The Month of March is an incredibly exciting one for the BookEnds team this year. Not only are we launching our second annual #MSWLMadness on the blog and social media, but it is also the month that our first two middle grade novels are publishing. Below, we have an interview with Tracy Marchini, Moe Ferrara and Natascha Morris to talk about our first three middle grade books publishing, and their MSWL!
Up first, GOODBYE MR. SPALDING by Jennifer Robin Barr, represented by Tracy Marchini!
Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this middle-grade historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops.
In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.
Author website: https:jenniferrobinbarr.com/
1) Tracy, What made you fall in love with GOODBYE, MR. SPALDING?
When I started building my list at BookEnds, one of my earliest mswls was baseball-centric middle grade – and Jennifer’s middle grade debut Goodbye, Mr. Spalding was just what I’d been looking for! It’s a story of friendship and forgiveness, set during the Golden Age of baseball and the building of the Spite Fence (a fence erected by the Philadelphia A’s during the Great Depression to block the neighbors from selling seats to the bleachers on their rooftops). It tackles those questions of what can and can’t be fixed as a middle schooler. And the voice is spot on middle grade – which is so difficult to write as an author, and hard to find as an agent.
As a fun twist, I am Jennifer’s first children’s agent – but not first agent – at BookEnds! To find out how that happened, you can read her interview – Welcome (back) to BookEnds, Jennifer Robin Barr!
2) What’s your Middle Grade MSWL?
The middle grade on my list all seem to be stories of friendship and/or family, where a protagonist grapples with things bigger than themselves, and there’s an extra spark or touch of magic. I break this down a bit here – What I’m looking for in middle grade fiction – but that’s definitely at the core of what I’m looking for. I’d also love to see more non-fiction for middle graders (baseball, space, science, history, cultural movements – I want to hear about our world in a way I haven’t seen that topic approached before), more middle grade graphic novel submissions (both fiction and non-fiction), and in all formats, more own voices work from marginalized creators, including people of color, LGBT+, neurodiverse, indigenous, and disabled authors.
For some specific wishes – I’d love to see a middle grade mystery with series potential starring a spunky, female protagonist; a middle grade set during the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment (either 1920’s or 1970’s); and a middle grade homage to a Hitchcock classic (like Natalie Fast did with The Secret Apartment/Hitchcock’s Rear Window.) And more generally – I’m looking for contemporary fiction, historical fiction, magical realism, literary mg and mysteries. I don’t currently rep mg sci-fi or fantasy, but some of my colleagues do! In general, I try to keep my mswl up to date over on my FAQs page on my website, in addition to the forthcoming BookEnds MSWL madness posts! (You can also check out my other client middle grades on my client books page.)
Now, we’re passing the mic to Moe Ferrara to answer some questions about YOUNG CAPTAIN NEMO by Jason Henderson
1) What made you fall in love with YOUNG CAPTAIN NEMO?
It’s hard not to fall in love with a book pitched as Percy Jackson goes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! But, ultimately, what stole my heart was the way Jason wove the original Jules Verne novel into the fabric of the novel but didn’t make it a retelling. There’s touches of Easter eggs in the novel that are a call back to the source material—but Gabriel Nemo is his own character and isn’t defined by his family past. It’s the best of both worlds and I can’t wait for kids to be introduced to all the amazing Nemo-tech devices Jason has cooked up for his characters to use!
2) What’s your Middle Grade MSWL?
I love fun, funny, and smart Middle Grade books that challenge kids and are about more than just bathroom humor. I will forever be looking for a creepy, lyrical book a la Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE — and would love to find an LGBT-centric book about a kid having their first crush on someone the same gender as them.
Armed with his wits, his friends, and his Nemotech submarine, a twelve-year-old descendant of Jules Verne’s famous antihero is determined to help make the ocean a safer place one adventure at a time in Jason Henderson’s Young Captain Nemo, first in a new middle-grade series.
Gabriel Nemo is not your typical 12-year-old. A descendant of the famous Captain Nemo, he spent the first years of his life living in obscurity, isolated in his parents’ peaceful underwater research lab. But with his older sister off following in their ancestor’s footsteps, sinking whalers and running away from vengeful navies, Gabriel decides it’s time to forge his own path, and use his Nemotech legacy for good.
Armed only with his wits, his friends, and his Nemotech submarine, Gabriel embarks on a series of daring rescues and exciting undersea battles. But when Gabriel’s sister suddenly appears with proof of previously undiscovered sea creatures—giant beasts inhabiting wrecked war planes and ships—Gabriel and his new friends must face their biggest and most dangerous mission ever!
Last but not least, we’re thrilled to have Natascha Morris join us to talk about an upcoming middle grade novel, Lexi Magill AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT! Stay tuned for a cover reveal.
Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won’t let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin’s Teleportation Tournament–the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve science-based puzzles. Perfect for young fans of The Amazing Race!
1) What made you fall in love with LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT?
Fun fact: LEXI wasn’t the book Kim queried me with. But what made me fall in love with Kim was her absolutely amazing spot on middle grade voice. I was hooked right away. Once I saw LEXI and started reading, I saw instantly where I was needed. Kim had all the things that I knew were working in middle grade, but just hadn’t managed to break through that final barrier. LEXI is a fun middle grade that is perfect for younger readers, with a great STEM element to it. What’s not to love about that, when combined with an author who has such a spot on voice?
2) What’s your Middle Grade MSWL?
Voice is the most important thing to me. I’m extremely picky when it comes to middle grade. Thematically, it also really needs to fit in the middle grade space. There’s a difference between what a 8 year old is going through versus a 13 year versus a 16 year old and I want to make sure authors know that.
But plot wise, I do love fantasy in middle grade. Historical fiction is favorite for me. I really like middle grade that touches on slightly heavier issues, but in a gentle way, so think Fish in a Tree. I’d love to see something that deals with homelessness, or the feeling of being caught between two cultures. Or even a book that deals with the guilt of rejecting your culture.