In the summer of 1968, Louis Gaither decides that it’s time for his three girls to spend some time with the mother who walked out on them a half-dozen years ago. With Delphine in charge, the sisters fly from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Oakland, Calif., to be met by Cecile Johnson, a woman who’d rather they spend their days at a Black Panthers’ summer camp than at home getting to know their mother. Here, we talk with Rita Williams-Garcia about her book One Crazy Summer, a story that is "energetically told with writing that snaps off the page," according to its Kirkus starred review.
At 49, Karen Cushman started writing about “gutsy girls figuring out who they are,” and she says she has no plans to stop until she’s at least 100. A winner of the Newbery Award for 1995’s The Midwife’s Apprentice, Cushman says that writing for this audience lets her entertain “the child in me who likes to imagine other people and other lives…I can sit in my chair with the cat on my lap and make things up.” Here the author talks about her seventh novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann.
In Luv Ya Bunches (2009), Milla, Yasaman, Katie-Rose and Violet became not just BFFs, but FFFs—Flower Friends Forever. Now the girls are back in the second book of the Flower Power series, Violet in Bloom, and they are determined to use their flower power for good. But doing good is a lot tougher than they anticipated with all the distractions—cute boys, nefarious girls, squirmy hamsters—that pepper their fifth-grade existence. The book brilliantly contrasts the thrills of adolescence with the realities of life beyond the playground, like social activism and mental illness. Lauren Myracle delivers a charming read that will delight preteen (and even adult) readers.
Tea is best served with droll mystery. At least, that’s what’s bountifully dished out in Maryrose Wood’s unapologetically Anglophile series opener that follows a well-established age-old tale: girl becomes governess, governess is employed at sprawling estate for three certifiably wild children, governess unearths multiple mysteries on premises. “I don’t receive many—or to be precise, any—books for middle-grade readers that combine a riff on Jane Eyre and feral children,” says Donna Bray, VP and co-publisher of Balzer + Bray. “I was powerless to resist.” Wood admits “there’s no greater satisfaction as an author than to write something so close to my own admittedly quirky heart, and to discover that readers find it engaging as well.” The book is a bona fide buffet of everything delightfully British: creaky carriages, dusty antiques, tea cakes, silken gowns, fanciful parties and…children raised by wolves. Yes, wolves.
Curiosity inspired Truus Matti to write her debut novel, in which two stories—one fantastic, the other realistic—intertwine. Told in alternating chapters, the book begins with a third-person account of a girl named Mouse, who arrives at a dilapidated hotel run by a fox and a rat, unable to remember her past. “I wrote…the first scene in the book more or less by accident; it came out of nowhere, and I had no idea what it was about,” says Matti. “The girl made me want to know who she was and what she was doing…So I followed her to find out.” That girl led Matti to the novel’s second plot line, told in the first person by a girl who makes her father promise to come home for her 11th birthday. When he doesn’t, the girl writes him a scathing letter only to learn that he died while touring with his orchestra.
When Newbery Honor author Carolyn Coman (What Jamie Saw, 1995) first conceived of lovable Hope Scroggins with her collaborator, Rob Shepperson, both realized early on that the waif was a character sure to resonate with young readers. What child can’t relate to a girl whose parents are so abhorrent that they simply abandon her little sister? Hope’s response—sleeping as much as possible—brings her to the attention of the Dahl-esque World Wide Memory Bank. “From the moment we entered the Bank, we were goners,” they say. “Everything about it—the Dream Vault, the Memory Receptor, Sorters, Retrospectors—engaged us. Hope simply rose to the occasion: a champion dreamer, a terrific sister, a good sport under trying circumstances.”