Two New Novels for the New School Year: The Exact Location of Home and Breakout!

I have two books to talk about today – one that will feel very familiar to my readers & one that’s different from anything I’ve ever written!

First… today is book release day for THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME!  It’s about geocaching, absent parents, great blue herons, homelessness, and friendship. It’s also a companion novel to my 2009 debut THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. This book has been a long time coming. I wrote a draft of it before Gianna Z. even came out, but at that time, Bloomsbury wanted me to wait a while on another book set in the same world. By the time GIANNA Z. won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award in 2010, I’d moved on to other projects, and it was just last year that my editor let me know that she wanted to revisit that Zig book. I revised a bunch more to get it ready for today’s hardcover publication. In some ways, this book feels like a collaboration between the writer I was nine years ago and the writer I am today, so I was thrilled when it earned two starred reviews. SLJ called it “A gentle but truthful look at poverty and homelessness for fans of realistic middle grade novels, such as Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now and Messner’s The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., in which Zig is a secondary character,” and Kirkus sums it up with: “Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale.” (I didn’t link to the SLJ review because it’s loaded with spoilers. You can google it if you don’t mind having all your surprises ruined. 🙂 

My other book news this week is a cover reveal for a project that’s totally different from anything I’ve written before. BREAKOUT is a novel-in-documents, told entirely through letters, text messages, press clippings, petitions, photographs, comics, and other bits of everyday life that soon-to-be 8th grader Nora Tucker collects for her community’s time capsule project. The project is supposed to share a slice of life in fictional Wolf Creek, a sleepy mountain town in the Adirondacks, but the day after it’s assigned, two convicted killers escape from the maximum security prison where Nora’s father is superintendent. Nora’s collected documents share many points of view on what happens during the two-week manhunt that changes the way Nora sees some of her neighbors and the place she’s always called home. BREAKOUT is a fictional story, but it was inspired by the Clinton Correctional Facility prison break two summers ago, which led to a three-week manhunt in the woods and mountains near my home in Northern NY.

BREAKOUT isn’t out until June 5th, but the one and only John Schu is hosting a cover reveal along with an interview on his blog this Thursday, so be sure to stop by if you’d like to see how the cover came to be and hear more of the story behind the story for this book!

New Books for Hurricane Harvey Schools & Libraries: Details for schools/libraries and authors/publishers

Hundreds of Texas classrooms and libraries lost books in Hurricane Harvey and related flooding, and some have started reaching out to ask for help to make sure kids have books when they return to school. Please note that the best way to help is by donating money, either to individual libraries or to the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief fund, which will be assisting for many weeks to come. Many authors, illustrators, & publishing professionals have also asked about donating new books to some of those schools & libraries. This New Books for Hurricane Harvey Schools & Libraries project aims to connect schools in need with those who have new books to donate.

If you are a teacher, librarian, or principal whose school or library lost books, you can fill out this form to request new book donations. 

If you are an author, illustrator, or publishing professional and you’d like to donate a box of new books, here’s information on how to do that.

(Photo above is by Danelle Anderson via fb: Kingwood Library losses) 

I’ve been collecting requests from teachers, librarians, and principals and now have a list of dozens of Texas schools that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey and are ready (or almost ready) to receive new book donations. They have all specifically requested this sort of donation. If you are an author, illustrator, or publishing professional who would like to help, please email me (kate messner books at gmail) or DM me on Facebook or Twitter (@katemessner), to request access to the spreadsheet. This link may NOT be shared publicly because it includes many educators’ personal contact information. Please do not post it anywhere.

The spreadsheet has a list of teachers, schools, and needs, along with addresses for sending new books and dates when books can be accepted. I’d like to keep track of what’s been sent to whom so we can make sure everyone gets books. To “adopt” a classroom or library in need, you’ll go to column J on the spreadsheet in the row for the school/library you’d like to adopt. Enter your name, where you’re from if you work at a publisher, and what you are sending. Examples of this: “Kate Messner – 15 of my books” or “Paige Turner from Bloomsbury – 1 case of mixed titles.”

Please note that this effort is for new book donations. While some impacted classrooms might welcome gently used book donations, people who have experienced this sort of catastrophic flooding in the past say that can lead to a flood of unusable materials which then create another job for people who are already overwhelmed. If you were thinking of organizing a used book drive, one idea is to have a used book sale at your school instead and donate the proceeds to the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Effort.