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It’s official. Should I happen to leave New York City for any reason (I’ve been saying I would for years, but it’s gotta happen someday) and I work for a publisher I want to work for Chronicle Books. No, really. I don’t what it is about them, but I get a really good vibe off of that company. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re one of the few West Coast publishers you’ll find in the continental United States. They have that easy breezy San Francisco feel to them. Or maybe it’s just the tone of their books. Or the fact that they have been luring New Yorkers to their microclimates for years (hi, Tamra Tuller!). Whatever the case, it’s alluring. And so, this season, are their books.
Skipping entirely past their adult section (where in 2014 you’ll encounter titles like “50 Ways to Wear a Scarf” and “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons”) as well as their YA titles, we dive into the children’s books where they bob and glint like so many pretty little jewels.
First up! Middle grade! Chronicle hasn’t done much with MG novels in the past, but they aim to change all that. This is middle grade with a cover unlike any other out there (with the possible exception of Jenni Holm’s Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf). In The Meaning of Maggie by debut author and “award-winning copywriter” Megan Jean Sovern, the book follows Maggie herself. Self-described future President of the United Sates, Maggie Mayfield keeps a memoir of her life during the course of a year. Like Harriet the Spy without the guile, she’s an overweight heroine where that is not the point of the book in the least (name me five middle grade books where you can say the same . . . it can be done but it’s tricky). Unlike Harriet, Maggie sports a fun family, including a dad that loves Black Sabbath and family friends that are bikers. The crux of the novel lies in the fact that Maggie’s dad is diagnosed with m.s., and in fact a portion of the proceeds of this novel are to be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Ms. Sovern’s own father had m.s. and passed away a couple of years ago. The book already has blubs from Kathi Appelt, Wendy Mass, and Walter M. Mayes. Always a good sign.
Here is what all middle grade novels about Hurricane Katrina tend to have in common: They are some of the only books out there to have relatively contemporary African-American characters in them… and the ALL have dogs. Seriously. With the exception of You Survived Hurricane Katrina (which is a series anyway), this has been true of St. Louis Armstrong Beach, Buddy and Ninth Ward. Now we’ve a new book entering the fray and it’s Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Starring Armani Curtis (a girl), it follows her from the happy days of turning ten to the horrors of the Katrina. It may be the only book in which the hero actually enters The Superdome, and she is indeed separated from her family for a time. This is a debut for Ms. Lamana, who was a reading and writing instructor in the Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. And yes, there is a dog, but it’s not a major part of the plot. Still there, though. There’s just something about Katrina and canines . . .
Now we turn our attention to picture books, and this one appears to be a collaboration between an Italian and a Frenchman. I know Davide Cali best for this year’s really delightful graphic novel 10 Little Insects, and in a recent Children’s Literary Salon featuring Carin Berger and Marc Boutavant, Mssr. Boutavant name checked Cali. Well, Cali has been paired with Benjamin Chaud, the fellow behind The Bear’s Song, which was entirely delightful. Together, they’ve created I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . which features a boy with amazing hair and sideburns that Elvis himself would envy. Impeccably dressed in a grey suit with matching red socks and tie, our young hero goes through an extraordinary number of excuses, one after another, to explain why his homework remains unfinished. Someone at one point said it reminded them of the book What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin of yore. Could at that.
Author Germano Zullo isn’t exactly a household name here in the States, but that’s not for lack of trying on the small press’s parts. Whether it’s Chronicle or Enchanted Lion bringing his stories over, he’s here. His latest, and perhaps most accessible, book to date is Jumping Jack, illustrated once again by fellow Swiss (and one-namer) Albertine. In this book a show-jumping horse has difficulty following through, so to speak. Fortunately he has a sympathetic jockey who is convinced he can get to the bottom of the problem.
Now here’s a cause for celebration: Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard are doing a book together! Mr. Reynolds, as you’ll recall, is responsible for the recent Caldecott Honor winner Creepy Carrots (amongst another bazillion gazillion books) and Jeremy Tankard is a genius who does not do enough books. Seriously, someone should just force the man to crank out the product. We deserve more Tankard, consarn it! Well, for now we’ll be happy with Here Comes Destructosaurus! (how can you not just love that title?) which features a raging monster. Only thing is, the narrator is talking directly to the monster, taking him to task for his mess. It doesn’t take much effort to see the monster/toddler parallels at work here. And naturally the ending is great. I should say that I actually laughed out loud when reading this, and I don’t always do that. Awesome.
Those who know me will know why, personally, I was very happy to see a new series coming out of author/illustrator Micah Player called Lately Lily: The Adventures of a Traveling Girl. Player, remember, was the one behind Chloe, Instead and has even been doing the odd Hilary McKay book jacket on the side. With Lately Lily we meet the daughter of journalists that travel all around the world. The media tie-ins are already in the works, including Travel Flash Cards and a little yellow suitcase that’s full of luggage tags, activity cards, sticker sheets, games & doodle ideas, etc. Though Lily will travel to different books in the series, these aren’t really excuses just to see the cities. Rather, the books concentrate on just how awesome travel itself is. An alternative to some of those flight picture books we’ve seen coming out lately, then.
We seem to be sliding down down into the youngest of ages, but that’s okay with me. In Taro Gomi’s The Great Day the man behind Everyone Poops shows us “a little boy just having an awesome day”. It’s simple, talks with simple sentences just showing the basics of a day, and has a kiddo in it that isn’t white. So, basically, the combination of brown-skinned kiddo and Gomi the genius is enough to sell it to me right there.
And for fans of the epitome of all board books Peek-a Who? we have an honest-to-goodness sequel on our hands. Peek-a Zoo! is also by Nina Laden and though she took a bit of a hiatus for a while, she’s back, baby. I know my kiddo was a big ole fan of Peek-a Who? when she was a little ‘un, so it’s nice to see more along those lines. Similarly, Laden will also be coming out with the madcap Daddy Wrong Legs (good title) where you have to pair legs to torsos of everything from frogs and gorillas to skeletons and humans.
If 2014 is notable for nothing else it will be notable for the huge SWATH of Coraline designers and creators who have suddenly all decided to go into the world of children’s books. Here at Chronicle, author Sue-Ganz Schmitt and illustrator Shane Prigmore (who was the character designer of Coraline) are coming out with Planet Kindergarten. The first day of school is like any good holiday in that it doesn’t matter how many books already exist on the topic. There can always be more. In this fun take, Kindergarten is equated with space travel to another planet. Your teacher is the commander, your fellow students are aliens, it all makes sense. Ultimately our space-trotting boyo comes to have a great day, so that’s nice.
Okay. So I’ve been enjoying Britta Teckentrup’s books for years, particularly Animal 123 and Animal Spots and Stripes. In Candlewick’s catalog mention of her latest book Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm, & At the Port they include two readalikes at the bottom of the page. One of these is Rotraut Berner’s In the Town All Year Round and the other is Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant. Those are pretty accurate comparisons to what Teckentrup is working with here. Chock full of details, like a slightly more European Richard Scarry, what sets the book apart is that each of the three settings keep the exact same view of their town (or farm or port) but at different times of the day. Turn the page and it’s 7 a.m. Turn another and now it’s 10 a.m. Another and it’s 3 p.m. Add in a naughty badger who’s hidden (and up to no good) on every page and you have yourself a heckuva lot of fun. So cute!
Remember “Walter Was Worried” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger? That was the book where words turned into characters’ faces, expressing various emotions in the process. I haven’t really seen anyone else do something similar in a while, but that was before I saw Cat Says Meow: And Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt. Basically the book takes words that make up animal sounds and turns them into animals. It’s sort of hopelessly clever.
Following up on the success of Round Is a Tortilla, author Rosane Greenfield Thong and illustrator John Parra tackle a different concept. Where Tortilla was all about the shapes, Green Is a Chile Pepper is a colors book from start to finish. Like Tortilla it rhymes (“Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. / Green is cilantro inside our pot.”) this is yet another very rare picture book featuring Latino kiddos. Lovely on the eye. Rhymes to boot.
While I wouldn’t actually go so far as to call it narrative nonfiction per say, At the Same Moment Around the World will act as a nice accompaniment to nonfiction units. Since it shows off the notion of time zones (but not with real kids – hence the fact that it’s not really straight nonfiction), the book follows the everyday activities of children around the globe. Each section begins with the very nice “At the same moment” and then goes on to say what time it is for that particular part of the world. What it ultimately reminded me of, more than anything else, was When It’s 6 o’Clock in San Francisco.
Then we get a little French. The Ultimate Book of Vehicles promises much with a title like that. Created by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic, the book is part of a new Chronicle imprint for preschoolers called Twirl Books. Twirl describes itself as, “Straight from Paris, curated with legendary French flair.” I kind of love that. Just as I kind of love that this book is the first I’ve ever seen for kids that includes a breathalizer test in one of the spreads. I sort of think that makes for an ideal teachable moment. The interactive elements to the book are lovely, but to my mind it’s the rocket taking off in one of the spreads that makes the whole book worthwhile.
But the most innovative of the books we saw had to be, without any doubt, Presto Chang-o!: A Book of Animals Magic by Edouard Manceau. I might have a little trouble describing exactly what this book is. You see, little flaps (that are also parts of the picture) can be manipulated and moved in such a way as to make a raccoon into a cauldron, a lion into a flower, or a clock into an owl, etc. You’ll have to play with it for a while yourself before you quite understand what I’m saying. It’s not exactly a flap book. More a . . . twisty turney pieces book (no no. . . that doesn’t work either). Whatever you call it, it’s cool and entirely unlike any other book you’ve seen.
And that’s the long and short of it! Many thanks to the good folks at Chronicle for showing us their wares. 2014 is shaping up to be a heckuva year.
Sometimes you just want to get your hands on some reliable nonfiction. The other day I was in the office and we’d spread out the vast quantities of nonfiction samples we’d been sent from a variety of publishers (all of whom shall remain nameless). And while some things were okay and other things were tolerable, so little of it was of the “Wow! Awesome!” variety. It would be disheartening if we didn’t have folks like Lerner to fall back on. And I’m not saying this to be all chummy with them. I honest-to-goodness really like their books. Are all Lerner books created equal? Of course not! But they fill gaps in my collection while at the same time providing books on subjects it would never have occurred to me to buy. And it tends to be reliable.
So! With that in mind, here’s how the Spring ’14 season is looking for ole Lerner Books these days.
First up, the Lightning Bolt Books series and their latest topic: “Animals in Danger”. We’re talking Endangered and Extinct Bird, Endangered and Extinct Mammals, even Endangered and Extinct Invertebrates. The lure is that a lot of these contain a heartening comeback story at the end of each book of some animal or critter that nearly went belly-up and then was saved at the last minute. I know plenty of kids that have to do endangered animal units for school, so it seems to me this makes for a much needed topic and category.
Speaking of requests I hear a lot, this is one that I wish to high heaven would go away and yet it never will. I’m talking about “character building” books. Books that by dint of even being read will miraculously transform your child into a better person through their cheery texts. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad books of this ilk are assigned to children every day in schools. So while I loathe and abhor them, I am infinitely grateful to Lerner for at least doing a couple decent ones on the topics we’re used to being asked for. Case in point, the “Show Your Character” series. They’re multicultural and act as a slightly older version of Stuart J. Murphy’s “The Way I Act” series.
So here’s the deal with Common Core. I’ve nothing against it myself. Just the way it’s implemented some of the time. But even as I say that, there are aspects to CCSS that are difficult to deal with. I’m thinking in particular of the areas that are required and need written material, but where there’s very little in the marketplace. Particularly in the case of early civilizations. Second and third graders are supposed to be learning about China or Mesopotamia, but where the heck is the series written at an earlier reading level? Meet the new Searchlight Books series “What Can We Learn from Early Civilizations?” Each book is written on a easier level than a lot of books out there, and they cover everything from how these civilizations influence us today to folklore beliefs associated with those civilizations. Plus anything that touches on Ancient Egypt is all good with me.
In the biography part of the world, finding stuff on contemporary scientists is a bit slapdash. The “STEM Trailblazer Bios” series covers a range o’ folks, from robotics developers to game designers. And there are even some women! I don’t usually write out all the titles when I cover a series, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In this series you’ll find the books:
- Alternate Reality Game Designer Jane McGonigal
- Flickr Cofounder and Web Community Creator Caterina Fake
- Google Glass anId Robotics Innovator Sebastian Thrum
- iPod and Electronics Visionary Tony Fadell
- YouTube Founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim
- And FINALLY, after all these years, Astrophysicist and Space Advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve been waiting for a Tyson bio for years and years and the fact that no one has done one yet just baffles me. Glad to see someone somewhere picked up the slack!
I’ll confess to you that in many ways this round-up is mighty NYC-centric. Because New York kids care diddly over squat about monster trucks and rally cars, I have chosen not to mention series like the “Dirt and Destruction Sports Zone” series. By the same token, kids in this city have a thing for fashion. Go figure. All the more reason then that they might like the “What’s Your Style?” series coming out. Basically everything from boho to edgy to pretty to streetwear gets its own book. Knowing next to nothing about fashion myself, I trust Lerner to do right by my kids.
Have you guys seen that Blue Apple Books series where you follow a single object, be it a sphinx or dino bones or an asteroid from discovery (or in some cases, rediscovery) to their place in museums? How the Sphinx Got to the Museum is one such example. Well full credit to the upcoming book Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, since it takes a similar, if distinctly more biological, trip. Starting in El Boxque Nuevo in Costa Rica we see a place where farmers grow butterfly pupae. Why? To ship to museums around the world, of course. What, you think those butterfly exhibits grow themselves? Written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, we follow a single butterfly pupae, and then go through all the requisite butterfly lifecycle details. In a market where all the butterfly books kind of blend together, this one’s going to stand out.
We all love the Scientists in the Field series, bar none. I love that series. You love that series. But let’s fact it, they’re not the only scientists out there with books to their names. Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman (photos by Annie Crawley) at first sounded nothing so much as Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. The difference is the focus. In this book we follow a research expedition studying the accumulation of plastic in the Pacific. Through this story we see a lot of prepwork, including how to live on a ship, sea sickness, cooking, etc.
I’m a big fan of children’s or teen books that do original research not found in adult titles. It’s unclear to me, but this may fall into that category. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs is written by Sandra K. Athans. The focus, however, is on her brother, Pete Athans, the mountaineer. Pete’s the kind of guy who climbs Mt. Everest on a regular basis (seven times as of this post) but this book focuses on what happened when he decided to explore the caves of Mustang (pronounced moo-stang). Apparently they’re near impossible to get into, located in remote Nepal. In this book you get to see his discoveries including (and here I’ll quote the catalog text) “murals to ancient texts to human remains”. And they say there’s nothing left to explore anymore . . .
When I was in high school I had an English teacher who let us in on a little secret. Certain movements of the body could be translated to explain what a person was thinking or feeling (God only knows what this had to do with English literature). He showed how showing a palm might mean one thing or where your eyes automatically go when you’re lying. I felt like this was the secret to the universe and if I just knew all these secrets I could rule the world (or, at the very least, become the next Sherlock Holmes). Sadly, there was no book I could find that explained these things. Now Lerner has produced Every Body’s Talking: What We Say Without Words by Donna M. Jackson. It is PRECISELY the book I wanted when I was young. For librarians, this will be the world’s easiest booktalk. Hey, kids! Want to know how to effectively lie to your parents? It’s all here! My co-worker Amie, upon hearing about this book, pointed out that it might actually be of a lot of use to autistic kids or those on the spectrum, since decoding physical bodily clues make up a lot of their existence. Smart thinking there.
So you know how I continually vow that I’m not going to report on any YA these days in these previews? Well, that lasts just about as long as it takes to discover awesome YA nonfiction. After that point I’m a puddle. I melt. I am helpless in the face of awesome YA nonfiction. Probably has something to do with the fact that there’s so little of it to choose from. Or, it could be that Lerner comes up with the BEST ideas for books.
Example A: The World Series: Baseball’s Biggest Stage by Matt Doeden. The World Series has a century long history, so it’s fitting that there should be a book out there that looks into it in depth. It covers everything from the wacky moments (“the bloody sock” may mean something to some of you) to the heroic ones. Baseball on the field has pretty much remained the same over the decades. But off the field? The climate has completely changed for the players. Watch the changes take place here.
Example B: Chasing the Storm: Tornadoes Meteorology, and Weather Watching by Ron Miller. Ron, for the record, actually traveled with a group of storm chasers to figure out how they did their work. We’ve tons of fiction in our collections that talks about storm chasers (the “Storm Runners” series by Roland Smith comes to mind) but very little in the nonfiction department. This book shows you not only how to become a storm chaser, but includes information on things like making your own weather station in your backyard. Nicely done.
Example C: When a big event takes place and you wonder which major publisher will produce the first really good title on the topic, Lerner’s usually the first to come to mind (check out how quickly they made a book about the latest Pope when he was named last year). In Curiosity’s Mission on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet by (again) Ron Miller, the book looks at Mars from a cultural perspective. Chock full of diagrams and images as well as mentions of past and future missions, this’ll make a nice little companion to books like Cars On Mars and other Mars-centric selections.
Example D: K-Pop: Korea’s Musical Explosion by Stuart A. Kallen. This is one of those cases where you don’t notice a phenomenon until it’s pointed out to you. If you’d asked me prior to the publication of this book to name the top South Korean performers out there, I would have been hard pressed to answer. But there’s Psy and, of course, Rain (whom I think of every time I hear someone mention that current CW show Reign). Historically The Korean War was how American soldiers with their rock and roll introduced the form to the nation. Now it’s huge, and has a book of its very own.
Example E: Years ago I saw this great documentary of found footage called The Atomic Cafe. Oddly, it was the very first place where I learned about the Bikini Islands and what we did to them post-World War II. No books in school ever touched on the topic and no textbook mentioned it. Now Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster has been written by Connie Goldsmith thanks in large part to a information that was just recently declassified. Between 1948-1956 the United States released 67 nuclear bombs. This is the book that discusses what happened and the accidents that occurred as a result.
Example F: Traumatic Brain Injury: From Concussion to Coma by Connie Goldsmith (who, for the record, is a nurse) is probably as timely as timely could be. But this isn’t just another book about the wide and wonderful world of football related concussions. This book has a much broader approach, looking at the science behind what a concussion is and the different types that occur. Since 52,000 die each year from them (not including all the unrecorded traumatic brain injuries), 1.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with TBI each year. This is the book that looks into what happens and why.
Okay. Enough of that teen stuff. Let’s get some firm footing in the world of children’s books instead.
There is a legend that surrounds the 18th-century composer Scarlatti (which, in and of itself, is a marvelous name). The story says that his most famous melody was created after he heard his cat walk across the keys of his harpsichord. Scarlatti’s Cat by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (illustrated by Carlyn Beccia) follows the legend to its logical end. Pulcinella is the cat in question and she dreams of playing her own compositions. It’s not until the timely appearance of a mouse, however, that she gets her big chance. There’s a nice twist at the end on who gets the cat after Scarlatti gives her away. Cute and musical.
2014 appears to be the year of Mumbet. Next year Harper Collins will produce the young reader’s edition of Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts (illustrated by Diane Goode) and there is a brief mention made in that book of Mumbet, a woman I’d never heard of before. Now in Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle (illustrated by Alix Delinois) we hear her story. In 1781 a slave in Massachusetts just named Mumbet went to court for her freedom (and her daughters’ for that matter). The amazing thing is that she won the case! Here’s her story.
In the past I’ve said that fairytales and folktales are the hardest books to find in a given year. Well, thanks to the efforts of small publishers I no longer believe that to be the case. Now I lament the lack of poetry on our shelves. Poetry, good poetry, is danged hard to find so whenever I hear of something I take note. Lerner has just started the Poetry Adventures series, and they’re kicking off with Brian P. Cleary’s If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems. It’s a continuing series, so we’re bound to find more than just these, but they make for a good start. The rules are clearly stated for each poem and the pictures keep things fun.
Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija paired together back in 2012 to make the soft and simple A Leaf Can Be . . . Now they’re back with Water Can Be . . . which follows much along the same lines. This goes through the roles water plays and since it’s incredibly simple (“Water can be a . . . Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher”) it’s ideal for very early units on water. Basically it does for water what Picture a Tree did for trees. They’ve also paired with Water Aid, so that’s where some of the profits will go.
Poetry is hard to find. Graphic novels? Less so. Yet I’m still amazed that more time isn’t spent trying to find great ones for the kiddos. Granted, the good ones can take years and years to make. Still, there are ways around that. I was then very happy to see a new GN series coming out of Lerner. Tao, the Little Samurai by Laurent Richard (illustrated by Nicolas Ryser) is basically a very young Naruto. A boy who excels in pranks and jokes dreams of someday becoming a martial arts master. My only question? How do you pronounce the hero’s name? Is it Tao or Dao? Questions, questions . . .
We have lots of middle grade books featuring deadbeat parents, but it can be hard to find just the right balance between stupidity/slime and real affection for their kiddos. The new series “The Berenson Schemes” by Lisa Doan (illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic) takes an interesting tack. In Jack the Castaway a boy has two parents obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes. Perfect. Ideal for fourth graders, it reminds me of nothing so much as “The Unseen World of Poppy Malone” series (parent-wise anyway). Oh. And Jack ends up shipwrecked on a tropical island avoiding a shark. So there’s that too.
Last but not least, here’s a smart idea for a very different fiction series. Called “The Cryptid Files” these books by Jean Flitcroft, these stories are of cryptozoology, much as you’d find in Suzanne Selfors’ “Bigfoot Terror Tales”. In each book (starting with The Lock Ness Monster) our heroine Vanessa globe trots trying to finds and prove that cryptids exist.
And that’s the long and the short of it folks! Many thanks to Lindsay Matvick for sitting down with me and showing me her wares. Here’s a long and nonfiction heavy 2014!
Oh the previews are here, they’re here, they’re here,
The wonderful previews are here
Time to go out, go out, go out,
Go out and order a . . . . beer? No, no . . .
From that catchy little tune (working on it) I hope you realize that preview season is upon us yet again. Time to sit down and hear what is in store for the future. Will 2013 completely and utterly stop any and all supernatural romances dead in their tracks (which is to say, are vampires finally over?)? What picture book idea will spontaneously manifest itself at two entirely different publishers without rhyme or reason? And what, the heckedy heck, is up with fuzzy blue giants? Why are they so awesome?
Yes. It’s finally happened. The pandering. The blatant self-promotion. The self-satisfied mugging. You thought I was insufferable when I wrote my ALA Editions textbooky thing a couple of years ago? Brother, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen my fiction side in action.
So it is that we begin today’s Harper Collins Preview at the Greenwillow table. As you may recall, Harper Collins is one of those publishers that allow you to sit at their tables, eat their bagels and muffins, and hear their editors tell you face-to-face about their upcoming season. Sure, they could do a boring PowerPoint to a big room, thereby saving themselves some sanity, but the fact that they take the time to talk to us in this intimate fashion makes them one of the better previews in town. It’s the personal touch that counts, y’know? Plus I’m far more likely to remember a book when the editor has taken my questions about it firsthand than if I’m dozing in a big audience with a bunch of other folks, later desperately trying to remember why one teen novel with a flowy gown on the cover is different from another teen novel with a flowy gown on the cover when it’s time to do my ordering.
In any case, the clock is ticking, there are books to be discussed, so we begin with Greenwillow.
Actually we begin with me. They didn’t. I’m just mucking with the order of presentations here because I’m so pleased to announce my pretty little Giant Dance Party picture book. It comes out on my birthday (April 23rd), and isn’t THAT a lovely present to receive? Brandon Dorman is the illustrator behind it, and a nicer fella you couldn’t hope to find. You may know his book covers on everything from Savvy to the more recent Goosebumps novels. As you can see, the title is self-explanatory. The tale follows young Lexy, a girl who can cut a rug better than most her age. That is, if she’s dancing for her parents or herself. Put her onto a stage and you might as well be staring at a frozen ice pop in the shape of a young girl. When Lexy decides the answer to her problem is to teach rather than perform, she finds that no one wants to have a kid as her teacher. No one, that is, except a herd (is that the best term for it?) of benign furry blue giants. All seems to go well until the day of their recital when Lexy discovers that maybe she’s not the only one with stage fright problems out there.
Don’t let the cute nature of the cover fool you. Is it cute? Yeah. Guilty as charged. But there are some slammin’ moves to be found inside and, as I may have mentioned in a previous post, this is the first picture book I have encountered that includes krumping. I kid you not. Expect me to come up with some kind of video to accompany this soonish. Suggestions are welcome. I’m slightly stumped since Dan Santat created the world’s greatest dance-related picture book trailer three years ago for Tammi Sauer’s Chicken Dance. More to come about this in time.
And there are apparently other books coming out in 2013 as well! Did you know that? I was stunned! For example, they have decided to republish the original picture book edition of Amelia Bedelia for one and all to see. Not an easy book, mind you, but a full picture book sized title with all the art reproduced full and some in-depth backmatter at the end. And you know I love me some backmatter. I guess the success of the young Amelia Bedelia picture book series gave the idea the extra push it needed. In any case, look for this soon.
Speaking of the younger version of AB (Amelia Bedelia), the new title coming out in the spring with be Amelia Bedelia’s First Library Card. Otherwise known as the picture book hundreds of children’s librarians will be using for first-time library users visiting their branches. In a new twist, they’ve also noticed that those early chapter book Fancy Nancy books have been doing rather nicely. As a result, you can expect some early chapter books of young AB as well. It makes me think that if these also sell a whole world of possibilities opens up. What if they did longer Nate the Great or Cam Jansen books? What if they made an Amelia Bedelia middle grade novel? Or teen! Lord knows I’d pay good money for an Amelia Bedelia supernatural romance novel. A penny to anyone who gives me a serviceable plot to go with it.
Shadow boxes. There is nothing cooler on this globe than shadow boxes. I’m sure there are art students in colleges across the country that would agree. Yet for the most part you don’t see them used in children’s books all that often. Sometimes here and there, but it’s not consistent. In Stardines Swim High Across the Sky we definitely see some in action. A kind of follow up to Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Carin Berger, this is yet another wordplay rich book of poems by Mr. P. The particular draw, however, is how Ms. Berger chose to do the art. But why describe the style when I can simply show you?
Caldecotty! Best of all, you’ll get to see a display of this art at ALA in Chicago this coming June.
This next book is a bit of a riddle: How do you resist a tiptoeing bear? Answer: Why bother? Anything big that tries to be small and quiet is instant picture book gold. In Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson (illustrated by Laura Rankin) a bear in sneakers highs himself hence on sneaky sneakered feet. The book’s a simple cumulative tale with readaloud potential. Put it on your preschool readaloud radar then.
Harper Collins is the publisher that seeks out self-published authors of picture books more often than other publishers I’ve seen. And since old Pete the Cat has paid off very very well for them indeed (catchy songs are ALWAYS a plus) it seems natural that they’d take everything a step further and look into self-published apps/ebooks that convert to the picture book format. That apparently is the case with Axel the Truck: Beach Race by J.D. Riley, and illustrated by MY illustrator Brandon Dorman. What’s interesting about this book is the fact that it’s more of an easy book than anything else. Perhaps the first self-published app turned easy book out there. Interesting.
All I will do for Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes is write down some of the descriptive direct quotes the editors tossed about when describing the easy book. Ahem.
“The great American novel in I Can Read form.”
There you have it, folks. Need more be said?
Now it’s cover art comparison time!!!
Of the two I think I prefer Jeff Baron’s upcoming I Represent Sean Rosen. And not just because of the Christoph Neimann art either. The kid just seems more appealing. Basically, this is just your average story about a kid hitting it big. Like The Toothpaste Millionaire but without the business angle. You see, Sean Rosen is a kid with a great idea, but he’s not gonna tell you what it is because clearly you’d steal it. Whatever it is, it’ll change the entertainment industry. Sean decides to sell the idea to Hollywood instead but runs into the problem of not having an agent. The solution? Meet fake agent Dan Welsh (one trip to the fridge will tell you where Sean got that name). Author Baron’s a playwright himself, so he’s been working up some “podcasts” of Sean’s. Podcasts/YouTube videos. Here’s the first.
Anna Was Here by Jane Kurtz is a PK middle grade novel. Those of you in the know will be aware that PK = Preacher’s Kid. And frankly, I don’t see a lot of those. We see a lot more army brats in a given year than preacher kids. Wonder why that is? In this case, the story is about Anna’s move from Colorado to Kansas (I was this close to writing Cansas). Even more interesting is the fact that the book discusses without fanfare a family where the Bible is just a regular part of the day to day. Apparently not in a strident way or anything either. Just a way of life. We’ll check it out.
New series, new series! Now this preview happened pre-Sandy, but you just know that had it happened afterwards this next book would have had an evident tie-in. The Lightning Catcher by Anne Cameron (all similarities to The Lightning Thief title-wise or the lightning bolt letters on all the American Harry Potter book jackets are strictly coincidental, you betcha, uh-huh, uh-huh) is the first in a four book series. In this debut young Angus is whisked to The Exploritorium for Violent Storms. Turns out his parents are two of the world’s greatest living lightning catchers, keeping the world safe from wild weather. When the parents are kidnapped, that’s when the rubber meets the road. It follows in a definite trend of weather-related middle grade novels like Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner and The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith, but to name but a few.
I’ll be eschewing most of the YA stuff today, as per usual, but I will say that I’m thrilled to see the eleventh book in The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney is due to come out. Slither is the first book in the series to be told from the p.o.v. of one of the creatures. Fans will be happy to hear that Rimalkin is in it but sad to hear that Tom is not. FYI: The movie is definitely slated to come out in October of 2013! It’s called Seventh Son and will star folks like Julianne Moore (Mother Malkin!), Jeff Bridges (when he isn’t working on The Giver, apparently), and Ben Barnes a.k.a. Hot Prince Caspian as Tom Ward.
That’s enough from Table Four. Onward to Table Five with big time folks like Barbara Lalicki, Rosemary Brosnan, Tara Weikum, and Erica Sussman. I see that at this point in my notes I’ve turn philosophical, writing stuff like “In many ways previews break down to a variety of people telling you all kinds of stories.” Oh aye?
First up, the book Adam Rex was tweeting about long ago when it was first arranged. His first collaboration with Neil Gaiman. Chu’s Day follows a sneezy little panda and the havoc he creates thanks to an itchy nose and distracted parental units. Apparently it was inspired by a trip to China, and indeed if you see an F&G or final copy of this book you will encounter a jacket photo of Gaiman with a panda on his lap. Rex, insofar as I can tell, has never done pandas much before. But back in early 2011 he did a series of posts where he drew different types of pandas (seen here and here and here and here). Now you know why.
You can read the real reason Gaiman wrote the book here (long story short, he’s trying to get printed in mainland China for once). And there is, naturally, a book trailer. As Rex says of it, “Fun fact–Gaiman wasn’t available to make this video, so I played him wearing a Neilsuit a la the British ‘pantomime’ tradition.”
I’m sure the process was very much like the old Black Books skit. Dylan Moran even looks like Gaiman (though Rex, happily, has few similarities to Manny).
You know, go to enough of these previews and you begin to get a sense of which editors you really trust. The ones that crank out books you can’t get enough of. Rosemary Brosnan fits that category. Often I’ll compliment someone at HC for a book and then find it’s one of hers. You may know her best from editing Rita Williams-Garcia’s marvelous, miraculous One Crazy Summer. Well, hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen. The sequel, P.S. Be Eleven, is due out this May. As Rosemary said, she can’t stop smiling about it. And, she pointed out, she signed Rita up for it long before the first book won those four shiny shiny medals that now grace its cover. Kudos to Ms. Rita, it’s more than a little daunting to follow-up any book that got as much attention as her first did with a sequel of any type. In this book anyway Delphine is tall, dad is betrothed, there are crushes, Panthers, and a 6th Grade dance. The jacket, as you can see, matches the art of the paperback edition of the first book. And yes, folks. Number three is in the works.
You’ve gotta kind of respect a middle grade novel that begins with the heroines convinced that they’ve just watched their guidance counselor killing someone only to find that she was merely making pickled beets. Sophie and Grace have their own spy club in The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittshcer but beets or no beets there is indeed something sinister going on. The sequel is already slated with the title Tiara on the Terrace.
Here’s some more exciting reissue news, particular for those of you looking to get some summer reading paperbacks on your shelves. All the Ramona Quimby books are about to be repackaged with interior and exterior art by one Jacqueline Rogers. Eight titles in all, they’re coming out simultaneously in hardcover and paperback just in time for Ms. Cleary’s 97th birthday. And if these catch on they may do the same with other Cleary titles too. An excellent idea. High time we had some new art.
I was surprisingly taken with Ms. Tui T. Sutherland’s novel this year. I don’t know if you read Ms. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire which Scholastic put out, but for a talking dragon novel it wasn’t too shabby. Now she’s got a book out with HC called The Menagerie which she wrote with one Kari Sutherland. In it a boy moves a small Iowa town and, once there, finds a griffin cub under his bed. Turns out there’s a magical menagerie in the town, and the boy must find the other griffins and uncover a big time mystery.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai will indeed be out in paperback this January (I’ve already ordered my copies) and as we speak she is working on a second book. Meanwhile Molly Moon and the Monster Music, the sixth and final Moon title, by Georgia Byng is out this March, and should be well-timed with that MM movie in the works.
Now a flip around and a walk to Table 1. Here we have the good mistress Alessandra Balzer and sweet mistress Donna Bray. And Jordan Brown, of course. He’s not mistress of anything.
Mo Willems is back, baby! Not that he really went away but while his Elephant & Piggie books have been consistently primo, his picture books have merely been amusing. All that may change with the publication of That is NOT a Good Idea! In it, Willems stretches himself a little further. Becomes a bit more subversive and strange, but in a thoroughly good way. Channeling himself some Hilaire Belloc we have a silent film inspired presentation. Fox (or is it a wolf?) meets chicken. Chicken meets fox/wolf. Romance and possibly dinner (eek!) ensue. And all the while you’ve this steadily increasing Greek Chorus of chicks pooh-poohing the characters’ decisions. I’m thinking big time readaloud potential on this one. Can’t wait to see the final product.
Bob Shea returns as well with Cheetah Can’t Lose. In it an overly self-confident, not to mention obnoxious, cheetah finds himself at odds when he crosses two adorable little kittens. Hilarity, not to mention Shea’s copyright customary sympathy for bullied bullies, ensues.
Just the other day I went and reviewed one Michelle Markel’s remarkable picture book bio called The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. Well the woman is keeping busy, now coming out with Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. Aside from the cool nonfiction picture book subject matter (Yiddish Clara went on to lead the longest walkout of women workers in American history) the illustrations are by none other than Melissa Sweet. And Ms. Sweet, aside from winning a Caldecott Honor for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, won a Sibert last year for the fantastic Balloons Over Broadway. In this book she’s worked in time cards and sewing into her art. I can’t help but wonder if with the rise in interest in strikes (the folks in Wisconsin and Chicago come to mind) we’ll be seeing more of these union-centric titles in the coming years. It just makes sense.
“This is our Core toe book, I like to say.” As a mom of a toddler I admit that I now view with great interest any and all picture books that adapt nursery rhymes and simple songs into a written and illustrated format. And quite frankly This Little Piggy by Tim Harrington fits the bill. It starts with the usual five and their mildly disturbing desire for things like road beef and then goes onto the second foot as well. Why on earth have I never heard of anyone doing that before? The other foot! It’s obvious when you say it. By the way, as more toes get involved they seem to have a lot more occupations to work with. In some cases they’re selling hotdogs (what IS it with the meat and these hungry piggies?). And in the vein of the aforementioned Pete the Cat there will be an accompanying song with this online. Clever piggies. Of course, I should probably mention that Tim Harrington is the lead singer of Les Savy Fav and you can see what he looks like here. Sort of a pseudo-celebrity. I tell ya, man. Eventually everyone comes to my world. Eventually.
“Little Women with wings featuring Tinkerbell’s little sister.” I keep beginning these write-ups with quotes but c’mon. Can you blame me? And I admit that though I love Julia Denos (the illustrator on these books) I wasn’t really sold until I saw the author. The new Fairy Bell Sisters series may be more of the fairy same, but the author is Margaret McNamara a.k.a. former Harper Collins editor Brenda Bowen. Donna Bray then whipped out her history chops by quoting the great long dead editor Ursula Nordstrom. “If I can resist a book, I resist it.” Ooo. Well played, madam. Ratchet it all up another notch and we were told that these books echo classics and act as gateway drugs to books like The Secret Garden and Little Woman AND they’re great readalouds to boot. Geez o’ petes. If you’re gonna sell librarians on a new fairy series, you may as well pull out all the stops, eh?
Jarrett Krosoczka is convinced that this little blog o’ mine (I’m gonna let it shine) was the first place to debut the cover of his upcoming Platypus Police Squad series opener The Frog Who Croaked. I told him I just lifted it wholesale from Barnes & Nobles. Okay, so there are a lot of reasons to love what’s going on here. I think it’s fair to say that you guys are just as sick of the nursery rhymes-meet-noir detective novel style books as I am. Sometimes I feel like we see one a year. There’s just too much faux noir out there. I’m sick of it. But buddy cop children’s books? Dude . . . I can’t think of any. So it is that we get “Frog and Tad meets Law & Order” (I usually leave all the “meets” until the end of this post, but this one I could resist including here). In his first full-length novel Krosoczka presents a heavily illustrated tale of a hotshot rookie and a grizzled old timer as they fight crime. Said his editors, “It marries his love of buddy cop films with his love of platypuses”. Sold. There will be four books in the series altogether and please note that the hotshot rookie on the cover is pulling a boomerang out of his black leather jacket. Suh-weet.
My notes at this point read “Jenny Lee – writes for Shake It Up”. But I don’t know what that means so I Google it. Ah ha. Shake It Up. A television series that has so far run from 2010 to 2012 on the Disney Channel and is about the following: “Two Chicago teens attempt to realize their dream of becoming professional dancers by landing spots on a popular local show.” Gotcha. Well, in any case we see a couple television writers crossing over to make children’s books but they tend to write for adult fare like The Daily Show. Elvis and the Underdogs was sold as marrying literary quality with fun. Fair enough. Benji, our hero, is a sickly kid whose best friend is a male nurse. Naturally, he’s bullied quite a bit and in the course of things gets himself a therapy dog. A 200-pound Newfoundland of a therapy dog named Elvis with the personality of Fraiser Crane (he was supposed to go to the President of the United States, thank you very much). So there’s that and a mystery as well. Oh, and the dog talks. I think you had me at Fraiser Crane, anyway, though.
As titles go, my favorite this season (from Harper Collins anyway since I still think Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is mildly brilliant) has gotta be The Girl from Felony Bay. Now THAT gets a person’s attention! Written by J.E. Thompson and set in rural South Carolina (so hand it to fans of Three Times Lucky) the book was described as “Carl Hiaasen rummaging through Margaret Mitchell’s closet”. In this book a dad is framed so our heroine and her buddy have to go through some serious Southern heritage to clear his name.
Editor Jordan Brown could sell you flaming cheese in Hell. The man is just that good. So good, in fact, that I have to put my guard up when he starts talking because otherwise this preview will turn from a sane and sober What’s Coming Out Next Year into a wild free-for-all encapsulation of Jordan Brown’s Greatest Hits. In this particular case we hit upon Kevin Emerson (The Lost Code)’s The Fellowship for Alien Detection. As Brown tells it, this middle grade novel is sci-fi for non-sci-fi readers. In this book two kids travel about with some folks who investigate possible alien sightings. Brown called it a Men in Black type book that will please many a Joss Whedon fan.
With The Laura Line I am very pleased to see the return of Crystal Allen. Her debut with How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy was an excellent middle grade a year or two ago (I recall reading it on a plane and having a flight attendant grill me about what it was about). Allen is one of the very few authors out there writing about contemporary middle grade African-American kids. In this particular book our overweight protagonist is convinced that she is about to be humiliated. Her teacher has just organized a field trip to the slave shack that sits on her property. I don’t know much more about it, but you can bet that this will be one of the first books I read for next year when I get my hands on it.
Sidekicked by John David Anderson was described as “A mash-up of what you’d get if you asked Louis Sachar to write an Avengers novel.” Which, naturally I now want to do. In lieu of that plan, this book is about a kid who develops super powers but ends up being super sensitive as a result. It’s a clever idea. We’ll see how the final product tackles this not-often-seen metaphor.
There would be lots of ways to sell Director Chris Columbus as a co-author on a book like House of Secrets. The smartest way for this particular book? Goonies. Yeah, break out the Goonies connection (he wrote the screenplay) because secretly that’s what every children’s librarian secretly wishes they could find in a book. Alongside co-writer Ned Vizzini (no stranger to the movie world himself what with his It’s Kind of a Funny Story hitting the big screen a year or so ago) House of Secrets is the first of a three book series that promises a new installment every spring. It follows the Walker family and its three kids consisting of an eldest boy and two younger girls. Sorta like The Emerald Atlas, I guess. When their surgeon dad moves them into a creepy house in San Francisco, they discover that they are part of a secret legacy. Add in some giants, witches and skeleton pirates and you have, what they were calling, “An American Cornelia Funke”.
Finally, one of the cleverest sequel titles I’ve seen. Did you like The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom? Me too. I just keep meaning to review that puppy. Well, hopefully I’ll be able to do so before I read The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, due out in April. Can I just praise that title a little more? I mean, how smart is it to reference The Princess Bride like that? Very smart. The book series would certainly be enjoyed by Princess Bride fans, that’s for certain, so by invoking the name you do yourself many favors. Plus, from what I can tell the cover sports all four princes. I remember the kids really were upset that only two princes made the front cover of the first book with the other two princes on the back. This time, all four. Awesome.
Next table, Table #2. With the honorable Katherine Tegen, Maria Modugno and Molly O’Neill presiding.
Yep. All I really need to say about that. It’s Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson and editor Katherine Tegen had the idea for the book four years ago when it was Mandela’s 90th birthday. Now it’ll be out in time for his 95th. Considering that he and the aforementioned Beverly Cleary are both celebrating their 90-something birthdays with HC books, those crazy kids should have a joint birthday party. (Now imagining what the guest list for a Beverly Cleary/Nelson Mandela birthday party might consist of.)
Katheryn Fitzmaurice returns with the middle grade novel Destiny, Rewritten. In it, a girl named after Emily Dickinson hides a secret desire. Though her mom would love her to be a poet, what she REALLY wants to do is become a romance novelist. Um . . . that is awesome. She then goes in pursuit of a lost book and finds ways to stand up for herself. The book is set during Poetry Month, which is clever, and includes a series of one-sided letters written by Emily to Danielle Steele. The good Harper Collins folks did send a copy to Ms. Steele to let her know about this book but as of this preview had not heard back. Pity. It’d be a helluva blurb.
Big news here! At long last the Septimus Heap saga is reaching its end in a grand finale with Fyre! Every single character of significance will make an appearance in this last book, clocking in at 544 pages if Amazon is to be believed, 750 pages if the preview is. Can’t say which one is true, but it’ll be complete, you can bet on that!
New illustrator alert! When shopping for a new artist of picture books, it can be a good idea to hand them a classic text and see what they do with it. So when newbie Mike Austin was given The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown, the results were a fresh new approach. Now he does a helluva monster. Now you probably already know Mike from over at Blue Apple Books where he’s done work on A Present for Milo and other stuff. Monsters Love Colors is his first Harper Collins title. One has to wonder if there will be an app for it as well someday. Who knows?
If you think 123 Versus ABC looks very Adam Rex you’re not alone. As far as I can tell, that’s a good thing. We need more Rexian art out there. Plus, let’s face it, this is a remarkably good idea for a children’s book. Written and illustrated by Mike Boldt, this eyebrow-rific title shows what happens when numbers go to war with letters. “They’re refrigerator magnets come to life.” Note to self: Buy refrigerator magnets for child. Those things are awesome.
See, the thing about Fancy Nancy is that she’s ain’t half bad. As a librarian you always have this instinctual gut-reaction when you see one of her books. Your innards want to say they’re just cheap pinkness meant to lure in unsuspecting little girls. But the doggone things have substance, and that kills me. They are written well and the art is lovely each and every time (at least, if it’s Robin Preiss Glasser actually doing it). The newest FN title is Fancy Nancy: Fanciest Doll in the Universe. When Nancy’s younger sister puts a permanent ink tattoo on her fancy doll’s previously fancy tummy it is not a happy household. Yet when the time comes for Nancy to pick her doll out of an identical line-up, guess who doesn’t have any difficulty? Sounds like it would make a perfect companion to Barbara McClintock’s Dahlia. Love that book. There is also a new addition to the Fancy Nancy early chapter book series, Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer.
One final table to go and it sports Anne Hoppe and Phoebe Yeh.
Now first and foremost, here’s a book that I could have easily have passed over had I but thought it was that most unfortunate of literary genres, the eco-thriller. Something about the very term screams “didacticism” to me. Fortunately, Jinx by Sage Blackwood has been read by a couple folks I trust and though you could conceivably slap that moniker on it, it’s so much more. The first in a trilogy, the book is recommended to fans of Angie Sage, though Anne said the writing adhered more to Diana Wynne Jones. She also said it had “The best first chapter of anything I’ve published.” All I care is that it sounds like a good companion to The Mostly True Story of Jack, has a villain called The Bonemaster, and contains were-chipmunks. Honest-to-god were-chipmunks. Love.
From the author who brought you The Princess Curse a year or two ago comes Merrie Haskell’s next standalone middle grade title Handbook for Dragon Slayers. According to her editors, Haskell’s strength lies in her ability to conjure up complex girls coming of age and determining what their role in society will be. Noted.
At this point Phoebe Yeh mentioned that 2012 was a hard year for great authors. We lost two, Maurice Sendak and Jean Craighead George, almost simultaneously. As such, we’re seeing some of their books coming back into print where once they were gone from our shelves. In terms of Maurice two books of his are due this spring. One is a reprint and one a new title never seen before. The older book is the Caldecott Honor winner The Moon Jumpers. Apparently the art for this was still available so they re-separated it and reshot it to get the full effects. Sendak even signed off on the proofs before his death.
The other title is Sendak’s last book (or perhaps penultimate if that nose book ever comes out from Scholastic) and one of his most personal. Called My Brother’s Book, it focuses on Sendak’s older and much beloved brother. Tapping into the man’s deep and abiding love of Blake, this is being marketed as an adult title but is recommended to those high school teachers who do work with Shakespeare as well. There are, I should note, more than a few Shakespearean references inside.
The Jean Craighead George book is a new picture book by the name of A Special Gift for Grammy. George was apparently in the middle of two picture books when she died.
Next up, one of the best pushed and marketed books I’ve seen in a while. When KidLitCon was held at NYPL this year there was a moment when I saw a young man really talking up and pushing copies of this next title at my attendees. I’m not certain if that young man was a Harper employee or author Eric Kahn Gale himself but whoever it was it got my attention. Right off the bat we were told that this is a controversial little sucker because it’s a book that in the course of its story outlines how one goes about becoming the perfect bully. In this tale a kid who is bullied decides to handle the situation on his own. Told through both journal entries and the aforementioned bullying rules, the book taps into some serious black humor. They mentioned Jack Gantos as a possible comparison. Apparently Gale wrote the book after meeting with some of the bullies of his own youth only to find they’d grown up to become nice and decent people. I like to call that The Facebook Effect. It’s the moment when a person who made your life a misery in school Facebook friends you. We talked about this a bit in a recent Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL. Good stuff. In any case they’re going all out for this book, giving it a 3/4 jacket (something they haven’t done for a title since Walter Dean Myers and Monster).
Next up, a guy who was in the same screenwriting program at Columbia as my husband. I don’t know Mr. Soman Chainani myself but Matt tells me that he was a very nice guy and did often speak about this book of his being published with Harper. The School for Good and Evil sounds like nothing so much as Wicked with a twist (and less Oz). Two best friends are kidnapped and sent to different schools. One is a school for evil and the other for good. Thing is, they sort of get the wrong schools. At least that’s what I gathered from the cover. Still a little unclear but it looks fun.
Next up, a book that will make for an excellent nonfiction companion to Simon & Schuster’s Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle. Alex Ko: From Iowa to Broadway, My Billy Elliot Story is one of those stand up and cheer books, but good for kids with Broadway dreams. Raised in Iowa with a dad that didn’t want him to have a life on the stage (then died of cancer), Alex had his chance to live his dream thanks to older siblings who were willing to do extra jobs to help him out. And as luck would have it he really did have a chance to become Billy Elliot on Broadway. Then, on the first night of his performance, he hurt himself and needed therapy to recover. Happily he returned and all was well and these days he performs with the New York City Ballet.
Here’s a tip to publishers: Want me to want a book instantly? Do as How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster did. All you need to do really is get Kate Beaton, the woman behind the wonderful Hark, A Vagrant webcomic, to do the jacket. I will buy anything she touches. Seriously. Love love love love this.
I eventually got almost all the references, even the Lord of the Flies one, but the lion still stumps me a little. Suggestions on that one are welcome. Best I could come up with was Pyramus and Thisbe.
Not entirely certain how a Zits illustrated novel by syndicated cartoonist Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman could be YA (they’re suggesting ages 13 and up?!?). Pity since if it were middle grade (like the actual comic strip) you could add it to the trend of syndicated cartoonists writing books for kids in 2012 (The Odd Squad and Timmy Failure respectively). Maybe there’s some sex and stuff in it? The mind boggles.
That, as they say, is it. Except . . . .
On with the Meets!!!
“The Natural History Museum meets Tim Burton” – Not sure if someone said this or I made it up myself (I suspect the former) but that’s a description of Carin Berger’s work on Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky
“Storm Chasers meets The Mysterious Benedict Society” – The Lightning Catcher by Anne Cameron
“The Artist meets Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” – That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
“Life is Beautiful meets The Walking Dead” – That’s actually my description of it, but I don’t think I’m too far off. That’s for The End Games by T. Michael Martin
“13 Reasons Why meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” – Wild Awake by Hilary Smith
“Ender’s Game meets Hogwarts in space” – Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
“Roald Dahl meets Lemony Snicket meets Gregory Maguire” – The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
With all the mergers going on within the publishing world these days, a couple librarians and I were joking the other day about those mergers we’d actually like to see. And because we are horribly spoiled east-coasters it didn’t take long for us to wish that Chronicle Books could merge with someone like Enchanted Lion Books so that we could have a little of their sweet sweet San Francisco-infused brilliance over on our side of the country. Fortunately, the Chronicle folks are always good sports about our petulance on the matter and are more than willing to hike themselves across several time zones to let us know about their upcoming fare. Here then is a taste of what 2013 is going to bring.
A show of hands. How many of you out there predicted that Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was going to be the massive New York Times bestseller that it was? I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – I simply cannot predict what picture books become bestseller hits. Nothing against Sherri Duskey Rinker’s successful creation, mind you. It’s a lovely little book. I just wouldn’t have necessarily have slapped the moniker “bestseller” status on it when I first noticed it. Well now, at long last, there is a follow-up. Yet again Ms. Rinker has paired up with the incomparable Tom Lichtenheld to bring us the April release Steam Train, Dream Train. Staying within a transportation theme, the book follows a train worthy of The Little Engine That Could in terms of goodies stocked in its cars. Ice cream, elephants, race cars, zebra referees (how Z is for Moose of them, eh?), it’s a bedtime book through and through. We were told too that in preparation for this book Tom went to a library and proceeded to measure the number of truck books vs. the number of train books. What he found was that there were quite a lot more trucks . . . until he was told that this was only because there were so many more train books checked out. I’m a children’s librarian, and I approve that fact.
Taro Gomi is probably best known for his international bestseller Everyone Poops. But really, the man is so much more than that. A resident of Tokyo, he has two board books coming out with Chronicle that come as a bit of a relief to me. I mean, have you ever noticed how many French board books we have? Let another country participate for crying out loud! So straight from Japan we now have Peekaboo! and Mommy! Mommy! Now Peekaboo! has a lot going for it, since you can read it and wear it as a mask (there are eye holes, making this worthy of testing out in storytimes). And as the mother of a toddler who harbors a deep and abiding love for The Finger Worms by Herve Tullet, I know she’ll dig this puppy as well. Mommy! Mommy! isn’t as high concept but you just gotta love how the man draws chicks. In the story two yellow peepers search for their mother and keep seeing creatures and critters that mildly resemble her but turn out to be someone else. The discoveries aren’t scary, I should note. The chicks are goofy enough that you needn’t worry there.
When I heard that the next Amy Krouse Rosenthal picture book was going by the title of I Scream Ice Cream I was baffled. How have I never seen a picture book with this title before? A bit of an internet search revealed that while there are adult books ah-plenty with that name (or “I Scream for Ice Cream), there’s been nothing on the kid side of things. Consider the situation remedied then! Illustrated by Serge Bloch (smart) we were told that this is “going to do for homonyms what Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation.” We’ve seen homonym books before, to be fair. For example I think this year’s Cat Tale by Michael Hall was particularly choice. But Rosenthal isn’t afraid to push the envelope in terms of what you can get away with. Hence the jaw-dropping choice to include such mind-benders as “Sorry, no more funnel cakes” alongside “Sorry, no more fun elk aches.” At this point we then got to talking about the illustrator’s work on The Enemy: A Book About Peace and how the American version removed two pages and softened the message . . . but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, if you get my drift.
Next up, a book that takes full advantage of Chronicle’s willingness to go strong on the die-cuts. Inside Outside is by Lizi Boyd and if you’re anything like me you are now kicking yourself repeatedly in the shins in an attempt to figure out why her name is so familiar. I finally caved and checked my library holdings, discovering that she was the one behind those I Love Mommy/Daddy/Grandma/Grandpa books that are so popular here in NYC. This book is far more artsy with an examination of a house throughout the seasons. There are lots of details, lots of die-cuts, and the whole shebang reminds me of the work of Robert Crowther on books like Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up Book of Inventions and the like. I do worry a bit about the brown. Brown can be a hard sell with the kiddos. Let’s see how it plays out in the end.
You know what I like? Unapologetic Europeans. Author/illustrators that don’t care if a book isn’t the next Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious, they just want to tell a good story with good art for the kids that appreciate that kinda thing. Hence we get books like Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine. First Thought: I love that there is a one-namer artist out there named “Albertine”. Brilliant. Second Thought: If the names “Zullo” and “Albertine” sounds familiar there’s no need to bruise your shins again. Their book Little Bird, published by Enchanted Lion Press, was a New York Times Best Illustrated title this year. I would not have necessarily thought that Albertine was behind both books, though, since Line 135 is far more sparse a tale. It’s basically a contemplative older version of Freight Train by Donald Crews. In the story a boy informs his grandmother on a train that he hopes to see the whole world someday. Grandma in turn commits a crime familiar to many adults when she tries to reign in the boy’s potential disappointment by clipping his dreams’ wings early. It doesn’t work. In the meantime, you see the train as it passes by a myriad of landscapes. They’re selling it as a graduation picture book, which is a wise move. It is, as I say, so Swiss!
Flora and the Flamingo in contrast is kid-friendly city. Written by Molly Idle (for half a second there I misheard her name as “Eric Idle” and hosted impossible thoughts in my head) the book is all about the flapping. Not just on the main characters’ parts, but in terms of the flaps you open up to reveal more of the story as you go. In the spirit of books by folks like Suzy Lee (also a Chronicle author), Idle is a lapsed animator from DreamWorks who joins the droves of animators-turned-children’s book illustrators in the last few years. This book struck me as the world’s greatest companion to Peter Brown’s You WILL Be My Friend. As you’ll recall, that book ended with Lucy the Bear befriending a flamingo. In this book a mildly pudgy (WOOHOO!) little girl meets a flamingo. After a rocky start the two become friends, dancing together. It’s a readaloud dream, one that I can’t wait to try out on some kiddos. Add in the lovely color palette and the fact that this book could conceivably be tied into a school’s exercise program if you want to sell it that way, and you’ve hot a real solid potential hit on your hands. I’m in love anyway.
I think I may have mentioned in the past that Chronicle has a nice little working relationship with the Star Wars folks. I’ve talked about the various Star Wars related recipe books put out by one Ms. Lara Starr, and they’ve all sounded great. Well, the most interesting of these is about to come out and even though my kid is just 18 months, I’m inclined to get this for her so that someday we’ll be able to use it perfectly. Behold the wonder that is the latest cookbook: Ice Sabers. Oh. Yes. Basically, the book comes with four lightsaber ice pop molds so that you can create your own ice sabers. This sounds delightful, and it is, but you have NO idea how much work went into this! For one thing, they had to get an industrial designer to build the lightsaber molds. Why? Because they needed a generic hilt. I mean, what if you had a Sith hilt but the ice saber was Jedi colors (or vice versa)? Chaos, that’s what!!! So they came up with these hilts, which turned out be great. Maybe too great. There were some rumblings that they were now going to be considered toys and, as I’m sure you can understand, there is an entirely different Star Wars toy division and they didn’t want to tread on any of THEIR toes. Fortunately it all worked out in the end. The capper is that these are officially approved of by George Lucas. Consider using them for your next May 4th Star Wars party (May the fourth be with you).
Blame or credit the Core Curriculum howsoever you like, but I happen to be very excited about the fact that in 2013 we’re going to be seeing an increase in amazing picture book biographies of people who worked in the realm of math. After all, Deborah Heiligman is coming out with the LeUyen Pham illustrated title The Boy Who Loved Math. On the Chronicle side of the equation comes a new Einstein pb bio. The last time I saw one of those it was Don Brown’s Odd Boy Out (Lynn Barasch’s Ask Albert Einstein wasn’t technically a bio, you see). Now we have On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne who you may remember from hr striking bio of Jacques Cousteau in Manfish. In this book we follow Einstein from boy to man with a special focus on how his imagination affected his work and growth. The idea is to show how Einstein thought big questions at the same age as the kids reading this book. There will be a small bibliography but most of the endmatter consists of paragraphs of facts. It also marks a more kid-friendly Vladimir Radunsky (he’s the illustrator) than I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t think we’ve seen a book out of him since he did Chris Raschka’s Hip Hop Dog. And aside from Mannken Pis (which you may or may not count) he hasn’t done much nonfiction. Fascinating choice, no?
Now I owe Maria van Lieshout a debt of gratitude that I’m sure I will never be able to repay. Her Backseat A-B-See did what so few picture books have. She wrote a book about signs. Do you know how often children’s librarians are asked for such books (often) and how many are on our shelves in a given year (few)? Now I feel my gratitude has had to triple, because guess what she’s following it up with? Flight 1-2-3. It basically shows all the signs you see when you go to the airport while at the same time going through what it’s like to travel by plane. And let me tell you how many picture books I have about THAT simple oft-asked for topic (few)! It’s the first post-9/11 airport book I’ve seen to go through all the scans and basics you crave. So very very excited over here!
When I read a board book to my kiddo I always make a point of mentioning the author’s name. So when Lorena Siminovich’s new board books You Are My Baby: Farm and You Are My Baby: Safari came up in conversation I had to dwell in my own little world for a little while. Once I’d remembered that she was the one behind the beautiful touch-and-feel sensation I Love Vegetables I was able to move on. The design of these particular books is their most outstanding feature from the get-go. There is a big book involving a big animal and a little book couched inside involving a baby animal. You match the animals together and the story proceeds accordingly. Best of all, in spite of their unique construction, they look like they’ll be able to take a pounding. Sturdiness is non-negotiable when we’re dealing with board books, after all.
Once again we’re nearing the end of the 2012 publishing year and when I count up all my reviews of books by Latino-Americans or featuring Hispanic characters I am shockingly short. So boy oh boy was I grateful to see Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Pura Belpre winner John Parra. With beautiful bridging text (and the angels doth sing their praises on high) the story goes through shapes that describe everything from stone metates to quesadillas. The book looks great, though I admit to being a bit stunned when the conversation turned and it was mentioned that Yuyi Morales moved back to Mexico not that long ago. Doggone it! I had her pegged for a Caldecott someday for sure!
It’s not a successful preview unless at least one early chapter book makes its appearance. In this case we’re talking about the all new Fish Finelli series. Book #1: Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles. One could not help but notice that Chronicle has already secured blurbs from four librarians already including the illustrious (and current Newbery committee member) Susannah Richards. Said Chronicle, it’s “a little more sophisticated than an Alvin Ho, a little more interesting than a Calvin Coconut.” Set in a Little Rascals-like world the book involves things like lost treasure, library break-ins, stowaways, and far more. I’ll read it. You betcha.
For my daughter’s first birthday my husband’s best friend went out and got her a Gund stuffed version of Boo, the world’s cutest dog. Until that moment I had only the vaguest sense of Boo. Now the dog remains the kiddo’s favorite stuffed animal, bar none. That is why I will simply have no choice but to give her Boo ABC: A to Z with the World’s Cutest Dog for some gift giving occasion. Written by J.H. Lee and photographed by Gretchen LeMaistre it was Mr. Schu who said that the book trailer for Boo’s last creation was (and I quote) “one of the cutest videos I’ve ever posted”. This book just goes through various things that Boo and his best buddy Buddy love. We were then told that Boo has “More Facebook friends than Honey Boo Boo.” Now I live in abject fear that Honey Boo Boo will come out with an ABC book of her own soon. Hey. It could totally happen.
Finally, a book that is not exactly children’s book I’d be amiss in not mentioning it. Heck, I’ll just show you the cover:
If you’re not breaking fingers in your quest to fast track this into your order carts, I stand amazed.
I apologize for not covering any of the YA but there was so much good children’s stuff that I think I can get away with not mentioning a title or two. In any case, a hearty thank you to the good folks of Chronicle for the sneaky peek. Now all our To Read Lists are blossoming anew.
I do declare that it has been something like a year since I did a good old-fashioned Librarian Preview. Where has the time gone? For a bit I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work such a preview requires that I cut them out of my diet, cold turkey.
Well that ends today. From here on in we’re doing our Librarian Previews like it’s nobody’s business. Today’s is a perfect example of why. I’m sure you have all sorts of outlets for learning about minedition and their amazing books, but today I’m the one shining the spotlight. And what I see pleases me immeasurably.
But first, the basics. Mainly: What the heck is minedition? For some of you the name is vaguely familiar. It rings a distant bell. Well an explanation is easily found on their website. To quote: “Five years ago michael neugebauer edition was newly founded after the publisher Michael Neugebauer ended his affiliation with the Swiss Nord Süd Publishing.” The very word “minedition” is a combination of the letters “mi” from Michael, “ne” from Neugebauer and “edition”. He’s a fascinating feller too. His father was a calligrapher (one of the best in the world, it seems) who gave his son a unique appreciation for fonts, layouts, and design. Michael himself went on to do many things before minedition, including serving as Jane Goodall’s favorite photographer. You know that picture at the end of Me…Jane that just rips your heart out of your chest? Michael took that.
But it’s this statement on the website that I like the best: “When children are exposed to exceptional books, if they have the chance to discover amazing books, they can develop much more than just a deeper appreciation of word and art. Such books can foster understanding and a greater appreciation of the multi-cultural world in which we live.”
Amen to that. So enough with the chitty chat. Let’s see what minedition has put on the table.
First up: The board books!
This would be We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789888240562). Now I appreciate a publishing company, particularly an artsy one like minedition, that understands how very difficult it is to make a good board book. A good board book is a like a homemade loaf of bread. On the surface it seems like it would be easy to make but there are subtleties involved. Thus far the author Yusuke Yonezu is unknown to our fair shores but I expect all of that to change soon. First of all, this book is pretty much brilliant. It shows animals apart who, when put together, make different shapes. Circles, squares, triangles, you name it. The art is bold, colorful, simple, funny, sweet, touching, all that stuff. And it’s just a friggin’ board book! The additional good news is that it’s not the only one this year:
Yum Yum, also by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789881595355 ) isn’t out until the spring. Various healthy foods are presented and with a flip of a page you get to see various animals eating them. A mouse likes cheese, a pig likes an apple, a rabbit likes carrots, etc. Get to the end, though, and a human kid is there. And instead of a single food, he likes to eat everything that was already mentioned. It’s sort of a subtle good food message, but with these adorable illustrations. I mean seriously. Look at that cat up there. Can you resist that? Really?
From board books we travel to the world of fairy tales . . .
This would be Tales from the Brothers Grimm, selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789888240531). Now if you’ve been in the business at all and looked at the people who are regularly illustrating fairy tale classics, you simply cannot have that conversation without mentioning Ms. Zwerger. I mean, she’s the Paul Galdone of the 21st century. As childscapes.com put it, “She has been recipient of virtually every recognition an illustrator can be given including the most prestigeous of all, The Hans Christian Andersen Medal as well as special recognition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.” Darn tootin’.
Now the thing to know about this collection of Grimm tales is that it’s a mix of things that had already been published in the States alongside stories that have never seen our sunny shores. There’s also a nice melding of the familiar (The Bremen Town Musicians) with the unfamiliar (The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Little Cat). There are eleven in total and it’s nice to see a good collection of this sort for this year. Lord knows nobody really tackles Grimm like this anymore (can you think of any 2013 that do?).
Along the same lines . . .
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789881848543). Now this pretty thing isn’t coming out until the spring but we can wait a bit. Isn’t that a stunner of a cover? Zwerger’s Pied Piper has never been published in America before. Now the art is beautiful to begin with. Rats actually scurry around the margins of the tale until the Piper lures them away (the last you see of them are the tips of their bare pink tails). Then there’s the cover image you see here. That red hat is the Piper’s hunting hat, and already you can see a child enticed by what he’s playing. There’s also a fantastic Afterword by Renate Raecke that discusses how strange this Grimm story is. Unlike the tales that begin “Once upon a time” this one begins with the exact date of when this incident occurred (June 26th, 1284). Here’s my favorite part: “Historians have been fascinated by this mention of a specific date, and by the handwritten entry, in an old chronicle of the town of Hamelin, recording the children’s disappearance, although it is thought to have been added decades after the event.” It then goes on with alternate theories about what happened to the kids, including the plague.
Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette & John Atkinson (ISBN: 9789881512658) is what you would get if ever Candlewick felt like creating something along the lines of Christmasology. But the book is far more factual than the “ology” books, even if the format is similar. It explains the origins of everything from Christmas trees to “The Sleighway Code”, and there are lots of fun doodads and pop-ups inside (even a little sixpence that looks awfully real). In a hat tip to librarians, many of the flaps are fancy post-its, which can come off without damaging the book itself. Ta! And speaking of Christmas . . .
The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, ill. Feridun Oral (ISBN: 9789888240555) is a straight up Christ child Christmas story. The tale itself involves the birds of the world and a song they learned long ago that they want to sing to every child that they find. The real lure is the art, however. Particularly the various birds, most that you won’t find in North America.
You could be forgiven for thinking that The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry, ill. Sonja Danowski (ISBN: 9789888240579) was the work of Robert Ingpen, P.J. Lynch, or Roberto Innocenti. Heck, that’s what I thought when I saw it. In fact it’s by Sonja Danowski, a German artist who is as beautiful as the woman in this story. I’ve not seen her work before but apparently she illustrated Streams and Dreams and Other Themes, which was another minedition title. The story is set in a turn of the century New York apartment. As we read, the stencil of a flower grows and grows until it becomes an all encompassing riot on the endpapers.
Well I am happy to report that Aesop is having a banner year in 2013. I was already aware of Aesop in California by Doug Hensen (which is GORGEOUS and which you really must find on your own), Aesop’s Fables by Ann McGovern, and Arctic Aesop’s Fables: Twelve Retold Tales by Susi Gregg Fowler. Add now to the list Aesop’s Fables by Aesop, ill. Ayano Imai (ISBN: 9789888240524). A book meant to be read vertically, there are thirteen tales here in total. Each one a stunner, with the slyest little details bedecking the edges of the bottom pages. I love them all but it’s The Lion and the Mouse here that has my heart. I don’t know why no other illustrator has ever considering trapping not just the lion but other animals and creatures in nets, but Imai has and it’s brilliant. Imai, for the record, was born in London but eventually moved to Japan. It was there that she developed her love of painting, a fact that is reflected in her work.
And finally, I save the best for last.
Hm. That jacket, for all that it’s cool (can you see the squirrel?) isn’t doing this book justice. Here. I’ve posted this video before for the French edition but I’m going to do so again for the American. Behold! It looks exactly like this:
The book is Hansel and Gretel by Sybille Schenker (ISBN: 9789888240548) and it is a wonder. First off, admire that spine, tied with twine. Then as you page through it’s like the inventiveness of Bruno Munari has been combined with a classic Grimm sensibility. Partially transparent papers give the sense of walking through the foggy woods, so that the gingerbread house emerges like a vision in the gloom. I have never encountered a book that could evoke the feeling of claustrophobia better than this. Without a doubt, it is the most beautiful fairy tale I’ve seen this year.
And that’s that! Thanks so much to Michael Neugebauer for sitting down with me to show me the season. Thanks too to Deborah Sloan for the images and the ISBNs. Great grand stuff.
There’s a special thrill that fills me when I get to do a librarian preview of a publisher I’ve never done before. It does me good. Though I like what the big guys produce, it’s the little guys that truly have my heart. Case in point, NorthSouth Books. If they’re a bit unfamiliar to you, don’t worry about it. Turns out they’re the U.S. arm of Zurich-based NordSüd Verlag. They were mostly doing imports but now they’ve started acquiring original titles here in the U.S. Oo de lally. For more info on the company I suggest you read the recent PW article A New Chapter for NorthSouth Books, which gives a mighty thorough and in-depth look at the company.
So it was that Heather Lennon sat down with me to show me “the goods”, as it were, for the upcoming season. And sister, some of these are real doozies.
First up, we’re hitting you straight in the jugular. Leonce and Lena: A Comedy isn’t your average everyday book for kids. Written by Georg Buchner, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and ultimately retold by Jurg Amann, the book is actually a German play. Reading it feels like nothing so much as a reading of The Fantastiks, which is an odd thing to say but I have my reasons. The story involves a prince and a princess engaged to be wed through an arranged marriage. Neither is particularly thrilled with the notion and through a series of misadventures they happen to flee, meet, and fall in love without realizing who the other is. The play was adapted here by “one of Switzerland’s most respected writers” and then Zwerger (who is famous in her own right) provided the gorgeous art. Since I live in New York and my young patrons often come in demanding plays and monologues for auditions and school shows, this certainly fits the bill.
The ABC of Fabulous Princesses by Willy Puchner would, if you just said the name and did not see the cover, give you the impression that the book is one of those catalogs of princesses. We see these from time to time, usually European in origin, containing various flights of fancy where the likes of variegated royalty are concerned. The difference in the case of Puchner’s book (first published in Switzerland under the title ABC der fabelhaften Prinzessinnen) and those others may be the fact that everyone in this book is an anthropomorphized bird. But as Heather put it, “There’s no point in being a small publisher without stepping out sometimes.” So it is that we read the story of Prince William and his quest to find the princess that will make the best match. Each of the 26 is an alliterative lass. Here, for example, is what you find when you get to Princess Beatriz.
“Princess Beatriz comes from Bogota. She is bashful, bright, and at times badly behaved. She likes bacon, blueberries, and banana bread. Beatriz is a bibliophile and spends her time reading best sellers while her beagle barks in the bookstore. She brings Prince William blueprints of the brilliant Baron Bluebeak and his band of brothers.”
This is accompanied with lovely illustrations where everyone is a bird, one way or another. The child reader is then charged with determining William’s best match at the end. It’s oddly enticing.
Call Me Jacob by Marie Hubner, illustrated by Iris Wolfermann is also originally of Switzerland but I can’t write out its original title because my computer doesn’t contain the correct characters. Now I don’t know about you, but in my library system there are a couple folks who have a distinct distaste for books with that distinctive European illustrative style. Jacob is obviously European when you first look at it, but inside the pictures have a very American flair (whatever that might be). The story concerns a boy named Matthew who wants to be called Jacob, a name which just happens to belong to his brave skateboarding cousin. As his week continues he appropriates the names of the boys who have talents and skills he desires. That is, until the moment he comes back around to good old Matthew. It’s sort of a My Name Is Yoon concept, but without the cross-cultural differences. Names have power, and part of what I like about the book is that it makes use of that understanding in a kid-friendly way.
At the moment the book I’m reading is the third Adam Gidwitz title that was released this past October, The Grimm Conclusion. So it’s all the more fitting to find myself learning about the upcoming picture book The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Gerda Raidt. Those of you who know the original story might shirk away a bit since there’s definitely a section or two in which an evil queen fingers a mute girl with the crime of cannibalism and infanticide. Fun! But actually, this version really lightens the story without coming across as inauthentic. You are probably familiar with the story of the girl with the brothers turned into swans and how she must never say a word as she knits them sweaters. In some versions she’s making the sweaters out of nettles. In this one it’s starflowers. At any rate, the art is great and the story really well told. I can say with certainty that we’ve never had a really good Six Swans picture book. Time to start!
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water is by Gemma Merino is adorable, but not in the treacly, sickly sweet sense. It follows a family of crocodiles and the one who simply does not care much for aquatic . . . . anything. He can’t play with his brothers and sisters or swim well or anything. When he gives it all he has and fails he’s left with a little cold. A little fire-breathing cold. Turns out, he’s not a crocodile at all but a dragon. “And this little dragon wasn’t meant to swim. He was born to fly.” Human nature naturally inclines towards stories of outcasts that come into their own. This one is perfect. It sort of reminded me of Guji Guji but it’s a bit better in terms of telling a story about embracing your own differences, no matter what they might be.
Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh is inspired by a story by Rumi. If that sounds vaguely familiar (parrots… Rumi…) it may be because a couple of years ago Disney/Hyperion published The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, which is based on the same story. The advantage Rashin has here is the art. Because there are certain madcap books that just earn my love in the strangest of ways. Here’s a good example. Check out the cover of this book:
Now check out the very first image we receive of the wealthy merchant (I apologize for the quality, which will be much higher in the final product):
Jon Scieszka once explained that the genius of David Shannon’s work on Robot Zot lay in part in the fact that he made the pupils in the eyes of his hero two different sizes. Nothing conveys wackiness better than that. In this story a parrot and his kin must trick a greedy merchant using their wits. It’s charming.
I think it’s always a good idea to wrap-up a preview with something jaw-dropping. Problem is, most previews don’t provide you with that particular thrill. Fortunately, this time around NorthSouth came through with flying colors. This book trailer is your required watching of the day.
It’s An American Tail meets The Arrival.
Lindbergh by Torben Kuhlmann is German originally and it is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous little books I’ve seen in a very long time. As you could see from the trailer, a single mouse wishes to escape across the ocean. Cats and owls attempt to stop him but through trial and error he finally hits on the ideal mouse-sized flying machine. The art brings to mind illustrators like Bagram Ibatoulline or Robert Ingpen. Always great to have a new name to play around with. And a new book, for that matter. Here’s the cover:
Thanks again to Heather for sitting down with me and showing me these lovely wares! Spring cannot come fast enough.
Fun Fact: Librarian previews done in the presence of small attention seeking babies yield surprisingly drool-soaked notes. Not so drool-soaked that a person couldn’t decipher them later, but wet with the moisture of someone else’s mouth just the same.
Still and all, the good people of Lerner Publishing Group (Lindsay Matvick and Terri Reden if you want to get specific) weren’t exactly unaware of the effects babies have on one’s output. Hence the tardiness of this post, I suppose. They sat down with me at my favorite local chocolate cafe (Lily O’Brien’s, in case you ever want to meet with me too) and showed me what the Spring 2012 season has to offer. Everything from real world alien investigations to real world stories about never forgotten Harlem bookstores. 2012 is shaping to be a heckuva year.
First up, the Tana Hoban of the 21st century. At least that’s how I dub British crafty blogger Jane Brocket. Color photography may date to a certain extent, but Tana Hoban’s books still circulate like nobody’s business. Like Hoban, Brocket has an eye for concepts and she complements each one with lush photography. Her newest is Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What Are Patterns? Pretty self-explanatory, except that I wonder if the title is slightly different overseas. They’ve a rather different view of the term “spotty” if my Harry Potter has taught me anything.
First came joeys. Then larvae. Now Bridget Heos is back with Stephane Jorisch (a fellow you may now know best from the Betty Bunny books) for What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings: A Guide for Crocodilian Parents (and Curious Kids). The book covers facts about crocs and their offspring. Makes me wonder if Ms. Heos will start covering some of those animals we get requests for all the time like bats or sharks. Shark Week is every week in the public library. Note, by the way, that there is (or will be) free material on the Lerner website to accompany this book.
Lerner has some similarities to those publishers that just crank out titles covering subjects that kids are assigned in schools all the time. The difference is that their series titles tend to be pretty good. Recently they started putting out a series that covers different breeds of dogs and cats. I sort of assumed that was the end of it and that we wouldn’t hear any more. Not at all! Behold the new “My Favorite Horses” series. Covering American Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Lipizzans (like in The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson!), Morgan Horses, and Shetland Ponies (no Assateagues?), the books discuss everything from breed history to info on riding and owning your own horse. Consider purchasing for the ho
What publisher created the first librarian preview, inviting local carriers of MLIS degrees to their places of work to show off the upcoming season? I don’t have an answer to that, I’m just asking. With my NYC preferences and tunnel vision my inclination is to believe that it was one of The Big Six based out of Manhattan. Still it’s not as if other publishers in other cities don’t do the same thing. Take Chronicle, for example. They’re a San Francisco publisher and as recently as November 8th they created a blog post about a recent Librarian Preview that showed off their upcoming Spring/Summer season.
As much as I wish that I’d had a chance to fly out to San Fran and back, my post today is based on something a little smaller. A couple Chronicle reps came out to New York and hosted a dinner preview for some of the folks in town, highlighting their awfully pretty list. I was present. I took notes (which I promptly spilled large amounts of food upon). I report dutifully back to you.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a mystery to me. Not her success, mind. The sheer swath of clever titles she produces from such a wide range of publishers causes one to tip a hat and bow down low before her. No, my confusion is based more on her rabid fan-base and “The Beckoning of Lovely” projects she has going on. Sometimes I feel like I need a crash course in Rosenthal 101. Chronicle has done well by the Rosenthal, of course. Her Duck! Rabbit! hit the top of the charts, helped in no small part by artist Tom Lichtenheld. Now the duo returns with Wumbers. And no, I’m sorry, but it is not a counting book narrated by Elmer Fudd (as awesome as that might be…). Wumbers are words plus numbers. The catalog says that the book pays tribute to William Steig’s CDB! (note to self: Make sure library system has enough copies of said title). Then, by way of explanation it goes on to say, “…cre8ors Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have wri10 and illustr8ed this s2pendous book that is 1derful 4 readers in kindergar10 and up.” Get it? Got it? Gr8.
You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of call for road trip related books in the NYPL system, but you would be underestimating the average New Yorker’s overwhelming desire to get as far from this little island as possible. So I know we’ll have plenty of requests for Maria van Lieshout’s Backseat A-B-See when it comes out. A combination alphabet and street sign book, this will be the perfect thing to hand to those parents who, until now, have only had Tana Hoban to turn to when the wanted street si
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While the message is encouraging in and of itself, Joe Sabia’s TED talk on The Technology of Storytelling is also a brilliant example of how to do an iPad presentation with skill, humor, and facts. I can’t imagine how long this three minute, fifty-one second talk took to put together, but it’s kinda worth it. Inspires one to punch up their presentations, it does. Thanks to @145lewis for the link.
Meanwhile, when it comes to children’s literary scholars it’s a good idea to remember Michael Patrick Hearne. Whether he’s annotating A Christmas Carol or The Wizard of Oz (the man knows his way around an Alice in Wonderland too) this is a go to guy. That’s probably the reason the BBC spoke to him when they came up with the piece Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy was ‘first feminist role model’. That title’s a touch misleading (Dorothy is actually considered to be the first American feminist role model in children’s literature) but the background is interesting:
I’m working on another librarian preview at the moment (suckers take a bloody long time, I tell you). There are some previews I don’t write up, though. Why? Because you can view them at your leisure on your own time from the comfort of your own home (always assuming your home has an internet connection, of course). Case in point, the Scholastic Spring 2012 Librarian Preview is up and running. Should you wish to check out what those folks have on hand, get your one stop shopping done here:
Wanna see me sit on a floor? I mean, seriously, who can resist that alluring sight? The second of my two About.com videos is up and running. This time I recommend early chapter books for new readers. Everything from Anna Hibiscus to the Bad Kitty books. Those About.com folks are splendid editors. Check out all the floor sitting action here:
And for our off-topic video, I know I’ve posted this one before but with the release of the new Muppet movie I feel it ties in so very well. One of my favorite movie mash-ups:
Granted we are currently IN the Spring of 2012 so this is probably less of a preview and more of a . . . uh . . . here and now discourse. But by my reckoning Blue Apple Books is one of those smaller pubs that don’t get a lot of airplay next to the big boys. So with this, the last of the spring previews (I’ve a Summer one already ready and waiting) let’s tip our hat to the spate of books you may not hear about here or there, you may not hear about anywhere.
When you open a Blue Apple Books catalog you usually find a letter at the front from its publisher, the author Harriet Ziefert. In this most recent catalog the letter begins with a selection of sentences from various unsolicited manuscripts Blue Apple has received. My favorites included, “I feel this book would be a great fit for Albert Whitman” and “I believe the subject matter and themes of this book fit with the mission and vision of Charlesbridge Books.” I suspect that Albert Whitman and Charlesbridge get similar letters addressed to Blue Apple. Ziefert then turns these into an explanation of what they look for in manuscripts, which would actually make for rather good reading for all up and coming author/illustrators. Ziefert includes twenty different questions like “What will linger after the last page is read and the book is closed?” and “Can it be read on several levels? Does it add up to more than its words?” amongst others. All legitimate questions that are worth considering by everyone from review committees to materials specialists. In this case it’s how Blue Apple is trying to build its brand.
Now the first book on this list has already been explained at length on this site. I reviewed Lucy Rescued by Harriet Ziefert just last month, but I never really gave you the story behind the book. Harriet herself is not a dog person but her brother’s canine companion has a tendency to collect beanie babies. The dog has ten and each night will take all ten upstairs. In the event that one is missing nobody in the family, canine or otherwise, gets any sleep. Using this as an inspiration, Ziefert came up with this book. I should also note that the dog therapy you see in this title was well researched. Easy to do here in town. I suspect that New York has more than its own fair share of doggie psychiatrists.
The Bear Underwear books by Todd H. Doodler are pretty standard fare. You’ve got your bear. He’s got his underwear. End of story. I was amused, though, by Bear’s Underwear Mystery, partly because as you can see by the cover, it’s a touch risqué. I keep hearing that classic stripper tune with the trombones whenever I look at it. The latest has tabs and numbers and counting and a small mystery. It’s also in a 7 X 8 inch board book format. Board books fare very well in my libraries these days, so there you go.
It’s baaaack! Preview season is up and running and to kick it all off we begin with one of the biggies. Thanks to my new fancy dancy job I am now able to stay for a whole librarian preview without rushing back to cover the reference desk. So that’s nice. The downside is that there are now SO MANY great books to mention in a given preview that there’s no way I can get to all of them. With that in mind I’ll be limiting myself to just the children’s fare, unless there’s a teen title that just begs to be discussed (and they exist). I’m also going to split this preview into more than one post. Sure, it’ll eat up some valuable weekly blog time, but compared to working on it day after day with nothing in the interim, this is preferable.
So without further ado . . .
Dial Books for Young Readers
Actually let me talk about my library again for a second. NYPL recently got this new catalog called Bibliocommons. I’m kind of hooked on it, truth be told. Basically it allows your catalog to act like a kind of social networking site like Goodreads. I can rate and comment and do all kinds of things to my books on that site. I can also make easy-to-find lists that are useful to my librarians and patrons. One list I’ve been playing with the idea of making would be a Great Read Aloud Picture Books of 2012. It’s a little early in the season, sure, but I’ve already seen some great ones. Great ones like Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter. There are ducks. They hop in socks. Best of all the book scans when it rhymes so reading it to the masses works. This is the book that introduced me to the idea that the phrase “sock box” is fun to say. It really is.
Another fun one comes to us via an unexpected source. K.L. Going is probably best known for her YA novel Fat Kid Rules the World (coming this year to a movie theater near you). Bit of a gear shift for her then to suddenly be traipsing into picture book territory. That’s precisely what she did, though, with her upcoming Dog in Charge. Clever Dial made sure to pair her with the best too. Dan Santat is behind the illustrations which are, as you might expect, fantastic. The man does a darn good bulldog. I look forward to the booktrailer whenever Dan gets around to making it (raises eyebrows significantly in the direction of L.A.).
I have a little difficulty talking about his next book since I don’t want to give away too much. Which is to say, I’ve already read it, loved it, and I’m saving my good st
And now the thrilling conclusion!
Just kidding. I’ve lots more to do. But if you already read Part One then this should fall along the same lines.
In the past this imprint was best known for its teen fare. A slow and steady increase in their middle grade offerings, however, has turned it into the kind of place I can report upon. Undead Ed by Rotterly Ghoulstone (how awesome would it be if that was his real name?), illustrated by Nigel Baines is going to be the kind of thing you hand to the Zombiekins fans of the world. It’s middle grade zombie fare, which means horror + comedy. A lot more horror in a way since our hero is a zombie himself. Now middle grade books that involve zombiefication can do it one of several ways. The best known book where the protagonist is undead at this point in time may be David Lubar’s Accidental Zombie books. Yet even those books only turn the hero into half of a zombie. In Undead Ed a kid named Ed is pursued by his own dismembered arm. And as all 1950s bad movies have taught us, murderous hands = a good time. This book also includes a skeleton named Clive. I feel that’s worth noting.
Next up, a book that makes me just a little bit sad. Catalogs often contain outdated galley covers of books that have since changed their look for one reason or another. The problem comes when you prefer the abandoned jackets that will never see the light of day. I admit to being weirdly excited when I turned the page in the old Penguin catalog and saw, to my delight, the world’s weirdest cover for Nikki Loftin’s The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. Unfortunately it is not the final. The cover that you are seeing to the right here is fine and all, notable because it shows a chubby boy (which is actually pretty rare cover-wise). But oh . . . if only you could see the original. Like a claymation version of H&R Pufnstuf, it was. Admittedly it looked handmade in a really weird way, but that was what I loved about it. It stood out. Now it will sort of blend in with the rest of them. The story is about a girl sent to an academy where the kids run wild and eat whatever they want. Yet when it becomes clear that the children are getting fattened up for a very specific reason, it’s up to our heroine Lorelei and her friend Andrew to save the day. This is a book recommended to fans of A Tale Dark & Grimm with just a hint of Coraline for spice. Tasty.
Grosset & Dunlap
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