Newbery Authors: Rajani LaRocca

We have several amazing new books by Newbery authors coming out over the next few months. We're taking a moment to highlight each of these creators, including Rajani LaRocca, Newbery Honor Winning author of Red, White, and Whole and the brand new novel, Sona and the Golden Beasts.

Seven Questions for Rajani LaRocca

Where were you sitting (or standing or sleeping) when you got the Newbery call?

It was a Sunday evening. I was sitting on a sofa in my living room when I got the "pre-call" from a very nice man saying he was from the American Library Association, that there was a committee that had very good news for me, and would it be okay if they called me back on a different line? I said of course, and when the call ended, I told my husband in a choked voice that the American Library Association was calling me back, and he turned off the football game and took out his phone to photograph me.

I couldn't sit still, so I moved to the kitchen to take the call from the Newbery Committee, who told me that they loved Red, White, and Whole and it had won a Newbery Honor. I was automatically muted, and it took me three tries with my shaking hands to unmute, but I eventually figured it out and tearfully thanked them. I'm pretty sure I made no sense, but I think my gratitude shone through.

Name one thing that changed in your life after winning the award?

I'll never get used to seeing "Newbery Honor-Winning Author" on the covers of all my subsequent books—it's just mind-blowing!

What is your favorite place to read?

I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, so my favorite place has been the car! But in general, I love curling up on the sofa in my office to read.

And your favorite place to write?

In my office, with light shining from my lamp made of pages from Red, White, and Whole!

What's the most memorable question a kid has asked you at a school or library visit?

"Does writing help you when you're feeling sad?"

Give us your best piece of writing advice for kids.

Let writing be something that is fun, that you look forward to. If you can't think of what to write, write fan fiction—continue the story of a book that you love.

How would you pitch your new book to a producer in Hollywood?

Sona and the Golden Beasts is a fast-paced fantasy adventure set in an Indian-inspired world featuring magic, music, and marvelous beasts, that also tackles colonialism and who gets to tell history. It's Avatar: The Last Airbender meets the Lord of the Rings for kids.

A Letter from Rajani

Dear Reader,

Sona and the Golden Beasts is set in an imaginary world, but its themes are very much inspired by our own.

As an Indian American, I have always struggled with the British occupation of India, when Britain drained India’s resources and people for centuries before finally being shamed into leaving. But I grew up loving British literature, especially the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series. And as I reflected on my personal history, I knew that I might not be the person I am if the British had not been in India—my parents would most likely not have spoken English, and they might not have immigrated to the United States. Still, I couldn't wrap my mind around one country's exploitation of another. When I went to England and saw the statue of Queen Victoria, Empress of India and the jewels and other treasures that had been stolen, I was dismayed that these symbols of imperialism continue to exist. I drew upon those feelings for this book. A

nother part of the inspiration for this story came a few years ago, when I was shocked by the opening scene in the Watchmen TV series. Horrific and historically accurate, it depicted events from the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. How had I never heard of this important piece of American history? I started to think about who gets to tell the history of a country, and I used that idea in this book as well.

Finally, I thought about exploring climate change in a fantasy setting: What would the earth say if it could literally speak to us?

I hope you enjoy my first fantasy novel, one that explores the horrors of greed and the wonders of love. I hope it helps us all draw upon our greatest strengths—kindness, respect, and empathy—to help us heal what is broken in our own world.

Yours, Rajani LaRocca

About Sona and the Golden Beasts

From Newbery Honor and Walter Award–winning author Rajani LaRocca comes a gripping middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Serpent’s Secret and The Last Mapmaker.

Though music is outlawed in the land of Devia, Sona hears it everywhere. Sona is a Malech, a member of the ruling class that conquered Devia centuries ago. Malechs forbade music to prevent the native Devans from using their magic, and Sona hides her abilities lest they put her in danger.

Then Sona discovers an orphaned wolf pup. She believes the pup, with its golden ears, might be related to one of the five sacred beasts of Devia, and she vows to keep it safe. That means bringing the pup in tow when Sona embarks on a perilous quest, along with a Devan boy, to secure the nectar of life for a loved one who has fallen gravely ill. On the journey, as Sona uncovers secrets about the Malechian empire and her own identity, she realizes that the fate of the sacred beasts, and the future of Devia, just might come down to her.

This captivating fantasy novel by award-winning author Rajani LaRocca will sweep readers into Sona’s quest across the land of Devia as she grapples with the lasting impact of colonial rule and learns to fight for what she knows is right. 

About Rajani LaRocca

Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in Massachusetts, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor–winning novel in verse, Red, White, and Whole. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of novels and picture books, fiction and nonfiction, in prose and poetry. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she lives outside Boston with her family. Visit her at

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