Inspired recommendations for kids from
independent booksellers across the country.

In This Issue...

#1 Kids' Next List Pick...

The Light Between Worlds

By Laura E. Weymouth

(HarperTeen, 9780062696878, $17.99)

"Laura Weymouth's debut novel, The Light Between Worlds, is a captivating tale of two sisters struggling to find home and to find themselves. The younger, Evelyn, longs for the days when she and her sister and brother lived in the Woodlands, a mystical Narnia-like land Weymouth paints with beautiful lyricism. Evelyn has carried the weight of her longing since she and her siblings returned to post-WWII England. When Evelyn goes missing, Philippa carries the loss of her sister, as well as the pain of her own choices. They embark on their own journeys of healing and belonging, each searching for what they've lost and where they belong. Written with meaning, feeling, and depth, The Light Between Worlds is a stunning debut."
--Hannah Wilson, Out West Books, Grand Junction, CO

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

#1 Kids' Next List Pick Author Interview...

Indie booksellers across the country have chosen Laura E. Weymouth's The Light Between Worlds (HarperTeen) as one of their top picks for the Fall 2018 Kids' Indie Next List.
 
Weymouth's debut tells the story three siblings who are transported from London circa 1949 to a fantastical realm called the Woodlands, where they live for years. Upon their return to London, nothing has changed except for themselves, and the siblings are forced to find a sense of normalcy in their old lives. At its heart, The Light Between Worlds is a story of self-discovery, sisterhood, and what it means to belong.
 
Where did the idea for this book originate?
 
Strangely enough, on Twitter! I saw someone in the publishing community say they'd love to read a story about Susan Pevensie post-Narnia. "I'd love to read that too," I thought to myself, and went on my merry way. A few months later, the same request appeared, and the concept had never really left my mind in the interim. I knew I had to be the one to write it, and drafted the book in an absolute panic that someone would tell that story before I did. Along the way, of course, it grew and changed and became an entity unto itself, but the central premise of "how do you readjust to life in our world after spending time in another" is still what the book hinges on.
 
How did you craft the characters of Philippa, Jamie, and Evelyn?
 
Well, I've always loved the tension between Lucy and Susan's approaches to Narnia in Lewis' books--they have drastically different perspectives on their magical adventures, and that's never really explored. It's just sort of mentioned in passing. I wanted to write a book where the differing experiences of two sisters, both during a magical adventure and throughout its aftermath, was the central story, rather than an aside. Evelyn's not exactly a stand-in for Lucy--she's a lot more introverted and unsure of herself, I think, but she fills the role of the sister who wholeheartedly embraces the Woodlands, and as a result has a hard time functioning in our world once she comes back. There's a lot of myself during my teens in Evelyn--I think most teens experience and understand her sense of disconnect, of being out of time and out of place.
 
Philippa is a bit more obviously a reference to Susan Pevensie--I allowed myself a few lines that rebut Lewis' statement that Susan had become very silly in the wake of her Narnian adventures, and only thought about lipstick and nylons and boys. For Phil, a carefully-managed, artfully presented exterior is a way of protecting herself from the difficulties of life, whether she's living it in our world or another. She's very polished, very hard on the outside, whereas Evelyn wears her emotions on her sleeve. But when it really comes down to it, Ev is the one with a steel-like resolve at her core, and Phil is the bleeding heart.
 
And last but not least is Jamie, who presents a more moderate response to Ev and Phil's very polarized experiences of life in our world versus life in the Woodlands. Certainly, Jamie has his own trials, but he's better able to compartmentalize and adjust than his sisters and makes his way well enough in both places. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he maintains a greater degree of separation, rather than becoming fully involved with his sisters' struggles. There's a message in there about emotional labor, and how the work of nurturing and restoration and maintaining vital connections so disproportionately falls upon women and girls.
 
This book deals with World War II England. What was your research process for this aspect of the book?
 
I was a history major in college (medieval and renaissance history, in particular) so I LOVE the research end of writing historical fiction. I did whatever I could to immerse myself in the world the Hapwell children live in--for instance, while writing the scene where they're called to the Woodlands during an air raid, I listened to audio recordings of actual London air raids, so as to accurately describe what the Hapwells would have been hearing. The most fiddly aspect of research was rationing--finding out what was rationed when and for how long, and to what extent.
 
But the biggest challenge was recreating London's National Gallery, circa 1951. Fortunately, the Gallery has extensive archives and a lot of wonderful resources on its fascinating history, so I was able to watch video footage and look at old photographs of the various rooms just after the war, and was provided with a floor plan from the 1950s by a very helpful archivist. It took a lot of background work to bring everything together, but it was intriguing and I love the feeling of knowing my work is as accurate as I can make it!
 
Both poetry and art are important to the characters in this book. How did you decide which poems and paintings to include?
 
I've been a poetry reader since middle school, and really love the work of Emily Dickinson and Sara Teasdale, so it felt quite natural to give that enjoyment to Evelyn. Georgie and Max, Ev's roommate and literature professor, share their favorite black women poets with Evelyn, which introduced me to the wonderful work of Frances Harper and Georgia Douglas Johnson. And as far as paintings go, some of those are favorites as well--I love the pre-Raphaelites, so The Lady of Shalott and Ophelia came to mind at once. A few of the others I had to dig for, doing things like Googling "famous paintings of stags." Research isn't always a precise undertaking!
 
In addition to exploring the experience of art and art's influence on our emotions, this book also explores the process of art restoration. Does this serve as a metaphor for a larger idea?
 
I knew absolutely nothing about art restoration prior to beginning this book. I just needed a department of the National Gallery for Philippa to work in that would give her a bit of seclusion and a chance to lick her wounds, as it were. I settled on the Conservation Department and began to learn about the process of art restoration, and everything I discovered lent itself incredibly well to Philippa and her journey.
 
During the process of restoring a painting, a single art restorer traditionally completes every aspect of the restoration of a given piece--you don't have one person stripping varnish, another scraping away patches, yet another handling inpainting, etc. The entire restoration is done by one artist, because it really is an art and not a science. And the process of art restoration became a metaphor for both Philippa's relationship with Evelyn and her own personal journey, right down to the fact that corrections to a painting are called pentimenti, which means repentances. My absolute favorite scene in the entire book is one where Philippa watches her friend Jack doing restoration work on Rembrandt's The Woman Bathing in a Stream--you can see the wheels in her mind turning as she makes those connections between what she's seeing and her own experiences thus far.
 
In The Light Between Worlds, chapters alternate between post-war England and flashbacks to the siblings' life in the Woodlands. Why did you choose this structure?
 
While Philippa and Evelyn can obviously be read as references to Susan and Lucy Pevensie, one of the primary things I set out to do in The Light Between Worlds was to write a book in which two sisters spend their time telling stories about each other. Where they've become so caught up in each other's narratives that they're either going to have to find a way to get free and live their own lives, or they'll eventually collapse in on each other and implode. While Evelyn spends her time remembering the Woodlands, she's really remembering Philippa's story there--Ev herself is very passive in her memories of the Great Wood, and doesn't do much. It's Philippa who becomes a participant in the larger events of the Woodlands, though she never embraces that world like Evelyn does. And Philippa's memories of the aftermath of the Woodlands--of the return home--are all about Evelyn and her failure to adjust. Phil and Ev are primarily products of their relationship with each other, so you see both of them reflecting on their past together, while living in a present where they're both struggling to function and redefine themselves on their own.
 
Can you tell readers what you're working on next?
 
Of course! I've currently got a second standalone YA fantasy in the works--it's set in an alternate England where the wellbeing of the land is governed by five magical manor houses. Think Downton Abbey with a touch of Beauty and the Beast. Violet, the main character, has been separated from Burleigh House, the manor her family has tended for 800 years, and when she's finally able to return, finds the house in dire straits. It's up to her to restore her home before it wreaks havoc on the surrounding countryside. Violet's story is one about belonging (I don't think I'll ever get away from that theme!) and expectations, and how the choices and worldviews of the people we're closest to shape and change us, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

Top Picks

Sadie

By Courtney Summers

(Wednesday Books, 9781250105714, $17.99)

"This electrifying novel is too real to be forgettable. Sadie introduces a world where girls are hurt and forced to grow up much too soon, featuring a violent, solo road trip across the country and sleuthing methods that would appall Nancy Drew. Through a podcast like Serial, the whole world witnesses the unfurling drama of a missing girl's family left behind, and wonders what might have been done to keep this from happening in the first place. Sadie will steal your heart from the first page, and stay in your mind for the rest of your life."
--Kaitie Radel, The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

By Mackenzi Lee

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062795328, $18.99)

"I adored The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, and I wasn't sure if the sequel could hold an equal place in my heart, but The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy blew my expectations out of the water (pun intended, of course)! Felicity is a phenomenal character, bristly and brilliant and fiercely loyal. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love this book, filled with adventure, feminism and fire, loving but challenging friendships, fierce ambition, scientific exploration, and of course, pirates. The minute I finished the book, I thrust it into a fellow bookseller's hand, and I can't wait to do the same with the general public."
--Elissa Sweet, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

A Winter's Promise: Book One of the Mirror Visitor Quartet

By Christelle Dabos

Hildegarde Serle (Transl.)

(Europa Editions, 9781609454838, $19.95)

"I had high hopes since I've been coveting this book since I saw it in a Metro station in Paris a year ago. It definitely did not disappoint. A Winter's Promise is a stellar addition to the fantasy genre booksellers can recommend to adults and teens alike. The worldbuilding is incredible and Ophelia is a heroine you can immediately relate to: clever, resourceful, and constantly underestimated. Dabos delights and thrills readers as Ophelia finds herself caught in the middle of political intrigue and deadly secrets with nothing but her wits to keep her alive. As the tension builds and mysteries are revealed, it's impossible to put the book down."
--Katerina Argyres, Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco, CA

Mascot

By Antony John

(HarperCollins, 9780062835628, $16.99)

"Mascot is a hometown adventure story filled with new beginnings. When Noah returns to school after the accident that left him paralyzed and killed his father, his old Little League teammates are anything but kind. Luckily, Noah befriends new kid and fellow outcast Dee-Dub, and, with childhood pal Alyssa in tow, shenanigans unfold. Meanwhile, Noah's mother needs someone to talk to, but when a familiar face shows up, will he strike out with Noah? Secret plans, after-school rivalries, and awkward moments abound, with a bit of romance, too. A fun and heartwarming read for all."
--Mary Wahlmeier, Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, KS

Crafty Llama

By Mike Kerr

Renata Liwska (Illus.)

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781681191218, $16.99)

"What a sweet, sweet picture book! This husband and wife writing and illustration team reminds us that everyone has creativity inside them, something they can share with the world. Now I've decided to organize some crafting circles and dust off my needlework project!"
--Buffy Cummins, Second Star to the Right Books, Denver, CO

Giraffe Problems

By Jory John

Lane Smith (Illus.)

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781524772031, $17.99)

"Another hilarious story of personal insecurities from Jory John. Edward the Giraffe dislikes his neck. After pointing out all the great necks on other animals, he gets a little perspective from a turtle named Cyrus, who also feels bad about his neck. A collaborative, bowtie-wearing friendship is born. Definitely a laugh-out-loud read with a nice lesson about appreciating what you have, with fabulous illustrations from Lane Smith."
--Tildy Banker-Johnson, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA

King Alice

By Matthew Cordell

(Feiwel & Friends, 9781250047496, $17.99)

"Idea: get this book for every child in your life who rightly, knightly deserves their own kingdom and the freedom to create their own perfect day and fantastic story."
--Joanna Parzakonis, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

By Kate Gardner

Heidi Smith (Illus.)

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062741615, $17.99)

"With simple text and gorgeous illustrations, Lovely Beast tackle stereotypes about animals (spiders = creepy, octopi = slimy) and turn them on their head (spiders are actually amazing crafters and octopi are quite intelligent) for the youngest readers. Not only good for classrooms, but also for everyday reading."
--Melissa Fox, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS

Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast)

By Josh Funk

Brendan Kearney (Illus.)

(Sterling Children's Books, 9781454928119, $16.95)

"Josh Funk is back with our favorite duo, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, who get caught up in a madcap mystery involving sinister produce and an arctic freeze in their fridge. Braving the elements and calling on their nemesis Baron von Waffle, they trek into the unknown to confront the culprit(s). Told in the same catchy rhymes that we've come to love from Funk, pick up this book to see if enemy relationships are thawed and if our heroes return to their refrigerator home."
--Holland Saltsman, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO

A Parade of Elephants

By Kevin Henkes

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062668271, $18.99)

"In my opinion, everything that Kevin Henkes creates is fantastic, and A Parade of Elephants is no exception. With soothing pastels, and text that has the reader following along with the elephants as they follow each other, this story is perfect for reading aloud."
--Clarissa Hadge, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA

There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor

By Wade Bradford

Kevin Hawkes (Illus.)

(Candlewick Press, 9780763686659, $16.99)

"Mr. Snore is tired and just wants a comfortable bed at the Sharemore Hotel. Encountering sleeping companions including a mouse, a pig, spiders, giraffes, and even burrowing hamsters, poor Mr. Snore finally tries the 13th floor, where a twist of gigantic proportions awaits! Hawkes' playful illustrations match perfectly with the absurdity of Bradford's delightful romp. Instant storytime classic!"
--Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

Winter Is Here

By Kevin Henkes

Laura Dronzek (Illus.)

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062747181, $17.99)

"Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek have done it again! Winter Is Here makes you want to snuggle up to its cozy pages with a cup of hot chocolate and savor all of your favorite aspects of the season. Dronzek's illustrations are beautiful and warm, despite the winter scenery, and Henke's prose is playful and perfect. Simplistic and full of depth, Winter Is Here also comes with a bit of springtime at the end to keep you hopeful."
--Juliette Munda, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI

Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife

By Amy Cherrix

(HMH Books for Young Readers, 9781328858689, $18.99)

"Amy Cherrix's insatiable curiosity jumps through the pages of Backyard Bears to entice, engage, and delight young readers. Beautiful and, yes--often cute--photographs complete this wonderful combination of nature writing and citizen science."
--Stephanie Jones-Byrne, Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC

The Darkdeep

By Brendan Reichs and Ally Condie

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781547600465, $16.99)

"This middle grade novel has everything: four good friends and a lurking bully; a mysterious, seemingly forgotten lake; and a houseboat that holds more than one secret. When Nico, Opal, Tyler, and Emma discover the Darkdeep they must make a decision: keep it to themselves? Or tell someone, their parents, the police, anyone? This is a very satisfying read about friendship and bravery with just the right amount of scary fantastic creatures. I can't wait to see what happens next!"
--Anne Holman, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

The House with Chicken Legs

By Sophie Anderson

(Scholastic Press, 9781338209969, $16.99)

"12-year-old Marinka is not like most girls. She has a pet jackdaw, a foundling lamb, a Yaga for a Grandmother, and a house that routinely walks, runs, or canters to an entirely new location without consulting its occupants. What Marinka THINKS she wants most is to just be a normal girl with normal friends and the chance to determine her own future. What Marinka REALLY wants is indeed something very, very different. A bit of folk tale, a dose of adventure, and a lot of quirky humor tossed in, The House With Chicken Legs takes readers on a ride they will not soon forget."
--Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Knights vs. Dinosaurs

By Matt Phelan

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062686237, $16.99)

"In Knights vs. Dinosaurs, Matt Phelan has created a roaring romp of a good time, bringing together the Knights of King Arthur's Round Table and DINOSAURS!  Though it may at first glance seem a book for boys, a plot twist will have girls loving it, too!  With knights, dinosaurs, a wizard, and some great battles wonderfully illustrated by Phelan, this exciting tale demonstrates the value of being true to yourself while being part of a team."
--Jim Hess, Let's Play Books!, Emmaus, PA

Small Spaces

By Katherine Arden

(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 9780525515029, $16.99)

"Small Spaces has just the right amount of Bradburyesque spookiness garnished with characters that will keep readers turning the pages--though beware of reading this one after dark! Perfect for those who like their horror with a little heart."
--Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

Squirm

By Carl Hiaasen

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780385752978, $18.99)

"Classic Hiaasen. Squirm introduces Billy Dickens, a Florida native who prefers roaming the wilderness to school and who can't stand to see anyone (human or animal) be bullied. Billy's father left his family when he was very young, but Billy decides it's time to meet and get some answers. What starts as a personal quest becomes a cross-country adventure involving illegal poaching, poisonous snakes, and a lot of surprises. If you only take away one thing from this book, it should be: don't take selfies with wild animals."
--Rebecca Waesch, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

By Jonathan Auxier

(Amulet Books, 9781419731402, $18.99)

"Nan Sparrow is the sort of heroine the word 'plucky' was invented for. From her unconventional life traveling with her beloved Sweep--with whom all difficulties turned into treasured memories--she has fallen into indentured servitude as a 'climbing boy.' Even though she's one of the best around, when she gets lodged in a chimney during a fire, she's sure she's a goner... until she awakens in the rubble of that chimney with a sentient bit of char rolling at her feet. Thus begins her new life on the lam with Charlie. Anyone who loved the strange but sweet relationship at the center of Anna and the Swallow Man will owe their whole heart to this heartfelt and satisfying story of found family that shows how even devastating loss can be transformed into beautiful remembrance."
--Sarah Holt, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO

Bridge of Clay

By Markus Zusak

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781984830159, $26)

"There's a reason we've been waiting for this book for over 10 years, and that's because Zusak has taken his time and made it perfect. Bridge of Clay is weird and heartbreaking and beautifully and poetically written--in short, everything that Zusak does so well in the books we've come to love. He writes in stunning, complex metaphors that never fail to feel real. Clay and his brothers are alive in this story, and the love that they share between themselves and for others is palpable. I loved being with Clay as he built his bridge, and I was genuinely devastated as the pages came to an end. This one is going to take me a long time to get over. Bridge of Clay was worth every second of the wait."
--Jess Harwick, Book Culture, New York, NY

Damsel

By Elana K. Arnold

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062742322, $17.99)

"Timely, dark, and compelling, Damsel is an intense feminist read, an anti-fairy tale, and definitely a crossover adult title. Arnold's writing is impeccable, her voice powerful, her style sly and captivating. She turns the damsel in distress trope inside out here with a tale that deals creatively and unflinchingly with violence and sexual assault and more, reminiscent of such other powerful titles as Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels. One of my favorite titles of the season."
--Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Hey, Kiddo

By Jarrett J. Krosoczka

(Graphix, 9780545902489, $14.99)

"In his first novel for teen readers, Jarrett Krosoczka tells his own story with staggering honesty and insight. Raised by his grandparents, Krosoczka recounts the love he felt growing up, even as he learned how to order his grandparents' favorite mixed drinks and observed his grandmother shouting obscenities at the television. Addressing two facets of his identity--as the child of a heroin addict and as an artist--Krosoczka offers a window into his experience and a mirror for readers who have experienced the same. Be warned: the depth of emotion and incredible heart within these pages is guaranteed to cause tears."
--Sara Grochowski, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

By Tahereh Mafi

(HarperCollins, 9780062866561, $18.99)

"This beautiful and eye-opening novel takes place one year after 9/11 amid the deeply rooted racism that became more aggressive after the attack. Intentional or not, Shirin's peers treat her differently than everyone else. She tries to get by under the radar, but it's hard to do that when Ocean, a popular white boy, takes an interest in her-- and not just because of her culture. Although it's based 16 years in the past, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is still an important and relevant novel in today's world and an essential addition to every literary collection."
--Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

The War Outside

By Monica Hesse

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316316699, $17.99)

"These teens couldn't be more different: Haruko, Japanese American, outgoing, popular, compliant; and Margot, German American, reclusive, mistrustful, analytical. But what they have in common is more important: they're very bright, observant members of families in turmoil, and in 1944 they're living in an internment camp for enemy aliens. A secret and unlikely friendship becomes a lifeline for both of them. Like Hesse's Girl in the Blue Coat, this riveting novel takes readers where we've never imagined going, with twists, turns, and startling intensity. The book is mesmerizing, empathetic, and incredibly timely in its treatment of injustice and fear of the other."
--Banna Rubinow, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY

What If It's Us

By Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

(HarperTeen, 9780062795250, $18.99)

"When Arthur goes to New York for the summer, he expects it to be a lot like the Broadway plays he adores. But it's not. Ben, on the other hand, is much more pragmatic, in that native New Yorker way. When they meet, Arthur falls head over heels almost immediately, and his enthusiasm may rub off a bit on Ben... but things don't exactly work out in real life the way they do on stage. With alternating chapters from Arthur's and Ben's points of view, this is another wonderful read from Albertalli and Silvera, and fans of both authors won't be disappointed (fans of musical theater will love it even more)."
--Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC