Is the future duke hiding as an opera singer? 12-year-old Franni knows and won't tell.

MANTUA, ItalyJuly 18, 2016PRLog — Sunbury Press has released Franni and the Duke, Anne E. Johnson’s middle-grade novel about two sisters trying out for Monteverdi’s opera in 1608, only to stumble upon a handsome and mysterious singer.

FATD_fcAbout the Book:
In May of 1608, the Duke of Mantua will throw the most spectacular wedding extravaganza in history. But it will all be ruined unless twelve-year-old Franni can keep a very big secret.

Franni and the Duke, a middle-grade novel, sets a fictional mystery against a specific historical backdrop. It takes place during rehearsals for Arianna, an opera by the great composer Claudio Monteverdi. When Franni and her older sister Alli run away to Mantua, they both find work in Monteverdi’s company. A messenger from the north announces that the next duke of the town of Bergamo is missing, and he may well be in Mantua. Alli notices that Luca, a singer she’s in love with, fits the missing Duke’s description. Although Franni thinks Luca is a pompous idiot, she promises for Alli’s sake to keep Luca’s secret safe and protect him from bounty hunters and Bergamo’s rival family. She does this with the help of the company’s set designer, a worldly wise and world-weary dwarf named Edgardo, who is not exactly what he seems.

Claudio Monteverdi

Claudio Monteverdi

Excerpt:
Thursday, May 8, 1608
“I’m hungry,” said Franni. She ached all over from hours of walking down rocky roads in the Northern Italian countryside. “Please, can we get some food, Alli?” She shivered in the chilly spring drizzle.

Franni’s older sister, Alessandra, walked in front as usual. She looked back and smiled weakly. “I know you’re hungry, Franni. I am, too.” Alli’s eyes were glassy in her drawn face. “We’re almost to Mantua. That’s a big city with lots of rich people. I’m sure someone will take pity on us there.”

Although Franni doubted it, she nodded. A day and a half ago, they’d run away from their stepfather in Verona. They’d left in the middle of the night, carrying only a satchel of clothes each, and one loaf of bread between them. The last town they’d been through hadn’t shown them much pity. When they’d taken a drink at the central fountain, a soldier had chased them right out of town.

“I’m so tired.” She hardly had the strength to get any sound out. There was no way Franni could take another step, so she sat down right there in the road.

Alli grabbed Franni’s elbow and yanked. “Come on. We’ve got to get to Mantua before the sun goes down.” A slender, delicate creature of seventeen, Alli was no match for Franni when the younger girl felt stubborn. Franni willed herself to weigh as much as the elephant her real father once saw in Algiers. He’d said it was the size of twenty men. Closing her eyes, Franni glued herself to the paving stones, thinking heavy thoughts.

“A cart!” Alli let go of Franni’s arm and stood up, waving.

Franni’s heavy mood turned to dandelion seeds and floated away. “A cart?” She craned to see the black horse drawing a workman’s cart slowly along the road toward them. “Do you think he’ll give us a ride?”

“He has to,” said Alli. It sounded like a prayer. “He just has to.”

We’re saved! thought Franni. But when the cart pulled near enough that they could smell the tang of horse sweat, she changed her mind. “He’s an undertaker,” she whispered. “Look at the white marble slabs he’s dragging in that cart. It would be bad luck to ride with him.” She backed off the road and pulled her embroidered scarf over her head and face.

To Franni’s distress, Alli stepped into the middle of the road and waved her arms wider. If only their mother could see them now, two noble girls, behaving like beggars. Surely Mama could see them as she looked down from Heaven. She probably also saw how their stepfather treated the girls after their mother died. Franni was sure Mama up in Heaven approved of how she and Alli had sneaked out of the gates of Verona one night to find a happier life.

“Whoa!” said the cart driver, pulling back on the horse’s reins. “What is it, child? Why are you in the road? Do you need help?”

About the Author:
Anne E. Johnson taught music history for many years in New York City, specializing in the Baroque and Renaissance periods, and she feels a particular connection to the music and times of Claudio Monteverdi. Besides fiction, she has also written performing arts journalism for publications includingThe New York Times and Stagebill Magazine. Dozens of her short stories, for both kids and adults, have appeared in print and online.

Anne lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s probably baking or going to concerts and plays. Her website is http://AnneEJohnson.com.

Franni and the Duke
Authored by Anne E. Johnson
List Price: $9.99
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
156 pages
Sunbury Press, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1620067031
ISBN-10: 162006703X
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Performing Arts / Theater

For more information, please see:
http://www.sunburypressstore.com/Franni-and-the-Duke-9781…

Sontag's latest in Ancient Elements series based in Egypt

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Sunbury Press has released The Alabaster Jar, Marie Sontag’s second installment in the Ancient Elements series, set in ancient Egypt.

TAJ_fcSam held up the lamp and studied the room’s walls.  Hieroglyphs of prayers, painted pictures of the gods, and elaborate stone torch sconces adorned the area. There has to be more to this tomb. But what?  Why were men sneaking in and out of it?

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:
“Readers who have waited for Samsuluna’s next escapade will not be disappointed in The Alabaster Jar. In this fast-paced adventure, Sam, Balashi and Amata witness political plotting, and question the sincerity of their new friends. A newly discovered tomb, the bustling Nile River trade, secret passages and the alabaster jar all await you!” — Mary Pat Vargas, 6th Grade Teacher, CA

“A skillfull interweaving of intrigue and deception. Each character has different secrets and issues, but they all become intertwined. A great read for early adolescents!” — Roberta Hendricks, Reading Intervention Specialist, TX

“One of the best books I’ve ever read! This book will have you on the edge of your seat no matter how hard your heart is.” — Ian, age 12, TX

“The Alabaster Jar is a mesmerizing journey of good versus evil in one of history’s greatest ancient cultures.” — Nick Gervase, Santa Clara Unified School District Superintendent, Retired, CA

EXCERPT:
When fourteen-year-old Samsuluna saw the scrawny scribe grab the priest’s robed arm, Sam stepped back into the shadow of a limestone column.

“We just uncovered the entrance to an undiscovered tomb near Giza,” the administrative scribe told Nakthor, the lector priest.

Sam saw Nakthor cup his hand on the side of his mouth. “Does anyone know about this yet?”

The short scribe shook his baldhead. “Only our two workers.”

Even in the dim light of Memphis’ setting sun, Sam saw Nakthor’s bottom lip curl into a half-smile. “Draw me a map and start our usual process tomorrow.” Nakthor then gripped the scribe’s shoulder. “But make sure no one sees you. This must remain a secret.”

Sam stepped further into the column’s shadow and waited for the two men to leave the compound of the House of Scrolls. He never liked Nakthor. Every morning Sam endured Nakthor’s high-pitched voice as the priest recited prayers and incantations for the day. And whenever Sam and his adoptive father, Balashi, left with the Egyptian Chief Physician to visit patients in the city of Memphis, they first had to get permission from the priest. Nakthor always granted it, but he never failed to make condescending remarks about Sam and Balashi’s Babylonian citizenship. More than once, Sam heard Nakthor refer to them as unwelcomed foreigners.

The Alabaster Jar
Authored by Marie Sontag
List Price: $9.99
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
124 pages
Sunbury Press, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1620066218
ISBN-10: 1620066211
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Historical / Ancient Civilizations

For more information, please see:
http://www.sunburypressstore.com/The-Alabaster-Jar-978162…