Young Adult Novels

Riding Out the Storm

(Henry Holt, Due Out February 28, 2012)

“…compassionate and amusing, with memorable characters…” —Kirkus Reviews

Zach is riding the Greyhound bus through a snowstorm to visit his older brother Derek, whom he hasn’t seen in seven months. That’s when their parents finally went broke paying Derek’s doctor’s bills and had to give him up as a ward of the state. Nothing—not drawing in his sketchbook, not basketball—lets Zach forget that his brother is living in a mental institution five states away. But surprisingly, sitting next to a talkative teenage girl he nicknames Purplehead starts to take the edge off Zach’s pain. Prompted by a chain of unpredictable events and by the people he meets along the way, Zach’s cynical humor gives us a poignant look at medical insurance and health care systems for the mentally ill, and at the everyday fears, joys, and revelations of adolescence.

                                                                                                                                                                           -From Riding Out the Storm

Racing The Past

(Henry Holt, 2001)

* Racing the Past is available in paperback (Puffin, 2001); Hodder Children’s Books published an English version in Great Britain (2003), and Cecilie Dressler Verlag published Racing the Past in Germany (2003).

A moving story about survival, recovery, and the power of determination

There was something else driving Ricky as he sped down Ridge Road under that cloudless blue sky. “Everybody knows a Gordon’s middle name is Thief.” The hatred and hurt rose up inside him. His stride lengthened. His arms pumped faster. He could feel the new-found fuel burning in his muscles. Today would be the day Ricky beat the bus. “The best thing your father ever did was get himself killed.” Though he’d never admit it out loud, secretly Ricky Gordon agrees. It’s been three months since his dad’s fatal car accident, but Ricky is still haunted by memories of violent beatings and hurtful words. His mind won’t let him forget, and neither will the kids at school. And if Ricky gets into one more fight he’ll be in serious trouble. The fights always begin on the bus. That’s where the kids corner Ricky, teasing him until he’s so angry that he hits back. There has to be another way to get to school. Ricky decides to try running. At first the three-mile run is pure torture, but soon he begins to build speed and stamina. It’s not long before people notice his dedication and his talent. And finally he accepts the challenge that has been facing him all along: he will race the bus—and win.
* Racing the Past has garnered several awards and distinctions including: Booklist Editors’ Choice; Booklist Starred Review, Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth and Youth 1st Novel; School Library Journal Best Book; Book Links Best Book; CBC-NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book For Young People; Society of School Librarians International Best Book, Language Arts; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Master List Selection; Maine Library Association Lupine Award Honor Book; Georgia Student Book Award Nominee


“This hard-hitting novel portrays the struggle of a small town 11-year-old to find self-respect and a sense of purpose after the recent death of his violent, alcoholic father.”

Publishers Weekly

“The lonely stoicism of the long-distance runner is fact as well as metaphor in this powerful novel.” —Booklist, starred review


(Henry Holt, 2005)

A vivid portrait of a girl with a hyperactive mind 

Rainy isn’t thrilled about going to camp, away from her family and her beloved dog, Max. Without her family there to help, how will she stay focused when her thoughts start bouncing around her brain like ping-pong balls? Once Rainy finds friends who can handle her extreme energy, she decides that camp is great. She’s even gotten good at keeping track of her things. But when bad news from home floods her head with too many thoughts, she forgets the rules and sets off on a dangerous journey. With her signature mix of humor and heart, Sis Deans explores the hectic world of a girl living with ADHD.

She dropped her backpack, and, oblivious of the campers and parents waiting in the long line that looped around the room to the check-in station, she headed for the fireplace, already wondering how many rocks it had taken to build it and if they had found them in the woods or maybe taken them out of the lake. Before she even touched the cold metal fire screen, whose black paint was worn in the middle to an ashy gray, she was picturing herself toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. It’d be midnight-dark out, and there’d be a thunderstorm with lots of lightning. Sweet, she thought. I can handle this.

But a second later, when she glanced back at the army of campers, whose faces showed worry, even tears, Rainy told herself, “I’m outta here.”             —From Rainy

Every Day and All the Time 

(Henry Holt, 2003)

A heartbreaking, honest, and downright funny novel about loss and recovery

“She lay pinned in the back seat listening . . . to the sounds of help that had come too late.”

Six months ago a terrible car accident devastated Emily Racine. Not only did she lose her older brother, Jon, but her own injuries prevented her from doing the thing she loved best: dancing. Now, just as Emily is getting on her feet again, she receives another blow: her parents want to sell their house, which they feel is too full of sad memories. But the cellar of this house is the only place where Emily can still feel and speak to Jon-and she can’t bear to lose him twice.

Emily tries hard to prevent the sale, often with humorous results. Yet as the months pass she comes to realize that change may not always be a bad thing. With lots of love and support she finds a way to say good-bye to her brother and her cherished childhood dream.

By turns heartwrenching and hilarious, Sis Deans’ moving novel will resonate long after the last page has been read.

“Deans captures the flavor of a struggling family as she did in Racing the Past and skillfully draws readers into their lives.” —VOYA

Through the window of Dr. Radke’s office, eleven-year-old Emily could see a maple tree, its fiery leaves waving at her like hands in the autumn breeze. Come outside, they seemed to beckon, come dance in the wind with us. She squinted just enough to blur the colors, and unexpectedly the earliest of all her memories surfaced. She closed her eyes and held on to that clear picture of her brother’s hand holding out the flower for her to take. Yellow and orange, the colors of sun and fire, the colors of an Indian paintbrush, and her own tiny fingers reaching for the green stem.

The image only lasted a moment; that’s all she ever saw—Jon’s hand holding out the flower, and hers reaching for it. Even before she opened her eyes and picked up an orange crayon, the warm feeling the memory always brought was fading. Without thinking, she began to draw flowers along the cellar windows in her picture, and one again the fear of what she’d overheard the night before hit her like an ocean wave.

“It’s not you, Michael,” her mother had said. “It’s this house. I don’t want to come home to it anymore. Everywhere I look, I…”

“Maybe you’re right,” her father had replied. “Maybe moving would be the best thing for all of us.”

—From Every Day and All the Time 

Brick Walls

(Windswept, 1996)

Her grandmother started up the car. Maggie hung out the window, sobbing, waving. As the car pulled away from the curb, Leo turned and looked at her big white house with its black shutters; the columns holding the portico; the oak tree; her brothers waving; and her mother standing in her light blue shift, looking, watching, until the car drove down the hill and out of sight. Then she rolled over on her back, the suitcase hard beneath her, and shut her eyes, squeezing that last image into a memory.

—From Brick Walls

Set in Maine during the 1960’s, this is the story of a ten-year-old girl’s struggle to survive both her father’s battle with alcoholism, and the all-girls’ Catholic boarding school she’s been sent away to. But the brick walls of the boarding school are not quite as strong as the walls Leo puts up around herself in this coming-of-age story.

“This story presents a slice of life that is all too real and which cuts across all strata of society…the author captures the reader’s sense of right and wrong, allowing us to care about the heroine.” —Maine in Print

  Wiping sweat from her forehead, she stood back and admired her work. Unless someone was looking

                                                    for it or happened upon it by accident, the inscription chiseled into that one small brick was hard to

                                                    notice against the huge brick wall. Still she was satisfied, certain her message would remain for a long,

                                                    long, time: Leo Was Here!

—From Brick Walls

“Sis Deans captures life behind brick walls through the eyes of a ten-year-old with a very troubled home life. Having been to Catholic boarding school myself, I could identify each character as someone I had known. Leo’s heroes are the two girls who stood out most in her first days at school because they were visibly different. Leo was made to feel different but her two heroes kept her from breaking her spirit, encouraged her to be herself, not give up when she was right. I know this school, I know these girls, I know Leo. They are real and they really touched me.”

—Amazon Customer Review

Juvenile Books (ages 2-8)

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee A Very Special Bird 

 [Gannett, 1987, Currently Out of Print]

This is a heartwarming story of a Black-Capped Chickadee who lives in the friendly forest of Acadia National Park and searches for why he is special. Written and illustrated to stir the imagination, and woven with facts about the Black-Capped Chickadee, it is an adventure story every child will enjoy.

Emily Bee and the

Kingdom of Flowers

(Gannett, 1988)

A beautifully written tale about the Maine state insect. Stimulating, factually accurate and dramatically illustrated in vivid colors, the book will captivate children everywhere.

The Legend of Blazing Bear

(Windswept, 1992)

Centuries ago, there lived along the banks of the Kennebec River a clan of people known as Norridgewocks. They were of the Kennebec Tribe of the Abenaki Nation, and were skilled hunters and fishermen. Their knowledge of the woods and waterways was enhanced by their nomadic lifestyle and their superior means of travel—the birchbark canoe.

—From Blazing Bear‘s Introduction

The Legend of Blazing Bear follows a young boy named  Fleeting Deer as he seeks guidance from his father in navigating the waters of adolescence. The book includes a map, chart of Maine tribes, and glossary.

“I think this book is a classroom and library must.”
—Kate Cone, Maine in Print

Biography (ages 12-adult)

His Proper Post

(Belle Grove, 1996)

A comprehensive biography of Maine Civil War General Joshua L. Chamberlain, His Proper Post provides a detailed view of Chamberlain’s personal and professional life. Deans draws upon her own experiences, and introduces each chapter with stories from her research process. Originally a farm boy from Brewer, Chamberlain fought courageously through the Civil War, and later became Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College. Deans also explores Chamberlain’s relationships with his wife, Fanny, and their two children. This biography is written with young readers in mind and contains several photos—many of which had never before been published before.

One would think that Maine’s greatest Civil War hero would have a large monument to mark his grave—a stone that would stand out among the others, one that would note his military honors, his four terms as governor of Maine, and his presidency of Bowdoin College. But the pinkish colored stone that marks his grave is small and simple. Only his name and the years of his birth and death are etched into the Maine granite. It was his wish to have nothing more.

—From His Proper Post

Adult Fiction

Decisions and Other Stories

(Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, 1995)

It sounds like a car backfiring, but I know. I am his son. I have hunted with him on clear fall days; I know the sound of the wind moving across the mountain, through the trees; I know how the crack echoes, how it vibrates the eardrum, how it sucks the breath from your chest, how the world around you comes into sharp focus; the blinding white birches suddenly have black veins. I know the sound of a gun.

—From Decisions

“Deans proves a careful craftsperson and delightful storyteller. There is no fat here, no wasted words.”

—William David Barry, Maine Sunday Telegram

Decisions and Other Stories is a collection of five short stories, each accompanied with a photograph by the author. Award-winning author Cathie Pelletier selected Decisions as the winner of the 1995 Maine Chapbook Award “for its consistency in handling character and dialogue, and for its ambition in variety of character and place.”

“It’s good to see that a writer like Sis Deans, who shuns flash in favor of solid storytelling and well-placed words, can still command attention…Her prose achieves a plain simplicity much harder to accomplish than to appreciate.”

—Jason Wilkins, The Times Record