MaxandRubyThis fall, Viking will publish Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the latest of Rosemary Wells’s books about the bunny siblings who star in their own popular show on Nick Jr.

Despite the fact that Rosemary has written more than fifty books about Max and Ruby, she always finds a way to keep the latest book fresh.  In Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the bunnies race through the Ritz Hotel, in search of a missing wedding ring, guided by the maps on Grandma’s iBunny phone.  In a typically witty Wells touch, the iBunny phone features a glittery green lift-the-flap cover decorated with a carrot with a bite taken out of it!

Rosemary always tries to teach as well as entertain, whether by teaching ABCs, counting, or nursery rhymes, and in this newest title she is subtly imparting early map skills via up-to-the-minute technology.

It’s hard to believe that Max and Ruby are 35; they certainly are not showing their age!

See the entire Max and Ruby series!


TheLostWifeWhen writing novels, one never knows where inspiration will strike.   A few years ago, I was well into my research for a book on the ways that Jewish artists managed to create art during the Holocaust, when I overheard a story at the local hair salon about a couple who were separated at the beginning of the war with each of them being told that the other had perished. Sixty years later, they miraculously were reunited at the wedding of their respective grandchildren.  When I overheard that story, I felt like I had been struck by lightning.  My mind was filled with so many questions: why had this couple each believed the other had died? What was their initial love story? What were their second love stories that produced the children who were now the parents of the grandchildren getting married?  And most importantly, how did they each survive World War II?

This story would end up being the bookends for my novel The Lost Wife, into which I invented the lovers’ histories both before and after their separation.

I wanted to draw in my readers by evoking the same questions that I had after initially hearing that story.  I wanted those questions to propel them into the same journey I too would undertake while crafting the body of the novel.

TheGardenofLettersThe inspiration for my new novel The Garden of Letters, also began after hearing a story that ignited my curiosity.  While at a dinner party, a friend shared with me the details about how her father had escaped from Hungry through Italy during WWII with forged papers that their family had spent their entire life savings on.  When my friend’s father arrived in Portofino, German guards were scrutinizing everyone’s papers so carefully that he was sure he was going to be arrested.

Suddenly, out from the crowd, a big barrel-chested Italian man cried: “Cousin, cousin, I’ve been waiting for you all week.  Thank heaven’s you’ve come!”

He was able to whisk my friend’s father away and take him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

When my friend’s father asked this man why he had saved him, for clearly he wasn’t his cousin, the man replied:  “I try to come to the port every month.  I try to save the person who looks the most afraid.”

When I heard that story I immediately thought it would make an amazing beginning to a novel.  I imagined the two people whose lives intersect at this occupied Italian port.    One fleeing and in need of shelter.  The other a person who sees that fear and sets upon helping him.   “The Garden of Letters” opens with my young heroine being saved from the Germans at the Portofino port by a doctor.

As in all my novels, I wanted my main character to possess a creative gift.  With The Lost Wife, I explored how art could be used as a form of Resistance against the Nazis.  In The Garden of Letters, I explore how music could be used.

My main character Elodie, is a young cellist who sends coded messages for the Italian Resistance through her performances And the book explores the many creative ways essential information was transmitted during the war.

When I traveled to Italy to meet with partisans and female messengers who were involved in the Resistance, I was introduced to a person who shared with me another unusual way information was sent during the war.  Giovanni Pellizzato, whose grandfather was both a bookseller and an active member of the Italian Resistance, described how codes were cleverly hidden throughout the pages of a book, and how within the back shelves of his father’s bookstore many of the books had their paper carved out to create a space where pistols were stored inside.  This information was so intriguing to me, it inspired the character of the bookseller, Luca, in The Garden of Letters.

As storytellers, we’re responsible for crafting narratives that bring our readers into a world that transport and hopefully inform.  As writers, however, we must also be open to all the stories that surround us, for everyone has a unique history to share.


The leaves have started falling

The leaves have started falling

Summer is official coming to an end and we are feeling it in the office. It has been a rather quiet August at Penguin, with everyone jumping to take their last summer vacation before we all take a deep breathe and hunker down into our desks for the Fall publishing season.

There have been dozens of beach photos filling our Facebook feeds, endless alfresco dinning after work, and a steady stream of picnic, boating, kayaking, brunch, and rooftop pictures overwhelming Instagram. Summer is coming to an end and we are sending it out in style by cramming as many outdoor things into the small amount of time that is remaining.

Across publishing, but definitely in my department of Consumer Marketing, we have a noticeable slow down in our workload during the summer months as less books are being published and more people are off enjoying vacation. But with “Back-to-School” now literally just around the corner, there is no ignoring the fact that our casual and relaxed summer work days are at an end. Fall is fast approaching as evident by the ever surprising piles of fallen leaves littering the sidewalks of New York City, the cool (and getting cooler) breeze that meets me as I leave my apartment in the morning, and the fleet of food trucks that slowly at first and now in force have been returning to our corner of Manhattan.

IMG_0867While most people I know are dreading September, I have been looking forward to it since the very first day of summer. (I am not a summer person.) I am relatively new to Penguin and to the adult work world. This is only my second Fall as a full-time employee and I am just as surprised now as I was then, that being an adult doesn’t mean your calendar year changes. Publishing (at least in my experience) follows the academic school year, which makes sense as that is when a significant percentage of the population is reading.

Over the last month we have begun making Fall site and digital marketing plans. We been gathering information from departments across the company, making Fall digital marketing plans, reviewing the Fall book list, and sitting quietly at our desk, knowing that this is in fact the lull before the storm. The wave of work is just around the corner!

Wandering the West Village

Wandering the West Village

As someone who not so long ago was in college, I can’t help but see the similarities between school and work. Gathering up your things to move back to campus, making plans to see your friends, back-to-school shopping, and reviewing the syllabi. It is amazing how similar the feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation that I have now is to back then!

We have a solid Fall coming with our plans hashed out for the next few months and are gearing up to start our winter planning (because you can never be too prepared!). It is going to be a busy and a fun one and I cannot wait, because Fall really is New York City’s best season! And if you don’t believe me I will defer to one of my favorite quotes:

 

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils…” – You’ve Got Mail

What are your favorite places to go and things to do in the city during the Fall?



JDG SUN photoI’ll Give You the Sun made me realize just how many new YA readers, teens and adults both, had never heard of The Sky is Everywhere.

It’s been over four years since Sky, Jandy Nelson’s debut, made everything crystalline for me.  I used to have the hardest time explaining to agents and authors what I wanted beyond “really, really good manuscripts,” which is like having an online dating profile saying you like to do “really, really fun stuff.”  It was The Sky is Everywhere that broke it open for me.  I made everyone read it—my best friend, my teenage cousins, my husband, my mother, my grandpa (I have a kickass 96-year-old grandpa).  I began to tell people, “This.  This is what I want.  Novels like The Sky is Everywhere.”  Little did I know then that I’d get to work with Jandy Nelson herself one day, and that her second book, I’ll Give You the Sun, wouldn’t just break it open for me, it would break my effing heart.

I’ll Give You the Sun is a soaring, pinwheeling, forget-where-you-are, steal-your-breath, feel-it-in-your-bones, transcendent, transporting whirlwind.  It’s the kind of novel that makes you cry through the happy parts as much as the sad parts for the sheer depth of feeling, sheer aliveness of its characters, sheer boldness of its telling.  Reading it, I had the same falling-headlong feeling, the same zap of recognition I’d had at eighteen when I read Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat for the first time.  This is the kind of novel that stays with you, that you read over and over again.  It’s the kind of novel that lasts.

The voices here are the voices of two teen fraternal twins, one a boy, one a girl, telling their stories from two different, crucial points in time—one from before the event that changed their lives and one from after.  Both are magical, visceral, pop-off-the-page voices—so hard to find.  To do justice to these siblings, Jandy essentially wrote one novel, then another novel, and then wove those two novels together to create a third, I’ll Give You the Sun.  No wonder it took her four years.

It was The Sky is Everywhere that brought me to Jandy Nelson, and I’ll Give You the Sun that will make me stay with her.  What this novel accomplishes is raw and rare, and it will change some readers’ lives.  Is it too much to say that I’ll Give You the Sun redefines the boundaries of what makes a YA novel YA?  Nah, I’d say that’s just about right on target.

Read More Posts From the Editor’s Desk.


Nancy PaulsenphotoWe are publishing Jacqueline Woodson’s gorgeously written memoir on August 28, which is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That is a perfect date for Brown Girl Dreaming to come into the world, because so many of the stories Jacqueline tells are stories of hope, dreams, and having a vision.

Woodson came of age in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. In stories that are poignant, funny, and memorable, she shows us how family, religion, and the civil rights movement shaped her. In South Carolina, she was surrounded by the love of her grandparents and got her early education eavesdropping on the front porch. But she also felt the realities of Jim Crow. In poems like “Ghosts,” she writes:

In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn’t use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.

Moving to Brooklyn and starting school opened Jacqueline up to a whole new world, and she shows us how a notebook and a pen held infinite promise to her. We feel her delight when she finally discovers a book in the library with a character that looks like her and realizes she, too, has a story to tell. On her journey she finds her voice and her purpose.

Everyone who has read this finds it brings them back to their childhood and awakens their memories. These evocative poems—about friendship, siblings, beloved grandparents and teachers, favorite foods, funky music, and wanting to join the revolution—give us a vivid glimpse of American history, and our history. They also show us why Woodson is such a brilliant, lyrical writer, as in verse after verse we see her winning curiosity and integrity shine brightly through, and her respect for the art of listening:

Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.

We are incredibly proud to be publishing this and hope it will speak to readers of all ages and touch them with its stories that celebrate courage, creativity, dignity, hope, and mindfulness.

BrownGirlDreaming

Start Reading an Excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

“Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review


penguin

This week has been a little quiet – lots of people are out on vacation, reading their books on the beach or another idyllic location. Well, I may be in the office, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make it a beachy environment – with a little help from our stuffed penguin.

As you can see, work is very serious and buttoned-up and no fun at all.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of vacation, I got to interview the wonderful and hilarious Emma Straub for the Beaks and Geeks Podcast. We talked about road-trips, cold beaches, weird Americana … and even her novel.

I loved hearing about the different types of vacations families take – are you a road-trip, national-park-visiting, camping-and-hiking vacationer or a stay-in-a-hotel, relax-poolside, easy-breezy vacationer?

In other news, First to Read, which lets one read new Penguin books before they are released, just hit 20,000 members last week! It’s such a wonderful program, headed up by our very own John Mercun – who you may remember from his Staff Picks. If you’re not already signed up, hop to it! There are some exciting titles coming up.

Hope you have great weekends, readers!

-Amy


JillSantopoloThe concept of love is universal. And the idea of being free to love whomever you choose has been battled for centuries in many different countries on many different platforms. At its heart, that’s what Atia Abawi’s The Secret Sky is about—the freedom to love.

This book was inspired by many real events, but the reason it exists is because of a New York Times article published in July of 2011 called “In Afghanistan, Rage at Young Lovers.”  The article is about two teenagers from different ethnic groups who met in an ice cream factory and whose romance incited a riot of three hundred people that called for the teens’ death by stoning. Michael Green, Philomel’s publisher, came into my office with that article and said, “Have you read this?” (I had.) Then he said, “I think there’s a novel here. Do you know anyone who could write us a forbidden teen romance set in Afghanistan?” I figured the ideal person to write this kind of story was someone who was Afghan and who had spent a considerable amount of time in Afghanistan, but also grew up speaking English. And, of course, was a professional writer. Not necessarily the easiest person to find. I went through my mental rolodex and landed on Nick, a college friend who was then living in Islamabad and Kabul, reporting for ABC News. I thought perhaps he might know someone, so I sent him an email. He, in turn, sent an email to Atia Abawi. She was an Afghan-American journalist living in Kabul, reporting for NBC, and had been wanting to write a novel based on her experiences. Nick had found my ideal author for this project.

He connected me with Atia, and the result was The Secret Sky, inspired, in part, by the Times piece, but mostly inspired by the people and the villages that Atia visited during her five years reporting from Afghanistan. The story, which follows Fatima, a Hazara girl, and Samiullah, a Pashtun boy, as they fight their families, their village’s traditions, and the local Taliban to stay together, is not real, but it could have been. In fact, this past year, in March, The New York Times ran another article about forbidden love in Afghanistan, this one called “2 Star-Crossed Afghans Cling to Love, Even at Risk of Death,” which details a very similar story: two young people from a rural village whose declaration of love put them—and their families—in grave danger. 

What is most powerful about The Secret Sky is that it is so real. It captures, in beautiful, raw prose, what’s happening today, a fourteen-hour plane ride from New York City.  I’ve been editing books for the past decade, and I think Atia Abawi’s The Secret Sky is the one that has most changed me. It made me think—really think—about the privileges I take for granted every day and about how different my life would be if I had been born in a rural Afghan village.

I know this is a book about teenagers, written with a teenage audience in mind, but I think it will appeal to readers of all ages. As of the writing of this piece, The Secret Sky has already received a starred review pre-publication from Publishers Weekly and advanced praise from journalists and AtiaAbawi_TheSecretSkynovelists alike.  The power in Atia’s words has touched so many readers already. I’ll leave you with one of those reactions, from Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and anchor of Andrea Mitchell Reports. She said:

The Secret Sky brilliantly captures the magic and the heartbreak of Afghanistan as only someone rooted in its mystery can….This first novel by a top foreign correspondent has the authenticity of raw journalism and the poetry of a gifted writer.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Start Reading The Secret Sky here!