Greenwillow Books, 2023
Agent: Thao Le
Maria Latif is used to not having a space of her own. But what happens when she feels the sudden urge to put down roots in the most unexpected of places? Karuna Riazi crafts a tender coming-of-age story about friendship, family, and new beginnings. A Bit of Earth is a reimagining of the classic The Secret Garden, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home and The Bridge Home.
Growing up in Pakistan, Maria Latif has been bounced between reluctant relatives for as long as she can remember—first because of her parents’ constant travel, and then because of their deaths. Maria has always been a difficult child, and it never takes long for her guardians to tire of her. So when old friends of her parents offer to “give her a better life” in the United States, Maria is shipped to a host family across the world.
When Maria arrives on Long Island, things are not quite what she was expecting. Mr. Clayborne has left on an extended business trip, Mrs. Clayborne seems emotionally fraught, and inexplicable things keep happening in the Claybornes’ sprawling house. And then Maria finds a locked gate to an off-limits garden. Since she’s never been good at following rules, Maria decides to investigate and discovers something she never thought she’d find: a place where she feels at home.
With a prickly main character, a sullen boy, two friendly allies, and a locked garden, A Bit of Earth has everything a reader could want from a retelling of The Secret Garden. Karuna Riazi’s evocative prose is interspersed with poetic verses, illuminating each character’s search for a place they can truly call home. This tender yet incisive reimagining of a classic work will captivate fans of the original—and widen the appeal for a modern audience.
“Karuna Riazi has a way with words. This story will find its way into your heart.” —Tae Keller, Newbery Medalist for When You Trap a Tiger
“As timeless as it is timely, A Bit of Earth is a rare gift.” —Laurel Snyder, author of National Book Award nominee Orphan Island
“Extraordinary, poetic, and inventive. A Bit of Earth is such a special book. Prickles and all, Maria Latif captured my whole heart.” —Jasmine Warga, author of Newbery Honor book Other Words for Home
“An ambitious re-envisioning of a long beloved classic, this book is sure to be a big hit.” —Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home
“Beautiful! Simply beautiful! My heart needed this!” —Ellen Oh, author of Finding Junie Kim
“A sweet and warm-hearted tale with unforgettable characters.” —Aisha Saeed, bestselling author of Amal Unbound
"Maria's character evolves, gently showing readers the coping skills she has developed to deal with what she has been through, and how she is making new connections. Her Desi identity is represented authentically via foods, scents, clothing/dupatta, prayers, and mehndi, and the bit of earth she tends to brings up with memories of her parents. All of this provides comfort and familiarity. The hybrid prose/verse format provides a narrative that feels genuine, raw, and allows readers into the minds of the characters. [...] Destined to be a new classic, this refreshing of the canon is long overdue." —School Library Journal