupt king. But then the makeshift republic that had taken the place of Estill’s monarchy had turned out to be more militarized than the Council had anticipated. And the Council never held with governments owning Gracelings.

So here Giddon was, secretly sneaking Gracelings away from the Estillan government he’d helped to establish. Trying to avoid the Estillan soldiers armed with swords and bows who had begun patrolling the Estillan forests recently, asking for the identification of anyone they met.

Giddon’s sword was heavy at his side. He found some strength to hold Selie tighter, in case she was cold. It was early May and frigid underground. A steady trickle from a hidden ledge above had been plaguing them for the last 20 minutes, and Giddon had found it hard to keep the child’s hat and scarf dry. Some two hours from now, the path would change, turn into the steady, downhill slope that would deliver them gently to the forests outside Bitterblue City. And Giddon would bring this family to the Council allies in Monsea who were awaiting them, then return himself to Bitterblue’s court. Fall into bed, sleep for a year. Then go find Bitterblue.

“Did my father remember to give you that message?” Ranie said to Giddon, speaking so quietly that he had to move closer to her, lean in.

“What message?” he said, liking, despite himself, the way voices rumbled through these tunnels, turning into whispers, like the trickling water.

“Papa?” said Ranie, turning back to speak to the balding man who plodded along resolutely behind them, a sleeping baby strapped to his front. Beside him, his wife marched with an expression on her face like she would walk forever, if that’s what it took. It was an exhausted but determined sort of expression that Giddon recognized. He suspected she was walking on blistered feet. Parents did heroic things for their children.

“Papa, didn’t you have a message for Giddon?” said Ranie.

“Oh, yes,” said the man, blinking as if waking, then seeming startled by the volume of his own voice. The tunnels could do that, lull you into a sense of being inside yourself. Conversation could seem like violence.

“It’s a message about those two Monseans whose ship went down in Winterkeep,” said the man. “You know about that ship, the Seashell?”

Giddon suddenly saw Queen Bitterblue at the door to his rooms, clutching a letter, her tear-strewn face upturned to him. Bitterblue’s envoy to Winterkeep, Mikka, and one of her advisers, Brek, had died in that shipwreck on the other side of the world. And it had been an accident—Giddon had assured her over and over, hugging her in his doorway—but still, she’d blamed herself, for she’d been the one who’d sent those men away, to a death so far from home.

“Yes,” Giddon said grimly. “I know about the drowned Monseans.”

“I’m supposed to tell you that they had some news about something called zilfium.”

“News about zilfium?” said Giddon, who found this message rather opaque. Zilfium, to the best of his memory, was a kind of fuel that was important in Winterkeep, but he couldn’t remember why. “What news?”

“I don’t know,” said the man. “I only know that they wanted to tell Queen Bitterblue some news about zilfium, but then they went sailing that day and drowned. So the queen should learn what she can about zilfium.”

“Who told you to tell me this?” said Giddon.

“The man who brought us to the start of the tunnels, where you met us,” he said. “Bann, the one who’s the consort of Prince Raffin of the Middluns. He said he had it from Prince Raffin, who had it from a letter one of the Monseans wrote to him before he drowned.”

Council messages were often passed like this—from mouth to mouth. “Did Bann give you anything for me in writing?”

“No, nothing,” said the man. “Only what I’ve said: that before that ship went down, the Monseans had wanted to tell Queen Bitterblue some news about zilfium, so maybe Queen Bitterblue should look into zilfium.”

This message was intensely annoying, and Giddon didn’t think it was merely because he was wet and exhausted and carrying a child made of lead. One, he didn’t understand it. Two, he suspected some part of it was missing. And three, the reminder of her dead men was probably going to make Bitterblue cry.

Ranie was walking close to him again and speaking so quietly that he had to bend down to her. He began to wonder if she might be doing this on purpose.

“What’s zilfium, Giddon?” she asked.

A stream of icy water hit the back of his neck. “I’m not sure,” he said crossly.

“She is doing it on purpose,” said Selie sleepily in his ear, making him jump. He’d been sure the child was asleep.

“Doing what?” he said, somehow finding this to be the most aggravating thing yet. Mind readers!

“Ranie’s talking in a low voice so you’ll get close to her,” Selie whispered, too quietly for anyone else to hear. “Also, I know your girlfriend is imaginary.”

“Oh? And do you know you’re as heavy as a horse?”

Selie was giggling. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I won’t tell.”

Kristin Cashore returns to the world of her bestselling Graceling Realm novels with Winterkeep. We're thrilled to share our discussion with Cashore about Winterkeep as we reveal its cover and an exclusive excerpt.

Nicole Melleby debuted on the children's literature scene in 2019 with her acclaimed middle grade novel, Hurricane Season, a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Now we're thrilled to reveal the cover of her next book, How to Become a Planet, a heart-wrenching yet joy-filled story about the summer that changes everything for a girl named Pluto.

Here’s the official synopsis of How to Become a Planet from Algonquin, Melleby’s publisher:

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything. Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

Pick up a copy of How to Become a Planet from your local bookstore or library on May 25, 2021. In the meantime, you can see the incredible cover of How to Become a Planet, which was created by David Curtis, and read a Q&A with Melleby and an exclusive excerpt from the book. Just scroll down!

What was it like to see finished cover of How to Become a Planet for the first time?
First and foremost, I have never been so excited to have the letter O in my name before! David's art is stunning; the first time I saw the cover I didn't even know where to look first. The colors, the planets, Pluto-as-Pluto! This is probably the smallest thing, but I also immediately was drawn to Pluto's little flipflops and the way her toe is curved to hold it on her foot! I seriously couldn't have asked for a better cover. It's gorgeous and absolutely something that would have pulled me to a book when I was young and browsing the shelves at a bookstore.

Was How to Become a Planet the working title of this novel all the way through the creative process for you?
This was the first of the three of my published books for which the working title actually ended up being the finished title, and it came about in kind of a boring but amusing way: When I started writing Pluto's story, I knew that I wanted the main character to have depression, and I knew that I wanted her name to be Pluto. When I was a kid, Pluto-the-planet was still a planet, and while I knew it's not considered one anymore, I didn't really know why, so I Googled it to find out. I typed into the search bar: "How to become a planet." It all kind of clicked into place from there.

Like your previous books, Hurricane Season and In the Role of Brie Hutchens, How to Become a Planet is rooted in the experience of an authentic and nuanced female protagonist. Could you introduce us to Pluto and where she's at when readers meet her? Are there any pieces of you in here?
At the start of the novel, Pluto has just gotten a diagnosis for depression and anxiety. The summer is just beginning, but she hasn't been to school in over a month; she hasn't been texting with her friends in just as long; she's pretty much shut herself down. Now that it's summer—and her mom has a pizzeria on the boardwalk to run, and Pluto is now on medication—her mom isn't letting her isolate herself anymore. It's a struggle for them both, and Pluto can't help but compare how last summer (and all the summers before it) started and felt with how it feels now. And she feels kind of helpless because of it; she doesn't know how to be her old self again.

My second book, In the Role of Brie Hutchens, was probably my most personal book: I put a lot of myself into Brie, which is always challenging and hits different emotionally while writing. While I can absolutely empathize with Pluto, and while I wanted to explore summer from a Jersey beach kid's perspective (which was my life growing up), Pluto-the-person is very different, personality-wise, from me. She makes choices I wouldn't; she's gentle in ways I'm, well, not; and I've never been a big science buff (I actually had to do a LOT of astronomy research for this book!).

What are some things you love about writing middle grade books and writing for middle-grade readers?
I write very purposely about mental illness and LGBTQ+ characters, and I love being able to connect with my middle-grade readers about that. I think that, with mental illness especially, people tend to treat it like an adult issue, but it's not, and I want my readers (and my LGBTQ+ readers especially) to know that I see them and that they aren't alone. I've done school visits where kids come right up to me, open and honest in ways I couldn't imagine at that age, and they tell me exactly what it is they love about my work—why it's important to them. And while I will always say yes, I write books for the kid I used to be, I mostly write books for the kids who need them now—who need much different things than I did and who are so, so excited that there's a place for them on the shelves.

As a fellow self-avowed Jersey girl, I have to ask you about the New Jersey-ness of Pluto's story. What are some things you love about New Jersey that people who've never lived or visited there might not know about? How do they manifest in How to Become a Planet?
There was a poem in the Asbury Park Press about growing up on the Jersey shore that I heard when I was a kid that started with the line, "Beach kids feel no pain. . . ." that's always stuck with me. Obviously that's not true—we felt pain, all of us—but there was still something so magical about spending our days at the water.

I think people tend to think about two things when they hear Jersey Shore: Snooki and the rest of the MTV crew, and the tourist-heavy fancy beaches people drive down to on the weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For us, though, the beaches were—are—home. The Keansburg boardwalk, where Pluto's mom's pizzeria is, was where I went to countless birthday parties, just like Pluto and her best friend Meredith. My dad's first job was at the Olde Heidelberg hot dog joint, which I name-dropped in the book, because it's still there!

That feeling of being a beach kid in the summer is what I wanted for Pluto—even if she can't experience it like she used to, the beach is still home. I think it'll always feel that way for me, too.

Chapter Two

When it finally came after 180 long days, the first day of summer break didn’t matter to Pluto. The countdown she’d made with Meredith still read 34 Days Until Freedom!!! because Pluto hadn’t been to school in over a month. She hadn’t had to worry about end-of-the-year pool parties, or endless have a great summers, or Meredith begging her to just be her friend again.

And, finally, she didn’t need to worry about school calling home, asking where she was, asking when she was coming, making her mom’s voice tremble as she spoke into the phone, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, either.”

Instead, what Pluto did have to worry about was that her mom was already out of the shower, shuffling around in the bathroom they shared, nearly ready to start the day. The hall light was on, bleeding into Pluto’s bedroom, making the thick purple curtains that blocked out the morning sun null and void. If she had a bedroom door, she would close it to block out the light and the sound of her mom as she hummed while she got dressed.

But Pluto did not have a bedroom door, and hadn’t had a bedroom door for a little over a month now.

Her mom stuck her head in the doorway. “Hey, Shooting Star,” she said, words mumbled as she spoke around the toothbrush in her mouth. “You’re with me today, kid, so start making some moves.”

Pluto and her mom both knew she would not be “making some moves.” Pluto resented the fact her mom even suggested it, that her mom went about her morning as if nothing had changed inside Pluto, as if an endless month in bed could suddenly come to a stop without trouble.

When she didn’t move: “Plu, I’m serious.” As if that made a difference.

Pluto was serious, too. She needed to stay in bed, under her thick purple blanket covered in white little stars. Her mom had picked out the bed set the moment Pluto outgrew the small wooden crib with the solar system mobile. The blanket was warm, and it was soft, and it was not something she was willing that morning, or any other, to give up.

The bed shifted as her mom climbed in, smelling like the Taylor Swift perfume Pluto had bought her for Christmas last year. Her mom’s arms wrapped around Pluto’s middle, holding her close against the scratchy fabric of one of the low-cut tops her mom always wore that Pluto hated. Her mom’s breath tickled her ear. “I don’t want to pay for a sitter, Pluto. I want you to come with me.”

Pluto felt a familiar feeling rise from her stomach up into her throat, one that made her want to scream and cry and argue, if only she weren’t so tired. Tears came anyway. Twelve-year-olds couldn’t stay in bed all day on their own, no matter how much they might need to. If she was older, an adult, she would stay in bed and no one could force her to do anything, a fixed planet around which everything else moved while she ignored it. But for now, Pluto was the moon and her mom was the planet she was forced to orbit.

Even if that meant being pulled out of bed, every inch of her silently protesting, while an invisible rubber band that kept her body strapped down was yanked taut as her mom tugged her into sitting. “There’s my girl,” she said, as Pluto blinked at her slowly. Her mom’s eyes were gray, like clouds during a rainstorm, and while they were always so gentle when they looked at Pluto, they hadn’t wrinkled at the corners with a genuine smile in what felt like forever. That, though, was comforting, because Pluto could not remember the last time she really smiled, either.

“Get dressed,” her mom said simply, as if she wasn’t asking her to do something that required a Herculean effort on Pluto’s part. “I’ll go make you something to eat. It’s the first day of summer, Plu. It’s time to start having fun again.”

She left Pluto alone to fight the urge to curl into herself and sleep. Standing hurt. Looking over at the Challenger book still placed on her desk with the ripped spine hurt. She picked it up, and the cover and first handful of pages slid away from the rest. Even broken, it was heavy in her hand, which was heavy on her arm, which was heavy on her shoulder. Gravity, it seemed, was extra hard on Pluto.

In fairness, gravity had been harder on the Challenger. The shuttle had fallen from the sky before it was even close to orbit. It all happened so quickly, the smoke and the explosion and the destruction. Pluto often wondered about what that moment had been like, the one after everything was okay, but before everything was not okay, where the Challenger and the seven lives on it were somewhere in between, not okay but not not okay.

Pluto called the Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline to ask, once. After a brief moment of absolute silence, the voice on the other end of the phone quickly launched into a detailed account of all the mechanics of why the Challenger didn’t have a successful takeoff, which didn’t answer Pluto’s question at all.

She placed the broken book back on her desk and reached for her phone instead, the one she got for her 10th birthday “just for emergencies” but mostly used to download podcasts and, at the time, text back and forth with Meredith.

There was a notification that one of her favorite astronomy podcasts had a new episode about meteoroids, comets and asteroids waiting to download.

Pluto knew a lot about meteoroids, comets and asteroids already. She knew that when objects speed into Earth’s atmosphere, the heat produces a streak of light from the trail of particles they leave in their wake.

She looked over at her bedroom wall, at the little white specks left in the gray paint from where she’d yanked off the plastic stars one by one a month ago, hearing her favorite podcast narrator in her head: Like an asteroid, Pluto Jean Timoney leaves a trail of her own destruction in her wake.

“Pluto!” her mom called. “Don’t forget your meds!”

The little orange bottles sat right on top of her desk, next to the broken book. Take 1 with food. Take ½ in the morning. Take 1 as needed.

Depression and anxiety. Two words. One brand-new diagnosis.

Author photo courtesy of Elizabeth Welch.

Nicole Melleby debuted on the children's literature scene in 2019 with her acclaimed middle grade novel, Hurricane Season, a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Now we're thrilled to reveal the cover of her next book, How to Become a Planet, a heart-wrenching yet joy-filled story about the summer that changes everything for a girl named Pluto. […]

Who needs lists of resolutions when you can instead make lists of all the great books to look forward to in 2021? Whether you love dreamy romance, enchanting fantasy or heart-pounding mysteries and thrillers, our list of the YA books we can’t wait to discover this year has something for you.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle
Denene Millner | January 26

The first YA novel from Denene Millner’s eponymous imprint, Wings of Ebony is a fantasy novel from debut author J. Elle that’s anchored by a Black teen protagonist who’s transported from her Houston neighborhood to a secret magical island kingdom after her mother is murdered and her sister kidnapped. Featuring breathtaking world building and a fast-paced plot, Wings of Ebony gets the year off to a strong start for fantasy fans.

The Project by Courtney Summers
Wednesday | February 2

Summers broke out in a big way with her 2018 novel, Sadie, winning an Edgar award and hitting the New York Times bestseller list. She returns with another thriller in which sisterhood plays a key role. This time, Lo is trying to save her sister, Bea, from an organization called the Unity Project, which Lo believes is a cult.

Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Bloomsbury | February 2

Romance lovers will have a lot of great reads to look forward to in 2021, but Newbery Honor author Watson sets a high bar early with her latest ode to love and Black girlhood. We’ve been waiting for this one ever since we revealed its gorgeous cover back in September 2020!

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Viking | February 9

Arnold fans appreciate his singular prose and willingness to experiment, whether it’s with nonlinear storytelling or the trippy bounds of reality itself. He takes a giant leap forward in his fourth novel, which is set in post-apocalyptic New England in the aftermath of a truly nightmarish insect-borne epidemic. At this point, though, we’d follow Arnold just about anywhere.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
Quill Tree | February 9

Shusterman is one of the most influential and creatively ambitious writers in the contemporary YA landscape, and his latest standalone novel offers plenty of evidence why. The story of a football player who finds himself in a series of parallel universes after he takes a nasty hit during a game, Game Changer is sure to be devoured by Shusterman’s legions of fans.

American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Knopf | March 9

This debut novel from the 2017 winner of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Emerging Voices award tells a story that will appeal to fans of contemporary YA fiction and romance alike as it explores a cross-cultural relationship as well as themes of identity and family.

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
Wednesday | March 9

Gonzales stole our hearts with her delightful 2020 rom-com, Only Mostly Devastated, and she seems destined to do it again in Perfect on Paper, the story of a girl who runs an anonymous relationship advice service for her classmates, only to be threatened with blackmail and exposure unless she helps one of the most popular guys in school win back his ex.

That Way Madness Lies, edited by Dahlia Adler
Flatiron | March 16

Fifteen of today’s best and brightest YA writers, including Anna-Marie McLemore, Mark Oshiro, Melissa Bashardoust and Tochi Onyebuchi, reenvision some of Shakespeare’s best known works, from Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet to The Tempest and All’s Well That Ends Well. Adler’s 2019 collection, His Hideous Heart, gave a similar treatment to Edgar Allan Poe, so we’re looking forward to her helming of this new compendium.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Swoon Reads | March 23

Thomas’ Cemetery Boys was one of the breakout YA hits of 2020, earning a spot on the long list for the National Book Award and making history by becoming the first fiction book with a transgender protagonist written by a transgender author to hit the New York Times bestseller list. Their standalone sophomore novel promises the same combination of fantasy and grounded emotion that readers loved in their debut.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
Imprint | March 30

It’s hard to believe that the first book in Bardugo’s blockbuster Grishaverse series is almost a decade old, or that readers may be seeing the series’ final volume with Rule of Wolves, the second in her duology about the swashbuckling fan-favorite Nikolai Lantsov. Readers won’t have to exist without the Grishaverse for long, however, as Netflix’s highly anticipated adaptation is set to launch its first season in April.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris
Simon & Schuster | April 6

We devoured Morris’ thrilling 2019 debut, Slay, which explored the intersection of online role-playing games and race, so we can’t wait to get our hands on her next book, which is also a standalone novel. The Cost of Knowing features a teen boy who experiences visions of the future when he touches objects. When he foresees his own brother’s death, he sets out to try to prevent it.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Simon & Schuster | April 6

Bowman is known for her deeply felt and gorgeously written contemporary YA novels, so it’s exciting to see her turn her attention to genre storytelling in her fourth YA novel. The premise of The Infinity Courts sounds incredibly high concept and ambitious—the protagonist dies and discovers that the place where human consciousness goes after death has been taken over by a corrupt artificial intelligence—and we can’t wait to see where Bowman takes it.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Putnam | April 6

Released in the summer of 2020, the film adaptation of Sutherland’s debut novel, Our Chemical Hearts, brought the Aussie author (who now lives in London) to an even wider readership. Sutherland fans new and old should be ready for a different sensibility in her third novel, which will see her incorporate supernatural spookiness into her storytelling for the first time. We’re already preparing to lose sleep over House of Hollow.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
Tor Teen | April 13

Anders’ adult science fiction novel, All the Birds in the Sky, won a Nebula Award and was a Hugo Award finalist, so to say we’re excited that she’s publishing her first YA novel is something of an understatement. Victories Greater Than Death promises a thrilling intergalactic adventure perfect for fans of classic sci-fi storytelling.

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve
Amulet | April 13

Debut author Stoeve created and maintains the YA/Middle Grade Trans and Nonbinary Voices Masterlist, an incredible online resource that catalogs books about trans characters written by trans authors. They’re also an up-and-coming fiction writer, having attended several Tin House workshops. Their first YA novel explores themes of identity against the backdrop of a high school Romeo and Juliet production.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray | April 20

It’s been three years since Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda author Albertalli’s last solo-authored full-length novel. Don’t get us wrong—we adored her two co-authored rom-coms, What If It’s Us (co-written with Adam Silvera) and Yes No Maybe So (co-written with Aisha Saeed), and her novella, Love, Creekwood, was the perfect send-off to the Simonverse. But that doesn’t mean we’re not looking forward to an entire novel full of Albertalli’s heartfelt perspective on friendship and romance in this new standalone book.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster | May 4

To read a Morgan Matson novel is to become a Morgan Matson fan for life. Over her previous five novels, Matson’s grounded depictions of family, friendship and romance have earned her legions of loyal readers, and her sixth, which follows two best friends over the course of one life-changing night in New York City, looks like the perfect combination of high-concept premise and authentic emotion that readers love about her books.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
HarperTeen | May 4

It’s hard to name a YA fantasy series of the 2010s more successful than Aveyard’s Red Queen series. The titular first volume—which was also Aveyard’s first published novel—debuted in the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and subsequent volumes raised the bar for success each time. Three years after the final Red Queen book was published, Aveyard is embarking on a brand new fantasy series that features an ambitiously large cast of characters. It was thrilling to witness Aveyard’s instincts as a storyteller mature with each subsequent Red Queen book, so our expectations for Realm Breaker couldn’t be higher.

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee
Putnam | May 4

Stacey Lee is one of the brightest stars working in YA historical fiction today, and in 2021 she’ll put her spin on one of the most well-known events of the 20th century: the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Lee’s novel will follow two British Chinese siblings whose dreams of coming to America are threatened when they’re swept up in the historic tragedy.

Switch by A.S. King
Dutton | May 11

King won the 2020 Michael L. Printz Award, the highest American honor in YA literature, for her 2019 book, Dig., an intensely surreal exploration of racism and respectability politics. She’s no stranger to the Printz, though, having also garnered a 2011 Printz Honor for her second novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz. The premise of Switch—a world in which time has stopped and it’s been the same date for almost a year—will almost certainly only scratch the surface of the brilliance that readers know King is capable of bringing to the page.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover all of BookPage’s most anticipated books of 2021.

Who needs lists of resolutions when you can instead make lists of all the great books to look forward to in 2021? Whether you love dreamy romance, enchanting fantasy or heart-pounding mysteries and thrillers, our list of the YA books we can't wait to discover this year has something for you.

On your mark, get set, read! A new year means 365 more days to discover all the amazing new stories dreamed up by children's book authors and illustrators. From gorgeous picture books to page-turning chapter books to gripping middle grade novels, here are the 2021 releases we're excited to dive into.

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Putnam | February 2

The third collaboration between the author-illustrator team who created the Newbery Medal-winning Last Stop on Market Street, Milo Imagines the World introduces a memorable new character and features the friendly, colorful illustrations that have become a hallmark of Robinson's work. This is sure to be a new read-aloud favorite.

One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu
Katherine Tegen | February 9

Haydu is the author of several acclaimed YA novels as well as a series of chapter books, but her 2019 middle grade novel, Eventown, felt like an enormous creative leap forward for the writer. We're thrilled to see her return to middle grade with One Jar of Magic, which features the same blend of the contemporary and the magical that we found so enchanting in Eventown.

Ancestor Approved edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Heartdrum | February 9

Heartdrum, the first imprint within a major American publisher dedicated to publishing children's books from Native American creators, launches its inaugural season in the spring of 2021. One of the first books Heartdrum will publish is this anthology edited by the imprint's co-founder, children's author Cynthia Leitich Smith, that features contributions from the likes of Rebecca Roanhorse, Joseph Bruchac, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth and more.

Shy Willow by Cat Min
Levine Querido | February 16

We’re always on the lookout for beautifully illustrated picture books that leave us feeling hopeful, and Cat Min’s debut has piqued our interest. It’s the story of a very shy rabbit who lives in an abandoned mailbox and must figure out how to deliver a very important letter—to the moon.

The Raconteur's Commonplace Book by Kate Milford
Clarion | February 23

Calling all mystery readers! If you haven't yet discovered the world of Kate Milford's Edgar Award-winning Greenglass House, you are in for a treat. Milford returns to the world of these interlinked novels in The Raconteur's Commonplace Book, the premise of which is giving us serious Canterbury Tales vibes: A storm strands a group of strangers at an inn, and as they tell stories to pass the time, it turns out they all have as much to conceal as to reveal.

Simon B. Rhymin' by Dwayne Reed
Little, Brown | March 2

Dwayne Reed was a student-teacher in Chicago when a video he posted to YouTube that featured an original song he wrote and performed called "Welcome to the Fourth Grade" went megaviral. (Be warned that if you click this link to watch it, you will be singing it for the rest of the day.) Reed makes his debut as a children's author with this middle grade novel about a fifth grader who must find his voice in order to stand up for what's important. Best of all, the book features even more original rhymes from Reed!

The Old Boat by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton | March 2

Brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey created our favorite picture book of 2020, The Old Truck, so we're thrilled that a new picture book from them will be landing in our TBR stack so soon. We usually don't recommend judging books by their covers, but The Old Boat's cover does at least appear to promise the same classical-feeling custom stamp art that played a significant part in The Old Truck's appeal. We can't wait to open it up and discover the story inside!

A New Day by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dial | March 2

Talk about a dream team! New York Times bestselling author Meltzer, creator of the Ordinary People Change the World series of picture book biographies, paired with Caldecott Medalist Santat (The Adventures of Beekle) to create a zany and extremely relatable story about the time that Sunday felt unappreciated and decided to quit her job, forcing the other days of the week to hold auditions to replace her. We sense a new storytime favorite in the making.

Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale
Candlewick | March 9

Schlitz is a master of historical fiction, having received both a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor for books set in different historical periods. She rewinds the clock further than ever for Amber & Clay, all the way back to ancient Greece, to spin a tale that will be told in a unique combination of prose, verse and academic notes on historical artifacts. It sounds remarkably ambitious, but if anyone can pull it off and make it look effortless, it's Schlitz.

The Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Nancy Paulsen | March 9

Here's a match made in children's literature heaven: Caldecott Honor illustrator Lauren Castillo (Nana in the City) brings to life a tale penned by Christina Soontornvat, the author of All Thirteen, one of our favorite middle grade books of 2020. The title of the The Ramble Shamble Children alone gives us goosebumps of anticipation, and we can't wait to discover the story that awaits the titular children.

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken
Dial | March 16

Corinna Luyken's picture books are like exquisitely illustrated poems. Her text, though lyrical, is often quite spare, but when paired with her dreamy and playful illustrations, her books invite readers to linger and return again and again to spot new details and to let new meaning unfold. We've only seen the cover of The Tree in Me, but that's all we need. Luyken's unique literary and artistic gifts are worth waiting for.

Doggo and Pupper by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charlie Alder
Feiwel & Friends | March 23

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Applegate turns from her recent spate of successful middle grade novels, including the Newbery Medal-winning The One and Only Ivan, to begin a new illustrated chapter book series. No one creates memorable animal characters like Applegate, and this story about an aging canine whose family adopts a new puppy, is sure to have young readers clamoring for more.

Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer
Nancy Paulsen | March 30

We thought Archer's illustrations for Patricia McLachlan's lush and nostalgic 2020 picture book, Prairie Days, were some of the most beautiful we encountered last year. Wonder Walkers will see Archer don her author's hat in addition to picking up her illustrator's palette and invite readers on a poetic and philsophical exploration of the natural world. At this point, we'll follow Archer anywhere.

Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Candlewick | March 30

We've loved seeing illustrator Martinez-Neal's work on picture book collaborations since her 2018 Caldecott Honor debut, Alma and How She Got Her Name. She's created the illustrations for three picture books, including Fry Bread (written by Kevin Noble Maillard) and Swashby and the Sea (written by Beth Ferry). But we loved Alma for Martinez-Neal's writing and storytelling as much as for her soft, delicate illustrations, so we're thrilled that she's taking another turn as author as well as illustrator with Zonia's Rain Forest, the story of a day in the life of a little girl who lives in the Amazon.

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman
Knopf | April 6

Few writers are as skilled at sweeping readers off to the past as Cushman, and now she's set her historical fiction gaze on the 20th century. War and Millie McGonigle's story, anchored in the experiences of an ordinary girl living during an extraordinary time, is sure to appeal to fans of Cushman's award-winning medieval novels, Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice.

Billy Miller Makes a Wish by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow | April 6

Author-illustrator Henkes is probably best known for his many iconic picture books, including Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, Julius, the Baby of the World and his Caldecott Medal-winning Kitten's First Full Moon. But Henkes is also a prolific fiction writer, nabbing two Newbery Honors, including one for his 2013 novel, The Year of Billy Miller. Billy Miller Makes a Wish will pick up Billy's story right where it left off, in the summer after second grade, and we're eager to see what happens next.

Merci Suarez Can't Dance by Meg Medina
Candlewick | April 6

When we found out that Medina had written a sequel to her Newbery Medal-winning Merci Suarez Changes Gears, we almost fell out of our chairs, that's how excited we were. Merci Suarez Can't Dance sees Merci confront everything seventh grade can throw at her, and we can't wait to cheer her on.

Tag Team by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bey
Versify | April 13

We couldn't be more thrilled that Pura Belpré Honor recipient Raúl the Third (¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market) is launching an early-reader series; his detailed, vibrant art and seamless integration of Spanish vocabulary and phrases are perfect for kiddos beginning to read independently. El Toro & Friends is set to debut with two titles, both of which will be released on April 13, but Tag Team, in which lucha wrestling twosome El Toro and La Oink Oink must clean up El Coliseo the morning after the big match, is our favorite.

The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen
Candlewick | April 13

Five years after concluding his bestselling "Hat" trilogy (I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat), Caldecott Medalist Klassen makes his long-awaited authorial return. Rock From the Sky features Klassen's signature landscapes, strong design sensibilities and droll wit, but at 96 pages, sees him literally stretching the picture book form further than ever before.

Ophie's Ghosts by Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray | May 18

New York Times bestselling author Justina Ireland broke out in a big way with a pair of alternate history YA novels set after the Civil War that explored how American history might have turned out differently had the dead not stayed dead after the battle of Gettysburg. The premise of Dread Nation and Deathless Divide was marvelously imaginative, but Ireland also demonstrated tremendous skill for capturing historical detail, which is why we're excited that her new middle grade novel also has a historical setting. Ophie's Ghosts is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the early 1920s, and its title indicates it'll also contain some supernatural elements as well.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover all of BookPage’s most anticipated books of 2021.

A new year means 365 more days to discover all the amazing new stories dreamed up by children's book authors and illustrators. From gorgeous picture books to page-turning chapter books to gripping middle grade novels, here are the 2021 releases we're excited to dive into.

Neal Shusterman is one of the most successful and beloved authors working today. He is best known for his young adult books, which include the bestselling Unwind dystology and the Arc of a Scythe trilogy. Among Shusterman's many honors are a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, a Michael L. Printz Honor and a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. We're thrilled to reveal the cover of his next book, Roxy, a heart-pounding exploration of the true cost of the opioid crisis, which he co-authored with his son Jarrod Shusterman. The two previously partnered on 2018’s bestselling Dry, which was optioned for film after a six-way auction by Paramount before it was even published, and readers have been eagerly awaiting their next collaboration ever since.

Here's the official synopsis of Roxy from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, the Shustermans' publisher:

The freeway is coming.

It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.

Ramey, I.

The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods, Roxy and Addison—Roxicodone and Adderall, the low-level cronies of more illustrious bosses, who more than anything else want to prove their own lethality. The wager—a contest to see who can induce overdose first—is a race to the bottom of a party that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, seduced by the release they bring. Tempted by the control they offer. They are beautiful, and they will give you the world—as long as you promise them forever.

But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.

Which one are you?

Pick up a copy of Roxy from your local bookstore or library on Nov. 9, 2021. In the meantime, you can see the stunning cover, which was art directed and designed by Chloë Foglia with artwork by Neil Swaab, and read an exclusive excerpt from the book. Just scroll down!

Chapter 3: Roxy Can’t Contain Herself

I am so hot right now. And everyone knows it. It’s like I own the world. It has no choice but to yield to my gravity.

As I step into the Party, all heads turn, or want to turn, and are fighting the urge. The music hits me first. Loud and rude. It’s not just in your face, but in your blood. The lights flash to hypnotize, and the beat takes over your own, replacing it, forcing you to move to it. We are the pacemakers, and right now I’m the one who sets the rhythm. There’s no better time to be me.

Al greets me at the door, a glass of champagne in each hand. He’s always been the designated greeter, and never misses an arrival. Al’s older than the rest of us, been around longer, but he carries his age well.

“My, my, Roxy, you are looking fine tonight!”

“Are you suggesting that I didn’t last night?”

He chuckles. “My dear, you get more irresistible every day.”

Al slurs his words. It’s almost like an accent, the way he’s perfected that slur. Consonants and vowels spill over one another. Words in a waterfall. He holds out a champagne flute to me, and I take it. It’s how we shake hands here.

“But where’s your plus-one?” Al asks, looking behind me.

“I’m on my own tonight, Al.”

“On your own?” he repeats, as if it were a phrase in some other language. “That’s unfortunate—what will I do with this second glass of champagne?”

I grin. “I’m sure you’ll put it to good use.”

“Indeed, indeed.” Then he leans closer, whispering, “Maybe you could steal a plus-one.” He looks over at a gaggle of revelers, singling out Addison. He’s dressed in conspicuous style, like he belongs to a yacht club that his father owns. All prestige and privilege. But we all know it’s overcompensation for being forever on the periphery. In the Party, but not of the Party.

“Addi’s rather full of himself tonight,” Al says. “He’s held on to his date longer than usual—you should steal her before someone else does.”

“You’re always making trouble, Al.”

He raises an eyebrow. “I do love a little drama.”

Addison is at the bar, intently focused on a young woman, who, in turn, is caught in his hypnotic gaze. He’s selling her on how he’ll make her life so much better. All the things he can help her accomplish, blah, blah, blah. Even now, he’s still going on about his keen ability to focus the distracted. There are moments I admire him for his singularity of purpose. Other times I pity him, because he will never be great like the rest of us. Like me.

Addison and I came up together. Different family lines, but similar circumstances. Born to help others rather than help ourselves. The problem with Addison is that he never outgrew that stifling idealism. I suppose because most of his work is with kids and adolescents, he still holds on to the youthful naïveté of the task he was created for. True, I still do my job when necessary—dulling angry nerve endings on a strictly clinical basis—but it’s such a minor facet of what I’ve become. They label me a killer of pain, but that doesn’t come close to defining me. I’ve found far more entertaining and empowering uses for my skills.

Al, reading my faint grin, says, “Oh, how I love to watch you calculate, Roxy.”

I give him a wink and head off toward Addison. I won’t steal the girl from him—I’m fine being solo tonight. After all, we do have to clear our palate once in a while.

Nonetheless, Addison’s so much fun to tease.

I make my way to the bar, pushing past the sloe-eyed barflies. Al has long since replaced their empty beer bottles with crystalline glasses filled with more elegant, liver-challenging liquids. Martinis heavy on the gin. Aged scotch. Name your poison, and Al will provide it.

I come up in Addison’s blind spot, upstaging him. “Hi, I’m Roxy,” I say to the girl, pulling eye contact. She’s intense and twitchy. Like she’s in the process of being electrocuted but just doesn’t know it yet. Too much of Addison can do that to anyone.

“Hi! I love your dress!” she says. “What color is that?”

“What color do you want it to be?”

Addison turns to me, bristling. “Isn’t there somewhere else you’d rather be, Roxy? Someone else you’d rather grace with your presence?” He looks around. “How about Molly? She looks like she could use a friend right now.”

Molly does look pretty miserable. Dripping wet and crestfallen. “He was in my hands,” I can hear Molly complaining. “I had him—and then some idiot threw me into the pool!”

“Not what I’d call a state of ecstasy,” I quip. Then I smile at the girl Addison has been trying to charm. “Molly’s a whiner—I’m much happier to hang with you two.”

I’m enjoying Addison’s irritation—and for a moment, I do toy with the idea of claiming her as mine . . . but it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Addison’s positively obsessed with one-upmanship. If I lure her away, he’ll never rest until he thinks he’s bested me. Poor Addison. He tries to be like me, but he’s still too deeply mired in the mundane to ever be a player.

And as if to prove it, the crowd parts, and I see a commanding presence coming toward us through the breach. It’s the head of Addison’s family. The undisputed godfather of his line. I take a small step back, knowing this doesn’t concern me.

“Crys . . . is everything to your liking?” says Addison as he sees his boss. I can see Addison deflate, but he does his best to keep up the facade.

From a distance, Crys is small and unassuming, but up close he’s larger than life. Then he becomes intimidating far too quickly. It can be disconcerting for the uninitiated.

“And what do we have here?” Crys says, zeroing in on the girl. He smiles darkly, a sparkling quality about him. Or maybe it’s just the glitter on his fingernails. “Addison, aren’t you going to introduce us?”

Addison leaks a quiet sigh. “Crys, this is . . . This is . . .”

“Catelyn,” the girl reminds him.

“Right. Catelyn.” Addison will forget her name as soon as she’s out of sight. So will I. A benefit of living in the moment.

“Charmed,” Crys says. Then he takes the girl’s slender hand, his fingers closing around hers like a flytrap on a mosquito. “Dance,” Crys says, and pulls her out onto the floor. She doesn’t resist—but even if she did, it wouldn’t matter. Crys always gets his way.

Addison watches them go, pursing his lips, stifling all he wished he could say to his superior. “He could have given me a little more time with her.”

“It’s not his way,” I remind him.

Beneath the flashing lights, Crys and the girl begin their dance. It will not end well for her. Because before the night ends, Crys will pull her into the VIP lounge. Intimate. Deadly. The one place where she’ll get everything she’s ever asked for and a whole lot she didn’t. The VIP lounge is the place where the real business of the Party is done. The girl should consider herself lucky, for Crys is the shining jewel of his line. You can’t trade up any higher than that.

Addison shakes his head. “I really don’t like Crys’s style. I wish I had your boss.”

“No you don’t.”

“Are you kidding me? Hiro never leaves the back office. He lets you bring your plus-ones to him when you’re good and ready.”

I don’t argue with him. No one can know what it’s like to be on someone else’s chain.

“Are you going back out to find someone fresh?” I ask him.

“Why? Just to have them stolen again?”

“Maybe the Party just isn’t for you, Addison.” And although I mean it as a sincere suggestion from a friend, he takes it as a jab.

“Things are always changing, Roxy. Crys won’t always be the head of my line. There’s room for someone smart to move up the ladder.”

I could almost laugh, but I spare him my derision. He gets enough of that from his upline. “You mean someone smart like you?”

“It’s possible.”

“But you’ve never even brought someone to the VIP lounge. You’ve never been with them to the end. That’s not who you are.”

He glowers at me. “Just because I haven’t doesn’t mean that I won’t,” he says, and strides off, indignant.

After he’s gone, I step out onto the deck for some air. The club is high above everything, giving it a spectacular view of the world below—all those city lights. Any city—every city—and here, those lights are always twinkling, because it’s always night. The date might change, but the scene is the same. The bar never closes. The DJ never stops spinning one song into another. This place exists at that golden moment when the bass drops.

I join Al, who’s taking a moment too, standing at the railing, looking down on all there is. The turmoil and excitement. The winds that both lift and shred.

“So many parties down there,” I say.

“There’s only one Party,” Al points out. “The rest are but a faint reflection of this one. People can feel it, reach for it, but can’t find it. Not without an invitation.”

And then I hear a voice to my left. “Do you ever wish we could do better?”

I turn to see a slight figure wearing a tie-dye dress and a vague expression. Around her neck hangs a heavy diamond necklace completely out of sync with her style. If you can even call it style.

“Do better?” says Al, amused by the thought. “How so, Lucy?”

“You know,” Lucy says, as if it’s obvious. “Find what we were meant to be. Transcend all of this.”

“Right,” says Al, still smirking. “Good luck with that.”

“We are what we are, Lucy,” I say, shutting her down. “That won’t change, so you might as well embrace it.”

“Well,” she says, “It’s nice to dream.” Then she goes back inside, spreading her arms wide and careening side to side, like she suddenly decided she was an airplane.

“I never liked her,” Al says. “There’s something terribly off-putting about her eyes.” Then he goes back in as well to greet newcomers and freshen everyone’s drink.

I linger, looking out over the endless array of lights.

Do you ever wish we could do better?

The question rankles me. I am better. At the peak of my game. Loved by those who matter and hated by those who don’t, because they wish they were me.

Addison might be bitter, but not me. It’s time for me to get back out there and bag a new one. I’m ready for my next plus-one.

Excerpt from Roxy © 2021 Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Neal Shusterman is one of the most successful and beloved authors working today. He is best known for his young adult books, which include the bestselling Unwind dystology and the Arc of a Scythe trilogy. Among Shusterman's many honors are a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, a Michael L. Printz Honor and a National Book Award […]

Dear readers, your favorite books of 2021 are an eclectic bunch, spanning family saga and satire, epic fantasy and memoir, taut thrillers and heartwarming historical fiction. What do they all have in common? Why, they’re great books, of course! After all, BookPage readers have excellent taste.

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson book cover

1. The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

It takes tremendous talent to seamlessly combine social commentary with a powder keg of a plot, and Nancy Johnson accomplishes just that in her gripping debut novel, The Kindest Lie.


Win by Harlan Coben book cover

2. Win by Harlan Coben

Coben raises moral dilemmas readers will enjoy chewing on and pulse-pounding action scenes in this suspenseful and surprising novel.


What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins book cover

3. What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

In JoAnne Tompkins’ debut novel, faith is simply part of life, a reality that is rarely so sensitively portrayed in fiction.


Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello book cover

4. Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello

There is pain in every divorce story, but not every divorce story can be related by a narrator as capable as Gina Frangello.


The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams

5. The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams

Two lexicographers employed by the same company and separated by a century are at the heart of this imaginative, funny, intriguing novel.


Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling book cover

6. Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling

An abandoned English manor house sets the stage for a cracking mystery involving a missing friend and a long-lost diamond necklace.


Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

7. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

An intellectual and captivating work of satire, Black Buck serves as an instruction manual for Black and brown people working in white-dominated spaces.


The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

8. The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Grab a cup of tea and a scone, and curl up with Jennifer Ryan’s positively delicious novel about a cooking contest during World War II.


The Children's Train by Viola Ardone book cover

9. The Children's Train by Viola Ardone, translated by Clarissa Botsford

Viola Ardone’s novel will appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante, but it stands on its own as a fictionalized account of a complicated social experiment.


Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

10. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Shout it from the highest hills: This is a beautiful, brave story, and Lily is a heroine that readers will love.



Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

11. Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Passionate and brilliantly written, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s novel shines a light on a part of history still unknown by far too many.


The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

12. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Like a well-brewed potion, Sarah Penner’s first novel simply overwhelms with its delicate spell.


The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

13. The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

The Witch’s Heart shifts the focus of a well-known myth to a secondary character with stunning and heartbreaking results.


Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

14. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead offers a marvelous pastiche of adventure and emotion as she explores what it means (and what it takes) to live an unusual life.


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

15. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Like a wise and imaginative teacher, Kristin Hannah imbues past events with relevance and significance in her novel The Four Winds.


The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry

16. The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry

Pamela Terry’s novel is like a mashup of Fried Green Tomatoes and You Can’t Go Home Again with a sprinkling of William Faulkner.


Bad Habits by Amy Gentry

17. Bad Habits by Amy Gentry

Read Bad Habits for Gentry’s satirically surreal take on higher education, and for an antihero you’ll lose sleep over.


Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson book cover

18. Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Julia Claiborne Johnson paints a vivid picture of a hot Reno summer during which women wait to see whether their luck has run out or is just beginning.


American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser

19. American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser

Gabrielle Glaser’s extensive research into adoptions that took place between World War II and 1973 reads like a well-crafted, tension-filled novel.


Lore by Alexandra Bracken book cover

20. Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Readers who love complex, mythology-based fantasies will quickly find in Lore a worthy new obsession.


Black Water Sister by Zen Cho book cover

21. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Sometimes a book makes you forget everything: the water boiling on the stove for tea, the lunch or dinner that has long since gone cold.

This list was based on analytics from between Jan. 1 and May 1, 2021.

BookPage readers’ favorite books of 2021 so far are an eclectic bunch, but they all have one thing in common.

It's difficult to think of a recent fictional family more beloved than Karina Yan Glaser's Vanderbeekers of Harlem, New York, who burst onto the children's literature scene in the fall of 2017 in Glaser's bighearted debut, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, and have since starred in three additional novels with a fourth, The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish, coming in September 2021. In the spring of 2022, Glaser will release her first standalone title, A Duet for Home, and we're thrilled to reveal its cover and an exclusive excerpt!

Here's the official synopsis of A Duet for Home from Glaser's publisher, Clarion Books:

It's June’s first day at Huey House, and as if losing her home weren’t enough, she also can’t bring her cherished viola inside. Before the accident last year, her dad saved tip money for a year to buy her viola, and she’s not about to give it up now. Tyrell has been at Huey House for three years and gives June a glimpse of the good things about living there: friendship, hot meals and a classical musician next door. As their friendship grows over a shared love of music, June and Tyrell confront a new housing policy that puts homeless families in danger. Can he and June work together to oppose the government, or will families be forced out of Huey House before they are ready?

Pick up A Duet for Home from your local bookstore or library on April 5, 2022. In the meantime, you can see the stunning cover, which was illustrated by Felicia Chen and designed by Celeste Knudsen, and read an exclusive excerpt from the book. Just scroll down!

Chapter One

Can bad luck follow a person forever? June Yang had always believed there was a cosmic distribution of fortune by which everyone had equal amounts of good and bad luck in their lives. But here June was, miles away from home, standing in front of a drab, used-to-be-white building with her viola strapped to her back and a black garbage bag next to her filled with everything she owned in the whole world. Her theory about luck must be wrong, because it seemed as if she had had enough bad luck for two lifetimes.

“What is this place?” asked Maybelle, her little sister.

June didn’t answer. She stared up at the building. The entrance had a crooked sign nailed over the entrance that said HUEY HOUSE.

Maybelle, who was 6 years old, wore multiple layers of clothes on that unseasonably warm September afternoon: several pairs of underwear, leggings under her jeans, two T-shirts, three long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, and her puffy jacket, a scarf, winter hat and sneakers with two pairs of socks. If she fell over, she might roll down the street and disappear forever. June admired Maybelle’s foresight, though. By wearing nearly every item of clothing she owned, she had freed up room in her garbage bag for the things she really could not live without: her books (all about dogs) and stuffed animals (also all dogs).

Maybelle really liked dogs.

“Is this like jail?” Maybelle continued, poking the bristly hairs from the bottom of her braid against her lips. “Did we do something really bad? When can we go home again?”

June put on her everything will be just fine! face. “Of course it’s not jail!” she said. “It’s an apartment building! We’re going to live here! It’s going to be great!” Then she reached up to grab the straps of her viola case, reassuring herself it was still there.

“It looks like a jail,” Maybelle said dubiously.

June gave the building a good, hard stare. Even though it appeared sturdy, it seemed . . . exhausted. There were lots of concrete repair patches on the bricks, and every single window was outfitted with black safety bars. The door was thick metal with a skinny rectangle of a window covered by a wire cage, just like the windows at school.

It did look like a jail, but June wasn’t going to tell Maybelle that.

She glanced at her mom, but June already knew she wouldn’t have anything to say. Mom had stopped talking about six months ago, right after the accident.

“June, where are—”

Before Maybelle could finish her sentence, the metal door of the building creaked open. A man—his head shaved, two gold earrings in the upper part of his ear and wearing a black T-shirt—emerged and stared down at them from his great height. He looked like a guy who belonged on one of those world wrestling shows her dad would never let them watch. Maybelle shrank behind her, and Mom stood there still and quiet, her face blank and unreadable. June referred to this as her marble-statue face. Once, on a school field trip, June had gone to a fancy museum and there was a whole room of carved marble heads, their unemotional faces giving nothing away.

“You guys coming in?” the man asked, jamming a thumb toward the building.

June fumbled in her jeans pocket for the piece of paper the lady at EAU, or the Emergency Assistance Unit, had given her. The marshal, who delivered the notice of eviction, had instructed them to go to the EAU when June told him they had nowhere else to go.

June had packed up all their stuff while Maybelle cried and Mom shut herself in her bedroom. After checking and double-checking directions to the EAU (June had had no idea what that was), she’d managed to pack their things into three black garbage bags. She told Maybelle that they were going to a new home but then immediately regretted it when her sister wanted to know all the details: Was it a house or an apartment? How many bedrooms did it have? Was the kitchen large?

That was last night. Other than a funeral home, the EAU was the most depressing place June had ever been. After filling out a stack of forms and spending the night in the EAU hallway, which they shared with three other families and buzzing fluorescent lights, June had been told by the lady in charge to come here. Staring at the building and hoping it wasn’t their new home, June crossed her fingers and begged the universe to have mercy on them.

The universe decided to ignore her, because the man said, “The EAU sent you, right? First-timers?”

June nodded, but her stomach felt as if it was filled with rocks.

“I’m Marcus,” he said. “Head of security here.”

Security? Maybelle moved even closer to June while Mom maintained her marble-statue face.

Marcus pointed to June’s viola case. “You can’t bring that inside. It’ll get confiscated in two seconds.”

June wrapped her fingers around the straps so tightly she could feel her knuckles getting numb. “It’s just a viola,” she said, her voice coming out squeaky.

“Exactly. Instruments aren’t allowed.”

June tried to look strong and confident, like her dad would have wanted her to be. “There’s no way I’m letting you take this away from me.” After all, the viola was the only thing Dad had left her. It was equal to over two years of his tip money. Even after so many months, June could picture him as if he were still with them. Dad making delivery after delivery through congested and uneven Chinatown streets, plastic bags of General Tso’s chicken and pork dumplings hanging from his handlebars. Dad riding his bike through punishing snowstorms because people didn’t want to leave their house to get food. Dad putting the tip money into the plastic bag marked Viola in the freezer at the end of every shift, his version of a savings account.

Maybelle, still hiding behind her, called out, “June’s the best 11-year-old viola player in the world.”

“That’s not true,” June said humbly, but then she wondered if Marcus thought she was going to play awful music that drove him bananas. She added, “But I’m not, like, a beginner or anything. No one had a problem with me practicing in our old apartment. And I play classical music. Mozart and Vivaldi and Bach.” She felt herself doing that nervous babble thing. “I can also play Telemann if you like him. He lived during Bach’s time . . .”

Marcus’s mouth stayed in a straight line, but she could tell he was softening.

After a long pause, he spoke. “I can hide it in my office. If you bring it inside and she sees you with it, she’ll throw it out.”

June swallowed. What kind of monster would throw away an instrument? And how could she be sure that Marcus wouldn’t run off with it?

“I promise to keep it safe,” he added simply.

June felt Maybelle’s skinny finger stick into her back. “You’re not really going to give it to him, are you?”

June never let anyone touch her instrument, ever. Maybelle had known that rule the moment June showed her the viola for the first time. But what choice did June have now? It was either trust a stranger with her viola or lose it forever.

She handed the viola case over, her skin prickling with a thousand needles of unease.

Author photo of Karina Yan Glaser courtesy of Corey Hayes. Excerpt from A Duet for Home © 2022 Karina Yan Glaser. Reprinted with permission of Clarion Books.

BookPage reveals the cover and an excerpt of Karina Yan Glaser's new standalone middle grade novel, A Duet for Home.

Jennieke Cohen’s debut YA novel, Dangerous Alliance, is a delightful Austen-inspired Regency romp. When Lady Victoria Aston finds herself in swift need of a husband, she enters the London social season armed only with her wits and the examples set by Austen’s heroines. We asked Cohen to dish about Austenalia, Regency research and whether she thinks dating has changed all that much since the ball at Netherfield.

Your heroine, Victoria, has a deep affection for the work of Jane Austen. She turns to Austen’s novels in pivotal moments of the story for inspiration and advice about what she should do or how she should approach a situation. I have to make a confession: I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel (though I’ve seen a number of film and TV adaptations). Which Austen novel would you recommend to someone who finishes Dangerous Alliance and wants to pick one up, and why?
I personally think Pride and Prejudice is a perfect first foray into Austen. Elizabeth Bennet, her family, Mr. Darcy and all the antagonists jump off the page; the plot is entertaining and doesn’t meander; and the language feels slightly easier to get a handle on. I also really find Northanger Abbey enormously entertaining—Dangerous Alliance is the antithesis of Northanger’s plot in many ways—and it’s a much quicker read than many of Austen’s novels, but I’m not sure if it’s the best to start readers on unless they have some knowledge of the time period. Of course, if people have read Dangerous Alliance first, I hope they’ll come away with enough of an understanding that Northanger will end up being something they can appreciate, too!

I was struck by how well you captured the strict rules of decorum for social interactions between men and women during this period—the need for escorts, the way every glance and phrase could be so loaded with significance and so on. Do you think “courtship” has changed in the two centuries since Dangerous Alliance, or have old rules just been exchanged for new ones?
In many respects, dating has changed significantly in many Western cultures—though, of course, there are still many societies throughout the world today where the type of courtship that existed in England 200 years ago is still essentially in effect. But even in the secular, mainstream world I live in and grew up in, dating in high school can be very much like what I’ve detailed in the book. As a teenager, though you may have more freedom than you did as a child, you generally can’t go wherever you want, whenever you want. You often have a chaperone present (e.g., parents, siblings, teachers, friends), whether you want one or not. When you’re that age, you can certainly feel like every look or tiny thing a person says to you is imbued with meaning (whether the other person meant anything or not). So in many ways, things haven’t changed all that much!

I personally think Pride and Prejudice is a perfect first foray into Austen.

This book seems like it required quite a bit of research. You capture and incorporate not only large, important elements from the time (the legality of divorce, issues of class and economics) but also details of daily life (the food! the clothes! the music! the horses!). Will you geek out on your research process for a bit?
Luckily, there are abundant sources about Georgian England and the Regency period (when King George III went mad and the government named his son, Prince George, the regent or acting king). Oddly though, the generally accepted view about life in the Regency era and a lot of the information on the internet stem from novels written in the 20th century. For example, the myth exists that a woman was permanently stuck in an awful marriage, and this makes up a good many plots of Regency-set novels. When I first started writing Dangerous Alliance, I was told by many Regency writers in no uncertain terms that divorce was virtually unheard of and I should rework my concept. So I went looking for ways I could accurately make it happen. I started with secondary sources written by well-respected historians and found one who had catalogued numerous extant court documents about real divorce cases in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It felt a bit like kismet when I found it! Not only did divorce happen in many different ways, it happened far more often than I’d expected. I set about trying to portray the process accurately but not with so much detail that it slowed down the narrative. I also traveled to England to visit the places I’ve described in the book (those that still exist anyway!) because I do think it’s nearly impossible to portray a place’s unique atmosphere unless you’ve experienced it. Generally, I consulted primary sources whenever I wanted a detail to enhance the world, and yes, I’ve cooked some Regency recipes, played and sung some of Jane Austen’s favorite musical pieces, strolled through Solothurn’s oldest hotel and cantered on a horse through the New Forest. Sometimes I honestly think research is the best part of writing a book!

The book contains two very rich sibling relationships, between Victoria and her sister, Althea, and between Victoria’s childhood friend Tom and his brother, Charles. What roles do Althea and Charles play in their siblings’ lives, and how do they influence the journeys Victoria and Tom take in this story?
I firmly believe that siblings play huge roles in any person’s life—whether for better or worse, or even somewhere in between. Althea is very much Vicky’s role model. When Althea returns home as the victim of domestic violence, the fact that she can’t discuss what she went through or how she got there is something Vicky can’t understand. All Vicky knows is that she wants justice for Althea, but to get Althea a divorce and protect their home, the family realizes that Vicky has to get married and somehow avoid an equal cad in the process. Since Althea is scared and resentful, Vicky must make decisions without her older sister’s input, which, to a large degree, factors into Vicky growing up and coming into her own.

Tom’s brother, Charles, is also bitter about having been left to handle his parents alone when their father sent Tom away. As a result, when Tom returns after their father’s death, Charles feels he has little incentive to help Tom. This also means that Tom has to learn how to operate on his own in a society he doesn’t completely understand, which in turn leads him to rely on his old friendship with Vicky more than he would have.

Parents play important (though very different) roles in both Victoria’s and Tom’s lives, which stands somewhat in contrast to many YA novels. I was especially intrigued by the frank relationship between Victoria and her parents. Would this relationship have been typical for the period? Can you talk about the choices you made in crafting the relationship?
I don’t know if I can speak to how typical Vicky’s relationship with her parents would have been back then, as these types of familial details aren’t always recorded. From the primary sources I’ve read, I think Vicky’s family would probably have been unique. I do believe there were plenty of instances in which parents gave their daughters as much free reign to act as they liked, just as some parents do today. The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility and the Bertram girls in Mansfield Park are more or less indulged and left to their own devices. Do any of them talk to their parents as frankly as Vicky does? I would argue that Marianne Dashwood is similarly communicative. For me, it was important for Vicky to have a healthy relationship with her parents because, although there are plenty of bad teenager/parent relationships in this world, there are also so many good ones, and these are less typically portrayed in YA fiction.

I’ve cooked some Regency recipes, played and sung some of Jane Austen’s favorite musical pieces, strolled through Solothurn’s oldest hotel and cantered on a horse through the New Forest. Sometimes I honestly think research is the best part of writing a book!

The specter of abuse haunts this book. Your tone stays light, but the emotional and physical abuse committed by characters in Victoria’s and Tom’s lives shape their circumstances at the novel’s beginning and their paths over the course of the book. Was this something you set out to include as you began writing? What kind of work did you do to incorporate it into the story?
It was something I wanted to include because it happened a lot then, and it happens a lot now. I have both friends and relatives who have lived through domestic violence and come out the other side. I’m heartened that in this post-#MeToo time, some of the stigma around talking about assault of all types has broken down to a degree. The truth is that abuse can derail people’s lives in so many ways, and like any societal disease, people need to be educated at a young age about the warning signs and what to do if you find yourself in a bad situation.

At the beginning of the novel, Victoria is tasked with finding a suitable husband by the end of the London social season. Over the course of the story, she considers quite a few options, some with considerable appeal to her and to readers. Without giving away any spoilers, did Victoria’s story always end the way it does now?
Though some of the details about certain characters have changed from draft to draft, I have to admit that Vicky’s story (in regards to her “options”) did always end the way it does now. For me, it was always the most satisfying way to go.

As Victoria accepts a number of social invitations in the interest of getting to know her potential suitors better, she goes on what we might now characterize as some astonishingly bad dates. They are, frankly, cringe-inducing to read—but all in such unique ways! Talk about your inspirations for those dates. Are any of them drawn from personal experience or borrowed from the experiences of friends?
Ha! I’m so glad they read as cringe-inducing as I’d hoped. I spent a good amount of time brainstorming ideas for blind dates that I would find awful. I tried to pick the ones that would translate well to the 1800s and not be so innately serious that I couldn’t inject some humor into the interactions. I think everyone has encountered someone with habits they find revolting, which is never great—but it’s got to be worse when it’s someone they’re set up with!

Victoria and Jane Austen are, briefly, contemporaries. If Victoria could have met Miss Austen and asked her a question about her work, what do you think she’d ask? What would you ask?
Vicky would probably ask why Fanny Price, the protagonist of Mansfield Park, rarely takes any action in her own story. The historian and fan in me would like to ask Jane Austen which of her characters were based on real people she knew, and if she had a soft spot for the charming, faithless Henry Crawford. Based on how she wrote him, that’s something I’ve always wondered about.

Armed with all the knowledge you gained while writing Dangerous Alliance (and, let’s say, a comfortable socioeconomic standing for the period), how do you think you would fare during a London Regency Season?
I think I’d do pretty well, actually. I might be somewhat shy at first, but I’d get better once I made some acquaintances. Plus, under the right circumstances, I can dance a mean minuet!


Author photo by Elizabeth Adams.

Jennieke Cohen’s debut YA novel, Dangerous Alliance, is a delightful Austen-inspired Regency romp. When Lady Victoria Aston finds herself in swift need of a husband, she enters the London social season armed only with her wits and the examples set by Austen’s heroines. We asked Cohen to dish about Austenalia, Regency research and whether she thinks […]

When Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s landmark work of history, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Kendi became the youngest writer to ever receive that award. Now Kendi has partnered with award-winning children’s and YA writer Jason Reynolds on Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a book that will introduce young people to the ideas in Kendi’s work.

BookPage spoke with Dr. Kendi about what a book like Stamped would have meant to him as a teenager, what he feels Reynolds added to his work and his advice for young change-makers today.

Your co-author, Jason Reynolds, has probably read your book Stamped From the Beginning quite a few times. Had you read any of his books before you embarked on this project together? If so, which ones were your favorites and why?
I’m absolutely jealous of young black boys today and of young people in general. Completely jealous. I was not much of a reader in middle school and high school. I wish I could jump back into time with all of Jason’s books. It is hard for me to choose a favorite. Ghost? Possibly because it’s the first Jason Reynolds book I read; possibly because of how he weaved together difference and made those four kids strikingly different and strikingly the same. Perhaps the whole Track series? Perhaps All American Boys because of how it resonates and captures our political moment? It is hard to say.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Jason Reynolds shares what the process of creating Stamped was like for him.

How important and impactful would a book like Stamped have been to you if you had encountered it as a teenager?
Utterly life-changing. I spent 20 agonizing years figuring out what we drop in Stamped. To have learned this as a teenager would have saved me from so much, would have protected me from so much, would have clarified so much for me.

As you read Stamped, was there anything that Jason brought to the proverbial table that surprised you? Anything that made you see your own past work in a new way?
Stamped From the Beginning is about 500 dense though accessible pages. The original manuscript was two or three times the number of pages. I had no idea how to capture this complete and comprehensive story in so few pages, in so few words.

But he did it, shocking me. And the book tracks this ongoing debate between two kinds of racists—segregationist and assimilationist—as well as antiracists. Jason brilliantly remixes these people as haters, likers and lovers.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of Stamped.

Young people today have a lot to feel discouraged about and even more to feel disempowered by. What would you say to a young person who feels like the seismic shifts they hope for are too far out of reach and that their own individual actions—particularly while they’re young—will never lead to real impact?
I would tell young people that the shifts are out of reach if they are reaching alone. But the shifts are not out of reach if they are joining with other young people, with other older people to reach collectively at power and policy change. There are organizations and institutions and campaigns working on those seismic shifts, and young people can figure ways to join or support these collectives of people. 

What advice would you give to teens and adults seeking to open up spaces for communication across generations about racism and antiracism?
The lines of communication should be opened by definitions of racism and antiracism. We can be speaking the same language and using the same words, but if we have different definitions, then it is like we are speaking a different language with different words. We need common definitions. And we have to develop the antiracist capacity to admit when we are being racist, to challenge our own racism as we challenge racism in society.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi shares about what a book like Stamped would have meant to him as a teenager, what he feels Jason Reynolds added to his work and his advice for young change-makers today.

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