photo 3A woman came to my door the other day and said, “You’re the editor of Superstorm, right?”  My assistant has been out on maternity leave and so I’m getting used to people I don’t recognize waltzing into my office.  “Great book” the woman said and so of course she had my attention.  She said she was from Gerristen Beach, a part of Brooklyn that was about 10 feet underwater after Sandy rolled through.  Her family lost the house her father built.  They are still putting their lives back together.  She is a temp working in Operations for PRH at 375 Hudson Street.  She loves this book.  Me too.

We had just had our Halloween party back in 2012 in this building when New Yorkers started to realize the big bad hurricane was coming to get us.  As she was working on Superstorm Kathryn Miles said the storm was like the shark in Jaws—yes, her story is that scary.  Forecasters and their science were unable to make sense of this unprecedented system as it played out; seamen with all their traditional knowledge couldn’t predict what it would do; and the survivors whose lives it all but destroyed are still trying to pick up the pieces.  This story is all about the unforgiving, fearsome power of nature—just when we thought we had it beat.

We meet Chris Landsea, the Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center who had been thinking the 2012 hurricane season was a quiet one—and pretty much over—until he and a colleague noticed what looked like the beginnings of an unusual tropical depression.  But the picture the data delivered was not clear.  Kathryn Miles’ gripping narrative soon demonstrates that we have a national infrastructure emergency that we haven’t yet noticed.  It isn’t just that our bridges and schools are in danger of collapsing, our scientific data gathering, especially meteorological data gathering systems, are an appalling, neglected mess.  Forecasters used to rely on a tool called the quick scatterometer which used microwave sensors to gauge winds speeds near the ocean surface.  Then it broke.  In 2009.  Ever since we’ve been using a vastly inferior European data stream and have no plans to replace it.  This of course is merely one example…

SuperstormThe New York Office of Emergency Management advised Mayor Bloomberg that all was fine on Saturday night, but then by Sunday morning had him calling for the mandatory evacuation of 350,000 people including the families of Gerristen Beach.  Given the state of our forecasting infrastructure, this flip flop is perhaps not so surprising.

Kathryn Miles’ Superstorm is a gripping read, and it is also a necessary one in a time of increasingly unpredictable, deadly weather.

Happy Halloween.

Read more about Superstorm by Kathryn Miles.


When I was young my parents used to traipse my two brothers, my sister and me around Europe to see the sights – my mother was a historian, and we spent a lot of time reliving the Albigensian crusades, climbing ramparts and re-enacting the fates of kings and heretics. I remember a trip through Normandy when every time we passed a broom bush we would cry out “Plant a Genet” – Geoffrey Plantagenet, the founder of the dynasty that ruled England before the Tudors, used to stick a Theplantagenetssprig of broom in his hat. The Plantagenets controled England and Normandy, and large swaths of France. Their most famous kings – Henry Ist, Richard the Lionheart, Edward I, were heroic rulers, brave on the battlefield and skillful in their stewardship of government. The less appealing among them – “Bad” King John, Edward II, Richard III – were conniving and duplicitous egotists, the famous villains of Shakespeare’s history plays.

All of this was a bit of a blur of fact and myth until I read Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Dan’s history is alive – he puts you right there on the battlefield, and inside the thoughts of knights and knaves as they contemplate cunning acts of treachery or meet their gory deaths. He is a natural storyteller – which means that he tells history as it should be told, as a story, with larger than life characters and surprising plot twists. This is history for fans of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings – with all of the sexual escapades and gory ends –only in this case every word is true.

TheWarsoftheRosesMy son is three and thinks of himself as a knight, and I think there is something deeply appealing about that world, with its code of honor, bravery  and chivalry. Dan Jones’ Plantagenets was a surprise NY Times bestseller for us – everyone in house loved it, and it became a huge sales department favorite. We are about to publish his follow up, The Wars of the Roses, which tells the story of how the Plantagenets essentially clawed themselves apart and were finally replaced by the Tudors. The Tudors are familiar – Henry with his bloody serial monogamy, Elizabeth and Mary, Queens who knew that their power was at once sharpened and compromised by their sex. But how did they come to rule England? It turns out that their grandfather would never in his wildest dreams have imagined that his descendents would one day wear the crown. When Katherine of Valois chose him as her second husband, she did so because she thought he was safe. Little did she know what trouble their children would have in store for them. Dan Jones is so much fun to read that once you finish you want to go right back to the beginning and start all over again.

Start Reading an Excerpt from The Plantagenets and learn more about The Wars of the Roses.


9780399163241_large_Pennyroyal_AcademyPlaying make-believe as a kid, I usually dreamt up that I was one of two people:  “the grocery store checkout lady” or “the guy that cleans your windows at the gas station.” Not on the list: the princess. Maybe because I’d never seen one up close? Maybe I was just exceedingly practical? No, it definitely had more to do with princesses being, to my mind, fine but boring. What do they really do all day? Nothing as cool as wielding a squeegee.

Then I read A Little Princess. And not long after that, The Princess Bride. Suddenly, I’d found two “princess stories” that I would read again and again. They were funny, moving, and a little scary, with princesses I cheered for and loved to spend time with. So it felt a little magical when three years ago, Pennyroyal Academy crossed my desk, a submission that instantly reminded of these cherished books. Only then, it was called Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp. It was hilarious and charming, and we knew immediately that we wanted to publish it.

Then in a twist befitting the best fairytales, something even more magical happened: debut novelist M.A. Larson shaped Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp into the extraordinary Pennyroyal Academy, a novel that’s not only sharp and funny, but is a clever Grimm-like fairytale (starring a heroine Sara Crewe and Buttercup would definitely be proud of). The tongue-in-cheek is still there, but so now, too, is an incredible warmth and heart, and a memorable cast of characters, from princesses and knights, to witches and dragons.

We first meet our heroine, Evie, stumbling through an enchanted forest, wearing a dress made of cobwebs, desperate to make her way to the famed Pennyroyal Academy. For the first time in its long history, the academy has lifted its blood restrictions and all are welcome to enroll at this premier training ground for princesses and knights. The school has no choice. With the threat of witches growing stronger every day, they need all the help they can get. But for Evie, life at the academy means enduring a harsh training regimen under the ever-watchful eye of her fairy drillsergeant, while also navigating a new world of friends and enemies. I hope you’ll have as much fun falling into the world of Pennyroyal as I have–this is a story that is surprising, tender, and inspiring, with the affirming message: “You get to decide what you want to be. No one else.” No matter what your make-believe preference, there’s something here for everyone.

ps. If you have 5 minutes (of course you do, you’re reading this!), check out the Pennyroyal website for our Princess Maker and to discover your true princess name:!


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When I was given the job of heading up Fredrick Warne publishing in the U.S., I ran home and found my old, worn copies of the Peter Rabbit stories. Memories of reading these books, about a strong-willed rabbit (both as a child and to my own children) flooded back to me. The books were worn, but well loved!

Beatrix Potter, the creator of these beloved books, was a talented and generous woman. But she was also a determined lady and not shy about speaking her mind. When The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down by several publishers, she was not defeated—she published it herself! And when the book was eventually picked up by Frederick Warne, Beatrix was not shy about telling her editor what she liked and didn’t like about the editorial process! Speaking your mind might not seem an out-of-the-ordinary character trait for young women today, but Beatrix lived during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and you know all too well how women back then were expected to behave!

Fast-forward 100-plus years to another strong, outspoken woman—the formidable actress and activist Emma Thompson—who has written her third original Peter Rabbit tale, The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit. What I admire about Emma Thompson is that she is outspoken, elegant, and immensely talented. Both Beatrix Potter and Emma Thompson channeled their individuality through little Peter Rabbit, who is wise yet rash, funny yet dignified, and always a tad mischievous—sound familiar?

SpectacularPeterRabbitIn The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter’s thrill-seeking nature remains undimmed. He is still the little rabbit who doesn’t know the meaning of the word no. So, when a spectacular fair comes to town and Peter is told he can’t attend—well, you know exactly what he will do. And in case you don’t, or want to find out, pick up a copy of the book. You can also listen to the tale, which is beautifully narrated by Emma Thompson, on the CD that comes with the book.

Strong women, a strong rabbit—timeless lessons to be learned!

View all of Penguin’s Peter Rabbit Tales!


sdn1As soon as I finished reading the manuscript of Cristina Moracho’s Althea and Oliver, I knew I had to buy it for Viking. Even in its raw form, it was stunning—a coming-of-age story that combined lyricism and grit, humor and hard truths, and absolutely nailed life at the end of high school, when your tether to family and friends is beginning to fray. I couldn’t believe it was her first novel.

Neither could my colleagues. The word spread from Editorial to Design to Sub Rights to Marketing to Sales, and to my delight I watched every reader become an evangelist. Althea and Oliver is that rare book whose appeal crosses generational lines, and here’s why: It’s not a YA novel so much as a work of literature with teenagers in it.

It’s set in North Carolina, in the mid-1990s. Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since age six. Now, as they come up on their senior year of high school, Althea realizes that she wants more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, wants things to go back to normal—because his body has begun to betray him. When he falls asleep in class and wakes up at home three weeks later with no memory of what has happened, he is finally forced to admit that something is seriously wrong.

And then Althea, who even at her best is an instigator, makes a very bad decision, and their relationship is shattered. Before they can talk it through, Oliver leaves town for a clinical sleep study in Manhattan, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain; Althea gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

A plot summary can tell you just so much. Molly Templeton, from WORD Bookstores, can tell you more: “I loved it, to the point where I’m a little bit speechless.  I love that it’s a love story that isn’t a romance, and a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t have any too-tidy epiphanies; it felt intimate, accurate, and vivid, like I was living the book along with the characters. I can’t wait to tell people about this one. It’s mind-blowingly good.”Althea&Oliver

And others agree. Althea and Oliver has already gotten three starred reviews, been selected by the Junior Library Guild, has publication deals in six countries—and counting!—and I’ve just received the finished audiobook.

But, of course, the proof is in the prose. If you want to start reading Althea and Oliver right now, EW.com has made it very easy for you. Just click here!


LauriHornik_photoHere’s the sneaky thing about books for young kids: They give those kids quite a lot of power over you the reader. The kids get to choose the book you’ll read to them, and then . . . whatever the words on the page say, you as reader HAVE to say. Out loud. Even if those words are tremendously silly and embarrassing and make you seem completely and utterly preposterous.

That’s the sly, ingenious, irresistible premise of B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures. You probably know B.J. as Ryan Howard on “The Office,” or as a supporting actor in the movies “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” I hope you know that he was also a writer of “The Office”; and if you’re lucky, you have already read his excellent, acclaimed short story collection One More Thing.

But none of us knew B.J. Novak as a child whisperer—as one of the rare class of grownups who understand what makes young kids giggle. Boy, does he understand! I had the pleasure of watching him read his book aloud to a group of first graders. They didn’t know him from his acting roles, but he knew them—he knew what they found unbelievably funny. Words like blork and bluurf and badoongy-face. Hearing an adult forced to talk in a robot-monkey voice, and to sing a song about eating ants for breakfast, all the while protesting that “this isn’t the kind of book I wanted to read.” I still have that roar of first-grade laughter in my head.

You don’t need to be a comedian like B.J. Novak to read this book successfully, though. I’ve tested it with lots of my colleagues and friends and family. Everybody is funny when reading this book. Deadpan, singsong, completely over the top goofy . . . doesn’t matter. It always works. And I am especially fond of B.J.’s hidden agenda: to teach young kids—through this hilarity—that words are exciting.  That words are powerful. This picture book, you see, doesn’t have a single picture in it, not even a jacket-flap picture of the author himself. Just words—goofy, nonsensical, wonderful words!

TheBookWithNoPicturesBonk. (I didn’t want to say that. The kids made me do it.)

 

This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)


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!


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


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!