“Winningly intense.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A powerful novel of tremendous empathy and optimism.” —Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist
“Exquisitely written and painfully real.” —Megan E. Freeman, award-winning author of Alone
When a twelve-year-old decides that she must get herself and her mother out of a bad situation, an eerie connection to a coyote pack helps her see who she’s meant to be—and who she can truly save. The Benefits of Being an Octopus meets The Nest in this contemporary middle grade novel about family, class, and resilience, with a magical twist.
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 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 comes home with 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 fantasizes about escape, the more her connection to the coyotes lurking outside her window grows. 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?
Jessica Vitalis crafts a moving and voice-driven novel about family and resilience, with a fantastical twist. Coyote Queen is perfect for readers of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise and The Elephant in the Room.
About the author
Jessica Vitalis is the author of The Wolf’s Curse, The Rabbit’s Gift, and Coyote Queen. She is a full-time writer with a previous career in business and an MBA from Columbia Business School. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters.
“This is a powerful novel of tremendous empathy and optimism, where the true magic lies in the belief that acceptance and engagement and togetherness aren't just the purview of coyotes.” — Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist
“Exquisitely written and painfully real, this is a brave and beautiful book about hard, important things.” — Megan E. Freeman, award-winning author of Alone
“[Fud] and her mom, a victim of domestic abuse, [live] in a Wyoming trailer with unstable ex-boxer Larry, whose increasingly frequent blow-ups are plainly heading nowhere good. Desperate to escape, Fud seizes on the (slim) chance of a cash prize offered by a local beauty pageant . . . A tragically familiar tale of abuse is layered onto a raw and multifaceted coming-of-age story. Fud’s memorably unconventional pageant performance will win hearts and minds, as will her cry for help and the strong, constructive response it brings. . . . Winningly intense.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The well-rounded characters and strong pacing are excellent, but Vitalis’s real strength is in how she portrays the toll abuse takes on children and the hope that exists when one is brave enough to ask for help. To adult readers, Fud’s transformations into a coyote are a coping mechanism; to a child reader, it is magical, and both of these readings show the power of the mind to survive and adapt to trauma. This title deftly tackles a difficult topic that affects far too many children.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
“An unflinching depiction of domestic violence and poverty interwoven with budding friendships and coyote magic. There are no easy answers, but there is hope. This book lights the way.” — Jenn Reese, author of A Game of Fox & Squirrels
"A memorable story of ferocity, love, desperation--and the bittersweet empowerment of a girl finding her way out of difficulty. Vitalis captures painful truth with a deft touch of fantasy." — Kaela Rivera, author of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
“The best fictional stories are the ones that cut right to the truth, no matter how deep it’s buried. Coyote Queen is one of those stories. Nuanced and raw, this book throbs with both power and hope. Vitalis has delivered a brilliant story, one that’s clearly straight from her heart—and that’s thankfully now heading to the hearts of readers everywhere.” — Ann Braden, author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus
“A twelve-year-old contends with financial precarity and domestic abuse in this realistic read with a fantastical twist . . . The challenges that Fud and her mother endure—some of which are based on Vitalis’s childhood experiences, per an author’s note—are sympathetically wrought, and Fud’s resilience and compassion drive the narrative to a complex yet optimistic resolution.” — Publishers Weekly
“Twelve-year-old Felicity Ulyssa Dahlers, “Fud,” lives in a trailer in rural Wyoming with her mom and Larry—her mom’s abusive, ex-boxer boyfriend who’s in the grip of alcoholism. . . . Scrappy Fud demonstrates admirable coping mechanisms alongside awareness she shouldn’t have to live in fear, and the book’s coyote facts and symbolism nicely bolster Fud’s survivor mentality: ‘Sometimes leaving one pack meant finding another.’ . . . An honest, slice-of-underrepresented-life story with a speculative twist.” — Booklist