Mary Rand Hess

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Mary Rand Hess
Mary Rand Hess is a poet, screenwriter, editor, and New York Times bestselling author, who has had the privilege of working with award-winning, high-profile figures in the literary, sports, and entertainment industries. Her work has appeared in national and international publications. She is the author of a handful of books, including Solo (Blink YA), which she coauthored with Newbery Award Winner Kwame Alexander, Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wide World in Poetry and Pictures (National Geographic, 2017), also coauthored with Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido, and The Day I Met the Nuts (Story Pie Press), a bestselling food allergy book for children. She is currently at work on another young adult novel-in-verse with Kwame Alexander, and a book about chimps with renowned photographer Gerry Ellis. 


Featured Titles


New York Times Bestseller!

Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy, including the loss of his mother. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming Blade will become just like his father.

In reality, the only thing Blade and Rutherford have in common is the music that lives inside them. And songwriting is all Blade has left after Rutherford, while drunk, crashes his high school graduation speech and effectively rips Chapel away forever. But when a long-held family secret comes to light, the music disappears. In its place is a letter, one that could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.

“A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A rhythmic, impassioned ode to family, identity, and the history of rock and roll.” Booklist, starred review

“Many readers will identify with Blade’s struggle to find his place in a family where he feels like an outsider.” Publishers Weekly

“The authentic character development and tone will strike a chord with young adults.” School Library Journal

“A gorgeously lyrical and passionate meditation on family and identity. Solo is Kwame Alexander at his finest.” –Nicola Moon, New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything

“From the lyric verse to the driving beat of the storytelling, this book is music, and beautiful music.” –Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of The You I’ve Never Known

Solo Nominations and Awards:

A Junior Library Guild Selection for the Fall of 2017!

Audio File Earphones Award Winner!

“This novel-in-verse, written by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess, sings with the despair, hope, and love that wash over 17-year-old Blade, a budding musician. Alexander's affection for Blade is obvious through his narration. He wrings every drop of emotion from a poignant story of a teen who is missing his mother, who died years ago, and battling his father, a broken-down rock star who is incapable of staying sober or taking responsibility for anything or anyone. When Blade's girlfriend deserts him and his sister reveals a devastating family secret, Blade leaves for Ghana to discover his true history. Peppered with references to songs by famous rockers like Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks, Blade's own songs--set to music and sung by Randy Preston--are an integral part of this moving audio production.” –S.G. Winner of AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award © AudioFile 2017

YALSA Quick Pick Nomination for Reluctant Readers in the Novels in Verse Category!

"The fast-paced, rhythmic verse engages readers immediately into Blade’s rock star world. Plenty of white space makes the book accessible and appealing to reluctant readers. Candid yet witty wordplay lends humor to otherwise intense situations. Musical references abound, which may entice readers to create a playlist. During Blade’s expedition in Ghana, the complexity of the Morrison family dynamic highlights the flawed characters, while at the same time creating a likeability, even sympathy, for Blade’s dysfunctional father. The richly detailed Ghana environment provides a strong sense of place, one that will change Blade and his family forever.  

Readers of character-driven fiction will be fascinated by Blade’s journey. Particularly, fans of books with music thrown into the mix, such as Exile by Kevin Emerson or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell will adore Solo.  Additionally, music fans will relish the audio version of the book, which is narrated by Kwame Alexander himself and includes musical performances by Randy Preston that reflect Blade’s moods and poetry throughout the story."

For more on SOLO, visit:

Animal ArkAnimal Ark

A howling wolf, a stalking tiger, a playful panda, a dancing bird – pairing the stunning photography of National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore with the delicate poetry of Newbery award-winning author Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess, and Deanna Nikaido, this lush picture book celebrates the beauty, diversity, and fragility of the animal world. 

Featuring more than 40 unique animal portraits, the pages invite kids to explore each creature's markings, textures, and attributes in stunning detail, while calling on all of us to help protect each and every one. Three picture-packed gatefolds inside showcase even more familiar and exotic species. These images are part of Sartore's lifelong project to photograph every animal in the world, with special attention given to disappearing and endangered species.

"In their brevity and directness, poems and photographs have much in common, Alexander points out in a note in this striking collaborative book....The words cut deep: 'Remember, we are part of forever.'" –The New York Times 

"…a stunning journey through the animal kingdom...Alexander’s haiku is lively and at times deceptively light, containing lines that carry with it the staggering weight of conservation and extinction, hope and loss... VERDICT Ideal for sharing one-on-one or with a small group, this impassioned and timely call to reevaluate our relationship with nature is a must-have for poetry collections." -–School Library Journal Starred Review 

"…bursts of poetic commentary to dozens of dramatic close-ups, mostly of creatures classified as endangered or threatened... Beautiful photos, with an impact heightened... by the accompanying words." – Kirkus

"The world’s threatened species are celebrated in gorgeously hued colored photos and haiku in this engaging informational picture book... Sartore’s eye-catching photographs, accompanied by Alexander’s poetry—movingly affirms that “our actions matter” and may lead readers to endeavor to help save these endangered species." – Booklist

"Featuring more than 40 unique animal portraits, the pages invite kids to explore each creature’s markings, textures, and attributes in stunning detail, while calling on all of us to help protect each and every one." – The Children's Book Review

The Day I Met the Nuts

The Day I Met The Nuts (Story Pie Press)

A young boy finds out he is allergic to The Nuts at his best friend's birthday party. When the doctor tells him, You + Nuts = Disaster, the boy worries that he will never be able to eat good food again. The Nuts, he finds out, are a sneaky bunch and hide out in many types of yummy treats. How will he ever get rid of The Nuts? And why won't they just take a vacation? The Day I Met the Nuts is not only a food allergy story, it is a book for any child who has ever had to encounter a scary challenge or major change in his or her life. This story sprinkles in a little seriousness, stirs around some humor, and tosses up big imagination to serve one empowering story that will help and entertain children for generations. And parents and children can feel good about reading this story, knowing that portions of the proceeds from this book help support organizations that increase awareness and are working to find a cure for food allergies.

This is a tale of a youngster learning to live a full and healthy life in the absence of nuts. Director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Hopkins Children's, Dr. Robert Wood is conducting numerous studies in the field of food allergy and predicts that we are 10-20 years away from a treatment for food allergies that would allow patients to eat the foods to which they are allergic. “…a terrific investment in food allergy research at Hopkins Children’s, via their book sales, he says, is another great example of a creative way to give. Jennifer Balzano and Dr. Wood –Johns Hopkins Children's Center

"A rash-spotted face isn't charming, particularly if it's your child. But cheeks inflamed with hives are the start of a charming children’s book, The Day I Met the Nuts (Story Pie Press), by Mary Rand Hess with illustrations by Candice Hartsough McDonald. Here's the story of a little boy's first encounter with a nut allergy, from his initial reaction and the rush to the doctor's office to what happens at school and acceptance by the wider community. This easy-to-read book is a fun take on a serious topic from a writer who is, by the way, allergic to nuts. The Day I Met the Nuts helps little ones come to terms with a food allergy." –Living Without Magazine's Favorite Books: The First Time by Laurel Green

"...a captivating book about a boy and the day of his first nut reaction." –Allergic Living Magazine

Gabe and Friends Series

Gabe and Friends series with The Little Christian and The Little Lutheran Magazines

Mary had her own children’s series called Gabe and Friends with The Little Lutheran and The Little Christian monthly picture book magazines for several years.

Skype Visits and Author Visits

Images of peopleMary Rand Hess has been called “a teacher’s writer” for her enthusiastic talks about writing, the editing process, and the life of an author. She has worked with students and teachers at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She is available for Skype visits for elementary through high school aged students, and even college grads studying to be teachers. She charges a fee of $100 for a 30-minute Skype visit, or $150 for a 45-minute visit. This includes a reading from one of her books, or a collection of her books, a lively Q&A session, plus a discussion on what it takes to be a “rock star” writer. She will tailor her presentation based on the age of participants. Please contact her for further details and special promotions.

For information on upcoming appearances or to find out about “in person” school visits, programs and rates, please visit her website,



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