Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Tuesday, June 14 Dedicated Issue: 50th anniversary of Margaret K. McElderry Books

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Celebrating 50 Years of Margaret K. McElderry Book

Editors' Note

Margaret K. McElderry Books

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness honors the 50th anniversary of Margaret K. McElderry Books, which specializes in high quality literary fantasy, contemporary and historical fiction, as well as character-driven picture books and poetry for young readers.

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Susan Cooper and Amanda Foody

Books & Authors

Welcome from Karen Wojtyla

Karen Wojtyla

Karen Wojtyla is the vice president and editorial director of Margaret K. McElderry Books. She works with a talented team of editors to publish award-winning and bestselling titles across all categories of books for young readers.

I am so thrilled to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Margaret K. McElderry Books! It's an honor to be a part of the legacy created by a legendary editor and publisher, and to carry it forward. This wonderful imprint has been exciting and inspiring young readers for half a century—and we can't wait for more!

Over the years McElderry has published many different genres of books for young readers of all ages. Margaret was a pioneer in publishing stories from many countries and cultures, and fiercely committed to engaging kids with the world. These challenging times make these connections vital, as we see the power books have for young readers to expand horizons, broaden understanding and heighten empathy. And we relish the chance to publish great storytellers from many perspectives.

One of the first series Margaret published is also one of the most beloved fantasy series of all time, and a personal favorite of mine, Susan Cooper's Newbery Award-winning The Dark Is Rising. Fantasy stories have been and continue to be one focus of this imprint—it's always been a genre that is bold about pushing boundaries. But it is certainly not all we do!

Margaret McElderry

We have published important stories from the past, like Louise Borden and Michael Foreman's The Little Ships; just-for-fun stories like Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's We're Going on a Bear Hunt; stories that gently teach like Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman's beyond-adorable Bear series; stories that transport you to fantastical worlds like Cassandra Clare's groundbreaking and bestselling Shadowhunter series and Margaret Rogerson's Sorcery of Thorns; stories that bring a touch of fantasy to the joys and trials of middle graders like Holly Black's Newbery Honor-winning Doll Bones and William Alexander's National Book Award-winning Goblin Secrets; and stories that re-invent classics in new worlds like Chloe Gong's incredible These Violent Delights.

These are just a few of the critically acclaimed and bestselling books from authors and artists who have made the McElderry imprint a truly special place to be. I felt it the moment I arrived many years ago—I felt I had come home. And I truly cannot wait to see what's to come. Here's to another 50! 

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Louise Borden and Karma Wilson

Chloe Gong: Part of a Long Legacy

Chloe Gong

Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and its sequel, Our Violent Ends, as well as Foul Lady Fortune. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York City pretending to be a real adult. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok or check out her website

Your debut title, These Violent Delights, published in November of 2020. The world you wrote that book in was significantly different from the world you published in.

There was definitely a huge global change between the time I was working on These Violent Delights and when it finally made its way onto shelves, so I'm thankful that I got to experience editing pre-pandemic. As a first-time author, I didn't have any prior experience to draw from when it came to knowing whether I was improving the story or not, so I leaned heavily on the notes my editor gave. I wholly trusted her vision because I felt like it aligned greatly with my own.

What was it like debuting at the end of 2020?

Almost everything was rough at the end of 2020, so I think debuting at the end of 2020 was very rough too. It felt like there were far more important things going on than a book being released, but as a new author, your first book coming out feels like the most important thing in the world. McElderry adjusted to the strange times, and my publicists made use of the avenues we did have available. Cassie Malmo and Jenny Lu were both absolutely brilliant. I truly couldn't have asked for better publicity support for my debut.

The second book in the duology, Our Violent Ends, published in November of 2021. Now your third book, Foul Lady Fortune, is scheduled to publish in September of 2022. That's so fast!

Please imagine me laughing maniacally because it'll get wilder: after Foul Lady Fortune, I'll be launching my adult fantasy series with Saga Press (S&S), a retelling of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra meets The Hunger Games in a setting inspired by the Kowloon Walled City in 1990s Hong Kong. As far as I can tell, my brain hasn't caught fire... yet. I'm kidding: I'm a relatively fast writer because that's just my process. I grow obsessed with my books in progress, and it fuels me to keep picking at them until I have a finished product.

My team always has such fantastic ideas for positioning my books, and I trust my editor with my life. I've worked with two amazing editors—Tricia Lin acquired me with These Violent Delights and I'm now with Sarah McCabe for Our Violent Ends and onward. I'm in awe of their brains.

Would you please tell our readers a bit about Foul Lady Fortune?

Foul Lady Fortune is a loose retelling of Shakespeare's As You Like It set in 1931 Shanghai, following two ill-matched spies who must pose as a married couple while investigating a string of brutal murders. It is a spin-off on These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends, which means half the cast will be very familiar to fans of the original duology while the other half is new, allowing readers to jump in even if they don't know These Violent Delights. At its heart, Foul Lady Fortune is about its protagonist, Rosalind Lang, and her quest to fix a city she thinks she has broken.

How do you feel about being a McElderry author?

It's genuinely an honor. I grew up reading Cassandra Clare's books, so I have always known about McElderry as an imprint, even before I understood a single thing about publishing as an industry. To be a part of such a long legacy—and to add to it—feels like I'm contributing to momentous history. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Cassandra Clare and Chloe Gong

Susan Cooper: Much Love, Margaret

Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper is one of our foremost children's authors; her classic five-book fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising has sold millions of copies worldwide. Her many books have won the Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and been shortlisted five times for the Carnegie Medal. Susan Cooper lives on a saltmarsh island in Massachusetts, and you can visit her online.

You say that you were a McElderry author before the imprint even began.

The very first letter I had from Margaret McElderry is dated April 27th, 1966. It begins, "Dear Mrs. Grant, I have been meaning for a long time—ever since I read Over Sea, Under Stone—to get in touch with you directly and tell you of my very real pleasure in your book. We are very pleased indeed to have it on our list in this country...."  I'd written Over Sea in my 20s, before marrying an American and moving to the U.S., and its British publisher Jonathan Cape had sold the U.S. rights to Margaret at Harcourt, Brace and World. I wasn't a debut author—I'd already published two adult books—but I'd never come across an editor with her personal touch. At the end of that first letter, she wrote: "Needless to say, I am very curious to know what you may be planning next for children—in fact, I hope that there is something actually in work now. If you find the time—and have the inclination—I'd love to hear from you about this."

And she did, because I'd already written a novel about children in World War II, called The Camp, and found that nobody wanted to publish it as an adult book. I promptly sent it to Margaret, and she wrote back, "Yesterday I read The Camp and haven't been able to stop thinking of it since then. It is an absolute heart-breaker—I was in tears at the end—and an extraordinarily perceptive piece of writing, and I do hope with all my heart, that we may publish it as a book for young readers." After some skillful editing to remove passages that seemed too adult, she published it in 1970 as Dawn of Fear, and we met for the first time. As a person, she was a wonderful discovery, warm and encouraging; we were instantly friends, and when I tentatively mentioned my glimmer of an idea for a new book she wrote later, "I'm terribly keen to know how the next idea—the fantasy set in England—is coming along, so please do go on 'brooding gently' and I'll await the results with all the patience I can muster."

Did you know, with Over Sea, Under Stone, that you wanted to write a series?

I'd written Over Sea, Under Stone without any thought of its ever having a sequel, but when I began thinking about this new book my imagination went into overdrive and produced a plan for a sequence not only linking the two books but adding three more. In those days, this seemed hugely over-ambitious. But Margaret wrote gaily, "How perfectly marvelous to know that the next book and Over Sea are part of a sequence of five. What a glorious future! Don't for one moment think that this is daunting news, it is simply great."

And later she wrote, "The overall title The Dark Is Rising is perfectly marvelous and, so far as I know, has not been used, so hang on to it for it has a lovely sound."

It was at that point that the roof fell in: Margaret was fired from what was then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich by its new owner William Jovanovich—and like most of her authors, I broke my Harcourt Brace contract and went with her to the new imprint founded in her name at Atheneum. So, it was for MKM Books that we discussed and edited the "long and expensive" book that I called The Gift of Gramarye, but that Margaret asked me to rechristen The Dark Is Rising (in case children would think it was a book about grammar). I wrote to her, "I am half bubbly and half frightened about this book; it makes me feel more maternal than any I've ever written."

It's been 57 years since the publication of Over Sea, Under Stone. Could you please tell us a bit about working with and knowing McElderry?

Part of Margaret's genius as an editor was that she didn't try to shape her authors; she believed in giving them the freedom to follow their instincts—while firmly making suggestions to improve the resulting book. The Dark Is Rising was indeed too long, and I made some cuts that she suggested ("This book has a little too much weather"). Together we made minor alterations and discussed the merits of suggestions from my U.K. editor, since my books were now simultaneously edited and published on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Margaret whose judgement I trusted absolutely—and who would occasionally defend me in battles with her copy editors, particularly over my use of commas and refusal to follow the more ridiculous fiats of the Chicago Manual of Style. The defense had nothing to do with our friendship but came from her nature as an editor: deep down, her support for the writer passionate about the rhythm of words overcame her belief in rules.

With her encouragement, I followed my plans for the next books in the sequence, and by the time The Dark Is Rising was named a Newbery Honor (something whose significance she had to explain to me), I had just finished the first draft of book number four. "What a glorious title, The Grey King," she wrote to me, "I can't wait to read it." By now the letters were no longer "Dear Mrs. Grant" but "Dearest Susan... much love, Margaret," and she was Aunt Margaret to my children, and my closest friend until the end of her very long life. But the strength of the professional relationship persisted through all my subsequent books, with the mutual respect and understanding that all her authors enjoyed, and when I was lucky enough to make a Newbery Medal acceptance speech at ALA for The Grey King, its most heartfelt words were, "Margaret McElderry is the wisest and most sensitive editor-publisher I have ever known, anywhere."

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf readers?

Like me, The Dark Is Rising sequence has been around for a long time, and I'm deeply grateful, especially for the newly designed edition that's on its way from MKM Books. The second book, which was made into a movie that's best forgotten, is now being translated by some real magicians into radio for the BBC, who are also contemplating a TV series of the sequence. As for the author, in reaction to the gloomy years of Covid I've just finished writing an adult book about all the moments, people and things that have brought joy into my long life. I think it's called Celebrating, and one of the people it celebrates is, of course, Margaret K. McElderry. —Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Upcoming Titles

Karen Wojtyla tells readers below about some of the excellent upcoming titles from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Chain of Thorns by Cassandra Clare (MKM Books, $24.99, January 31, 2023)

Clare has delighted a generation of readers with her bestselling Shadowhunter books—not to mention influencing many writers, who tell me they fell in love with fantasy when they fell into her immersive storytelling. We are now finishing up the Last Hours trilogy with a novel that will keep the pages turning with all the thrills, chills and feels that every one of her books delivers... and that keep readers clamoring for more!


Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury (MKM Books, $21.99, February 28, 2023)

This is one of those rare books that transcends its own genre. It's so much more than a horror novel—it's a powerful meditation on the far-reaching effects of trauma and explores the many ways that the media fails Black girls. With Liselle Sambury's gorgeous writing and her talent at slowly unraveling a mystery, this is one of those books that will stick with you long after you finish.



 Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens (MKM Books, $19.99, April 4, 2023)

New York Times bestselling author F.T. Lukens is back with a new queer fantasy romance, this time featuring enemies-to-lovers in a modern second-world fantasy. F.T. is adept at writing charming characters with crackling emotional chemistry, and this offering is no exception! You'll discover plenty of mystery, action and humor in this tale of rival apprentices who must team up to save their teachers—or risk losing their magic forever.

The Ever Storms by Amanda Foody (MKM Books, $17.99, January 31, 2023)

Amanda Foody continues her New York Times bestselling Wilderlore series featuring the kind of world-building that beckons readers to join in. There are magical biomes and fantastical creatures, all full of elements that fans of How to Train Your Dragon and Pokemon love! In this third offering, Barclay Thorne works to save the people of the Desert while navigating a magical boarding school and an epic prank war. There's also wonderful representation: Barclay is bisexual, characters come from a variety of racial backgrounds and there is a character who uses a prosthetic leg featured on the cover.

I Can't Draw by Stephen W. Martin, illus. by Brian Biggs (MKM Books, $18.99, October 18, 2022)

Kids can enjoy this picture book for the sheer hilarity of looking at the creations of Max, a kid who cannot draw. He is truly terrible! He asks his best friend for help, and together they learn that maybe perfection isn't everything. Maybe self-expression, and being happy with who you are, are more important—and having friends to share that with! What sets this apart is the brilliant artwork of Brian Biggs, as we see the story develop in the pictures that each boy draws. And we all get to enjoy Max's amazing imagination!

Margaret K. McElderry Books: McElderry Modern Classics

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Worldwide Phenomenons Cassandra Clare and Chloe Gong

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Margaret K. McElderry Books

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