Adventure. Mystery. Magic. The 12-year-old in me adores stories with twists on familiar legends or those that reveal the fantastical hidden within the folds of reality. I write for an upper middle grade/young YA audience, on the cusp of teenager-hood, an age still filled with imagination and wonder but looking to push out into a more grown-up world.
Into the Faraway
What if, before finishing the final book of her phenomenally popular children's book series, the author were to mysteriously die? This is what happened to Fern Caldwell, author of the "Sydney Wakefield" books. The series about a young girl who travels to Avalon to rescue King Arthur from an evil Morgan le Fay is Henderson Green's favorite. When Fern dies, Henderson is devastated.
But when Fern Caldwell's ghost appears to him, asking for help, Henderson realizes he is the only one who can help her finish the final book and get it published. Why is this so important? Because the real Sydney is trapped in Avalon with King Arthur. With Henderson's help, Fern can finish the story and write Sydney and King Arthur out of Morgan's dark realm once and for all. Henderson finds himself playing a role in the story where the lines between what is real and what is fiction are blurred, where his favorite literary characters actually exist, and where the fate of the once and future King hangs in the balance.
For readers 10 and up
The Dragon Whistler (middle grade)
Willow McLain thinks dragons exist only in fairy tales...until she accidentally wakes one from a thousand-year hibernation. Who knew sneaking away from summer camp with her cousin Ben to explore an old abandoned hotel could land them, and their entire town, in danger of becoming dragon flambé? Who could have guessed that the slender whistle carved from bone that Willow found in the hotel attic would turn out to be magic? Seriously, was she supposed to know that the tiny thing was stolen from a secret order of Dragon Guardians who'd spent the last thousand years watching over seven hibernating dragons?
Now, as one of the dragon's "Whistlers," Willow is the only one who can play the magical tunes that control her. Too bad things don't return to normal once Willow lures the dragon back into her den. Willow still feels a bond with the beast, and she can't shake the suspicion that her elderly aunt knows more about all this dragon business than her Alzheimer's allows her to divulge. Could she have had something to do with the whistle's disappearance all those years ago? And when one of the Guardians turns evil, planning to use all seven dragons to control the legendary Dragon Treasure, Willow must wake her dragon again to help protect mankind's only source of hope.
For readers 10 and up
The Vardo (young adult)
Death is so boring. At least that's how fifteen-year-old Callie finds being stuck "in between," until the day she discovers someone has left a newborn baby in the old gypsy wagon (or "vardo" as it's also called") in Wailing Woods. Determined to save the child, she tracks down Laney, the girl who barely survived the same car wreck that took Callie's life three years earlier (and whose mother's recklessness caused the accident in the first place). A mysterious connection between the two girls allows Callie to lead Laney into the spooky forest to save the baby. Laney hopes the newborn will finally help her family heal, but when Callie's grieving parents end up with custody, emotional wounds are deepened. Callie pieces together the mystery connecting the baby, the fleeting psychic powers Laney has had since the accident, and the too-good-to-be-true new guy in town. Could there be a reason Callie hasn't moved on to whatever comes next? Could she be the only one capable of putting things right?
for readers 13 and up
Grace Notes (middle grade)
11-year-old Aden Grace has crazy good piano skills, maybe even better than a professional concert pianist — which is amazing since she’s never played the piano before.
Now that Daddy’s in prison, Aden isn’t living on the run anymore. She gets to go to a real school and make real friends. Best of all is music class. There’s even a real piano in the music room! Sure, not all of the kids are nice to her, but Aden has a plan to avoid those bullies. Hiding out in the music room after school is perfect, plus she’ll have a chance to sit at that piano, something she’s wanted to do from the moment she laid eyes on it. Except that Aden doesn’t just sit at the piano, she plays it in a way that is clearly not normal. Could she be one of those prodigies the music teacher talked about? If so, how is a regular life even possible? Afraid everyone will think she’s a freak, Aden decides to keep her mysterious talent hidden, but when a classmate posts a cell phone video of her playing online — and it goes viral — her secret is spilled in a big way.
It seems like half the school is obsessed with her talent and the other half hates her sudden celebrity status. The school principal wants to auction off a private performance as a fundraiser. And Momma is worried that all this attention will publicly uncover Daddy’s criminal past. What if she wants to go on the run again? Aden has to admit the idea is tempting. No more bullies. No more overbearing principals. But no more music class, either. And no more piano. Now that Aden has discovered the joy of playing, she can’t imagine life without it. Maybe being special isn’t such a bad thing after all. Unfortunately, keeping Momma from packing up the station wagon may be the least of Aden’s problems, because Momma’s hiding some secrets herself. And what happens when that horrible truth is revealed may cause Aden to lose her newfound talent forever.
For readers 9 and up