“The Stuff Between the Stars“ is a story by Sandra Nickel, which was the Category Winner for Children’s Books in Hunger Mountain’s 2017 Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. We are most grateful for author Sandra Nickel, editor Maggie Lehrman, and literary agent Victoria Wells Arms for taking the time to chat […]
Katherine Paterson Prize
Louis Sylvester is a cool man. He’s an Associate Professor of English at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He earned his PhD from Oklahoma State University. As a professor, many students refer to him as the “fun professor” to work with. He mostly dresses in printed cartoon t-shirts and jeans and there is always […]
Young Adult Fiction
Katherine Paterson Prize in YA & Children’s Writing
The backstage lights are off. The actors are in shadow, lit only by the faint glow of the house lights onstage. You tunnel around them, trying to keep up with Dani Aguilar, but Cinderella has somehow gotten ahead of you…
I stop and drop my bike on the ground, and the young woman’s head appears in the back window. My father’s head pops up too, and then I see a hand reach up, an open hand patting the window, as if asking me to wait.
WAITING Monday April 16th At the barre at Miss Allie’s I lean and dream: onstage alone where the spotlight glows, fears of an audience scatter like stage dust. Music flows through me – it always does like air and blood moving my limbs to dance in ways that push me out so close to the […]
They were heading for the mall, to spend the last couple of hours of Saturday afternoon away from the house where they lived with the Hardisons. As foster parents went, Ford guessed, they were decent; but without kids of their own, everything they did seemed off.
The green rippling ribbons of light in the sky look like the swirling skirts of dancing Valkyries. The moon shines, waning, but it’s still large enough to see the birch grove and my unborn sister’s tree that Father dedicated to the gods for her. The three-colored cord hangs from its boughs. I hung it there to dry after I dyed it, just as Old Aud directed, according to her dream.
Because I know everyone there—and there
are no Mockingbird-reading poets to speak of—
so I draw a mental map around my coffee shop.
Lorna had never had a single sleepless night or nagging intuition about Clairmont. For as long as she could remember, she couldn’t wait to turn thirteen, so she could go there. She’d hop on a plane in New York City. Step off in Switzerland. And head to the old Abbey her great-grandmother turned into a school, high up on a cliff above Lake Geneva.
Name me America
Because I am discovered
I am here. I am this body.
This breath a gust. This pulse a drum.
I am poised and fist-ready…
It was Gaga, my grandpa, who told me about Vesak lanterns.
Vesak is a holiday. People celebrate it in Sri Lanka, Gaga said, but not here in the United States. Vesak is for remembering Lord Buddha, a teacher who lived a long time ago. Lord Buddha was very wise, and he understood the truth about everything.
When Theresa Miller told her mother that she’d almost been kidnapped, the neighborhood went nuts. She told her mom who told the police who told all the moms on our street that a scary man with a spiky purple mohawk, yellow eyes, tattooed arms, piercings, and a gold medallion around his neck had tried to get her into his convertible by offering her candy.
A young girl has a dream about a monster. The monster is gray. It enters her window at night, just pulls it open and slides through, facing her, sagging and infinitely wrinkled, with rotting teeth. It reaches its long shadow-arms into her parted lips and down her throat to grab her life, to take it from her. She wakes up screaming.
And so the four of them stole through the dark grounds, Mack and Ty holding hands like absconding lovers leading the way—Mack a little ahead of Ty, tugging on his hand in excitement—and Jonas behind them, with Caleb on his back. It was exhausting, and he never would have imagined he’d have the strength to do it, except that Caleb weighed about eighty-five pounds, and Jonas was high from rule-breaking and night air.
Anyone walking down Feltwhip Road early that morning would have noticed the light in the shop window. The clouds were heavy with water scooped up from the sea, and they threatened to dump it all at once onto the dark streets of Graves. Even so, the golden flicker of that lone candle in the window might make someone stop and linger for a moment.
Batshit crazy. That’s what Mikey would call anyone who predicted he would run for senior class president, in an election that would nearly kill him. But aside from his best friend Smiles, Mikey doesn’t talk to many other students, let alone anyone clairvoyant enough to see one batshit crazy week into the future.
You waded in knee deep, toes reading the slimy uneven stones, skin crawling through weeds. Pushed off. Boogie board slapping the stillness. You were tempted to lift your knees and feet and hands and arms out and above the murky unknown, balance on your belly and hold the monsters at bay…
I’m in a stranger’s bed
a college guy from the cigar shop at the mall. He smells like
tobacco, tastes like mints. He pulls my shirt over my head, weaves his fingers
through mine to pull me down. And I get the same thought.
Every time. The same. I shouldn’t be here.
Chapter 1 The moon is a pearl against the black skin of night. Morgiana reaches for it as she lies on her mat beneath the window. She cups her hands around it and sighs. Her little brother sighs too. The snores of the nearby women and children drone in their ears like mosquitoes, but that’s […]
Rosa woke up long before Jose, the old one-eyed rooster, began his morning crows. Today was January 17th, the Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot. For years, she’d watched her brother Daniel take his pet turtle out of its cage, wipe its shell carefully with oil until it shined, and put it into a new […]
He was waiting there as I finished my jog, just standing on the corner, acting like he was out for a walk or whatever, but I knew he was looking for me. “Hello,” he said. Steve Wilkes, my across the street neighbor. He had the arms of a ten-year-old girl and a chest like a […]
One morning Field Mouse woke up in her nest, which was tucked in a hollow between the roots of a big, old maple tree. She had been sleeping for a long time, on and off, through the cold and ice and snow. But something had changed. Something was out there, calling to her. Not in […]
Maybe it was some kind of Christmas spirit that trailed along after me from Vandalia when I joined up as a drummer with an Illinois regiment in ’63. Or maybe I was just following in Pa’s footsteps, when it come to playing Santa Claus. It was surely something other than good sense that prompted me to deliver a Christmas gift to a Reb camp, in the dead of winter. In secret, almost.
I fly. Here in the white air I am not Catherine George, invisible sister of Invincible Ivan, champion skier. I am not Dear Catie, accommodating daughter with yet another weekend alone. And, I am not Klutsy Kate, fifteen-year-old ditz who totally bombed her first real kiss. Up here in the air, I am Cat, Crazy Cat, daredevil dame of the mountain, red hot chillin’ explosion of white air.
An excerpt Chapter 1 It was June, the middle of the day I was supposed to quit being a boy. We were all of us sitting in rows watching Miss Pipe chalk out a problem on the board, a problem I wasn’t going to bother with. Normally I would, but not today, not now. Someone […]
Winter was almost over, but deep in the woods where old Jess lived, the nights still grew cold.
One evening, as the sun slipped through the trees’ fingers, she gathered twigs for her fire. Tying them into a bundle, Jess thought she heard someone sigh, or maybe groan.
Sometimes a great opening never becomes a book–even for an award-winning author. A.S. King was kind enough to share this enchanting beginning that never bloomed into a novel.
Hunger Mountain editor Bethany Hegedus is the author of Grandfather Gandhi, a new picture book she co-authored with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The book, released in March 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, was illustrated by Evan Turk. Here, with an introduction by Matthew Winner, Bethany interviews Evan about his picture book debut.
Mom always said my first kiss would make my scalp tingle—make it light up like a summer field filled with fireflies. My first kiss wasn’t like that at all. My legs dangled from a chair in Nurse Jenkins’ office. I had a roll of gauze twisted into my right nostril.
The snow fell hard that night. It fell hard and fast and quiet as if it were trying to hide not just everything that was happening, but everything that could be about to happen. It didn’t need to bother. Except for James Hephaistion Alexander and a few others, nobody was awake to notice what was going on.
Miss Pratt and Miss Avery come all the way from Kansas City. They’re part of a volunteer program aiming to bring charm to rural Kansas. Gran calls it “Social Education,” a term she lifted from the brochure. When Gran drops me at her church, where the classes are held, she says, “I pulled a lot of strings to get you in.”
It was the kind of morning when the sun hung weary in the sky and the grown-ups, surrendering to its incessant rays, baked and blistered in lawn chairs, cooling themselves with fat pitchers of Aunt Vera’s lemonade. Even the birds were plain tuckered, sticking to the leafy parts of the trees, their morning songs dulled by the swelling heat.
I feel a sense of gratitude for where I live. I am well connected to this feeling; it is right on the surface where I can find it and touch it easily, but it is also deeply inside of me in a place where I can feel it in my bones. But if someone had asked me a year ago—before Sharry and I began writing our blog, Kissing the Earth—why I feel this gratitude, I would have been at a loss for words.
Three days. It’s been three days now and people are starting to ask questions. David Jones is no longer a name on an attendance sheet; he’s no longer a member of the computer club; he’s no longer one of the blank-faced rabble that pass through the corridors of Hederton High in preparation for a lifetime of obscurity.
I’d tear the ceiling from the sky
to grow taller; dove-tail,
pigeon-tail and rip its bonnet
There is blood all over the battlefield, the broken bodies of warriors and weapons. Spirit shadows rise like mist from the ground, and among the fallen soldiers rides Yama, the god of death, upon his mighty buffalo. Dark as a rain-cloud, with eyes of burning flames, he brandishes a noose and spear in two of his four hands. Newborn babes in Bharat are never given names too early, lest Yama call them to him. And until they are old enough to protest, mothers mar the cheeks of their sons with black spots of kajol, so that the god of death is not tempted by their beauty.
Amarilla Sarah Weathersby was not one to have her feathers ruffled. The grown-ups in her life said this time and again and so most of them steered clear of her feathers. The girls, however, did not—those dreadful girls at The Preakney School, Julianna Mattheson, Gwendolyn Goddfrey and the rest, with their whispers and giggles and sideways glances at the lunch table.
From high in the sky, above the pathways of parrots, above cloud lines, above the blue—where the moon and the sun take turns shining over rivers and valleys, oceans and forests, towns and cities and farmlands—from here you can see things.
Flood water smells old. It smells like something decaying, like something that has been left out for too long, like a mix of oil and compost and mold. Flood silt is heavy. It sticks to everything it touches. A pair of blue jeans covered in it is almost too hard to carry. I know these things.
My father would not get out of bed. Well, he did sometimes, usually to go to the bathroom, but other than that, he pretty much lived in bed. Although he didn’t get up, he moved around a lot. Sometimes he’d lie on his stomach; other times he was flat on his back. Every time I […]
Be nice. That’s the second rule. Even when they’re being assholes, or putting you down, or leering at some other girl—be nice. That’s Gospel, according to Janice, who hasn’t been a virgin for a year and a half now, because there’s nothing guys dislike more, she says, than a disagreeable girl.
In her Young Adult piece, “Monsters”, Jennifer R. Hubbard looks at the different types of “monsterhood” in the world and what it’s like to live like one: “There are other monsters. So many, and of so many different types, that sometimes I wonder who draws the line between monster and non-monster.”
Marshall steers the lumbering station wagon past the edge of the pull-out behind the cactus and scrub cedar. He turns off the car and opens the windows. He knows no one can see his car tucked back here. Especially at twilight. It’s like the gathering shadows swallow him.
There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone.
I hop out of bed and pull open the blinds. Snow. Thick flakes fall onto the backyard topiary that’s Mom’s masterpiece. About five inches on the elephant’s head. Not enough to call off school. I slip past my parents’ door to the kitchen and grind my organic Kenyan coffee beans. Wonderful, everyday normalcy.
The stones would skim across the water, hopping lightly, like rabbits. The record was five hops before the stone sunk. When we got bored with that we went swimming in the lake to cool off until our bodies turned into wrinkled old prunes and we had to lie in the sun to plump back out.
The fat body of a hornworm hit my pail and Elsie dashed to catch up. I don’t know why she was rushing; it’s not like there weren’t plenty to go around. Each plant was alive with hungry mouths tearing at the leaves; the ground was littered with the dark pellets that come out the other end.
Finn’s baggy trousers hadn’t been able to hide his trembling knees. But no one called an O’Reilly a coward. Finn had bristled and accepted the challenge. Wherever Finn went, Ida followed. She’d had to accept the dare, too. Family honor depended on it.
It’s tough, living in the shadow of a dead girl. It’s like living at the foot of a mountain blocking out the sun, and no one ever thinks to say, “Damn, that mountain is big.” Or, “Wonder what’s on the other side?” It’s just something we live with, so big we hardly notice it’s there. Not even when it’s crushing us under its terrible weight.