In recent years, droves of adult authors have tried their hands at writing books for children and teens, with mixed results. (Let's just say that writing for kids without being condescending, preachy or boring is not as easy it looks.)

This fall, though, we're especially excited about one author making the move to kids' lit: Maile Meloy. Named one of the best young American novelists by Granta, Meloy has written two acclaimed short story collections (Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It) and two novels (Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter). Her first book for young readers, The Apothecary (for ages 10 and up), will be published by Putnam on October 4.

Meloy was encouraged to write the book by two writer-director friends, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett (Nim's Island, The Wonder Years), who had the kernel of an idea for a movie about a mysterious apothecary but thought it should be a novel first. Meloy obliged, and the end result is a fascinating Cold War adventure story that should keep kids hooked from beginning to end.

Here's a preview from Penguin Young Readers:

One interesting addition to the story: Meloy's brother, Colin Meloy, the lead singer for the alternative rock band The Decemberists, is also publishing his first children's book soon. Wildwood, an epic fantasy set in a strange forest, is due out August 30, which gives the younger brother a headstart in the sibling rivalry department.

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