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Ann Haywood Leal refuses to talk down to her young readers, instead tackling subjects—poverty, homelessness, parental abandonment and mental illness—that even adults find disturbing. In her debut novel, Also Known as Harper, a fifth-grader’s family is evicted. Leal’s second novel, A Finders-Keepers Place, features an 11-year-old protagonist with an absent father and manic-depressive mother. Leal, who grew up near Seattle, now teaches elementary school in Connecticut.