Happy Wednesday, friends! Today I’m thrilled to have partnered with Candlewick to share an exclusive excerpt from Hayley Chewins’ upcoming middle grade novel, The Sisters of Straygarden Place, as well as an opportunity for one lucky reader to win a copy of the book! To have been asked to help celebrate the forthcoming release of a book I’m genuinely looking forward to, written by a personal whose kindness, generosity and talent I deeply admire, feels like a gift. I have no doubt that after you read the haunting, lyrical first chapter below, you’ll be just as excited about The Sisters of Straygarden Place as I am!
About Hayley Chewins
Hayley Chewins is a poet and the author of The Turnaway Girls, in which she “deftly reveals a tapestry of magic, power, and rebellion thread by ethereal thread,” said Kirkus Reviews in a starred review. She grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a house full of books, and now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and her poodle.
Title The Sisters of Straygarden Place
Author Hayley Chewins
Pages 208 Pages
Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Fantasy
Publication Date October 13th 2020 by Candlewick
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
A riveting middle-grade fantasy about sibling bonds, enchanted houses, and encroaching wildness, lyrically told in eerily beautiful prose.
Seven years ago, the Ballastian sisters’ parents left them in the magical Straygarden Place, a house surrounded by tall silver grass and floating trees. They left behind a warning saying never to leave the house or go into the grass. “Wait for us,” the note read. “Sleep darkly.” Ever since then, the house itself has taken care of Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine — feeding them, clothing them, even keeping them company — while the girls have waited and grown up and played a guessing game: Think of an animal, think of a place. Think of a person, think of a face. Until one day, when the eldest, fourteen-year-old Winnow, does the unthinkable and goes outside into the grass, and everything twelve-year-old Mayhap thought she knew about her home, her family, and even herself starts to unravel. With luscious, vivid prose, poet and author Hayley Chewins transports readers to a house where beloved little dogs crawl into their owners’ minds to sleep, sick girls turn silver, and anything can be stolen — even laughter and silence.
The house dressed Mayhap Ballastian in blue on the day her sister disappeared.
Blue for sorrow
Blue for a bruise
Blue for cold
Mayhap stood in the vaulted entrance hall of Straygarden Place, peering through tiny frond-shaped windows at the silver grass that swamped them.
The grass grew taller than the house itself, surrounding it on all sides. It stuffed the keyholes and scraped against the roof. It shook the walls and made paintings shiver. It took on the color of the sky as it changed, and right now was tinted with the mysterious sort of purple that arrived every day as the afternoon faded, making the house feel more like a sunken ship than a sprawling mansion.
Mayhap tapped the heel of her shoe on the white marble floor anxiously. She straightened the cuffs of her indigo coat and adjusted her kidskin gloves.
Her droomhund sat at her ankle, whining, blinking his black, black eyes.
“Shhh, Seekatrix,” she whispered, gathering him into her arms. She stroked his head. His fur was wispy as whispers and inky as a nighttime sky without stars.
“I know you’re upset,” she told him. “But we don’t have a choice.”
Mayhap and her sisters hadn’t unlocked the front door since their parents had left them.
Pavonine had been only three when Cygnet and Bellwether Ballastian had gone. Mayhap had been five and could still remember her father saying goodbye — his cold hands in hers, his eyes puffy, always glancing away. Her mother had stood beside him, an elegant blur in a wide-brimmed hat. Mayhap could not remember a kiss from her, a single touch.
Hours after their departure, Winnow had discovered a letter in the lap of a porcelain doll and had read its precise instructions aloud in her best eldest-sister voice:
Do not leave the house Do not go into the grass. Wait for us.
Candlewick has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a copy of The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins! The contest will run from September 16th – September 30th and is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.