Claribel A. Ortega

Cindy Seip

Claribel A. Ortega is a former reporter who writes middle-grade and young adult fantasy inspired by her Dominican heritage. In her debut novel, Ghost Squad (Scholastic Inc.) – an NPR Best Book of 2020 selection – Lucely and her BFF Syd accidentally cast a spell that awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout their sleepy town of St. Augustine. Teaming up with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, they rush to reverse the curse and save the town before it’s too late. Kirkus noted that “while it’s undeniably a ghost story, Lucely’s love for her family, both corporeal and spirit, carries the narrative, giving it warmth and depth.” In Witchlings (Scholastic Press), 12-year-old Seven Salazar is devastated when she isn’t chosen to join a coven during the Black Moon Ceremony. Forever doomed to Witchling status, she’ll never get to perform powerful magic – unless she and the other “Spares” who didn’t make the cut complete the impossible task. But the last ones who attempted it and failed ended up being turned into toads, forever. Kwame Mbalia, New York Times bestselling author of the Tristan Strong series, described the book as “Magic, friendship, and downright funny – Witchlings has all the ingredients for an enchanting read.”