Jessica Vitalis, Gabrielle K. Byrne, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Ash Van Otterloo — "Magic in the Middle" Live!

Four wonderful children's book authors visit Lake Forest Park in a presentation for all ages

In partnership with "Magic in the Middle," a series of monthly book talks designed to help teachers, librarians, and caregivers introduce readers to new middle grade fantasy books, Jessica Vitalis reads from her new book, The Rabbit's Gift, and hosts a roundtable of short readings and discussions with a group of stellar children’s book authors.

Our presenters include Gabrielle K. Byrne, author of The Edge of Strange Hollow; Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Black Brother, Black Brother and Paradise on Fire; and Ash Van Otterloo, author of Cattywampus and The Beautiful Something Else (May 2023). This event is free and open to the public. All ages welcome! Registration is required in advance.

This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured books!

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About The Rabbit's Gift by Jessica Vitalis. . .

What makes a hero or a villain? Can someone be both—or neither?

When the delicate balance between the people of a small country and the mythic rabbits of age-old lore is broken, putting everyone at risk, a young rabbit and a young girl must overcome their prejudices and learn to trust each other. This vivid and inventive novel from the acclaimed author of The Wolf’s Curse will captivate fans of Orphan Island and Scary Stories for Young Foxes.

Quincy Rabbit and his warren live a simple yet high-stakes life. In exchange for the purple carrots they need to survive, they farm and deliver Chou de vie (cabbage-like plants that grow human babies inside) to the human citizens of Montpeyroux. But lately, because of those selfish humans, there haven’t been enough carrots to go around. So Quincy sets out to change that—all he needs are some carrot seeds. He’ll be a hero.

Fleurine sees things a little differently. As the only child of the Grand Lumière, she’s being groomed to follow in her mother’s political footsteps—no matter how much Fleurine longs to be a botanist instead. Convinced that having a sibling will shift her mother’s attention, Fleurine tries to grow purple carrots, hoping to make a trade with the rabbits. But then a sneaky rabbit steals her seeds. In her desperation to get them back, she follows that rabbit all the way to the secret warren—and steals a Chou.

Quincy and Fleurine have endangered not just the one baby inside the Chou, but the future of Montpeyroux itself—for rabbits and humans alike. Now, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other to restore the balance.

Told from both Quincy’s and Fleurine’s perspectives, The Rabbit’s Gift will enchant fans of Katherine Applegate, Gail Carson Levine, and Anne Ursu.

Jessica Vitalis, author of The Wolf’s Curse and The Rabbit’s Gift, is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer on a mission to share entertaining and thought-provoking literature. She founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new fantasy books. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient and featured on CBCs Here and Now. Her next book, Coyote Queen, publishes with Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2023 with an untitled novel following in 2024. She’d love to connect at

Gabrielle K. Byrne is the author of two middle grade fantasies. The Rise of the Dragon Moon is a Junior Library Guild selection which the School Library Journal recommended for fans of the "Warriors" series. The Edge of Strange Hollow is her second book, which Kirkus called "spookily thrilling with superlative worldbuilding." Gabby lives in the tangled wilds of the Pacific Northwest and loves rain, marine biology, Thai food, and naming pets (even ones she doesn't own). When she's not writing, she can be found fishing spineless beasties out of the Salish Sea with her daughters. 

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of Ninth Ward, winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor; Sugar, winner of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award; and the New York Times bestselling Ghost Boys; as well as Bayou Magic; Towers Falling; Black Brother, Black Brother; and Paradise on Fire. She has written many award novels for adults, including, Magic City, a novel about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Jewell is the Virginia G. Piper Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She invites you to visit her online at

Ash Van Otterloo was born and raised around the Appalachian foothills, then made their home for seventeen years as an adult in Eastern Tennessee. They currently reside in the PNW with their four wild forest gremlins and a small menagerie of animals. Ash is the author of Cattywampus, A Touch of Ruckus, and The Beautiful Something Else (Scholastic Press, 2023).

Want a signed edition of the featured book, but can't make it to the event? Order through our website or over the phone, and write your request for a signature or personalization in the comments field at checkout. Please call the hosting store if you're placing your order within 24 hours of the event.

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