How imagination begins

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Recent chapter books by alumni

Sidetracked  (Amulet Books, $16.99) — Diana Harmon Asher ’78

“For me, every day in middle school is a little bit like the Running of the Bulls,” says seventh-grader Joseph Friedman, the hero of this heartwarming novel. “I try to keep up, or stay out of the way, or find someplace to hide.” Joseph has ADHD, and as one of the LD kids—shorthand for “learning differences” (used instead of “learning disabilities,” he says, “to make us sound a little less tragic”)—he has trouble navigating his surroundings. But when a new girl, an athlete named Heather, enters the school, and Joseph is pushed into joining the running team, life begins to look up. He learns how to leave the safety of the Resource Room and start amassing personal records, or, as the runners Joseph triumphantly joins would have it, “PRs.”

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Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe (Random House, $16.99) — Jo Watson Hackl ’88JD

“Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketsful of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ’n Carry grocery store,” says a middle-school-aged girl named Cricket. Her dad has died, her mentally ill mom has vanished, and Cricket is leaving her steadfast guardian, Aunt Belinda, in order to follow a set of clues into a ghost town. The indomitable girl has sidekicks: a real cricket named Charlene and a mysterious woman named Miss V., who lives in what’s left of the mysterious town and nurses Cricket through a snakebite. If the trio can do the job right, the missing mom might return. This enchanting blend of magical realism, coming-of-age adventure, and classic Southern story-telling is beautifully alive with the rhythms of the natural world.

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Nowhere Boy (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99) — Katherine Marsh ’97

On the dangerous crossing between Turkey and Greece, the inflatable dinghy carrying a young teenage Syrian named Ahmed, his dad, and a group of fellow Muslim refugees begins taking on water. In a desperate act of heroism to save his son and the group, the dad attempts to swim the boat to safety, but disappears. The boy and his companions are rescued, and they wind up in Belgium. There, Ahmed finds shelter in the home of a fellow teen, Max, who discovers and befriends him. In this fine story of resilience and grit, Max attempts to effect a reunion with Ahmed’s dad—who somehow survived. “Even in the darkest times and places there were always good people, people who would help others out of the kindness of their hearts.”

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Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (Moth House Press, $95) — Maggie Taylor ’83

Photographer Taylor ’83 has been a Photoshop magician since that digital image-editing program first became available some 30 years ago. In this large-format edition of Lewis Carroll’s second series of Alice’s adventures, Taylor uses all her artistic and computer skills to give readers an inkling of what the young heroine discovered after she stepped through the glass into an alternative, haunting, and utterly unforgettable universe. Taylor’s images, from the Red Queen to Jabberwocky, cloak actual nineteenth-century portrait photos in new clothes and fantastic situations. Tweedledum and Tweedledee look like they’ve stepped right off the walls of Mory’s.


Still more Yalies

Respected children’s book writers and illustrators who went to Yale can be found throughout the decades. In addition to those we’ve already cited, here are a few more:

Karla Kuskin ’55BFA, author and artist of over 50 books of prose and poetry for children, including Roar and More, Any Me I Want to Be, and The Philharmonic Gets Dressed.

Allison Pataki ’07 and Marya Myers ’07, coauthors of Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris.
Fran Quittel ’70MPhil, author of The Central Park Lost Mitten Party.

Dan Schlesinger ’77, illustrator and cover designer for the Japanese edition of the Harry Potter series.

Valerie Tripp ’73, author of numerous American Girl storybooks, including all those in the Felicity, Josefina, Kit, and Molly series.

Peter Wells ’35,  author and illustrator of Mr. Tootwhistle’s Invention, Dolly Madison’s Surprise, and The Pirate’s Apprentice.


  • Jo Hackl
    Jo Hackl, 4:40pm August 28 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Many thanks for your generous review. I'm honored to be in such excellent company in the Yale Alumni magazine.

  • Diana Harmon Asher
    Diana Harmon Asher, 7:01pm August 28 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Add my thanks to Jo’s! I look forward to reading these wonderful books!

  • James M. Perlotto, M.D. (Yale College, ' 78)
    James M. Perlotto, M.D. (Yale College, ' 78), 10:10pm August 29 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    What a delight to see Diana Harmon Asher's book featured! She is a writer of great compassion and joy, and I've given her book to many friends (and children of friends) and the message of "being true to oneself" is universal and very welcomed!

  • Fran Quittel
    Fran Quittel, 5:46pm August 30 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    thanks for the mention. I've been repeatedly signing the book at FAO Schwarz at Rockefeller Center and offering art workshops to make puppets in particular from objects lost and found. The Central Park Lost Mitten Party: Perfect for anyone who loves Central Park. You can also find the instructions at:

    Totally happy to help anyone who wants to read and make art or learn about the Park.
    The book is stocked in Central Park's visitor centers, and all the other usual places including the Yale New Haven bookstore and B&N Upper West Side.

    CAROL WESTON, 8:54am August 31 2020 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Thank you! What a thrill to have my essay in your magazine. I'm even having one of those, "Mom! Dad! Look at this!" moments -- and it's been years. Honored to be in such company!

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