I've had requests for Speak, Hattie Big Sky, Fancy Nancy, Clementine, Donuthead, and Dairy Queen.
As mentioned, when this book was published Laurie Halse Anderson was not a name and so that was not a hook for this book. It got published because it's convincingly and sensitively written. Editors want to publish anything that's simply well-written, and given half a chance to get it past acquisitions, we will. But the hook that took this book from maybe-too-issue-y-for-mainstream to a grassroots hit that middle school girls passed from hand to hand to hand was the way it dealt with a danger that girls know threatens them, did it realistically, but did it in a way that didn't wring the reader for every bit of pathos in her. I appreciate this myself; I hate books that not only tell the story of someone experiencing something awful but try to make sure you experience it too. Plus the sensitivity with which it dealt with rape made it easier for parents to let their 13 and 14-year-olds get on with reading it.
Hattie Big Sky
Certainly there are some people crazy enough about historical fiction to buy anything because it's historical fiction, but there aren't a lot of them. Historical fiction is a genre, not a hook. This is a case of just plain awesome writing. As I said above, that's all you need to get an editor to want to publish your book. But editors know that awesome writing may or may not get the book the attention we feel it deserves. Which is why we thank our lucky stars when such a book gets an medal to stick on it. Medals are hooks, at least for a while. Of course, all you have to do is look at the Newbery list to see that some of the winners are now mostly forgotten.
I know an author who thinks the reason people are buying this book in scads is because it has glitter on the cover. Christ, if it were that easy, publishers would be putting glitter on everything. (And while it may sometimes seem like in fact we are, no, we're not.) Fancy Nancy is flying off the shelves because just about everyone knows a little girl like this. Have you noticed America having a rather extended and intense princess phase? Yeah. Little girls have always liked to dress up and feel special, but there seems to be a bit more of it going around right now. Ugh. Children like Fancy Nancy too, but I think a significant part of its extreme popularity, like Olivia's, is attributable to the character coinciding with many adults' perception of little girls.
From the first page, you can tell this book has voice and humor. It's funny and it makes a great read-aloud. Clementine's character is charming. And have you searched the shelves for this reading level? There are some great books, but there aren't nearly as many choices as there are when you move up just a little in reading level. We need more fun books for these kids. We could especially use some more for boys. And don't talk to me about Junie B. I can't forgive her for her mother.
Sue Stauffacher doesn't get read enough. Period. She has an utterly winning way of talking about hard situations without a trace of self-pity and a healthy dose of humor. Just like real kids, her characters don't think too hard about what their lives should be—their lives are too big and too close to them for kids to see far around them. They just get on with living the life in front of them... lives that are not simple or easy, but that are worth it. Kids get this. Reviewers and librarians often get this. Parents may or may not. Fortunately, by this age kids are often helping with their own book selection.
And also: what kid isn't going to pick up a book called Donuthead?
I miss the cover with the cow and the tiara.
Hook 1: a girl who lives on a dairy farm decides she wants to play football, but there's no girl's team in rural, small-town America. So she goes out for the boy's team. Anyone with a shred of tomboy in them already wants to see this work; wants to see her plow through a line of football players. Hook 2: Again, good writing. 1st person can be really hard; but the main character's voice is compellingly fresh: it doesn't falter as the character cycles through ironic, self-deprecating, funny, angry, reflective, confused. She's easy to connect with, and root for.
It's also nice that the story deals with some serious issues—there's meat there—but doesn't make a bigger deal of them than the main character would, and makes only as much progress as the main character, being who she is, can. But it's enough.
Any other requests? Or do you want to play a different game?