A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine, Book 1)

Series: The Colors of Madeleine

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Arthur A. Levine Books
April 2013

Ages 12 – 14 . Grades 7 – 9

Lexile measure: 800L

DRA: 60

Guided Reading: Y



This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses...
Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Moriarty is the award-winning author of A Corner of White, The Cracks in the Kingdom, A Tangle of Gold, The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. A former media and entertainment lawyer, Jaclyn grew up in Sydney, Australia, lived in the United States, Canada, and UK, and now lives in Sydney again. She is very fond of chocolate, blueberries, and sleep.


  • "In this genre-blending feat of stylistic energy, Moriarty moves between  two palpably distinct worlds: the modern day environs of Cambridge,
    England, and the eccentric kingdom of Cello, where the citizens are menaced by colors that attack from the sky and cause severe physical and
    mental injury. Fourteen-year-old Madeleine lives in Cambridge, having moved there when she and her mother ran away from their obscenely
    wealthy but unhappy lifestyle to adopt a considerably poorer but not all that happier one; now Madeleine has decided it is time to contact her
    father to come rescue them, especially since it seems that her mother may be seriously ill. Fifteen-year-old Elliot lives in Cello, and he,
    too, is in search of his father, who may have been carried off by the nasty Purple that killed his uncle, or who may have just run off with a
    schoolteacher. When Madeleine finds a mysterious message on a slip of paper tucked in the base of a parking meter, she responds, and she and
    Elliot develop a correspondence across worlds. The large and small pieces of their lives intermingle with surprising and beneficial
    effects, despite the fact that Madeleine doesn’t quite believe in Cello, and Elliot could be sentenced to death for not reporting the gap between
    the worlds. The plotting is as innovative and riveting as the world-making here, and the characters are drawn with the same rich
    dimensionality you find in Pratchett’s Discworld or one of Diana Wynne Jones’s fantasies. Moriarty’s wordsmithery likewise compares favorably
    with those two masters, delighting and surprising readers with quirky turns of phrase, evocative, synesthetic metaphors, and swift, effective
    shifts in register. Give this to readers who, like Madeleine, aren’t quite sure of their commitment to secondary worlds but like to spice
    their realities with a little fantasy nonetheless, as well as to those who love secondary worlds with a healthy helping of reality on the side." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred review

    "In this lovely fantasy, two stories run parallel. Fourteen-year-old Madeleine lives in Cambridge, England, where she is adjusting to life without her dad. Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello, where his search for his dad is postponed by the deplorable state of crops at home. If it were not for the tiny portal in a parking meter, Madeleine and Elliot would not have started writing letters back and forth. The story is told through the teens’ communications and an omniscient narrator. This mix allows readers to know Madeleine and Elliot and their problems intimately, but it also gives them an aerial view of events, helps them meet the richly drawn secondary characters, and allows them to see the ingenious way in which the protagonists’ lives ultimately combine. Attacks by “Colors,” “living organisms: a kind of rogue subclass of the colors that we see when we look at a red apple or blue sky” keep the townspeople on edge, and Elliot wonders if his dad were killed during one of them. Mysteries abound. Is Madeleine’s mom’s strange behavior due to her inability to cope with poverty, or is something else going on? Why doesn’t Madeleine’s dad answer her letter, and is she somehow to blame for his absence? Ultimately, this is a story of two teenagers helping each other figure out their places in their respective worlds." Jennifer Prince, School Library Journal starred review

    "Australian author Moriarty, best known for her Ashbury-Brookfield series (including The Year of Secret Assignments, rev. 3/04, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High, rev. 7/10), here embarks on a new series and a new genre. Fourteen-year-old Madeleine has moved to Cambridge, England, with her mother; they’ve run away (somewhat mysteriously) from Madeleine’s father and a life of extreme wealth. Fifteen-year-old Elliot Baranski lives in the Kingdom of Cello, where Colors are living organisms that can kill people, where seasons change at the drop of a hat, and where “Wandering Hostiles” want to overthrow the royal family. People stopped moving between Cello and Madeleine’s world hundreds of years ago, but Elliot has found a tiny “crack” between the two places and has begun a correspondence with Madeleine. While Elliot learned about Madeleine’s world in school, she thinks Cello is an imaginary land he’s invented. Moriarty is the queen of epistolary stories, and her fans will find the teens’ letters a familiar entrée into this highly unusual fantasy. Like Madeleine, readers will be initially baffled by, but will ultimately believe in, Elliot’s world. Moriarty’s story comes across as matter-of-fact yet curious, topped off with a strong dose of humor (think Margaret Mahy). As always, her irresistible characters help readers navigate a tantalizingly complex plot that will leave them eagerly awaiting the next book." - Jennifer M. Brabander, The Hornbook Magazine starred review

    Praise for Jaclyn Moriarty

    "Moriarty has found a winning formula for her thoroughly enjoyable, deceptively simple Ashbury High novels: She takes a clever, sophisticated epistolary format, adds sparkling, effervescent wit, and applies them to a mash-up of literary genres." -- Horn Book, starred review

    "[A]n exhilarating pace, irrepressible characters, and a screwball humor that will easily attract teens, many of whom will yearn for madcap adventures and unshakably devoted friends like these." -- Booklist, starred review

    "Who can resist Moriarty's biting humor?" -- Kirkus Reviews



She leaned her bike against a wall and saw it again -- that fine line of white along the seam of the parking meter. \t
\tShe tried to pull it out with her fingertips but it was too deeply embedded. By holding two fingernails, one above and one below, she managed to grasp the edge of the paper and slowly draw it out.
\tIt was a thin piece of paper, folded in half.
\tShe unfolded it and read:

\tHelp me!
\tI am being held against my will!

\tShe laughed aloud, looking at the base of the parking meter: the split concrete.
\t\"You're trying to escape,\" she said, then glanced around to check that nobody had seen her talking to a parking meter. The street was empty.
\tIt was growing dark, everything turning shades of grey.
\tThe paper in the palm of her hand made her shudder suddenly.
\tI am being held against my will!
\tWhat if it was real? A message from a stranger who was trapped?
\tStrange place to put it, though, she thought, and smiled again.
\tI am being held against my will. \t
\tOn the darkening path, she took paper from her backpack, and she wrote a reply to the note.
\tShe folded it and slid it into the parking meter until it too was nothing but a fine white line.
\tThen she rode away."