Three alumnae of Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature and children’s book illustration are among the authors highlighted in Publishers Weekly’s (PW) 10th Children’s Starred Reviews Annual.Dhonielle Clayton, who holds a Master of Arts degree, and Cassie Gustafson and Ali Standish, who both completed Master of Fine Arts degrees, are all recognized in the issue for books they released this year.
“In these pages, you’ll find nearly 400 reviews of books for children and teens published in 2022 that received a star from PW, indicating that they are titles of exceptional merit,” stated the trade news magazine that has served publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents internationally for 150 years.
In Clayton’s Middle Grade (ages eight – 12) novel debut, The Marvellers (published by Macmillan), 11-year-old Ella Durand faces significant obstacles after becoming the first Conjuror to enroll at the elite Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors. Marvellers are “born with marvels, light inside of them that allowed them to perform magical feats” and deem their powers above those of Conjurors. Nevertheless, Ella is determined to succeed and make her family proud. “Clayton imaginatively combines myriad global cultural traditions with an intersectionally inclusive, fantastical adventure that examines themes of acceptance, prejudice, and familial responsibility,” PW notes.
Gustafson’s The Secrets We Keep (Simon & Schuster), which is cited in the Young Adult (ages 14 and up) category, centers on themes of self-harm, sexual violence, and suicidal ideation in the story of Emma, a high school student who must deal with the consequences after her father is accused of sexually assaulting her best friend. PW states in its review, “Gustafson renders Emma’s present and past in striking detail, throughout featuring Emma’s journal entries….The narrative’s dark climax and Gustafson’s visceral prose don’t shy away from the inherent trauma surrounding sexual assault, making for a vital, heart-wrenching account of one teen’s harrowing experience.”
Yonder (HarperCollins) by Standish is a Middle Grade novel that takes place during World War II in a small Appalachian town. Thirteen-year-old Danny Timmons has a friend and protector in 15-year-old Jake, and when Jake suddenly disappears, Danny is determined to find him, no matter what. PW calls Yonder an “uplifting mystery [that] tackles big themes of abuse, bullying, heroism, mental health, and prejudice. Through an elegant voice…the mystery of Jack’s disappearance unfolds alongside the story of Danny’s friendship with him, the increasing clarity with which Danny sees life as far from perfect, and the small but meaningful steps he takes to discover what bravery means.”