"Braden sensitively demonstrates how isolating it can be to live with people who, despite good intentions, force their children to fulfill expectations that run counter to their own senses of self. . . . All the characters find ways to encourage each other, be less alone, and connect.”—Booklist, starred review
"A book to be read over and over for its intriguing story, illustrations, and captions." —School Library Journal, starred review
So I've learned one thing for sure in my job: When Susan Vaught says she'll give something a try, be prepared for some results!
I think it was back in the spring when I suggested that Susan, who has published over a dozen YA novels, might be a good fit to write contemporary middle-grade fiction. She has a knack for creating protagonists whom readers love and want to protect, and I thought that might be a good fit for the younger market, too.
Here we are, maybe six months later, and we've just wrapped up a two-book deal for Susan's first and second middle-grade novels, at auction, and the first one will be published in 2015. Voila! (The second book is still but a twinkle in her eye, but don't you worry...)
BLESS YOUR HEART is the temporary title of the novel I pitched a Fannie Flagg meets WONDER, with a mystery twist. As many of Susan's book do, this one draws on both her Southernness and her professional experience helping patients and families navigate life with mental illness. Footer, the main character in the story, has a mother who is bipolar, and who is sent away to a hospital to get stabilized at the beginning of the novel, a not-unfamiliar event to Footer. There are also loyal best friends, adults on the periphery who keep an eye out for Footer whether she knows it or not (which is where the WONDER comparison comes in), and a mystery involving a fire at a nearby house and two missing kids. The voice, though—the voice is what will get you! Footer is funny and genuine and full of attitude, even as she worries that she might be sick like her mama and fights against that idea with all her being.
The lucky auction-winning editor, Sylvie Frank at Paula Wiseman Books, didn't need a whole lot of luck here, actually; she brought to the table a boundless enthusiasm for Susan's work, the backing of a great team at S&S, and well as her own careful thoughts about how this story and Susan's career might be shaped from here. I couldn't be more thrilled.