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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: librarian previews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

chronicle 300x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)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

GoodnightDarthVader 474x500 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

MixItUp 500x167 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

BearsSeaEscape Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

Telephone 500x399 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

PlanesGo 500x257 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

BonjourCamille Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

FloraPenguin Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

InThisBook Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

Flashlight 500x500 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

MemoryElephant Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

LowridersSpace Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

RhymeSchemer Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

CategoricalUniverse Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

CaterpillarCookie Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

CreatureBabyAnimals Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)CreatureSounds 300x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

UltimateConstruction Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

Nocturne Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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

YoureAwesome Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall 2014)

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.

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2. Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

SimonSchuster Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)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.

AlsoKnownElvis Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.


Mogie1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

Numberlys Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

AshleyPuppets1 500x498 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

Gaston Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

FoundThings Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

HitchFairmont Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

FiveTrucksBook Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

CallMeByMyName Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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

PardonMe Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

FlightsChimes Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

AllDifferentNow 500x385 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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

Mouseheart Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

ofmetalandwishes Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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?

ThroughWoods 423x500 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

ThroughWoods2 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

Little Simon

BigBug Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

(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.

RahRahRadishes Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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

IWishIHadaPet Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

DreamBoxes Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.


ExplosiveDiary Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.


SpooksvilleHowling1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)


SpooksvilleHowling2 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)


SpooksvilleSecret1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)


SpooksvilleSecret2 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

Tripods1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

WhiteMountains Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

PoolFire Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

Tripods3 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

MayBird2 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

MayBird1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

MayBird3 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

MyTeacherAlien1 Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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:

MyTeacherAlien Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

MyTeacherFried Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

Simon Pulse

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:

Magnolia Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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.

TinyProof Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Summer 2014)

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!

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3. Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

minedition1 Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)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!

WeLoveEachOther Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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:

YumYum Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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 . . .

TalesBrothersGrimm Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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 . . .

PiedPiper Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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.

SantaClausAllAboutMe Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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 . . .

MessageoftheBirds Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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.

GiftMagi Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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.

AesopsFables Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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.

HanselGretel Librarian Preview: minedition (Winter 2013 / Spring 2014)

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.

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4. Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)

NorthSouthLogo 297x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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.

LeonceLena 232x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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.

ABCFabulousPrincesses 224x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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.

CallMeJacob 232x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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.

SixSwans 231x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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!

CrocodileWater 245x300 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)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:

TwoParrots 500x389 Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)

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):

TwoParrotsInside Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)

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:

Lindbergh Librarian Preview: NorthSouth Books (Spring 2014)

Thanks again to Heather for sitting down with me and showing me these lovely wares!  Spring cannot come fast enough.

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5. Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

lerner 300x109 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

ExtinctMammals 228x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

AmIGoodFriend 300x247 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

AncientEgypt 235x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

NeilDegrasseTyson 235x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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!

HipsterFashion 212x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

HandleWithCare 300x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

PlasticAhoy 300x251 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

SecretsSkyCaves 300x251 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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 . . .

EveryBodysTalking 300x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

WorldSeries 300x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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.

ChasingStorm 353x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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.

CuriosityMissionMars 393x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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.

KPop 391x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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.

BombsOverBikini 391x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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.

TraumaticBrain 370x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

Okay.  Enough of that teen stuff.  Let’s get some firm footing in the world of children’s books instead.

ScarlattisCat 253x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

Mumbet 300x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

IfItRainsPancakes 235x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

WaterCanBe 300x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

TaoPranks 235x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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 . . .

JackCastaway 212x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)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.

CryptidLochNess 213x300 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2014)

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!

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6. Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)

chronicle 300x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 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.

MeaningMaggie 213x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

UpsideDownNowhere 210x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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 . . .

DidntDoHomework 226x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

JumpingJack 220x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

Destructosaurus 300x285 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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 GreatDay 288x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

Peekazoo 300x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

PlanetKindergarten 300x292 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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 EuropeanCatSaysMeow 298x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014) 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.

GreenChilePepper 298x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

AtSameMoment 144x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

UltimateBookVehicles 264x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

PrestoChangeo 246x300 Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2014)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.

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7. Video Sunday: How have I lived this long without hearing the name “Lothar Meggendorfer”?

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:

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8. Librarian Preview: Blue Apple Books (Spring 2012)

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.

If y

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9. Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Dial & G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Summer 2012)

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

9 Comments on Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Dial & G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Summer 2012), last added: 4/4/2012
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10. Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Razorbill and Grosset & Dunlap (Summer 2012)

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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11. Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Viking, Philomel and Puffin

In previous posts on the Penguin Preview (found here and here) I failed to mention how the day began.  To be blunt, it started with me ignoring the obvious.  This is not a strange thing.  My parents once bought a piano for our home when I was a kid and it took me somewhere around two to three days to notice it was there (in my defense, it was not a big piano).  Two days ago my husband replaced one of our posters and I could have merrily walked past it, I’m sure, for a week.  In this particular case it involved the Penguin board room.  For a long time it has been in a state of delightful disarray.  You see years and years ago they hosted a fantastic Truck Town release party for Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, Loren Long, etc. wherein all the guys wore matching jumpsuits and the room was converted into a kind of truck repair shop.  Along one back wall was the front end of a semi (as I remember it).  I’ve just done some digging in my files and located the post where I wrote about it here.  How six years do fly.

In any case, that truck continued to exist in the board room until pretty much now.  When I walked into the board room this time I not only managed to not notice that it was gone (forgivable) but to also miss that the walls looked like the image at the top of this post.

Credit Jon Anderson with this.  Apparently it was his life goal to locate every last Simon & Schuster award winner on the children’s side of things and to frame their be-medaled jackets.  And not only has he included all the Caldecotts and Newberys (no easy feat when you consider how publishers have a tendency to eat one another over the decades) but he threw in the Coretta Scott King Awards, the Printz Awards, and even a Nebula or two.  It was delightful.  Lots of fun to look over.

Enough of that.  On to Viking!


This year I have carefully been keeping track of all the books that Kirkus stars.  This is partially because Kirkus doesn’t star all that many things and partly because I like their taste.  When I get a chance I go out, locate the starred books and read them through.  One such starred item will be hitting bookstores this May and goes by the name of Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone (illustrated by Nancy Carpenter).  Based on a true story, this work of picture book fiction follows a true incident from May 1882 when a steamship ran aground in New Jersey.  The folks were rescued by sailors who came through terrible waves and weather to save them.  Sharyn November called this one “the happy Titanic” because it’s one of the rare seaside disasters where everyone was saved.  Ms. Carbone was the author of the middle grade historical fiction novel 6 Comments on Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Viking, Philomel and Puffin, last added: 4/13/2012

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12. Librarian Preview: Candlewick Press (Fall 2012)

You’ve got your big-time fancy pants New York publishers on the one hand, and then you have your big-time fancy pants Boston publishers on the other.  A perusal of Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard Marcus provides a pretty good explanation for why Boston is, in its way, a small children’s book enclave of its own.  Within its borders you have publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Candlewick holding court.  The only time I have ever been to Boston was when ALA last had a convention there.  It was nice, though cold and there are duckling statues.

So it was that the good people of Candlewick came to New York to show off some of their finest Fall 2012 wares.  Now the last time they came here they were hosted by SLJ.  This time they secured space in the Bank Street College of Education.  Better location, less good food (no cookies, but then I have the nutritional demands of a five-year-old child).  We were given little signs on which to write our names.  I took an extra long time on mine for what I can only assume was an attempt to “win” the write-your-name part of the day.  After that, we were off!

First up, it’s our old friend and Caldecott Honor winner (I bet that never gets old for him) David Ezra Stein.  The fellow’s been toiling away with his paints n’ such for years, so it’s little wonder he wanted to ratchet up his style a notch with something different.  And “something different” is a pretty good explanation of what you’ll find with Because Amelia Smiled.  This is sort of a take on the old nursery rhyme that talks about “For Want of a Nail”, except with a happy pay-it-forward kind of spin.  Because a little girl smiles a woman remembers to send a care package.  Because the care package is received someone else does something good.  You get the picture.  Stein actually wrote this book as a Senior in art school but has only gotten to writing it officially now.  It’s sort of the literary opposite of Russell Hoban’s A Sorely Trying Day or Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC.  As for the art itself, the author/illustrator has created a whole new form which he’s named Stein-lining.  To create it you must apply crayons to wax paper and then turn it over.  I don’t quite get the logistics but I’ll be interested in seeing the results.  Finally, the book continues the massive trend of naming girls in works of children’s fiction “Amelia”.  Between Amelia Bedelia, Amelia’s Notebook, and Amelia Rules I think the children’s literary populace is well-stocked in Amelias ah-plenty.

Next up, a title that may well earn the moniker of Most Anticipated Picture Book of the Fall 2012 Season.  This Is Not My Hat isn’t a sequel to 4 Comments on Librarian Preview: Candlewick Press (Fall 2012), last added: 4/25/2012

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13. Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2013)

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 ShowElvis 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.

First up.

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!!!

Best 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

8 Comments on Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2013), last added: 11/12/2012
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14. Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring/Summer 2013)

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.

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15. Librarian Preview: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Spring 2011)

It’s a bit late in the season for me to keep typing up these librarian previews, but due to the fact that the “Spring” has only just begun, I think I have a little leeway for my two remaining previews before I start hearing about the Summer 2011 books that are right around the corner.

If I’ve not done HMH before it isn’t because I don’t like their books and more because they are based out of Boston whilst I languish here in New York (languish means to carry on and have a fine old time, right?).  Fortunately all that ended with a delightful lunch and a peek at what the future has in store.

First off, an ode to catalogs.  Soon they shall go the way of the dinosaur, which is a pity since as of right now it is still much easier to write notes and stick Post-Its in catalogs than it is to do the same to a website.  The HMH Spring 2011 catalog had a couple distinguishing characteristics that I would like to point out to you now.  Mainly:

- They split their books up by genre rather than imprint, which is a far more manageable form for librarian types when ordering.

- They list their bookstore representatives in the back.

- They also list their authors and illustrators by state and include those people’s websites.  This is a very good idea.  Just the other day in my library I had a parent who informed me that she needed a book by either an author from South Carolina or a chapter book that took place in South Carolina.  A search of the South Carolina SCBWI chapter didn’t yield much and in the end I sent her home happy with a copy of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (which takes place there) instead.  Would that I had known about this catalog!  Why, we could have rustled up books by Gene Fehler instead.  But I digress.

The board book section of the catalog comes first, as is right.  We didn’t talk much about it, though.  I mean, it’s kind of cool to see the new BB version of Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers (illustrated by Marla Frazee) or Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar’s Bubble Trouble, but picture book to board book transformations must be viewed firsthand in order to determine if they’ve successfully edited down the unnecessary.  Fortunately I have a test subject in the works that will help me to determine these facts with me soon.

From there we go on to picture books, and here we find the first surprise of the day.  2010 was the year that folks couldn’t help but get excited about The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska.  It won the Gold at the Society of Illustrators event, but was ineligible for a Caldecott since the illustrator, for all her charms, lives in Canada.  And thus a nation weeps.  But dry your eyes, folks!  This spring we’re going to see The Loud Book come our way!  Yup.  Everything from “Aunt Tillie’s banjo band loud&r

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16. Librarian Preview: Albert Whitman & Company (Spring 2011)

Whew!  Boy, am I getting this last one in right under the gun or what?  Which is to say, before the end of January has passed.  The new round of previews begin in February so I didn’t want to have any loose stragglers waiting about when I saw the new crop of 2011 titles.

A month ago Michelle Bayuk did me the very great favor of sitting down and showing me a couple of the offerings Albert Whitman & Company have on their roster.  AW & Co. is a smaller publishing company than most of the folks I cover.  Located in what I assume to be the lovely but currently freezing Park Ridge, Illinois (though who am I to talk?) the company is able to indulge in smaller more personal titles that the biggies out there.  That’s why I like ‘em.  This season?  No exception.

First up, their logical catalog begins with board books.  There’s the usual cluster of previous titles turned into board books, like Alison Formento’s This Tree, 1,2,3 or Rebecca O’Connell’s Done With Diapers!: A Potty ABC.  My eyes, however, were fixed on the new batch of books from one Martine Perrin.  Already a hit in her native France, Perrin’s board books are entirely splendid from a visual standpoint.  AW&Co. is translating and bringing to our shores two of her books for starters.  The first is Look Who’s There, with a snazzy die-cut board book cover.  The other book, What Do You See?, is reminiscent of the work of Laura Vaccaro Seeger with its visual cut-out puzzles.  Very cool.  Put ‘em on your board book wish list then.

Next up, British author/illustrator Sarah Gibb also makes an appearance on our shores.  Her version of Rapunzel should be out in March and it’s perfectly situated to appeal to those . . . fine.  Those girls (I’m sure there are boys that like princesses too sometimes, y’know) who incline towards Disney-esque figures.  This Rapunzel does bear some similarities, at least on the cover, to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty right off the bat.  The title itself tells some of the tale in a series of silhouettes.  They’re gorgeous silhouettes, though, showing things I’ve never seen before.  Things like a perfect layout of at least four of the floors in Rapunzel’s tower (love the spinning wheel in one of the rooms).  We all love our Zelinsky Rapunzel, but this one has some points to recommend it as well.  I found some of the interior spreads online.  Here’s a taste:

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17. Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Summer 2011)

I’d been feeling a bit guilty about Penguin recently.  If my calculations are correct (and I think that they are) I haven’t been to a Penguin preview since April of 2010.  The timing just never worked out!  I do hold down a 9-5 job in the library, after all, so angling my free days to be on preview days doesn’t always work out for me.  Fortunately I was able to make up for my missing mug at the most recent librarian preview so as to see the goodies and not be caught in the cold when something like A Tale Dark & Grimm comes down the pike (one of the books I missed hearing about last year).

Preparations this time around included:

  1. A promise to myself not to eat ALL the desserts on the dessert table at lunch.
  2. A orange concoction placed in my purse that I would have to drink at precisely 1:30 for my doctor’s appointment.  It’s a pregnant thing.  There’s a test they do where they make you chug what essentially amounts to a drink that has more in common with that horrid orange pop McDonalds used to serve when I was a kid (not quite juice, not quite good) only warm and flat.

But enough of that!  You want to hear about books, and I want to tell you about what’s on the roster.  To the previewing!

Dutton Children’s Books

Lauren Myracle.  Is there a nicer gal in the business?  Place your bets now, but I’m telling you that I have the inside track on this one.  Lauren’s the sweetest, hands down.  There are some authors out there you just feel grateful to the universe for properly appreciating (“properly appreciating” = “allows them to make a living at writing”).  Lauren is one such person.  I say all this in preparation of the glorious news that she has a new book out in her Winnie Perry series.  Ten will be a prequel to the books Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Thirteen Plus One.  Think of it as the thing Phyllis Reynolds Naylor did with her Alice series.  Actually this particular series is now being rebranded “The Winnie Years”, so be warned librarians.  When desperate ten-year-olds cling to your leg demanding a particular book in “that Winnie series” know now what that will actually mean.  By the way, any idea who the cover artist is on these books?  Seems to me that this person deserves some of the credit for the popularity of the series.  Or at the very least, the look.

You’re not gonna get a whole lot of young adult books out of me this time around, but I feel obligated to mention Nova Ren Suma’s upcoming novel Imaginary Girls, in part because her de

10 Comments on Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Summer 2011), last added: 3/14/2011
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18. Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012)

Previews, previews!  Lovely little previews!

And we find ourselves back at the Yale Club, across the street from Grand Central Station, and a whopping 10 minutes away, on foot, from my library.  There are advantages to living on a tiny island, I tell ya.

As per usual, Little Brown pulled out all the stops for the average children’s and YA librarian, in order to showcase their upcoming season.  There were white tablecloths and sandwiches consisting of brie and ham and apples.  The strange result of these previews is that I now seem to be under the mistaken understanding that Little Brown’s offices are located at the Yale Club.  They aren’t.  That would make no sense.  But that’s how my mind looks at things. When I am 95 and senile I will insist that this was the case.  Be warned.

A single day after my return from overseas I was able to feast my eyes on the feet of Victoria Stapleton (the Director of School and Library Marketing), bedecked in red sparkly shoes.  I would have taken a picture but my camera got busted in Bologna.  I was also slightly jet lagged, but was so grateful for the free water on the table (Europe, I love you, but you have to learn the wonders of ample FREE water) that it didn’t even matter.  Megan Tingley, fearless leader/publisher, began the festivities with a memory that involved a child’s story called “The Day I Wanted to Punch Daddy In the Face”.  Sounds like a companion piece to The Day Leo Said “I Hate You”, does it not?

But enough of that.  You didn’t come here for the name dropping.  You can for the books that are so ludicrously far away in terms of publication (some of these are January/February/March 2012 releases) that you just can’t resist giving them a peek.  To that end, the following:

Liza Baker

At these previews, each editor moves from table to table of librarians, hawking their wares.  In the case of the fabulous Ms. Baker (I tried to come up with a “Baker Street Irregulars” pun but it just wasn’t coming to me) the list could start with no one else but Nancy Tafuri.  Tafuri’s often a preschool storytime staple for me, all thanks to her Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails.  There’s a consistency to her work that a librarian can appreciate.  She’s also apparently the newest Little Brown “get”.  With a Caldecott Honor to her name (Have You Seen My Duckling?) the newest addition is All Kinds of Kisses.  It’s pretty cute.  Each animals gets kisses from parent to child with the animal sound accompanying.  You know what that means?  We’re in readaloud territory here, people.  There’s also a little bug or critter on each page that is identified on the copyright page for parents who have inquisitive children.

Next up, a treat for all you Grace Lin fans out there.  If you loved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat then you’ll probably be pleased as punch to hear that there’s a third

7 Comments on Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012), last added: 4/25/2011
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19. Librarian Preview: Egmont (Summer/Fall 2011)

I just searched my archives to see if I ever made a “monted eggs” joke in conjunction with Egmont USA.  To my chagrin, I did that very thing during the last Egmont preview.  Gah.  I hate being so predictable that even I can figure out what old jokes I’ll be pulling out at a given moment.

In any case, Egmont recently hosted the Summer/Fall preview of all their upcoming titles for the librarian hoards of New York.  And while their children’s offerings pale in the face of the YA fare, they provide me with cheese and so I go.  On this particular day the temperature was swelling well into the 90s in New York, giving me a brief glimpse of what pregnant women must normally endure in August.  An unpleasant sensation.

Picture Books

Just as it was at the last preview, Egmont has all of one picture book to their name per season.  And this year, that would be Little Lost Cowboy by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church.  The book was introduced with the joking caveat, “We only want to do animals that you can cuddle and are cute.”  Crayfish, you are outta luck.  In this book a rolly-poly coyote cub is separated from his mommy.  He manages to indulge in a couple key “Aroooo”s, which reminded me of the Aroooos of one of my favorite picture book readalouds Katie Loves the Kittens.  A well placed Aroooo is worth its weight in gold.  Trust me.

And that polished off the picture books right there.  No time lost, eh?

Middle Grade

Y’know, for a supervillain Vordak the Incomprehensible sure seems to align himself with some pretty up-and-up causes.  Our attention at this point in the preview was directed to a nearby Reading Rules poster, as created by ALA.  There you may see Vordak tearing up just a little over The Velveteen Rabbit.

For fans of Vordak, a sequel was announced at this time.  I can count on one hand the number of children’s books written with adult protagonists that are human.  The general rule when it comes to making adults your heroes in books with kids is that they have to be a furry animal or no ten-year-old will be interested (call it The Redwall Conundrum).  Vordak flips that theory neatly on its ear . . . or at least he did until the book Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School was announced.  Voluntarily

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20. Librarian Preview: Macmillan (Fall 2011)

Saying that one is spoiled in New York City is sort of like saying that water is wet or snow is cold.  There are tradeoffs, of course.  The filth.  The crowds.  The teeny tiny apartments.  But for all of that, you instantly forget your previous discomforts when you get to visit gorgeous landmarks as part of your daily job.  One such example is the Flatiron Building where Macmillan holds its previews and far too tasty treats.  The treats are a bit of a problem, particularly the brownies that are small and delicious and very easy to cram in your mouth with both hands.  Prior to entering the building I had killed some time in a park that lies across the street from the building where I watched for, perhaps too long a period, a squirrel eat a gigantic muffin that was twice the size of its own head.  I took this as a sign that I should partake of the edibles.

In the past the Macmillan previews would consist of small groups of librarians leaping from office to office.  There was a great deal of fun to be had in this, since you got to see where folks like Neal Porter or Frances Foster worked.  The downside is that it meant that sometimes one group would still be speaking while another group waited around outside.  Now they’ve streamlined it a tad.  So while you don’t get to sink into Nancy Mercado’s couch, say, you do get to sit down while the editors and such come to you.

So it was that my group was led to a large and comfy conference room with big framed covers of popular books published by Macmillan (Generation X, All Creatures Great and Small, etc.) loomed above us as we discussed what the hashtag for the day should be (this is the advantage of attending a preview with the #1 preview Twitter-ers Jennifer Hubert-Swan and John Rocco).  Each chair held a bag with some galleys inside and the bags… the bags!  They were canvass and small with these thick ropy straps.  They’re fantastic.  I hope they have them at ALA for you guys this June.  As for the handouts, they were full color and contained (and this is marvelous and perhaps unprecedented) a Table of Contents.  Wow!

Before we begin, I will note that I had to split halfway through the preview to cover the reference desk at work.  As such, you’ll be hearing about what I encountered, albeit briefly.

Farrar Straus & Giroux

We’ve always had minimalist children’s books, though the number increases and decreases depending on the trends of the day.  2011 is shaping up to be a particularly shape-driven year, though.  Look on the New York Times bestseller list and you’ll see that Herve Tullet’s Press Here is selling like hotcakes.  Check out Harper Collins and Perfect Square, that loveliest of the lovelies.  And here at FSG there’s Dot by Patricia Intriago.  The book is not only Intriago’s own debut, but it will be one of the first titles launched with the Margaret Ferguson imprint that’s coming out this fall.  We were told that this was a case where the agent sent

6 Comments on Librarian Preview: Macmillan (Fall 2011), last added: 5/25/2011
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21. Librarian Preview: Albert Whitman and Company (Fall 2011)

Prior to my babyfied state I met with two publishers who gave me the rundown on their upcoming seasons.  Not knowing when I’d get to their previews I had the vague hope that I’d be able to do so before their books came out (Fall 2011).  Fortunately, sometimes life works out just the way you’d hoped it would.  So here now, fresh off the presses, comes the fascinating Fall 2011 season Albert Whitman & Co. have whipped up for us here.

First off, until now Whitman has not typically done a lot in the area of young adult literature.  But as other smaller publishers have made in-roads into courting the YA market (Chronicle, for example, comes to mind) so too has this company.  In this particular case, Whitman has committed to two YA novels for the fall season, both published overseas originally.  The Poisoned House by Michael Ford is the first of these.  Now I took one look at this cover and thought to myself, “A kid would grab that instantly if they saw it.”  So I decided to try a little experiment.  For the final children’s bookgroup meeting of the year, prior to my maternity leave, I pulled out a cart of galleys and new books.  The kids were allowed to take one book each, and we determined their order by pulling their names out of a hat.  As I had suspected, the very first book to go was The Poisoned House.  The kid didn’t even have to look twice.  All she saw was (A) an awesome cover and (B) a description of a story that involved Victorian ghosts, scullery maids, and madness.  I didn’t even have to describe to her the fact that in this story handprints start appearing on windows where handprints cannot go.

A very different title is the other YA novel Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera.  Here, I think Whitman got a little too subtle with the cover.  This, for example, was the British cover:

And here the American:

I know which of the two I’d find more appealing.  That said, this book (shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award in the UK) tells the story of a kid who spends two years in Guantanamo.  Sound unlikely?  Fact of the matter is that 12-year-olds have been held in that particular detention center.  So in a sense, the book is examining why good people do bad things (like build places like Guantanamo Bay).  In September its author will be coming to the U.S. which is awfully good timing.  Also well timed: The timeline in the back of the book will include Bin Laden’s death.

Best Byline: “Innocent until proven guilty?  Not here you’re not.”

I’ve always had a healthy appreciation for picture books that know how to use plasticine.  They’re rare, though. 

10 Comments on Librarian Preview: Albert Whitman and Company (Fall 2011), last added: 6/25/2011
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22. Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2011)

I like a lot of things about Lerner, but probably what I like the most is the fact that they’ve managed to transition from rote titles that are of primary use in schoolrooms to publishing of all kinds of books.  Not that they don’t still create useful books for class use, but this preview should be a pretty exhaustive look at the sheer range of titles they’re capable of putting out in a given season.  Prior to the birth of my young I sat down with some Lernerites and got a glimpse of what’s on the fall menu.

First up, the primary grades.  Lerner includes the Reading Levels on their books, so I may as well follow suit.

Reading Level 1

First up, blogging about a blogger.  How meta.  In this particular case I am blogging about Brit blogger Jane Brocket.  She’s done books for the Millbrook Press imprint of Lerner before, previously about textures.  With Ruby, Violet, Lime: Looking for Color she presents photographs of hues and shades ala Tana Hoban.  Part of the allure of Brocket’s books is that kids can easily apply what they see t their own lives.  The cool photography doesn’t hurt matters much either.

Reading Level 2

Every fall it’s the same.  On my reference computer I have a list of autumnal titles for display.  First come the apple books.  Then the leaf books.  Anything that refers to the season directly comes out, you bet.  About the time I start searching for pumpkin books, you know we’re running out of titles.  Author Martha Rustad sort of figured this out so she created a series where a single topic (fall) is extended over several books.  You have the standard apples, pumpkins, and leaves as well as books about harvests, animals in the fall, and how the weather changes.  It almost makes me wonder if fall is the most popular season to study because it’s so cool or because it comes at the beginning of the school year.  Hmmm…

A different series eschews minor seasonal changes and goes for the big guns.  Planet Protectors will undoubtedly circulate best during the Earth Day season, though I get kids and parents throughout the year that ask for environmental fare.  For the K-2 crowd, these books will fit since they cover pollution, recycling, clean water, and others of this ilk.  I also like the literalism behind Watch Over Our Water’s cover.  Oh, she’s watching all right.  She’s watching.

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23. Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Spring 2012)

At last!  The season for previews has begun yet again!  And as of right now I am (checks watch) four previews behind.


Guess we better get started then.  If you want to read a recap of this same preview done already (and on time) though, check out this Early Word post by Lisa Von Drasek.

This Fall I’ve been hurry scurrying to each preview in a whirlwind gust of bad timing.  Either I’m entering late or I’m leaving early.  The Penguin preview was no exception.  With only a little time to spare before I conducted that day’s storytimes at my own branch, I burst in, grabbed a muffin, hit a chair, hyperventilated for precisely 3.8 seconds, and then ZOUNDS!  We were off!!

First up . . .

Grosset & Dunlap

Who surprised me by being the first imprint of the day (a fact that got me in trouble later, but the less said about that the better).  I had little time to be surprised when I saw which editor would be speaking to my table.  It was Editorial Assistant Karl Jones.  I may have seen Mr. Jones around and about before.  He’s been with Penguin little over a year, after all.  At this time, however, all I could see was the man’s mustache.  It was, to be blunt, epic.  I’m a huge mustache fan over here.  If I had my way every man I know would sport a handlebar (and maybe a monocle too, if I’m pushing my luck).  Though not precisely a handlebar, the mustache of Mr. Jones kept me thoroughly enthralled for the better part of his presentation.  Fortunately I had the wherewithal to keep notes all the while.

If the kids in your library system are anything like my own then there’s just something about that Who Was? series that makes them happy.  I don’t know if it’s the bobblehead portraits on the covers, the reading level, or the interior illustrations but the kiddos are kooky for these things.  Looking at the full list of subjects I see that they’ve covered almost all the bio basics.  Seems the only folks left at this point that get regularly assigned are Helen Keller and Matthew Henson.  At least three titles in 2012 are coming out in Spanish this April (Martin Luther King, Jr., Sacagawea, and a Thomas Edison that out of the corner of my eye keeps looking like James Dean).  This January Babe Ruth is joining the ranks in Who Was Babe Ruth? by Joan Holub.  Cover illustrator Nancy Harrison has really gone to town too.  The man’s multiple chins are on full display.  I suspect my Yankee loving patrons (this is New York after all) will snap it up right quick.

I’ve a girl in the children’s bookgroup I run who only wants to read books of the girly girl persuasion.  If it’s got a cheerleader on the cover, she’s interested.  As a result, I try my darndest to steer her towards similar books that have a little more meat and a little less glitter.  Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is now coming out with a series in the vein of Luv Ya Bunches or The Babysitters Club that follows four new friends as they work together on a school magazine.  The series is called Forever Four and the first two books in the series should be out this January.

10 Comments on Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Spring 2012), last added: 11/3/2011

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24. Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2012)

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

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25. Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring/Summer 2012)

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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