Sunday, September 4, 2016

My Ode to the Debut Novelist

I love that I have the luxury on this Sunday morning to sit with my coffee, enjoy some chocolate chip banana bread that my daughter baked yesterday and actually read the fine script of the Sunday New York Times.  This is one of my vices, when I have the time.  We actually get it delivered on brings me back to my Queens childhood.

In the back of the Book Review, the first section I pull out so I can see what beloved books and authors have made it to the bestseller list albeit a few weeks old, is a column I like to read called, "Bookends."  There's always a question with two authors offering differing opinions.  Today's topic completely struck me--

I am a huge fan of the middle grade debut novelist.  In fact, I get a little jolt when I read the biography that says, "This is _____ first book."  Yes!  I don't know if it is because I feel that I, and I alone, can help this author's career.  Hardly, but I love a good book for kids and boy do I love promoting that book, sharing reader enthusiasm with the debut author and just waiting to see how the future unfolds.

Did you know that there are Twitter accounts and hashtags for the middle grade debut writer community?  This year it is 

I'm embarrassed that I've only read five of these so far MG novels but I've heard great things about more of them! I loved all of the ones I read--I actually think I blogged about all of them--Paper Wishes, Fenway and Hattie, Counting Thyme, The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes, Hour of the Bees and The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary School. In fact, my students read The Adventurer's Guide and loved it so much they read way ahead for book group. We had a blast in early August with our summer book group chatting with Last Fifth Grade's Laura Shovan.  I don't think a non-debut novelist would do this, but she offered to Skype with us only a day or two before and we were able to make it happen!  It's a win-win situation for both of us--my students are thrilled with the opportunity to meet an author and the new author gets to experience enthusiastic readers first hand.



Here's the link for the debut novelists from last year:

We loved a bunch of those, too!  Circus Mirandus was one of our top Newbery 2016 books, winning an honor from our Newbery Consensus club and we loved Skyping with Cassie!  We also loved Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman and Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones.  Both of those were book groups for Newbery and we had the wonderful opportunity to Skype with those fabulous debut women, too. On a side note, I hear there is a Book Scavenger hiding in NYC right now--I keep saying I'm going to hide one in Albany. I have to make that happen.

And I can't let this go without talking about Kwame Alexander.  Even though The Crossover wasn't his debut novel and he had been writing poetry (and prose) for 20 years before, The Crossover is what introduced this incredible poet novelist to the world. I got on board with the book from the beginning, got my students to love it and him and the rest, as they say, is history.

All in all, I love how Leslie Jamison put it in the "Bookends" column.  

"Part of the thrill of watching the [NBA] draft is the possibility of watching the future before it happens, which is also the thrill of of the debut novelist:  the chance to read an author before she has become a legacy, before she has become part of the canon.  It's a chance to imagine yourself, as a reader, inside the greater wingspan of literary history:  Witnessing the ascendance of a debut novelist means witnessing a career when it's just beginning, being part of a moment that will ultimately matter."
-Leslie Jamison

I couldn't have said it any better.  I thrive on being part of history and being "one of the firsts."  Now off to read to be part of history...

ps-Looking ahead, here is the link for next year's debut MG and YA novelists:


  1. I love debuts! Adore debuts! I seek them out. I review children's book: anything for up to age 13, so middle grade debuts are on my radar. If I hear of one, I will request it. The worst part of your excellent post is being so swamped until January that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for any book you mentioned.

    I really like your post and your enthusiasm is contagious. You have a new reader.

    1. Wow! Thank you! There is NEVER enough time to read all the wonderful books out there and once school starts...woosh! It will be even harder. Happy reading and keep in touch!