Named to the BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2010 list by the Bank Street Children's Book Committee.

“Catanese dazzles in the first of the planned Books of Umber series by wittily subverting genre tropes. Happenstance, a boy with strange green eyes, wakes up in a cave with no memories of who he is or anything about the fantastic world in which he lives. He soon encounters Lord Umber, an adventurer who seems familiar with our world as well as his own, and his two companions — a brute cursed to be forever truthful and a one-handed artist and archer... As the group attempts to learn about his origins, they're forced to confront a supernatural assassin and secrets from Umber's own mysterious past. Catanese packs a lot into the book: rich characterizations, well-choreographed action sequences and genuinely surprising twists at the end. An auspicious start to the series.” - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

both young and old, will anxiously await future titles in the "Books of Umber" series.”  - Children's Literature

“Catanese’s forte is in defining the features of the colorful imaginary world he creates, which is part steampunk, part fairy tale, and has a surprising contemporary twist. Merpeople, leviathans, and sorceresses mingle with Mozart, mirrors, and elevators in this unusual culture . . . a cinematic quality that will be enjoyed by a wide range of fantasy readers.” - The Horn Book

“Catanese departs from the fairy tale retellings . . . to create an intriguing intergenerational partnership set in a fantasy world that tantalizes with glimpses of modern-day technology . . .
an engaging and deftly written fantasy.”  - Booklist

“Hap's vulnerability and Umber's good-natured exuberance make them both extraordinarily appealing . . .
the characters that surround the two are equally compelling . . . they emerge as almost archetypal in their symbolic resonance . . .  Rife with grisly horrors and absorbing wonders, Umber's coastal kingdom exerts a fascination that lingers after the last page is turned, and readers will be reassured by indications that a return visit is forthcoming.”
- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“You can’t pack much more intrigue into a first chapter
than that of P. W. Catanese’s Happenstance Found, in which a boy wakes, “fully conscious and wholly formed” but with no memory of his past, and immediately discovers that he and his companions are in danger from a wormlike beast, that he’s in a tunnel under a mysterious lost city, and that he has in his possession a cryptic message . . . was that an earthquake? Things only get more exciting from here in this inventive fantasy, first in a projected series.” - Notes from The Horn Book newsletter

Nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Award.

Nominated for the Pacific Northwest Library Association's Young Readers Choice Awards.

Nominated for New Hampshire's Great Stone Face Book Award 2010, sponsored by the Children's Librarians of New Hampshire.

Nominated for Hawai'i's 2010 Nēnē Award, given by the children of Hawai'i for the best children’s fiction book.

Nominated for Indiana's Young Hoosier Book Award.

A Horn Book recommended title for fantasy and science fiction.

Named to ALAN’s Picks, April 2009.  ALAN’s Picks is a monthly book review column that “highlights the latest and greatest in YA Lit.” (ALAN is The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents.)

Named to the Kid's Indie Next list, Spring 2009. “Inspired recommendations for kids from Indie booksellers.”



“This is a true roller coaster of a book, starting with sea-giants and ending with soul crabs (surely one of the creepier inventions in recent literary history), with plenty of loops and drops and zero-g moments in between...Catanese has imagination to spare, with new wonders around every corner....Familiarity with the first book isn’t necessary, but readers will want to get their hands on it after reading this one.” - School Library Journal

“Round two in the Books of Umber delivers
more imaginative adventures and tantalizing hints about Hap’s past and Umber’s hopes for him... plenty of satisfying action and lots of narrow escapes.” - Booklist

“This sequel to Happenstance Found (2009) takes Hap (in the company of his manic-depressive patron, Lord Umber) all over the map of fantasyland. Umber is careless of the safety of his companions, most notably Hap and Oates, the loyal but angry companion who is cursed to tell the truth. With so cavalier a leader, it's no surprise Hap ends up in constant danger: threatened by sleeping sea-giants, nearly burned to death in the lava-spewing inferno, almost eaten by ghost-ridden crabs and vicious, gnome-like bidmis, chased by megalomaniac princes and constantly endangered by political intrigue...the
fast-paced and high-energy action of this video-game-like quest will please fantasy adventure fans.” - Kirkus Reviews

Audio book (featuring reader Richard Poe's wonderful performance) nominated for the Young Adult Library Association's 2012 Amazing Audiobooks list.


“(The) fantastic conclusion to P.W. Catanese’s riveting fantasy trilogy. The author again raises questions about morality and the depths of friendship, and does it with compelling characters and wonderful world-building.- School Library Journal

Audio book (featuring reader Richard Poe's brilliant performance) nominated for the Young Adult Library Association's 2012 Amazing Audiobooks list.