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Jessica Vitalis

JESSICA VITALIS is an award-winning, Columbia MBA-wielding middle grade author with Greenwillow/HarperCollins. Her books have been translated into three languages, received multiple starred reviews, and appeared on “Best Book” lists for Kirkus and CCBC. Coyote Queen won the Reading the West Book Award, is a SCBWI Crystal Kite finalist, a High Plains Book Award finalist, and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. A historical novel in verse, Unsinkable Cayenne, comes out October 29th, 2024. Jessica currently lives and writes in Ontario but speaks at schools, conferences, and festivals all over North America.

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Unsinkable Cayenne

When her unconventional parents finally agree to settle down in one place, twelve-year-old Cayenne’s dreams come true—but the reality of fitting in is much harder than she imagined.


Acclaimed author Jessica Vitalis crafts an unforgettable historical novel-in-verse about belonging, family, and social class for fans of Lisa Fipps’s Starfish and Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home.


Cayenne and her family drift from place to place, living in their van. It hasn’t been a bad life—Cayenne and her mother birdwatch in every new location, they have a cozy setup in the van, and they sing and dance and bond over campfires most nights. But they’ve never belonged anywhere.


As Cayenne enters seventh grade, her parents decide to settle down in a small Montana town. Cayenne hopes that this means she will finally fit in and make some friends. But it turns out that staying in one place isn’t easy.


As her social studies class studies the Titanic tragedy (the wreckage has just been discovered and her teacher is obsessed), Cayenne sees more and more parallels between the social strata of the infamous ship and her own life. Will she ever squeeze her way into the popular girls’ clique, even though they live in fancy houses on the hill, and she lives in a tiny, rundown home with chickens in the front yard? Is it possible that the rich boy she likes actually likes her back? Can she find a way to make room for herself in this town? Does she really want to? Maybe being “normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Unsinkable Cayenne is a character-driven novel-in-verse about family, friendship, first crushes, and fitting in. Set in the mid-1980s, this literary novel is for readers of Megan E. Freeman’s Alone and Erin Entrada Kelly’s We Dream of Space.

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Coyote Queen

Twelve-year-old Fud feels trapped. She lives a precarious life in a cramped trailer with her mom and her mom’s alcoholic ex-boxer of a boyfriend, Larry. Fud can see it’s only a matter of time until Larry explodes again, even if her mom keeps on making excuses for his behavior. If only Fud could find a way to be as free as the coyotes roaming the Wyoming countryside. Strong, smart, independent, and always willing to protect their own.

When Larry sells his prized Golden Gloves trophy and buys a rusted-out houseboat, Fud is horrified to hear that he wants to fix it up for them to live on permanently. All she sees is a floating prison. Then new neighbor Leigh tells Fud about Miss Black Gold, a beauty pageant sponsored by the local coal mine. While Fud doesn’t care much about gowns or talents or prancing around on stage, she cares very much about getting herself and her mom away from Larry before the boat is finished. And to do that, she needs money, in particular that Miss Black Gold prize money.

One problem: the more Fud has fantasized about escape, the more her connection to the coyotes lurking outside her window has grown. And strange things have started happening—is Fud really going color-blind? Are her eyebrows really getting bushier? And why does it suddenly seem like she can smell everything?

The Benefits of Being an Octopus meets The Nest in this contemporary middle grade novel with a magical twist about family, class, and resilience.

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The Rabbit's Gift

When the delicate balance is broken between the people of a small country and the mythical rabbits of old, a rabbit and a young girl must learn to trust each other. A standalone companion to The Wolf’s Curse, The Rabbit’s Gift is a vivid and inventive novel inspired by French folklore set in a country in which babies are grown in cabbage-like plants called Chou . . . and delivered by rabbits. 

Fleurine, a twelve-year-old aspiring botanist and daughter of the Grand Lumière, secretly tries to grow the elusive purple carrots that humans trade for Chou. She longs for a sibling, but Maman doesn’t want another child. What’s more, she believes science will upset the natural order and insists that Fleurine follow in her political footsteps.

Meanwhile, the human demand for babies has dropped, and the rabbits are starving. A runt named Quincy decides to take matters into his own paws and sets out for the city, determined to prove that you don’t have to be big to be a hero.

When he inadvertently leads Fleurine back to the top-secret Warren, he sets off a string of events that pits them against each other and jeopardizes the future of the entire country––for rabbits and humans alike.

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The Wolf's Curse

Shunned by his fearful village, a twelve-year-old apprentice embarks on a surprising quest to clear his name, with a mythic—and dangerous—wolf following closely at his heels. Jessica Vitalis’s debut is a gorgeous, voice-driven literary fantasy about family, fate, and long-held traditions. The Wolf’s Curse will engross readers of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and A Wish in the Dark.

Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he cried Wolf and was accused of witchcraft. The Great White Wolf brings only death, Gauge’s superstitious village believes. If Gauge can see the Wolf, then he must be in league with it.

So instead of playing with friends in the streets or becoming his grandpapa’s partner in the carpentry shop, Gauge must hide and pretend he doesn’t exist. But then the Wolf comes for his grandpapa. And for the first time, Gauge is left all alone, with a bounty on his head and the Wolf at his heels.

A young feather collector named Roux offers Gauge assistance, and he is eager for the help. But soon the two—both recently orphaned—are questioning everything they have ever believed about their village, about the Wolf, and about death itself. 

Narrated by the sly, crafty Wolf, Jessica Vitalis’s debut novel is a vivid and literary tale about family, friendship, belonging, and grief. The Wolf’s Curse will captivate readers of Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island and Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy.

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