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This is it! We’ve officially begun! Here is, without a doubt, the very first Librarian Preview of the Fall 2014 season. I’m so thrilled to be presenting it in its full unaltered glory. Chronicle Books, that plucky little Californian publisher, has really made a name for itself in the past few years. And now, with their very first (can you believe it?!) Caldecott Honor, it seems like their star is on the rise. All the more reason to see what wares they’re hocking. After all, if Candlewick rules the Beautiful Picture Book World of the East Coast, Chronicle rules the West.
But before we begin, let’s look at a little book they have coming out of their adult division:
Goodnight, Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown
How do androids go to sleep? How do wookies? Ewoks? Whatever the heck Admiral Ackbar is? It was bound to occur. With the phenomenal success of Darth Vader and Son (to say nothing of Vader’s Little Princess) it didn’t take long for a play on the old Goodnight Moon trope. Jeffrey Brown, for the record, is to be commended. Can anyone else truly say they have two Star Wars related book series out with two different publishers for the trade book set? Nay. I’m just sad the adult book division of my library lays claim to these. I would have bought this one anyway as juv.
Mix It Up by Herve Tullet
Awwwwwwwww, yeah!! It’s exactly what you think it is. The one. The only. The SEQUEL TO PRESS HERE!!!!!!!! Could such a thing be possible? Could such a thing even work? It could if said sequel were to go the logical next step. This book? It’s all about mixing colors together. You can kind of tell from the cover that inside it’s huge fun. Kids can squish pages together to make new colors. They can tip the pages so that the colors run together into new hues. It’s the same feel as Press Here but with amazing educational applications. My kid is really into color mixing right now but all we have for her is Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh, Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri, and The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. Time to shake things up a little (literally).
The Bear’s Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud
Remember The Bear’s Song, which was released last year? It was sort of Where’s Waldo with very French bears. Well the whole story built to an ending wherein the bear and his cub decide to hibernate after discovering the bee hives on the top of the Paris Opera House. In the sequel, the Paris Opera House’s roof turns out not to be the most ideal place to sleep. The bears move into a department store but next thing you know the baby has been mistaken for a toy and the papa has to follow him once more. The energy in these books makes me feel as though I’d like to see them animated into little French shorts for the enjoyment of the masses. Wouldn’t that be awesome? It could happen.
Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
A Mac Barnett book at Chronicle? Well, considering the fact that his girlfriend works there, it just makes good sense. Mac’s back, baby, and this time he’s been paired with none other than the woman behind the art in those wildly successful Amy Krouse Rosenthal books Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink. This is actually a pretty strong year for Ms. Corace. Her other book I Hatched by Jill Esbaum only goes to show that she is in a SERIOUS bird phase right now. Barnett’s book is fine and feathered and a play on the old telephone game. It’s not the first book to go this route (the lovely Pass It On by Marylyn Sadler did it a couple years ago) but Barnett’s has a different tone and, quite frankly, a different gag at the end. I also like how each bird hears a message that pertains to his or her own interests. Just consider this whole enterprise a metaphor for hearing what you want to hear.
Planes Go by Steve Light
And SPEAKING of illustrators who are having good years, can we talk a bit about Steve Light? Because here we have a guy producing crazy beautiful books with Candlewick like Have You Seen My Dragon? on the one hand, and then turning around to continue his incredibly popular “Go” series. If you haven’t seen Trains Go, Trucks Go, or Diggers Go then you don’t know your board books. The man specializes in readaloud board books, for crying out loud. And nobody does it better. When I saw that the next one was a plane book I had to ask if boats were next. Ask and thou shalt receive. Boats are on the roster for 2015.
Bonjour, Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrated by Laia Aguilar
Meet the Spanish Eloise. That’s the only way I can accurately describe what it is that you’re seeing here. Written by a Spaniard and illustrated by a Spaniard, the book is a gentle series of absurdities, each and every one logical to the petite young heroine. Decked out in a top hat, black striped shirt, and black tutu (tell me that isn’t one of the more iconic visions I could conjure up), Camille is what Amelie might have been like as a child. I’m seeing definite Urban Outfitters potential here. In fact, it might even make a good graduation book, what with its wacky go-against-the-grain advice and all.
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
And here it is! The answer to your prayers. Prayers you may not even have known you had. As a sequel to the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book Flora and the Flamingo, Idle’s latest follows up its long and lanky avian from Book #1 with a cheery, squat, dumpling of a little fellow. And like its predecessor, there are flaps to lift that advance the plot and show off the pair’s dance moves. It would pair beautifully well with Kristi Valiant’s fellow dancing penguin book Penguin Cha-Cha, come to think of it. Interestingly, this book is not the only sequel to a 2014 Caldecott Honor out this year. Also keep an eye peeled for Aaron Becker’s Quest (the sequel to Journey) later in the fall. Oh, and word on the street has it that the next Flora book might involve a peacock. Squee!
In This Book by Fani Marceau, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet
Librarians get a lot of requests for “concept books”. Trouble is, folks never just come out and call them that. They as for opposite books or color books or shape books, and that’s fine. It’s when their requests get a bit more esoteric that you’re in trouble. Imagine sitting at your reference desk one day and a well meaning soul comes up to you and asks for “books that deal with the concept of in and out”. Don’t laugh, it’s happened and it’s a devil of a request to meet. Now, at least, we’ve something we can hand over. The fabulous French team of Marceau and Jolivet have paired together to create a truly beautiful variety of “in”s. Now when I saw that illustrator Jolivet was involved I got a tad bit nervous. Jolivet is best associated, to my mind, with these gorgeous but enormous picture books like Zoo-ology and Almost Everything. They’re gorgeous but they don’t fit on my shelves. In This Book, by contrast, will come in at a sweet 9 1/2″ X 11″. In (ha ha) teresting.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
I wracked my brain and came up with nothing. Maybe you’ll fare better. Can you think of a single solitary book in which a kid walks around with a flashlight seeing the cool things that come out at night? Boyd was the person behind that lovely little Inside Outside last year (a book that garnered no less than four starred reviews). I liked it a lot but always felt that it suffered from its color scheme. The color brown may get the literary credit, but certain types of people avoid it like the plague. Flashlight suffers no such problem as it follows a boy outside at night with a helpful flashlight aiding him. Eventually the nighttime creatures want to get a look at him too, so they point the flashlight back in his direction in their curiosity. Cute concept. Never seen it done before.
The Memory of an Elephant by Sophie Strady, illustrated by Jean-Francois Martin
This one may be a bit special. Nothing wrong with special books. They keep things interesting and amuse the children of hipsters nationwide. But you have to keep an open mind sometimes when you read them. In this tale, a well dressed elephant writes an encyclopedia inspired by his daily life. The book will, on occasion, show an encyclopedic spread from his book while also explaining what those items are. For his part, I haven’t seen a pachyderm this dapper since Babar (spats and all). The clothes on the animals are extraordinary and the modern furniture quite a riot. Seriously, you have everything from the butterfly stool to the tulip table in the backgrounds here. It is not, I should note, by any means the first children’s book to take on well-designed furniture (Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne comes immediately to mind) but it may be the most attractive to the eye.
Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third
You have undoubtedly heard my cries of complaint when it comes to the sheer derth of Latino books for kids on our shelves. And graphic novels? Don’t even get me started. Aside from the Luz books (Luz Sees the Light, etc.) they are few and far between. All the more reason I’m excited by Lowriders in Space. I mean, the title says it all. It’s a GN that happens to include some science and Latino culture all in one fell swoop. Not exactly the most common of critters. Looking at the art I was immediately drawn to the fact that though it’s clearly done in a particular style, there is just the faintest hint of Astroboy about it. I should also note that Raul the Third, the illustrator, will apparently be speaking at SLJ’s Day of Dialog this year. Don’t miss him!
Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt
Yesterday I wrote up a Poetry Month post on different rhyme schemes and poetic forms that you might not have heard of. While typing it up I was tempted to include some info about this here little middle grade verse novel. The premise is that a bully, one without any real problems in his life to justify his bullying, uses poetry to bully other kids. Then the tables are turned and the bullier becomes the bully-ee. Curious? So am I. This one’s moving to the top of my To Be Read Shelf and fast.
The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg
Pity the Australian import in America. Unless your name is “Shaun Tan” or “Markus Zusak” you’re unlikely to be particularly well known here in the States. Even if your book happens to win the Children’s Peace Literature Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and the Golden Inky Award, it may not be a household name here yet. Naturally Barry Jonsberg’s book won those very things and now he is poised to take America by storm. In this tale a girl on the autism spectrum sets out to make everyone in her life happy. Along the way the book utilizes a trope that I enjoy very much. Paired with a penpal in the States who has never written back to her, Candice merrily writes off letters in the course of the novel to them anyway. I love that.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cookbook and Cookie Cutters Kit by Lara Starr
Okay. Admittedly this isn’t the kind of thing the libraries out there should be looking at. I mean, it comes with its own cookie cutter. Hard to top that. But I just had to mention it, and not just because Lara Starr of Chronicle herself did the recipes. I just like that something like this helped to inspire a book like this one. That and the fact that I really want to eat that caterpillar’s head. A lot. Nom nom nom.
Creature Baby Animals and Creature Sounds by Andrew Zuckerman
Boy, remember when Creature ABC came out all those years ago? I loved that book so much that I held onto it tightly in the event that I someday had kids of my own. That was a wise move, but it’s taken a long time for my kid to be ready for that book. Now two new board books seek to solve that very problem. They’re eye-catching. They’re beautiful. Basically, they’re some of the best animal photography I’ve ever seen. No mean feat.
The Ultimate Construction Site Book by Anne-Sophie Baumann, illustrated by Didier Balicevic
I view the coming of this book with a mixture of longing and fear. Longing because when Baumann and Balicevic produced their previous book, The Ultimate Book of Vehicles, this past spring my daughter became enamored of its tabs and doors and other movable elements. Yet to read the whole book cover to cover can take forever, so I sometimes have to put it judiciously in places where she won’t see it before bedtime. Such is her all encompassing love. To discover that the next book is nothing but construction . . . well that’s just a treat.
Nocturne by Traer Scott
I’m on a real photography kick these days. And have you noticed that the number of children’s books featuring photographs has increased tenfold over the last few years? Apparently a lot of this has to do with the fact that thanks to digital photography, costs are down. Traer Scott was hitherto unknown to me before I saw this book, but now I’m a huge fan. The concept is great too. Scott photographs nocturnal animals against these deep rich backgrounds. They just pop into the foreground. It’s almost as if their portraits were being taken. As if you needed another way to make some of these critters even more cute than they were before.
You’re Awesome Journal
This isn’t anything to do with children’s books. I just needed somewhere to put a note to remind myself to buy this for a family member once it’s been published (not until September. . . arg!!). So, note to self: Purchase this item (ISBN: 978-1-4521-3660-8) when the time is right. Because, after all, it made me laugh out loud and few blank journals in this world do that.
A million thanks to the kind and gracious Lara Star for entertaining me. Looks like a great line-up for the coming year.
Foof! It’s been a while! At least it feels like it has. For whatever reason I haven’t posted a good Simon & Schuster Preview since . . . um . . . since their Spring 2011 list was premiered. Whoopsie! Let’s make up for lost time then.
First off, Simon & Schuster does their librarian previews much, I suspect, as they do their marketing proposals to bookstores or in-house. They hand out these gorgeous full-color handouts of all the titles they’ll be talking about. They also begin the day with the special guest star. Little Brown and Penguin prefer to leave the guests to the last, but not these guys. Best that you be on time, then.
Our guest? The friendly and fantastic James Howe. As you may know the fella wrote The Misfits lo these many years ago. Since its publication it has been showing up on TONS of New York City summer reading lists (I cannot attest to the state of the rest of the country in this respect) and so it stood to reason he’d continue the series. Since The Misfits followed four kids, a book for each kid seemed par for the course. Totally Joe is probably the best known of the four simply by dint of the fact that it was the one with a gay character and Addie on the Inside was released relatively recently. Also Known as Elvis rounds out the quartet and follows Skeezie Tookis (the author still isn’t sure where that name came from) and his relationship with a dog. James gave us a little background on his process. In the case of this particular book, he nailed Skeezie’s personality down by conducting faux “interviews” with the character. Howe also talked a bit about his own youth and his dog Lily, who turned out to be the model for the dog on the cover of the book.
Then we were off! I’ll just highlight a couple titles here and there that particularly caught my eye. Consider this just a random smattering of what’s to come.
It’s funny to think about, but there’s never really been a Ronald McDonald House picture book before. I suppose much of that has to do with the fact that it’s a mighty tricky topic to write about. To get it down right you’d need someone like Kathi Appelt at the helm. Well, with the release of Mogie: Heart of the House (illustrated by Marc Rosenthal) done and done. The book is based on a real dog who just couldn’t cut it as a service dog. By some bit of miraculous intervention, however, the dog found its true calling as a kind of de facto therapy dog in a Ronald McDonald House. Appelt, as we all well know, has the unique ability to write for almost every age (and if you haven’t read her Bubba & Bo series then you, sir, are missing out). It’s a nice, heartfelt story that never slides sideways into schmaltz. No mean feat.
Next up, a book that’s been baffling me for a while. When S&S started talking about The Numberlys by William Joyce and Christina Ellis I was scratching my head. It looked really well done, a kind of Metropolis meets The Wizard of Oz. Still and all, when I went to search for images of it online I found a baffling array. What gives? I was finally able to determine that Mr. Joyce has completely and utterly embraced the worlds of print and film and apps all at the same time. Little wonder from the fellow who created The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (winning an Oscar for the same). In the case of The Numberlys, it appears to have been released as an app back in 2012. I even discovered a whole host of videos about the making of the app on his website here, all skillfully produced. In the case of the picture book, it’s only now seeing the light of day. It has some cool details, though. A transparent cover can turn the book from black and white into color with its removal. Oh, and the story? A bunch of little workers get tired of just making numbers every day and determine to try something different for a change. There’s no real villain in the piece other than the nature of conformity itself.
Here’s a video that serves equally as a trailer for the app and the book:
I’m still kicking myself over the fact that I didn’t review Ashley Bryan’s Can’t Scare Me last year. I mean talk about a fantastic readaloud! The rhythm of that piece alone could have you kicking your feet and dancing a tune. Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Anytime someone wants to create a Church of Ashley Bryan, they’ll find themselves with a million instant converts. He’s the current reigning patron saint of children’s literature, as far as I’m concerned. And coming up this season is the book Ashley Bryan’s Puppets by Ashley Bryan, with photographs edited by Rich Entel. It seems that Ashley has a habit of collecting found objects on the beach to turn into puppets. Everything they’re made of is washed up from the sea. Little wonder from the guy who has stained glass windows made entirely out of sea glass. In this book each puppet is accompanied by a poem discussing what they’re made of and what they might be. Everything has a use is the moral of the story here. I was almost reminded of the Look-Alikes series by Joan Steiner when seeing these. Or Pura Belpre’s old puppets. Mr. Bryan, by the way, will be 91 in four or so months now. As of this preview he was in his Kenyan library. If you’d like to get the sense of visiting him yourself, check out Alison Morris’s old ShelfTalker post Visiting Ashley Bryan. It’ll make you want to take the trek yourself.
Dog books. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. Preferably, leave ‘em. It’s kind of nice. I don’t feel susceptible to a book just because it features an adorable panting canine on the cover. Or, in the case of Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson, an adorable well-behaved, charming canine. However, in this particular case I was charmed. This is one of those being-different-is-okay books, but don’t be put off by the message. DiPucchio works very hard to keep Gaston as far from didacticism as humanly possible. The book follows a little pup who looks nothing like his siblings. When his mother finds a fellow dog with a strange pup of her own, the two decide to make a switch. However, just because you look like someone, that doesn’t mean you have anything in common with them. It’s got a good strong ending and one cannot help but notice that artist Christian Robinson is having a banner year. This, Sugar Hill AND Josephine all at the same time? Well done, man! Tis the year of the Robinson.
Some books suggest quite a bit with their covers. More than they give away, certainly. Found Things by Marilyn Hilton won the SCBWI award for best novel in progress a year or so ago. In this tale, a girl wakes up speaking oddly, discovers that her older brother has disappeared, and when she sleeps she dreams of an oddly familiar house. It isn’t long thereafter that she’s met another girl, started sending wishes down the stream, and finds that her mother is acting strangely. That description doesn’t give away much, and indeed I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to give it a shot. “Lyrical and strange” S&S calls it. Well sold.
So back in the day I loved the old Three Investigators series. Ostensibly rip-offs of The Hardy Boys, the books had their own particular flavor and swing. And in the early novels each one ended with the boys meeting with Alfred Hitchcock to explain how they solved the crime. Why Hitchcock? Absolutely no idea. I guess his estate had some hand in the books or something. Whatever the case, when I was a kid I always felt like Hitchcock was this understandable and utterly relatable guy. Now kids in the 21st century will have a chance to relive that aspect of my youth with Jim Averbeck’s debut novel A Hitch at the Fairmont, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi. You know Jim from his picture books like In a Blue Room and Except If (amongst others). In this book, a madcap mix of graphic novel and prose, a boy lives with is evil Aunt Edith and her chinchilla. When that same aunt disappears and a ransom note appears, written in chocolate, there’s a clear mystery to solve. Each chapter opens with a storyboard (the hat tip to Hitchcok) and the book is chock full of references to the man’s films. It has a good cover and you’ll recognize Bertozzi’s work from stuff like Houdini: The Handcuff King and Lewis & Clark.
The nice thing about Simon & Schuster is that sometimes they’ll send out their galleys and F&Gs awfully early. Such was the case with Five Trucks by Brian Floca. When my family took a plane ride to Atlanta this past Christmas there was more than one occasional where I was kicking myself for not bringing the book along to amuse my kiddo in the airport. Originally released in 1999 and now returning thanks to the man’s recent Caldecott win for Locomotive, the book follows five different trucks you might see on the tarmac of an airport. With a multicultural cast (to say nothing of multi-gender) it’s simple and elegant. Really gets to the point. I’m sorry I missed it the first time around, but very happy that I’ll have a chance to get it for my library system now.
The recent Walter Dean Myers piece in The New York Times probably was a godsend to publicists everywhere. I complain that there are few African-American boys on middle grade covers, but what about YA novels? There are hardly any you can name. And so while I almost never mention YA fare in my librarian preview round-ups, I couldn’t resist showing you the cover to Call Me By My Name by John Ed Bradley. Check it out.
Author Chris Lynch, by the way, says that it’s the best football book he’s ever read. Considering that I just read a great middle grade football book (Boys of Blur, but more on that later) that’s interesting to me. It’s set in historical Louisiana. Says Justin Chandra, “Teen boys will read this book.” Hope so.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Grumpy Bird is in for some competition. Aviary born with short fuses aren’t really a trope but if more books like Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares come out then they may inadvertently spawn their own subgenre. Though I would have pegged him as an animator thanks to the style, that does not seem to be a part of the Miyares oeuvre. In this book an easily ruffled little yellow bird finds himself put upon as more and more animals deign to join his perch. Part manners book, part cautionary tale (perches just ain’t what they used to be) it’ll be interesting to watch the reception to this. From my own experience, New York readers have a hard time with the circle of life (so to speak) in books for kids. You’ll see what I mean when you read it for yourself.
The thing about steampunk as a genre is that since it never really spawned any kind of massive hit, it can continue to exist unabated without wearing out its welcome. It’s not like sparkly vampires or dystopian futures. The market was never glutted with steampunk, thereby allowing books like Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne to continue unabated. Set in an alternate world of Londonia, replete with gears and fairies galore, a bored 10-year-old from our world accidentally crosses over. It seems the Queen is in need of a real boy and our lad fits the bill precisely.
Name the last good Juneteenth children’s book you encountered. Because if we’re going to face facts, Juneteenth is sort of falling the way of Kwanzaa when it comes to children’s books. The number of titles that speak to the holiday are slim at best. With that in mind, All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis fills a very specific need. Based ostensibly on Ms. Johnson’s own ancestors, the book is a work of historical fiction be dint of lack of information. In it, a Texan slave girl wakes up to what seems like a normal day, only to find it’s the most important day in her life. The Kirkus star it just earned bodes well.
Margaret K. McElderry
Simon & Schuster hadn’t been chintzy with the galleys of Mouseheart by Lisa Fielder, illustrated by Vivienne To. Mind you, I never know if that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing. Publicists and librarians don’t always see eye-to-eye on the books that must receive the most information. But I’ve shopped this one around with some librarians of my acquaintance and the responses have been positive. Basically what we’re looking at here are battling rat tribes in Brooklyn. Said one of my test case librarians, “I think both boys and girls will enjoy this new series and New Yorkers will perhaps enjoy waiting for the train more if they believe that nasty rat is actually Zucker fighting for his little rodent colony…maybe.” Comparisons to Redwall and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH were made. Not a bad pedigree by half.
Aw, pfui. I’m not going to remember now. You see, at the time that I heard about the YA novel Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine I realized that it was part of a funny little 2014 trend. This year there are two books that are roughly based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the other one is (50 points for anyone who knows). Fine’s novel is a bit more oblique in its references, but sounds mighty interesting just the same. Recommended for fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the book follows a girl whose wishes are granted by a ghost. Sometimes brutally. Lovely cover, no?
You know I’ve a real love and appreciation for graphic novels of any sort. So when I saw Through the Woods by Emily Carroll I had high hopes that it would fall into my range. Nope. Not by half. Straight up YA, this book sports five short stories, one of which was already published on the web. The stories may indeed be good, but it’s the art that really sucks you in. As Buzzfeed put it, it’s “The most inventively claustrophobic comic online.” The interior images they included in our PowerPoint packet were enticing but honestly this was the one that sold the book to me right there. I may have to crib from this line in the future. Beautifully put:
(Switching gears entirely) simple picture books with simple words that are actually well put together, interesting, and visually stimulating are as rare as figs in December. Enter Big Bug by Henry Cole. If nothing else this book is probably going to be a true contender for the ALA Geisel Award for simple text. The book telegraphs backwards from a bug onward. It starts out saying “Big bug” and it’s not wrong. This ladybug looks huge. But then we pan back and the text says “Little bug / Big leaf”. Another turn of the page and it’s “Little leaf / Big flower.” This continues in this fashion until we’ve zoomed out enough to zoom back in. And, along the way, a kind of story is being told. So basically this is a tale to teach perspective to the very young. Do you now how hard that is to do? Give this book a closer look. It’s simplicity is just the tip of the iceberg.
In other news, Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre is coming out as a board book. And the people rejoiced en masse.
Beach Lane Books
It was just my bad luck that I had to take a phone call for the bulk of the Beach Lane Books presentation. Doggone modern technology. A real pity too since there were at least two books here that had certainly caught my eye. The first was I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy. Rudy, I later had to learn, is an artist who has created these elaborate little mouse-related dioramas over the years (which you can see here). Really, it was only a matter of time before someone offered her a book contract. I recently did a Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL on the increase of photography in children’s books, and at one point there was some discussion made of artists who create models and photograph them. Following in the near footsteps of Rebecca Dudley and her much lauded Hank Finds an Egg, Rudy gives the notion of pet ownership a very realistic feel, particularly when you consider the various pets that mice would have access to. It’s a rather clever little piece. Unique, to say the least.
Another book I had really wanted to know more about was the latest from Jeanette Winter, Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. It just looks so cool. Taking its cues from the life of Queens, NY resident Joseph Cornell, it’s a fun look at a self-taught artist who used found objects in his works. This book focuses in particular on an exhibition he held in 1972 for the neighborhood children of his works. It’s very simple, but a nice look at how everyday objects can become art. A rather good complement to her previous book Henri’s Scissors, actually. And it made me really hungry for some good brownies.
I’ve spoken at length about how 2014 has been doing somewhat better in the realm of getting kids of color on the covers of books. Another trend I’ve noticed? A distinct increase in math and science loving girls. There’s Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea on the one hand and Annika Riz, Math Whiz, as well as a couple others that I’m not thinking of right now. Eliza Boom: My Explosive Diary by Emily Gale, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy follows in the same path. You know what’s also interesting? All these books are on the lower reading level of chapter books. Very interesting indeed, eh?
Then we get to the very interesting rereleases. When they presented Christopher Pike’s middle grade series Spooksville, I just assumed it was something new. Thank goodness for the internet, eh? Instead, I find that this is a delightful case of a publisher really and seriously giving some book jackets a serious upgrade. Behold the befores and the afters.
Clearly the old series had a thing for floating female heads.
Then, in some very happy news, I can report to you that the White Mountains series by John Christopher is also getting a book jacket update. Best of all, they’ve renamed the series entirely. I know it was originally called “The White Mountains series” but all anyone ever calls it is “The Tripods series” anyway. Here are some of the new covers:
And for those of you in the ordering books business, the ISBNs are 9781481414821, 9781481414784, 9781481414807, and 9781481414760 (in that order).
Back in the day, the May Bird trilogy was critically acclaimed but never got sufficient attention from the kiddos. Happily S&S is giving it a new lease on life with some lovely little book re-covers. Like so:
I suspect Katniss Everdeen may have had something to do with cover #3 (not that the original skimped on the bow and arrow aspects at all). ISBNs 9781442495777, 9781442495791, and 9780689869259 for those of you playing at home.
Finally, we come to Bruce Coville’s delightful My Teacher Is an Alien series. I will spare those amongst you a great deal of pain by not mentioning how long ago the original series came out. Indeed, the original covers speak for themselves:
That’s the old cover that got me to read the series when I was a kid. No lie. Now, once again, it’s seeing an update:
Those are the only ones I could find online so far. Presumably the other two in the series (My Teacher Glows in the Dark and My Teacher Flunked the Planet) are just a half step away.
Magnolia by Kristi Cook has many things to recommend it, I am certain. I don’t pay too much attention to YA, I’ll admit. But one thing I did pay attention to was this:
This hereby marks the very first time that a dress in my possession has appeared on a book jacket. That red dress? Yeah, I bought that about 8 years ago at H&M. Only one piece of proof exists that I know of and it’s this teeny tiny picture of me, Jen Robinson, Jay Asher (before he was big), and Gregory K. at a blogger meet-up at ALA in Anahein years and years and years ago. It’s tiny, but as you can see . . . same dress.
And on that name droppy note, that would be that. Should you wish to peruse the Simon & Schuster catalog for those items I have failed to mention here, you may do so at this link: http://catalog.simonandschuster.com/?cid=10868
Many thanks to S&S for inviting me. Happy reading!
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.
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!
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.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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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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