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As librarian previews go, Little, Brown’s remain the gold standard. The food, the guests, the layout, the everything. It is the rare preview that leaves you feeling more relaxed that when you entered. Yet such is the case whenever Victoria Stapleton don’s her latest pair of delightful shoes (shown below).
And then the editorial stars come out to show us what they’ve been cooking up in their Bunsen burners and labs. Spring 2015 is on the horizon! Can you smell it in the air? Tis there! As such, here’s a sample of some of the books LB & Co. think you might want to know about.
But first! The obligatory viewing of Victoria’s shoes and earrings!
Oooo . . . .
Aaaaah . . .
All right. Now books.
First off, that nice Frank Viva person has another book coming out. If his name is vaguely striking a bell, that may be because he’s the fellow who likes to do books that don’t adhere to the natural rules. There was Along a Long Road which was a single piece of work he broke up into pages for a nearly wordless book. Then there was A Long Way Away which was to be read vertically rather than horizontally. Now we have Outstanding in the Rain (9780316366274) where the carefully placed die-cuts on the pages change both the words and the pictures. This is an oronym book, a word I had to look up for myself. Oronym: A sequence of words that sound the same as a different sequence of words.
Added fun fact for New Yorkers: Mr. Viva will be doing a piece of art for our subway cars soon. Woot!
Now don’t be fooled by this cover:
Yes, it’s by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Yes, the last book she wrote was Sugar. Yes, there were a lot of threads left dangling at the end of that title. Yes, the girl here looks an awful lot like Sugar. However, while Ms. Rhodes may someday write a Sugar sequel, that day is not today. Bayou Magic (9780316224840) is an original tale set in a summer in Louisiana. Maddy is staying with her grandmother for that time and has been informed that she might be a witch. Fortunately, she quickly bonds not just with “Grand-mere” but with the wilderness itself. Then, to top it all off, she discovers that she has a magical legacy. She can call fireflies, dream premonitions, and speak to the bayou mermaids (note: Bayou mermaids are NOT cute). This book looks like it has a lot more in common with Rhodes’ previous novel Ninth Ward than with Sugar. An oil spill proves to be the inciting incident in this book, loosely based on the Gulf Oil Spill of a couple years back. Look for this one in May.
Now as per usual I’ll be eschewing the YA in this preview because it’s just not my bag, baby. But I always make exceptions and when they tell me that there’s a Muslim American heroine featured on the cover of a book that reads like Veronica Mars. Well, sure. I’ll show that:
It’s a pretty darn good title. The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens by Henry Clark (9780316406178). So here’s a true story. Not too long ago someone discovered that if you took the iChing you could find Morse Code messages that actually make a fair amount of sense within it. Talk about a beautiful conspiracy theory! In a book described as “The DaVinci Code meets Back to the Future”, a group of nonwhite 21st century kids get dropped into the 1800s and thanks to the time period have to get out of there FAST. This is one of those books where dropping a pencil can make huge problems for the future.
All this got me to thinking about what kind of time travel fiction people prefer. I guess 12 Monkeys will always be the gold standard for me. I love that creepy little thing.
Not many children’s novels are inspired by Moby Dick but why not? That’s a ripping little yarn, once you get past all the interminable whaling parts. Set in the midwest in the 1850s Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget (9780316245104) features one Hallelujah Wonder, a scientist’s daughter. Through a series of events, it eventually comes to pass that she and a runaway slave go to Antarctica. Like ya do. Add in some supernatural elements and the fact that the author acknowledges in the text that not all abolitionists were pure unqualified saints and you’ve got yourself a book that may find itself compared in the future to “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. We could use another one of those, by gum.
There’s a reason I never went into marketing. In theory I’d like to think I’d be pretty good at it. In practice, I’d probably be pretty lamentable. Take, for example, “The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey (9780316297790). See now if I was the one selling this book I probably would have eschewed the “From the writer of Daddy Day Care and Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas!” that graces the top of the cover and said something more like “From the author of the amazing Chronicles of Egg and what do you MEAN you haven’t read it yet?!?” But, as folks were quick to inform me, more people have watched the films named here than read Geoff’s book. Pooh. His Chronicles of Egg series is truly delightful, containing some of the funniest pirates I’ve ever encountered in a children’s book. That said, I think it was editor Andrea Spooner were said of this book that it was “the guilty pleasure reading of the preview”. I think many of us are already familiar with Mac Barnett and Jory John’s upcoming prank-based book The Terrible Two. Well, come April, you’ll finally have something to pair it with. In this book a prank war between twins escalates from the real world into a Minecraft-like world where the twins tend to spend their time. The book will contain screen shots, chat logos, photos, and transcripts of the texts made between the parents about their kids. Might also pair rather well with Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald too.
And now my favorite book of the preview. Heck, as of this writing, it’s probably my favorite book of 2015. Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9780316226141) features a family of bunnies who come home one day to find a baby wolf abandoned at their front door. The parents are immediately enthralled. The daughter, however, is appalled. She’s fairly certain that the baby is just biding its time until it can eat them all up. It’s a kind of new sibling twist, really. I think Sendak would have approved. The book is set in Brooklyn with the Park Slope Co-op playing a significant role. Note too the all hand-painted art. Fantabulous.
Extra added bonus – this is not the last book these two will ever do together. Expect to hear about Horrible Bear, a story they worked on which is about a bear accused of . . . well . . . you can probably guess.”
Oh, and the cover totally falls into that longstanding tradition of characters wearing bunny suits on covers. Remember Piggy Bunny? Or Big Bad Bunny?
Now it’s a little early to be spotting trends in 2015 books but if I might be so bold I am seeing a SIGNIFICANT uptick in plucky girl detectives who are based on real historical figures. There’s that Random House book about young Mary Shelley and Eva Lovelace, Woolstonecraft. And on the Little, Brown side there’s The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan (9780316403511). This book focuses its lens on the world’s first female detective. Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in pre-Civil War America. She worked alongside the men and was paid the same. Heck, she even helped foil a pre-inauguration assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. In this book her fictional niece is sent to her and is determined to help her aunt solve crimes. I was actually a bit of a fan of author Kate Hannigan’s Cupcake Cousins last year, which was a lovely Michigan-flavored concoction that contained some nice jolts of seriousness beneath its seemingly sugar-coated covering. Looking forward to this one.
Just recently I read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein to my three-year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed it. Happily I’ll have another Gerstein to show her soon thanks to Night World (9780316188227). Now I was a little thrown by the cover at first. What we’re seeing here is a boy and his cat looking out at a night sky filled with stars and NOT a snow filled sky. So FYI. Said editor Bethany Strout, “I’ve never used the word glorious to describe a picture book before.” The book is a pre-dawn to dawn title. It begins in that pre-dawn black and white world we’re all familiar with. Then, as the sun begins to rise, things get (as Bethany put it) “glorious”. Worth checking out.
I’m currently reading Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan which has a pretty darn silly name. Not to be outdone, we now also have Woundabout by Lev Rosen, illustrated by Ellis Rosen (9780316370783). This is more of a young middle grade filled with lots of pictures inside. In this book two orphans and their pet capybara (the largest rodent in the world) are on their own after the kids’ parents die in a freak accident. They move in with their aunt and butler in Woundabout, a city where nothing in the town changes. The river doesn’t move. Everyone has a routine. The town has apparently been “wound down” and these kids are determined to wind it back up. It is, as editor Deirdre Jones put it, like reading “Lemony Snicket’s gentler, younger sibling.” Jacques?
All right folks. It’s 2014. Time to replace Love You Forever. It’s had a good run but I think it’s time to find something new. Something that fills that same need in gift-givers’ brains whenever there’s a baby shower or what have you. My nomination? Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by the great and delightful LeUyen Pham (9780316122177). I know Mr. Spinelli is a Newbery award winner and all that, but in this book I think he seriously lucked out in his publisher’s choice of artist. Mind you, it took some time. The book was acquired in 2009 but it required waiting for LeUyen’s schedule to free up for anything to happen. In this book one mom has four kids and you watch the family grow up and age throughout the years. The hook is that anytime Mama Seeton wants her kids back home she whistles and they arrive. The book covers something like 50 years in total, as the kids move away from home and have children of their own. Worthy reading.
And then there were a couple quick mentions of books that there just wasn’t time for anyone to delve deeply into but that folks still wanted us to know about.
First off, Jerry Pinkney returns with another fable. This time it’s The Grasshopper and the Ants (9780316400817). Now my curiosity was piqued when I heard about this. I always worry that books of this sort might go the Frederick route. Nothing against Leo Lionni but is anyone else mildly disturbed by stories where “dreamers” and “artists” are told they don’t have to worry about simple basic preparation skills because they have different talents? This tale appears to be the original tale done right. I won’t mild delving a bit into it.
Now when introducing the book Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (9780316400022) the librarian attendees of this particular preview were asked what the quote “Wherever you go, there you are” is from. This is a bit of a trick question. When I was in high school this was precisely the kind of question we would obsess over, trying desperately to come up with a good answer. Now that we have the internet we know that multiple places in pop culture contain the phrase. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one, though.
Then there’s Ed Young. His book Should You Be a River (9780316230896), like many of his books, comes with a backstory. When Ed’s wife died she left behind two daughters – a teenager and a preteen. During the course of their healing process Ed wrote his girls a poem. But in the mix and mangle of sending the manuscript of Nighttime Ninja off to Little, Brown, the poem accidentally got shipped off to the publisher as well. Naturally they wanted to print it as its own book and so we now have this book today.
Then at last it was time for the super secret guest. This one wasn’t too hard to guess, particularly when he’s prefaced with Victoria saying “he is a permanent resident of Fear Street”. This was followed up with “He puts a tingle in your spine, the goose in your bumps.” He was also said to have “a dangerous twinkle. More like a dwinkle.” Yes indeed, it was R.L. Stine!
Stine hoped on up as part of the promotion of his upcoming picture book The Little Shop of Monsters illustrated by Marc Brown. He proceeded to launch into not just an explanation of the book and how he got in touch with Marc but also the various things fans have said to him over the years. Some of the highlights:
“Can I have my picture taken with you? The kids all think you’re dead.”
Fan letter: “I want to know everything about you. Do you have hair?”
Fan letter: “You’re my second favorite author.”
The how-the-met story of Stine and Brown was worth telling as well. Apparently a children’s literature book conference was being held in Moscow and Laura Bush wanted to take three children’s book authors. Now put yourself in her shoes. If you could choose three children’s book authors to take with you to Russia, who would they be? In Laura Bush’s case it was Marc Brown, R.L. Stine, and Peter Lerangis. We heard ribald tales of what that trip consisted of, culminating in a Russian orchestra playing “Hang On Sloopy” at a hoity-toity event. In midst of this madness Brown turned to Stine and said, “We should do a book together.” Quoth Stine, “Why?”
But a book they did make and here it is today. To my enjoyment the conversation then turned to the Goosebumps movie out this summer. Why? Because I know that in the film Jack Black would be playing Stine himself and I wanted to hear his take. When the idea was first floated by him, Stine asked his family members whether or not he should play himself. His son suggested Morgan Freeman instead. His wife informed him that “You’re too old to play yourself.” In the words of Victoria Stapleton, “I would now like Mrs. Stine to adopt me and teach me her ways.”
All in all a lovely preview. But that is not, oh no. That is not all. On to the meets! Just two this time. They were:
- “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist meets Easy A” – Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) by Amy Spalding
And my personal favorite . . .
- “Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games meets Little Women” – Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
We’re getting into the thick of summer now. Both the BEA and ALA conferences have come and gone. Folks are beginning to get a grip on the fall season. So before we go any further I’m going to provide you with a bit of a sneaky peek at Harper Collins and what all they have ah-brewing for the future. It’s a rather lovely line-up. When this preview took place I was at my pregnant-ist. Muy pregnant. Back pain, gargantuan girth, the works. I think I may have given birth two days later, so take that into account if the occasional note here sounds a bit wonky.
The room was lovely and the desserts plentiful. It was also a very full room so each switch to a table played like a game of musical chairs. But once we got ourselves in some kind of a working order fun was to be had.
First up, a table sporting the irrepressible Balzer & Bray. Our little sheets also suggested that editor Jordan Brown would be there but alas twas not the case.
Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light
We dove right into this one. HC is quite charmed by debut author/illustrator Kelly Light. You could be forgiven for thinking, at a mere glance, that this was illustrated by Tony Fucile. A fellow former animator, Light was inspired to write this book when her daughter’s art classes at school got cut. In this book Louise and her little brother Art attempt to create art (lowercase) together. Louise is fixated on creating a new masterpiece while Art is fixated on impressing his big sister. And he does get her attention . . . just not in the way she’d prefer. The cat was my personal favorite in this book. Wouldn’t mind seeing it star in a book of its own. Just sayin’. Look for Louise and Art to crop up in a whole series of I Can Read books in the future, by the way.
Tap to Play by Salina Yoon
After years of wondering at last I have my answer. Author/illustrator Salina Yoon, who has probably graced more baby and toddler homes than there are stars in the sky, lives in San Diego. I always wondered where she was! This book is a marked change of pace for the woman. It’s sort of Yoon meet Tullet. Hoping to appeal to a whole generation of young parents that grew up with Q*bert (guilty here), the book follows a little noseless hero by the name of Blip that needs the aid of the reader. You help him win the game by bouncing, tapping, tickling, etc. It’ll be paper over board, much like Press Here. Alongside Richard Byrne’s This Book Just Ate My Dog (seen at a recent Macmillan preview) we’re seeing an uptick in creatively interactive picture books this fall. I wonder what accounts for that.
Lion, Lion by Miriam Busch, ill. Larry Day
Now this is interesting. Here you have a book that reminds me not a little of Jerry Pinkney and Julius Lester’s Sam and the Tigers. In this book a small boy yells for a lion. Then things take a distinctly Pierre-like turn (consider this foreshadowing for something that comes later in this preview). It is rather nice to see a small African-American boy on a picture book. Rare enough, anyway, that it’s notable which, when you think of it, is a problem right there.
I’m Brave by Kate McMullan, ill. Jim McMullan
Alternate Title: How the Heck Have the McMullans Not Written This Yet? At least that was my first thought when I saw this book. Considering they’ve covered trains and garbage trucks and even dinos over the years, it took quite a surprising bit of time before firetrucks made their appearance. Interestingly, this book spends a great deal of time concentrating on some extensively research tools used by firefighters. Cool!
Creature Keepers and the Hijacked Hydro-Hide by Peter Nelson, ill. Rohitash Rao
They’re baaaaack! Remember Nelson and Rao? These two charmers (and they are, if you ever meet them) were behind the lovely but too little lauded Herbert and the Wormhole series a couple years back. I’m pleased to see that Harper Collins believes in them, though. In this particular book a boy moves to Florida for the summer. There, in the swamp behind his grandpa’s house, he finds a group of kids determined to protect some rare creatures like the swamp ape, the Jersey Devil, etc. Then Nessie goes missing. It reminded me a bit of the Suzanne Selfors Imaginary Veterinary series. Sounds like they’d pair well together.
The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
For half a second there I got confused and thought that this was part of the Brian Chick Secret Zoo series (same publisher, after all). But this is entirely different and by the same guy who did that awesome Bully Book last year. In this story our hero is the son of a famous explorer turned curator of a zoo at the edge of the world. The boy suffers from a severe stutter so no one really knows him except his dad and the animals in the zoo. When it turns out that there’s a jaguar in the zoo that the boy can communicate with, things get interesting. I was reminded of a nonfiction picture book out this year called A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, ill. Catia Chien that also concerns a kid with a stutter and a jaguar. I love funny connections like that.
Guys Read: True Stories, edited by Jon Scieszka
I love any cover done by Brian Floca, but if I had to change this one I’d probably turn old George Washington there into a grinning Jon Scieszka. Am I crazy? Of all the Guys Read books out there I confess that this is the one I want to read the most. There are a number of reasons for this. First off, this 5th book in the series is entirely nonfiction. Second, the content is from folks like Steve Sheinkin, Candace Fleming and Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale!!! Want want want.
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker, ill. Daniel Salmieri
There are about five or six books hidden in this preview that are coming out, not in the fall of 2014 at all, but early 2015!!! This is the first. Slated for release around April 2015 (wowzah!) I was surprised to see that Daniel Salmieri is creating books now with folks other than Adam Rubin. This book was described as “The Stupids with boring people” which may be my favorite catchline of the day. The book, without saying too much too early, shows the subversive ways in which the kids in this family declare that being boring is not for them. Best line: “Please. No exclamation marks in front of the children.”
With a ring-a-ding-ding we move on to our next table. And here we find the stylings of Rosemary Brosnan (not there that day, alas), Karen Chaplin, Margaret Anastas, and Nancy Inteli. Onward!
The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volumes 1 & 2 by Neil Gaiman, ill. P. Craig Russell and others
Yea verily do I salivate over these. I was intrigued to see them split the original book in twain. Guess they didn’t want too high a page count in the end. In any case, the first GN covers chapters 1-5 and the second covers the rest. #1 is slated to release in the summer and #2 in the fall. Now it looks at first like P. Craig Russell, the guy who illustrated the Coraline graphic novel, has done this one as well. In truth, however, each chapter in these books is illustrated by a different artist. This solves the problem of many a book-to-comic adaptation (Wrinkle in Time, City of Ember, the aforementioned Coraline, etc.) where the art fails to capture any real originality beyond the source material. Want to see this, I do I do!
Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine
Years ago, best beloved, Gail Carson Levine wrote a little book called Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. It came out around 2006 or so and was purchased by systems in need of writing advice from Newbery Honor winners. Now she’s back, baby, and her latest book is a writer how-to. Filled with exercises and advice, some of it culled from her blog, its publication will come out at the same time as the newly repackaged (and aforementioned) Writing Magic. Apparently Writer to Writer is slated for early 2015 so don’t go digging about for it quite yet. Special Note: Gail is currently working on her MFA in poetry which, for those of us who were fans of her Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems is good news.
Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
Ah HA! One I’ve actually read! Not sure if this one was out yet when they presented it but it certainly is now. I think when I initially saw this book I assumed that it was science fiction. It certainly presents itself that way at the start, but soon you get clear on where it’s truly headed. A sort of Percy Jackson meets King Arthur tale, in this story a boy discovers that for some people, when they reach the right age, there’s an extra day wedged in between Wednesday and Thursday. Salerni has taught 5th grade for over twenty years so she knows how to keep a kid’s interest. With it’s Arthurian roots it reminded me a bit of that Adam Rex series (Breakfast of Champions is the most recent). Though it stands entirely on its own, another one is slated to be released next year. FYI!
Goodnight, Already! by Jory John, ill. Benji Davies
That Benji Davies, man. He’s having a bit of a banner year. First we learn at the Macmillan preview that he has the lovely The Storm Whale coming out, and then this. You’re not in Bizzy Bear territory anymore, man (though we haven’t strayed too far since he’s still doing bears, it seems). This book lets Davies stretch his style a little alongside the author of the book All My Friends Are Dead. Remember that book? Here it is in a viral photo that’s been making the rounds lately:
Get it? Anyway, this book is a bit different. In it an overzealous duck annoys to no end an exasperated bear who just wants to tuck in for a good night’s rest. The cover alone will sell it wherever it goes. I was reminded too of A Splendid Friend Indeed by Suzanne Bloom. Granted, in that case it’s a white goose rather than a white duck, but the similarities remain.
Aw, Nuts! by Rob McClurkan
Well I’ll be hornswaggled! Looks like Connie Hsu was right when she said at the recent Little Brown preview that “Nuts are the new legume.” Granted she was talking about The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Scott Magoon, but the odds were good that there’d be at least one other nut related book this season and here it is! Bringing to mind that little squirrelly character in the Ice Age movies (albeit with better footwear), this is an interactive picture book. The “Aw, Nuts!” refrain is meant to be yelled by the audience. And yes, by looking at the art you’d be correct in assuming that Mr. McClurkan is yet another refugee from the animation world. This book also marks, to my mind, another trend for 2015. Squirrels! Clearly Flora and Ulysses is to be credited (I joke, but barely).
Our Solar System by Seymour Simon
The initial excitement of the television show Cosmos has worn off a tad, but that doesn’t mean its popularity has ebbed and waned. What better time then to update this Simon classic? Goodbye, Pluto! Consider yourself excised from the record. And happily, we learn that this will be the first in Mr. Simon’s reprinted series plus we’ll be seeing four all new titles as well. Woot!
Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold
Remember when I did that post the other day on authors and illustrators who walk away from making any more children’s books? Well if I hadn’t already known about this book I might have included Faith Ringgold on that list. Her Tar Beach is a NYC classic as far as we’re concerned, and if you go to The ABC of It exhibit at NYPL (still going on!) you’ll see that a whole wall has been dedicated to her. Now we learn that in February of 2015 we’re going to get a picture book glimpse at the Harlem Renaissance. Good news for me! I purchase for Harlem libraries! The hero of the book is Lonnie, a kid who has appeared in other Ringgold titles as well. In this book he goes back in time to meet some luminaries like the usual suspects as well as Marcus Garvey (and where is HIS picture book bio, I might ask?). There’s a glossary and a bibliography as well as a further reading section. Backmatter! Love it!
Lemme see, lemme see. Now we’re at a table of Jen Klonsky, Alyson Day, and Kristen Pettit. A very YA table, which is a genre I don’t tend to write up, but that isn’t to say there weren’t a couple that caught my eye. For example . . .
Positive by Paige Rawl
I think I’ve had this vague sense that ever since they invented the HIV cocktail all the prejudice surrounding AIDS just magically dissipated into the ether. Not exactly. This YA memoir is the story of Paige, a kid who was born HIV positive but who, thanks to the aforementioned cocktail, has never been sick. So really it wasn’t an issue until, at a middle school lock-in, she tried to comfort a friend by confiding her own illness. Big mistake. Next thing she knew she was being called “PAIDS” and each and every adult around her failed to stop the bullying. At one point she took fifteen sleeping pills and when she survived she found a new sense of purpose. Paige lobbied her state congress to make school administrators track bullying and make a plan when it happens. Written in a very close first person p.o.v. Paige has since gone on things like The Today Show to talk about what happened. There is also a Resources section in the back for kids going through similar struggles.
This next little guy might look familiar . . .
Why mention him again (I brought him up when discussing Lion, Lion earlier)? Because I was very pleased to discover that all the books in The Nutshell Library, from Alligators All Around to Chicken Soup With Rice to One Was Johnny and, of course, Pierre will be rereleased as board books this month! Too long overdue, this move. In celebration I present a video in which the animated Pierre is set to Amanda Palmer’s rendition of the song:
Watch Out Hollywood! by Maria T. Lennon
Here’s a fun fact you might not know: Author Maria T. Lennon lives across the street from the Houdini mansion in L.A. If that were me or you it might do something seriously wacky to our brains. In her case, she simply worked it into the plot of her latest Middle Child book. In this book our heroine Charlie Cooper is back. Her father is working on the Houdini house and when Charlie saves a friend from the house’s tunnels she inadvertently becomes famous. No surprise, it goes to her head.
The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders
Love that cover. Ain’t it a beauty? Well, what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the first in a four book series. It stars an average boy who one day spots a very strange sign. Which is to say, it has his name on it. Literally. Soon he meets a secret society and gets sucked into the world of Keepers vs. Makers. All the magic in this book is based on real physics so that it’s all potentially possible. You know what that means, don’t you? Common Core!! I ain’t kidding.
Now we come to my publishing imprint (remember?). Greenwillow Books and seated here are Virginia Duncan and Martha Mihalick. And to begin . . .
Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief and Sinister ill. Alexander Jansson
Ah yes! So I see a lot of middle grade fantasy in a given year and sometimes it’s a good idea to leave that stuff up to the professionals. And by professionals I mean librarian Stephanie Whelan who has a very keen sense of what fantasy is good, what is bad, and what is particularly noteworthy. I always trust Stephanie’s opinions in these matters (and so can you if you visit her blog Views from the Tesseract which recently had a great post about the 1982 book Clone Catcher) and she’s read this book and deems it great. So I’m in. You should be too. Coming out simultaneously in both hardcover and paperback, the four authors Stefan Bachmann Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne, met online and started a blog together. They would then write short stories on different themes (love, cake, fairies, etc.) while their editors edited their longer stuff. Calling themselves The Curators of Curiosities, this is their collaboration.
Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham, ill. Paul O. Zelinksy
Interestingly enough this was the only picture book being discussed on the Greenwillow fall list. A sequel to Z is for Moose, it returns to the dynamic duo of moose and zebra and covers shapes for the first time. One interesting question that came out of all of this: Are there any squares in nature? Your answers are appreciated. There was some talk of there being another book trailer for this book, but I haven’t been able to find it. In lieu of that, here’s that AMAZING trailer for the previous book Z is for Moose. Because of this trailer I now cannot read these books without the voice of Brian Floca standing in for the zebra.
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
Remember Ms. Nye? In terms of her novels for kids she was last seen writing the excellent Habibi. That was published in the last century, however. The time has clearly come for a new book. With that in mind, here is the story of a boy who is slated to move from Muscat, Oman to Ann Arbor, MI (yay, Michigan!). The catch? He does NOT want to go. In a form of protest he refuses to pack his suitcase, so the book focuses on his mother attempting to persuade him to do so. It’s all about the suitcase, baby. I like a lot of things about this book, but mostly I really like that the experience of moving is universal. No kid wants to do it, doesn’t matter where you live.
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
“Incredible Journey with squirrels.” Need I say more? That was how the latest Perkins title was described to me. With art on every spread, this definitely struck me as yet another Flora and Ulysses companion novel. It has has some darkness. When a squirrel is picked up by a hawk his companions see this and think they see him get away. With that in mind they set out to find him. Said Greenwillow, it’s a book about storytelling and stories . . . and trees.
A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney
It’s not just a new darkness for Delaney. It’s a new cover look altogether. Fans of Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series will be pleased to see that in this book Tom Ward is now 17 and his own spook. The tale is told with two perspectives, his own and that of a 15-year-old 7th daughter of a 7th daughter who wants to be his apprentice. The book stands on its own so you need not have read the previous books in the series to understand it. It’s also part of a three book arc. Naturally I wanted to know when the movie of the first Tom Ward book was coming out. The date? February 6, 2015. Woohoo!
Poisoned Apples by Christine Happermann
I saw this at a Greenwillow event about half a year ago and I was very struck by its loveliness. I then promptly forgot its title and for months afterwards was at events involving photography in children’s literature trying as hard as I could to recall it. So, in a way, it’s a massive relief to see it finally coming out. A book of poetry, this is punctuated with eerie photographs very much in the vein of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. However, while I thought originally it had a single photographer, apparently it instead has photos from a range of up and coming artists. Like the Graveyard Book graphic novels, it’s not afraid to include more than one creative person within its pages.
Red by Michael Hall
Okay. I know this is coming out in February 2015. My head is aware of this fact, but my heart wants it now now now now now!! On the surface it may look like it was inspired by The Day the Crayons Quit. Not by half. If anything, this is a story about how appearances can be deceiving. A blue crayon is accidentally packaged in a red wrapper. So everyone insists that it draw red things, and yet it just can’t, not even after Scarlet tries to give it a pep talk. They say it’s a tale about coming to terms with you really are, and it is. But in another way this is the first picture book I’ve seen that would be perfect to hand to anyone who has come out as transgender. The metaphor is effortless. And there’s a final line in this book that’ll knock your socks off. Cannot WAIT for this to be released!
Table 5, and it’s great to be alive. Here we find ourselves in the company of Erica Sussman, Alex Arnold, and Katie Ginell with Tara Weikum now relocated to Hawaii. Nice work if you can get it, Tara! Additionally we saw Anica Rissi and Katie Bignell of Katherine Tegen Books.
Endgame: The Calling by James Frey
Not the kind of book I usually cover in these round-ups but this Frey/Johnson-Shelton collaboration has an odd little twist. Remember Masquerade by Kit Williams? No? Hmmm.. Well how about The Clock Without a Face by Mac Barnett? In both cases these were books with real world treasure hunts attached. Moves of this sort are awfully gutsy on the author/publisher’s part. The understanding is that the riddle of the book is so difficult that only a very small segment of the population is going to have the willingness (and brains) to solve all the clues. And though adults tend to be the ones solving the puzzles, the books are almost always published for children. Now, for the first time that I know of, someone is doing the same thing on the YA side. In each book in the Endgame series there is a different puzzle to be solved and a different prize to be found. Don’t ask me to clarify since that’s all I really know. That and the fact that the final puzzles will only appear in the final copies of these books and NOT in the galleys. Clever ducks.
The Scavengers by Michael Perry
Tara Weikum, the editor who I may have mentioned is now all about Hawaii, grew up in a very small town. As an adult she read author Michael Perry’s Visiting Tom (I think) about that very thing. So when Perry reached out to her about writing for kids, she was game. In this dystopian middle grade we’re hearing folks compare it to City of Ember. The environment has been destroyed and most people are living inside giant bubbles. Not our heroine Maggie (who has renamed herself Ford Falcon). She and her family live outside the bubble. Then things take a distinctly Mad Max turn. Blurbs are in from Wendy Mass, Leslie Connor, and Katherine Applegate. Oh, and my librarians really like it. I’m hearing it may be one of the best science fiction books for kids for the year. FYI.
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Before I say anything else about this book I should reiterate that the cover art shown here is by no means final. Just FYI. Now it is mighty exciting to see that Ms. Lai, last seen winning a Newbery Honor for Inside Out and Back Again, has a second novel on the horizon. Slated to release in March 2015, this book is written in prose and set in Orange County. There, a girl lives with her Vietnamese parents and grandmother. When she finds out that she’s stuck visiting Vietnam with said family she’s less than thrilled. Apparently her grandfather was lost in the Vietnam War years ago and her grandma is determined to go back and find him. So basically we have a contemporary Vietnamese middle grade. Score!
TodHunter Moon, Book One: Pathfinder by Angie Sage
Behold! It’s a spinoff series to Sage’s Septimus Heap books. Set seven years after the original, this trilogy is meant to please old fans and new. Alice TodHunter Moon is a fisher who discovers her own magic when she goes to the castle. Folks who know the series will know what that means. And yes. Septimus is in the book.
The Swap by Megan Shull
I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Mary Rodgers, author of that classic work of children’s fiction (and multiple Disney adaptation) Freaky Friday. Mary sort of pioneered the switching bodies genre in children’s books, so hat tip to her. Her influence continues long and strong with books like this one here. In it, a mean girl switches bodies with the most popular boy in school. Wowzah! You don’t usually get to see boy/girl swap books. Scieszka himself provides the cover blurb here, as you can see. That says something.
Balance Keepers #1: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings
An epic fantasy middle grade trilogy with a cover that bring back happy memories of my mother’s old 1970s/80s fantasy novel paperbacks? Don’t mind if I do! Selling this one as “Journey to the Center of the Earth for the Percy Jackson generation”, the book is by YA author Lindsay Cummings of The Murder Complex n’ such. In this book a boy follows a map into the forest and then under the forest. His job? To keep the balance between the below and the above. If he fails fires will destroy New York City. So, y’know. No pressure. And lest you think this book is YA as well, it’s meant to hit squarely into the 8-12 age range.
Clariel by Garth Nix
Oh man. This brings me back. When I was in library school I decided I needed to read all the important YA novels as well as children’s (this was before I decided to specialize solely in the kiddo area). On my list of must reads? Sabriel by Garth Nix. A great book, and one that has its fans, most certainly. The Abhorsen trilogy is well regarded but we haven’t seen a book in the series in a long long time. Now Nix is back (he never really went away) with a prequel to Sabriel. He’s about to make some librarians out there very very happy.
And that’s all she wrote, folks. Except we simply cannot forget about the “meets” as I call them. In some ways, they’re the best part of any preview. Here are the ones I caught this time around!
- “The Breakfast Club with a body count” – Get Even by Gretchen McNeil (shouldn’t that be The Breakfast Club meets Heathers then?)
- “Graceling meets The Selection” – The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- “The Great Gatsby meets Looking for Alaska” – Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
- “Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare” – Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (the book sounds like Rose for the YA set)
- “The Breakfast Club set in a grocery store” – Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas (or, alternatively, maybe The Breakfast Club meets Empire Records)
Many thanks to Patty Rosati and & Co. for the invite, the tasty treats, and the books!
And the hits just keep on coming! Ain’t no party like a Macmillan party, cause a Macmillan party has superior brownies. So there I was, HUGELY pregnant with some major back pain attending my penultimate librarian preview in a publisher’s home base (I actually have three more to write up after this, so no worries about me running out anytime soon). As you may know, Macmillan is based out of the Flatiron Building here in NYC and a nicer little ancient structure with teeny tiny elevators you will never meet.
Now a Macmillan Librarian Preview is a bit different from any other publisher’s preview. First off, superior desserts. So superior, in fact, that it takes an act of will not to eat large quantities of them. Second, they hold their previews in the afternoon, post-lunch, and end at the end of the work day (5ish or so). This allows you the chance to arrive on time, not particularly bleary-eyed, feeling guiltless when you go home afterwards. Third, they assign each attendee a group and then the groups go off into separate rooms.
I have been to (rough guess here) ten or so Macmillan previews over the years. I’ve seen them change and evolve over time into the clever current layout. And not once, NOT ONCE, had I ever been allowed to be a part of the group that stays in the first meeting room. Which is to say, the group that has access to those previously mentioned delicious snacks. But now I must credit the magical powers of my pregnant stomach. I got the first room! I got it!! Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay! Pardon me while I chortle in my joy.
And so it was that I sat in on the preview, finding that now I had to concentrate my willpower on NOT eating the delicious snacks, one after another. I tell ya, man. I ain’t never satisfied.
Onto the preview!
Farrar Straus Giroux
If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson, ill. Chris Raschka
It’s not as if Chris Raschka has to prove that he’s capable of drawing dogs or anything. I mean, he bloody won a Caldecott Award with one such book not too long ago. In the case of this particular title, we’re seeing a slightly squared off Raschka at work. The author is Jamie Swenson, whom I am delighted to report is a children’s librarian from Wisconsin. In the book a kiddo imagines being a dog, cat, fish, frog, and dinosaur. I particularly liked the line about being a “dino-eyed, perching-raptor sort of bird.” Extra Added Plus: In the vein of The Hello Goodbye Window (another Raschka award winner) the kid is mixed-race with a light mom and dark dad.
Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer
You can never predict a Feiffer. For a couple years now he’s been pairing his art to his daughter Kate’s writing, yielding such lovely titles as My Side of the Car (which I personally am really quite fond of). From time to time he’ll still strike out on his own, though. I consider some of his solo picture book efforts true classics (see: Bark, George and The Daddy Mountain as two examples). Now we meet Rupert, the dancing cat. Since Feiffer’s picture books often have interesting back stories, one can only hope the tale behind this tale will come out someday. In this book a cat that likes to dance en seul is discovered by his human owner. Unfortunately, her attempts to “help” result in him pulling away and quitting his high-stepping altogether. Things eventually reach a happy conclusion, and I couldn’t but think that the story was an excellent metaphor for when parental “help” offered to children is rebuffed in much the same way that Rupert rebuffs his mistress. Consider pairing this with Flora and the Flamingo or Penguin Cha-Cha.
And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, ill. Sophie Blackall
I’m all about helping kids deal with disappointment and failure. Seems to me a healthy thing to do. Recently I reviewed The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, which shows kids that getting things wrong over and over again can actually be a good thing. Along much the same lines comes the latest from the author that brought us Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. So basically, we’re talking about a woman with some experience with disappointed boys. In this tale there is a small classroom talent show going on and our hero is going to sing. Trouble is, there are a LOT of kids before him and he really has to wait before his singing happens. Told with rhythmic text and some really nice little flaps that you lift, it doesn’t hurt matters any that the art is by Sophie Blackall, one of my favorite illustrators of regular everyday kids. When our hero does finally get his chance, most everyone applauds though two boys do boo him. Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt him one jot. And brother, if you can survive being booed as a kid then you are emotionally and mentally set for LIFE! What a cool idea for a book.
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton
So I’m walking down the street with my husband the other day and he says to me, “You know what the Humans of New York guy should do? He should make a book for kids.” I was mighty pleased to be able to say, “It’s out this October.” So there you go, folks.
The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos
Sometimes a book jacket artist is so obvious you feel as if they’ve always been the artist on a series. Lane Smith’s covers of the Joey Pigza books? Yes, obviously. He did those years ago, right? Nope. And why no one thought to pair Smith and Gantos together before now is baffling. I mean, talk about a match made in heaven! These guys complete one another. As for the fact that there’s another Joey Pigza on the horizon, woohoo! Do you remember how angry some folks got when the last one came out? I remember some librarians complaining because at the end of #3 Joey really seemed like his life was coming together. Then it all fell apart in #4 (I Am Not Joey Pigza). In #5 he’s still dealing with some major problems and if I were a betting woman I’d say it’s likely that there are no easy answers. One thought about the title, it’s going to make keyword searches for the first book just the teensiest bit more difficult now.
Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn
More keys. I have to remember how they were describing this one. If I’m remembering correctly then they said this was “Savvy meets Because of Winn-Dixie” (a “meets” I have certainly never seen before). I heard their description of this book but for some reason I just wasn’t able to get my fingers to write down the information correctly. Here’s the official summary then: “By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess devil spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, everyone blames the dogs–except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears. His help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.”
Feiwel and Friends
Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas by Nathan Hale and Rick Walton
I never really noticed it before but Frankenstein sort of looks like a shorter, more undead version of Hale’s Hangman from the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. See?
Sorry. That was random. I just love the Hazardous Tales series so much I’ll use any excuse to talk about ‘em. Anywho, here we have the sequel to Hale and Walton’s rather successful Frankenstein which, as you may recall, was a parody of Madeline. Looking at the book I was definitely reminded of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not the worst thing to think of when looking at a new book, wouldn’t you say?
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Right now this is the book I feel guiltiest for not having read yet. To give us a taste, five pages of this book were read aloud. And yup. That was pretty much all it took to get us all very very VERY interested. Yes, you could say that it looks rather familiar since it is yet again an Ann M. Martin dog book. But the individual voices of the characters, in particular the father and the daughter, are amazingly well delineated. With a heroine with Asperger’s who finds numbers and homonyms comforting, this was the take away line from the preview: “You may not like her, but you’ll love her.” Oooo. Well played, Feiwel and Friends.
Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom by Dan Yaccarino
What does it say about a publisher when they have not one but TWO books for kids coming out the same year featuring outer space heroes that deliver pizzas? Over at the First Second imprint they’ve already published James Kochalka’s The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza. Now Feiwel and Friends are coming out with a middle grade novel about an independent space pizza company (never buy your space pizza from corporate sellouts, sweethearts). Copiously illustrated by Yaccarino and nicely designed, there is a moral to this tale: “Aliens aren’t good tippers.” It’s an interesting size for a middle grade, coming in at a slightly larger than usual 6″ X 9″. And since the story does, at some point, involve talking garlic, I officially approve. Insofar as I’m concerned, all books should involve talking garlic in some way. It just makes sense.
Coming Home by Greg Ruth
Okay. Fess up. How many of you have watched those YouTube videos of soldiers returning home, being greeted by their loved ones and haven’t teared up? Here, I’ll give you a challenge. Watch this and don’t cry.
Now admit that this is a great idea for a picture book. Greg Ruth was last seen creating the creepy as all get out graphic novel The Lost Boy. Switching gears entirely, he’s now penned a picture book that will be out just in time for Veteran’s Day. In this tale, a boy waits for his mom in an airport. As he does we see family after family greeting returning soldiers home.
The Storm Whale by Benji Davies
I’m the kind of parent who always makes a big show of reading the author’s name when I read a book aloud to my kiddos. As a result, the name “Benji Davies” is VERY familiar to me. That’s because here in the States we primarily know him through his Nosy Crow imports like the Bizzy Bear series. Turns out, the man has loads of other books under his belt, and they do not all happen to involve wide-eyed board book bears. This book sort of looks like a combination of One Morning in Maine meets modern Japanese prints. With beautiful saturated color the story follows a boy, his fisherman father, and their cats. One day the boy finds a small whale on the beach and brings it home. Imagine this to be a companion to Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. Then head on over to the 100 Scope Notes post on the proliferation of whales in children’s books this year.
This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but after the publication of Herve Tullet’s Press Here, its overwhelming success led to a string of copycat picture books. And they all basically did the same darn thing, but with a mild twist here and there. *snore* If you’re going to make an interactive picture book where the format is key to the storytelling, at least put a little originality in there, people. Originality is the name of the game with Byrne’s latest. This is a book that uses the gutter (in layman’s terms, the middle of the book between the pages) as part of the plot. It’s funny and quirky and really rather clever. It would also make a GREAT readaloud picture book. Just sayin’.
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
I consider this one a love letter to New York City. It reminded me in equal turns of Gus Gordon’s Herman & Rosie and Dan Santat’s Beekle. In this story a small polka dotted elephant (the polka dots are awfully light) finds that he is just too small in this way too big city. Fortunately, he soon finds a friend who makes the experience of NYC a little more manageable.
Classic Comics: Pinocchio by Kate McMullan, ill. Pascal LeMaitre
Fun Fact: Did you know that in the original tale of Pinocchio it wasn’t a whale that swallowed everybody’s favorite wooden boy but a shark? You can thank Disney for mucking up your memories in that respect. McMulland and LeMaitre (who may sound familiar to you because he illustrated Andrea Beaty’s Ted books) have created an early chapter book hybrid graphic novel series in two-colors based on classics. First up (working off the original text) is Pinocchio. Next: Robin Hood.
Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen
In some ways, Jane Yolen is the queen of the hybrid humans. I can’t tell you how easy it has been over the years to hear the pleas of mermaid loving girls and then hand them Yolen’s Neptune Rising (check out the cover and you’ll see what I mean). Her latest is a bit of historical fiction with a title very similar to that old merman tale. Here’s the official publisher plot: “One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?”
Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough,
ill. Jennifer Thermes
The most interesting thing about this is that the cover and interior illustrations evoke most clearly (and we have to assume, deliberately) the original illustrations of the Little House books by Helen Sewell. Knowing, as they do, that the Little House books are most accessible to slightly older children, this book makes Laura & Co. applicable to younger folks. Recipes and crafts are also included.
And Away We Go by Migy
Balloons are very big with Macmillan this year (as you will soon see with an upcoming Philip Stead book). In this cumulative story a fox gets a hot air balloon. As he travels, more and more animals join for a ride, bringing something with them. That’s when things get a little crazy. Think of a book like The Mitten only set in a hot air balloon and you’ll have the right notion. Plus, you’ve gotta love the retro look that one-namer Migy has cultivated here. Sweet.
Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog by Emily Arnold McCully
There is something deeply askew in the universe this year. I like dog books. Books. Plural. I keep bloody running into dog books that I enjoy and I am NOT a dog person. If it’s not Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum then it’s Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalvan or Kathi Appelt’s Mogie: The Heart of the House. Know what these all have in common? They’re all based on real dogs. McCully’s is no different. Before Lassie, before RinTinTin, there was Strongheart. A former soldier dog from Germany, Strongheart could march and obey orders but he didn’t know how to play. That meant he was an ideal actor (and don’t worry, the man who got him taught him to play as well). He became a real sensation of the 1920s, and his on-screen exploits even inspired the owners of RinTinTin. Pair this book with the aforementioned Stubby as well as Meghan McCarthy’s Balto for other books about dogs-turned-Vaudeville and onscreen stars.
Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman
If I were to list my favorite picture books of all time, I would be ashamed not to mention Chickens to the Rescue and Katie Loves the Kittens, two of my favorite books. In the same vein as such series as Usagi Yojimbo comes an early chapter book series about a martial art that is entirely for bunnies. Short little stories and a single color (red), John himself has long studied martial arts so he knows from whence he writes when he includes such elements as bunchucks (they’re made of carrots).
Three Pickled Herrings by Sally Gardner, ill. David Roberts
To a certain extent I’m including this because I enjoyed the first book in the series so very much. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all how charming Operation Bunny: The Fairy Detective Agency’s First Case by Sally Gardner (which came out earlier this year) is. If you haven’t read it yet then tsk tsk tsk. It’s a pure delight. Very much in the Dahl vein, only slightly more refined. In any case, to know that there’s a second book coming out is just icing on the cake. I will be reading this.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
As per usual I have a tendency to skip mentioning all the YA in a given preview and as per usual I make exceptions here and there. Kekla Magoon will always be such an exception as she is exceptional. What we have here is a kind of Trayvon Martin storyline. A black boy has been shot by a white man. Done in a Monster style (there are multiple voices and conflicting viewpoints) the crime has already happened. Lots of people feel conflicted about the crime. A politician who honestly feels this was a horrible thing to happen discovers that it does wonders for his poll numbers. A person who honestly didn’t like the victim now has to deal with his death. Great cover (love the hoodie). A must read.
The Book of Three (50th Anniversary Edition) by Lloyd Alexander
It’s been fifty years since Lloyd Alexander introduced the world to Prydain. That’s long enough for people to have forgotten the lamentable Disney film based on them and to remember only Alexander’s wit and wisdom. In this lovely new celebratory cloth-bound edition they’ve amped up the original cover and included an introduction from Shannon Hale. The foundling stories are now included in the back, which is a clever idea. Other books in the series will be coming soon too.
Roaring Brook Press
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Are you excited? You should be. But you should also not rush to conclusions. If you’re looking for a straight picture book bio of Frida Kahlo then this is not the book for you. Written in both English and Spanish, Morales utilizes her impressive artistic skills to create this utterly beautiful mixture of illustration and models. With extremely simple text the book is less about Frida’s life and more about her inspiration as an artist. Biographical information is included at the end, but this is a book to hand to budding artists. It reminded me of Yuyi’s previous, fantastic, experiment with models with Tony Johnston’s My Abuelita. And speaking of Tony Johnston . . .
Sequoia by Tony Johnston, ill. Wendell Minor
Looks like we finally have a companion book for Jason Chin’s Redwoods. The difference is in the complete and utter absence of humans. In this book the tree is the true protagonist. Using poetic language, the book examines a single sequoia. Readers are encouraged to occasionally turn the book on its side from time to time to read it. Very cool stuff.
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting the Great White Sharks of California’s Farallon Islands, by Katherine Roy
Great cover, right? There are a number of reasons to be excited about this particular book. I heard about it a year or so ago and have been anxiously awaiting its appearance ever since. This is the first book in the brand spanking new David Macaulay imprint at Macmillan. As the editors put it this is, “the most up-to-date book on sharks you will find.” Consider Ms. Roy a debut to watch. Gotta love that title too.
Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead
The other balloon book of note. Here we have a new Stead, coming out at the same time as his interview site Number Five Bus Presents. To hear his editors speak of it, it’s a book about loneliness, friendship, quests, “and realizing your heart’s desire.” I found it to have a distinctly “classic” picture book feel to it. Plus, the man does a good bear. That’s important too, right?
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, ill. Lane Smith
Look, I’ll level with you. I love Bob Shea and I have great fondness for the work of Lane Smith, but neither of them guarantee a slam dunk of a book every time. And yes, putting them together is fun but even that wasn’t enough to sway me. I had to read this puppy before I’d write it off as brilliant. And fortunately, it stood up to the test. Maybe that’s because it’s so bloody odd. Travis Jonker will tell you that the biggest trend in children’s books this year is whales, and he’s right. But if I were to pick a very strange sub-trend, I’d go with Westerns Featuring People Riding Tortoises. Don’t believe me? Well, we have this and we also have the new Anne Issacs title Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Sure, it’s only two but it’s two in the same year. That’s gotta mean something.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, ill. Hadley Hooper
The way editor Neal Porter describes getting the pitch of this book, he was an event with Ms. MacLachlan and asked what she was working on. She told him it was a book that would never get published. Gotta watch yourself around Neal Porter though. Them’s fighting words. Challenge accepted! So basically what you have here is a book consisting entirely of two sentences. Two long run-on sentences, but still. Just two. Meant to be read aloud, this pairs well with the aforementioned Frida book because like Frida it has less to do with being a strict biography and more about what it means to be an artist. Illustrator Hadley Hooper may look somewhat familiar to you, by the way, since his last book was that cool bio Here Come the Girl Scouts.
Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge
A new Lita Judge is always cause for celebration. Going a little bit more cuddly than her previous forays into birds and dinos, this book talks about the different things that babies need from their parents. The book follows the current trend of including a younger readaloud text alongside nonfiction background information for older readers. It’s a clever way of making a single book accessible to a range of ages. Clever, yes?
Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass
As a mother who attempts to break the cycle of picky eating with her own children (and the universe says, “Yeah. Good luck with aallllll that”) I instinctively gravitate towards any book that includes photographs of healthy food. The first thing I thought when I saw Jennifer Vogel Bass’s latest nonfiction picture book was of April Pulley Sayre’s Rah Rah Radishes and Go Go Grapes. In the same vein as Eating the Alphabet, the book consists of different colors and the fruits and veggies that are those colors. I’m very curious to see how Bass tackles blue. For the photos, Bass actually grew most of the foods here, going to her local markets for the rest.
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
With the new Cosmos television show I’ve been saying for quite some time that somebody needed to do a Neil deGrasse Tyson picture book bio. Well . . . this ain’t it. Ain’t it, but it’s the next best thing. Carl Sagan for the kiddos! Considering that in my own youth my sole understanding of who Sagan was consisted of a Bloom County cartoon (points to anyone who can name which one) this is a step in the right direction. This story tells how Carl got into science and ends with the Voyager project, golden records and all. So now at long last we’ve something to hand the Cosmos watchers! Woohoo!
The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas
Huh. Is that a Jeff Newman cover I see? Hard to tell. I should have asked at the time, actually, but I was too distracted by (A) The cool title and (B) the fun sounding plot. In this tale by debut author Shelley Tougas, Daisy and Graham decide the time has come to bust her dad out of jail and escape to Canada. The entire book is told in the form of a letter to a judge about the events as they occurred. As you might be able to tell, not everything goes according to plan.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
Clearly somebody has been making blood sacrifices to the gods of good cover design. That somebody must be Julie Berry. In this Victorian farce seven girls in a boarding school make an unusual choice when their headmistress drops dead at tea. Rather than report the fact, they decide to pull a Summer of the Gypsy Moths and bury the body themselves, telling no one. Of course, that does still mean that her killer is out there. Now tell me you’re not intrigued.
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
I know that you already love his Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels, but that series just wrapped up. So what’s the next step for Mr. Hatke? How about picture books? Because this book has been available through Netgalley, some of my librarians have already read it and they are BIG time fans. In this story Julia opens up her house to a range of odd creatures, and then must domesticate them (read: Get them to do their chores). For some reason, this felt like a good companion to this year’s The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara. And it definitely reminded me of that old Cartoon Network show Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.
Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy
A far cry from Nursery Rhyme Comics, eh Duffy? So this would be the second YA title to grace my round-up. I wouldn’t necessarily mention it except that I love all the books that Duffy edits and this ties in so well with all the WWI units we’re hearing about this year. Taking real poetry written by WWI soldiers in the trenches (called “trench poetry”) each poem is accompanied by a different cartoonist’s work. A quick warning that this is being marketing for adults, but it has definite YA crossover potential. FYI.
And that is that! Many thanks to Macmillan for the lovely preview. And thanks to you all for reading.
Lest we grow complacent in our maternity leave, I’ve quite a few librarian previews just ah-waiting postings. And what better way to begin than with Lerner Books here? Everyone’s favorite Minnesotan publisher came to town in the guise of Lindsay Matvick. We ate pizza. We talked shop. We heard about what Lerner has on offer and what we can expect this coming fall. So hold on to your hats, folks. This is one of those previews that just get better and better the deeper you go.
First off . . .
Why Is the Statue of Liberty Green? by Martha E.H. Rustad
Good old, Cloverleaf Books. The faithful series on nonfiction topics we do indeed get questions about. In this particular case we’re discussing the “Our American Symbols” series. Covering everything from the Lincoln Memorial to The Star-Spangled Banner, the books cover the basics (“Why are there stripes on the American Flag?”, etc.) and then fill their rears with backmatter (there’s gotta be a better way of saying that). In the case of the flag, for example, there are projects for students on how to design your own flag. That sort of stuff. Keen.
Helper Robots by Nancy Furstinger
I took one look at this cover and thought to myself, “Help me do what exactly?” This is one of the books in the “Robots Everywhere!” series, coming out with Lightning Bolt Books. It’s not the first robot series out there, but it may well be the first one that gets any kind of reviews. Each book covers different types of real world robots. Robots you use in the home, robots you use in space, robots that help us with the weather, etc. Turns out the robot on the cover of this particular book is a robot that diffuses bombs. Okay. That’s something I might actually need help with.
What Are Nonfiction Genres? by Valerie Bodden
Awwwwww, yeah. Kicking it back literary genre style. So this would be the “Name That Text Type” series, and it’s pretty self-explanatory, all things considered. Each book tackles a different genre with written examples of the text type and guidelines on how to write in that particular genre. I picked the Nonfiction Genre book as the one to present here because I like the genre types included: Persuasive, Memoir, How-To, and Biography. We CERTAINLY get those requests in the library. Particularly the “How-To”. More on that later.
What’s So Great About New York? by Ann Malaspina
In spite of what it might look like, this isn’t yet another state book series. Each title is about a state, sure, but unlike the Enchantment With the World books, or their equivalents, these books take a travel guide approach. Each one discusses what there is to actually DO in the states in question. Which, let’s face it, could be really useful for some kids. The series also uses infographics and will highlight Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. in addition to the usual 50 states. It’s called the “Our Great States” series and there will be eighteen to begin this season.
Finding Out About Nuclear Energy by Matt Doeden
Two Words: Opposing. Viewpoints. You and I both know that in the world of CCSS, those little words carry a great big weight. Finding books that actually contain said opposing viewpoints can also be tricky. In this series (the “What Are Energy Sources?” series) kids read about the pros and cons about everything from Hydropower and Solar energy to Geothermal and Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas. The series covers what companies want to do vs. what the government wants them to do. We got into a whole discussion of BISAC codes at this point and how one would go about putting information about opposing viewpoints into the records when we got to this series. Librarian shop talk. It’s all the rage.
Economics Through Infographics by Karen Latchana Kenney
For this “Super Social Studies Infographics” series I could have gone with US History or World Geography as various topics, but I suspect that Economics appealed to me the most because that’s the book that I myself would want to read. Having already done the “Super Science Infographics” series, Lerner wanted to tackle some of the trickier topics in the social studies world. So expect lots of geography and history.
Your Head Shape Reveals Your Personality by Christine Zuchora-Walske
This would be the “Science Gets It Wrong” series. To make their case, the books build on the scientific method to cover everything from whether or not your handwriting can predict your personality (spoiler alert: it can’t) to whether or not bulls get mad when they see the color red (they don’t). They’re myth busting books. Best of all the books show that science is not just black and white and it certainly isn’t always right.
Plan a Sleepover Party by Stephanie Watson
Remember the What Are Nonfiction Genres? book when I was cooing over its discussion of How To books? Well, consider this a full-fledged How To series. “Party Time”, for so the series is called, show kids how to host everything from a birthday or outdoor party to a holiday or sleepover shindig. I wondered at first if they’d be read more by adults than kids, but they’ve certainly got some good kid-friendly elements to them. Recipes that kids could actually do. Sample playlists. So there you go.
Playing Pro Basketball by Martin Gitlin
Lots of kids play with the notion of what it would be like to be a famous sports star. But this “Playing Pro Sports” series is the first I’ve seen that covers what that would actually entail. From training to diets to superstitions and interviews, it’s actually a good job skills book. And lord knows we can’t keep our job opportunity titles on the shelves. They’re saying this is for grades 4-8, and each was vetted by former pro athletes. So far they just cover football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. I have my fingers crossed for WNBA one of these days.
Movies and TV Top Tens by Sandy Donovan
Let’s say you wanted to make a series that could take on a certain aspect of The Guinness Book of World Records in some fashion. One method might be to do what the “Entertainment’s Top 10″ series is trying here. Each book covers different top ten lists in a different area of the entertainment industry. So you’ve got music and theater, sports, technology, and movies and TV. Based on facts with verifiable data, the books are loaded with history too, apparently.
A Timeline History of Early American Indian Peoples by Diane Marczely Gimpel
This year I’ve been having a heckuva time with a big chunk of the biographies being written for kids. Because you know what a lot of schools require that these books eschew? Timelines. Sometimes it feels like no one cares about timelines anymore. Well, in the “Timeline Trackers” series, we get to see history in a big old line. Loads of primary sources are on these pages (another CCSS requirement) and I was much intrigued by the first volume which focuses entirely on Early American Indian Peoples and nothing else. About bloody time too.
Get a Job Making Stuff to Sell by Ryan Jacobson
I always feel a bit bad for kids who want to make money these days. Lemonade stands will only get you so far and paper routes are going the way of the dinosaur. Add in the fact that I live in a city where serious faced ten-year-olds would approach my reference desk asking for books about Wall Street and this series will find a happy home here. It’s the “You’re in Business” series and it’s for kids under the age of 16 who want jobs. Entrepreneurs, if you will. Covering everything from making homemade soap to crafting cell phone covers, the books also give you information on how to fill out a job application, and things like that.
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle
You thrilled to The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs. You were awed by The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees. Now it’s time to learn about “white nose syndrome”, which sounds like a disease out of a horror film more than anything else. Bats, as it happens, are integral to our ecosystem and this book shows what scientists are currently doing to save those little brown bats that are disappearing like mad. Bees get all the attention, but bats are just as important.
When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca L. Johnson
Remember Zombie Makers? The book that was guaranteed to give you nightmares as it systematically cataloged the parasites, insects, molds and more that were capable of turning living organisms into zombies? Well, author Rebecca L. Johnson is back and she brought along some defense mechanisms. Not for the squeamish, this book shows that sometimes the key to survival can be pretty darn weird. Meet frogs that poke their bones through their skin to make claws and termites that blow themselves up for the greater good. Great photographs too, though you may not want to look at them right after eating.
Ghost Walls by Sally M. Walker
One thing I like about the Lerner info sheets is that they take a special amount of time to include the Dewey Decimal Numbers with their books. This one? 975. Sally Walker has been behind books like Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland so digging up the past is nothing new to her. In the case of this particular book, Sally concentrates on a building that sat silent for two centuries. In its day the homestead was privy to a range of different travelers and stories. Now researchers are going back to it to unlock its secrets. Or, as the book puts it, “coaxing history from the crumbling walls.”
Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal by Kelly Milner Halls
Librarians, back me up on this one. When it comes to middle grade nonfiction about ghosts we have next to nothing to offer. So when I saw this book by the woman who brought us books on Sasquatch and aliens, I knew we were onto something good. With a great deal of fun research, Halls gives us the science behind “the hunt”. Ghost hunt, that is. The book takes a scientific approach and includes lots of interviews with firsthand accounts. It’s not just stories, though. There’s also lots of backmatter and even a listing of haunted places to visit. Now THERE’S a summer vacation trip worth recounting!
Arctic Thaw by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
We’re getting into the middle school and YA titles now, which I usually eschew. But these are so friggin’ cool I couldn’t help but include them! First off, this little puppy. There are lots of climate change books out there. Now how many can you think of off the top of your head that discuss the shipping lanes that are now opening up thanks to our warming world? This book examines the indigenous groups, countries, and companies all vying for this space. The book also focuses on what is happening and what should be done, though it avoids becoming overtly political.
Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom by Rebecca L. Johnson
If you’ve been watching the news stories then you probably know already that it’s been twenty-five years since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The area was turned into a 1,100 square mile Exclusion Zone and no humans can live there. But animals? Thanks to the lack of humans the place has turned back into its natural state. And what’s weird is that the animals appear to be surviving just fine in the radiation. Consider this as a brilliant nonfiction tie-in to all that dystopian fiction out there. You want to see a post-apocalyptic world for yourself? Behold.
Fad Mania! by Cynthia Overbeck Bix
Tell me that isn’t one of the greatest covers of all time. Plus this is such a good idea for a book. The title discusses different American fads as they have appeared over the last few years. Everything from old timey fads like dance marathons to current ones like flash mobs. Basically the book works to put current fads in perspective. It examines when fads increase and the role of economics. Plus, with the rise of the internet we’re seeing more and more of them.
Girls vs. Guys by Michael J. Rosen
“Developmental plasticity”. Say it soft and it’s almost like praying. That’s the buzzword (buzzphrase?) I took away with me when I learned about this book. Called the YA take on Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the book looks at the differences between the genders. Written in a Q&A format, it examines how environment, nutrition, sleep, and sensory stimulation shape your personality. And for the record, “developmental plasticity” refers to “the way that environment and experience can entwine to alter genetically determined gender behavior.” Learn something new every day, doncha?
Remaking the John by Francesca Davis DiPiazza
Fun Fact: November 19th is World Toilet Day. Put it on your calendar right now, and I’ll wait to continue until you are done. Okay, ready? So in this book we get all the poop on poop (which is a line from a different poop-related book for kids). Telling us that as of right now 40% of the world’s population doesn’t have proper sanitation, the book ropes the global sanitation crises into a look at the history of human waste. You get the down low on what it was like in the past, as well as what it’s like for some folks today. Best of all, it mentioned that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had a challenge to Reinvent the Toilet for those nations and communities that need ‘em.
Saturday Night Live by Arie Kaplan
Now there’s a thought. Teens like TV. Why not take something with history, like Saturday Night Live, and give kids the 411 on it? Coming out in tandem with the 40th anniversary of the show, the book covers the highs, lows, and controversies of the last-night comedy show.
Transgender Lives by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
First off, you can’t really get the cover from this image. It’s reflective foil that, when you look at it, shows your own face. Cool, right? Well, since the publication of Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta, we’ve started seeing an increased comfort in YA fare on the transgendered. In this particular case, author Kirstin Cronn-Mills was working on this for quite a few years. The book introduces seven different people, discussing their lives and stories.
Up for Sale by Alison Marie Behnke
Probably the toughest book on the list. As you can see, it’s a book on contemporary human trafficking, but not a single kind of trafficking situation. No, it hits on all the different aspects of trafficking, even the human organ trade. At the same time author Behnke talks readers through the legal reforms and advocacy being done on behalf of the victims. Since a significant number of people trafficked are teens, this makes for a perfect YA nonfiction tie-in.
Sometimes You Barf by Nancy Carlson
“Here’s the deal: Sometimes you barf . . . But it’s okay. You get better!” For kids that have barfed in public, there’s really not a book for their plight. Nancy Carlson has therefore managed to come up with a topic that everyone needs in their libraries but that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever asked for before. Excellent.
Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka
Think of it as a literary advent calendar. Starting with December 1st, the book systematically does one poem for each day, counting down to Christmas itself. The poems themselves are haikus (this is Bob Raczka we’re talking about, after all) and the art by Chuck Groenink is really rather remarkable. I don’t know how nobody thought of this before, but I’m happy it’s finally going to happen.
Dear Wandering Wildebeest by Irene Latham
More poetry, thank goodness. Not like we see a bunch of it in a given year. In this book the entire ecosystem of a watering hole is looked at with poetry and facts. The poetry yields poems with titles like “Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe”. The facts discuss what’s actually going on in each spread.
Who Was Here? by Mia Posada
Here in New York we don’t get much call for teaching our kids about animal tracks. In other parts of the country, though, it’s a given. In this book, all the prints are rendered in actual size. From camels to moose to kangaroos, you get a global look at animal tracks from all over the world.
BirdCatDog by Lee Nordling
If poetry is rare this year then comics are even rarer. So imagine my relief when I saw this graphic novel. A wordless graphic novel at that. Each page allows you to read the three stories (of the bird, cat, and dog) together or separately, as you prefer. I don’t know this Meritxell Bosch of which they speak. All I know is that in my next life I want to come back as someone named Meritxell. If there’s a cooler first name out there, I haven’t heard of it.
I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached
If anyone remembers A Game of Swallows, then they should be mighty excited to read this follow-up to the award winning book. Born in Lebanon in 1981, A Game of Swallows chronicled one family’s escape. In this prequel of sorts, you see what was going on outside the walls of their home. Lots of little details are included, like Zeina going out to collect shrapnel with her brother for fun.
Fat & Bones by Larissa Theule
I’ve actually read this one! Partly just to see whether or not it really is YA or if it could fit in a middle grade library. And after reading it . . . yeah, I guess YA is the right place for it. It’s not that the content is anything too terrible. It’s just a mature little book. A middle school library could probably hold onto it without difficulty. Told as slightly supernatural short stories, the book makes for a fun quick read. The art brings to mind Stephen Gammell and his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Seems to me Adam S. Doyle was the guy they should have called when they had those puppies re-illustrated.
Knockout Games by G. Neri
Finally, we have ourselves a G. Neri. I wish he’d do more middle grade, but since he has a picture book coming out this year (a bio of Johnny Cash, no less) I guess I can’t complain. This book plays off of that relatively recent news story about teen randomly knocking out strangers in something they call “knockout games”. But the games aren’t new and Neri’s been working on this book for years. Heck, in the back of the book there’s even a note from a St. Louis librarian attesting to the validity of this story. In this tale a girl would be filmmaker is contacted by the leader of a gang. He wants her to film his exploits and as she does the book takes on a kind of Man Bites Dog turn. Definitely YA.
And that’s all she wrote! Thanks to Lindsay and the good folks at Lerner for giving me a peek at the wares. Cheers!
I do declare that it has been something like a year since I did a good old-fashioned Librarian Preview. Where has the time gone? For a bit I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work such a preview requires that I cut them out of my diet, cold turkey.
Well that ends today. From here on in we’re doing our Librarian Previews like it’s nobody’s business. Today’s is a perfect example of why. I’m sure you have all sorts of outlets for learning about minedition and their amazing books, but today I’m the one shining the spotlight. And what I see pleases me immeasurably.
But first, the basics. Mainly: What the heck is minedition? For some of you the name is vaguely familiar. It rings a distant bell. Well an explanation is easily found on their website. To quote: “Five years ago michael neugebauer edition was newly founded after the publisher Michael Neugebauer ended his affiliation with the Swiss Nord Süd Publishing.” The very word “minedition” is a combination of the letters “mi” from Michael, “ne” from Neugebauer and “edition”. He’s a fascinating feller too. His father was a calligrapher (one of the best in the world, it seems) who gave his son a unique appreciation for fonts, layouts, and design. Michael himself went on to do many things before minedition, including serving as Jane Goodall’s favorite photographer. You know that picture at the end of Me…Jane that just rips your heart out of your chest? Michael took that.
But it’s this statement on the website that I like the best: “When children are exposed to exceptional books, if they have the chance to discover amazing books, they can develop much more than just a deeper appreciation of word and art. Such books can foster understanding and a greater appreciation of the multi-cultural world in which we live.”
Amen to that. So enough with the chitty chat. Let’s see what minedition has put on the table.
First up: The board books!
This would be We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789888240562). Now I appreciate a publishing company, particularly an artsy one like minedition, that understands how very difficult it is to make a good board book. A good board book is a like a homemade loaf of bread. On the surface it seems like it would be easy to make but there are subtleties involved. Thus far the author Yusuke Yonezu is unknown to our fair shores but I expect all of that to change soon. First of all, this book is pretty much brilliant. It shows animals apart who, when put together, make different shapes. Circles, squares, triangles, you name it. The art is bold, colorful, simple, funny, sweet, touching, all that stuff. And it’s just a friggin’ board book! The additional good news is that it’s not the only one this year:
Yum Yum, also by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789881595355 ) isn’t out until the spring. Various healthy foods are presented and with a flip of a page you get to see various animals eating them. A mouse likes cheese, a pig likes an apple, a rabbit likes carrots, etc. Get to the end, though, and a human kid is there. And instead of a single food, he likes to eat everything that was already mentioned. It’s sort of a subtle good food message, but with these adorable illustrations. I mean seriously. Look at that cat up there. Can you resist that? Really?
From board books we travel to the world of fairy tales . . .
This would be Tales from the Brothers Grimm, selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789888240531). Now if you’ve been in the business at all and looked at the people who are regularly illustrating fairy tale classics, you simply cannot have that conversation without mentioning Ms. Zwerger. I mean, she’s the Paul Galdone of the 21st century. As childscapes.com put it, “She has been recipient of virtually every recognition an illustrator can be given including the most prestigeous of all, The Hans Christian Andersen Medal as well as special recognition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.” Darn tootin’.
Now the thing to know about this collection of Grimm tales is that it’s a mix of things that had already been published in the States alongside stories that have never seen our sunny shores. There’s also a nice melding of the familiar (The Bremen Town Musicians) with the unfamiliar (The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Little Cat). There are eleven in total and it’s nice to see a good collection of this sort for this year. Lord knows nobody really tackles Grimm like this anymore (can you think of any 2013 that do?).
Along the same lines . . .
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789881848543). Now this pretty thing isn’t coming out until the spring but we can wait a bit. Isn’t that a stunner of a cover? Zwerger’s Pied Piper has never been published in America before. Now the art is beautiful to begin with. Rats actually scurry around the margins of the tale until the Piper lures them away (the last you see of them are the tips of their bare pink tails). Then there’s the cover image you see here. That red hat is the Piper’s hunting hat, and already you can see a child enticed by what he’s playing. There’s also a fantastic Afterword by Renate Raecke that discusses how strange this Grimm story is. Unlike the tales that begin “Once upon a time” this one begins with the exact date of when this incident occurred (June 26th, 1284). Here’s my favorite part: “Historians have been fascinated by this mention of a specific date, and by the handwritten entry, in an old chronicle of the town of Hamelin, recording the children’s disappearance, although it is thought to have been added decades after the event.” It then goes on with alternate theories about what happened to the kids, including the plague.
Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette & John Atkinson (ISBN: 9789881512658) is what you would get if ever Candlewick felt like creating something along the lines of Christmasology. But the book is far more factual than the “ology” books, even if the format is similar. It explains the origins of everything from Christmas trees to “The Sleighway Code”, and there are lots of fun doodads and pop-ups inside (even a little sixpence that looks awfully real). In a hat tip to librarians, many of the flaps are fancy post-its, which can come off without damaging the book itself. Ta! And speaking of Christmas . . .
The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, ill. Feridun Oral (ISBN: 9789888240555) is a straight up Christ child Christmas story. The tale itself involves the birds of the world and a song they learned long ago that they want to sing to every child that they find. The real lure is the art, however. Particularly the various birds, most that you won’t find in North America.
You could be forgiven for thinking that The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry, ill. Sonja Danowski (ISBN: 9789888240579) was the work of Robert Ingpen, P.J. Lynch, or Roberto Innocenti. Heck, that’s what I thought when I saw it. In fact it’s by Sonja Danowski, a German artist who is as beautiful as the woman in this story. I’ve not seen her work before but apparently she illustrated Streams and Dreams and Other Themes, which was another minedition title. The story is set in a turn of the century New York apartment. As we read, the stencil of a flower grows and grows until it becomes an all encompassing riot on the endpapers.
Well I am happy to report that Aesop is having a banner year in 2013. I was already aware of Aesop in California by Doug Hensen (which is GORGEOUS and which you really must find on your own), Aesop’s Fables by Ann McGovern, and Arctic Aesop’s Fables: Twelve Retold Tales by Susi Gregg Fowler. Add now to the list Aesop’s Fables by Aesop, ill. Ayano Imai (ISBN: 9789888240524). A book meant to be read vertically, there are thirteen tales here in total. Each one a stunner, with the slyest little details bedecking the edges of the bottom pages. I love them all but it’s The Lion and the Mouse here that has my heart. I don’t know why no other illustrator has ever considering trapping not just the lion but other animals and creatures in nets, but Imai has and it’s brilliant. Imai, for the record, was born in London but eventually moved to Japan. It was there that she developed her love of painting, a fact that is reflected in her work.
And finally, I save the best for last.
Hm. That jacket, for all that it’s cool (can you see the squirrel?) isn’t doing this book justice. Here. I’ve posted this video before for the French edition but I’m going to do so again for the American. Behold! It looks exactly like this:
The book is Hansel and Gretel by Sybille Schenker (ISBN: 9789888240548) and it is a wonder. First off, admire that spine, tied with twine. Then as you page through it’s like the inventiveness of Bruno Munari has been combined with a classic Grimm sensibility. Partially transparent papers give the sense of walking through the foggy woods, so that the gingerbread house emerges like a vision in the gloom. I have never encountered a book that could evoke the feeling of claustrophobia better than this. Without a doubt, it is the most beautiful fairy tale I’ve seen this year.
And that’s that! Thanks so much to Michael Neugebauer for sitting down with me to show me the season. Thanks too to Deborah Sloan for the images and the ISBNs. Great grand stuff.
There’s a special thrill that fills me when I get to do a librarian preview of a publisher I’ve never done before. It does me good. Though I like what the big guys produce, it’s the little guys that truly have my heart. Case in point, NorthSouth Books. If they’re a bit unfamiliar to you, don’t worry about it. Turns out they’re the U.S. arm of Zurich-based NordSüd Verlag. They were mostly doing imports but now they’ve started acquiring original titles here in the U.S. Oo de lally. For more info on the company I suggest you read the recent PW article A New Chapter for NorthSouth Books, which gives a mighty thorough and in-depth look at the company.
So it was that Heather Lennon sat down with me to show me “the goods”, as it were, for the upcoming season. And sister, some of these are real doozies.
First up, we’re hitting you straight in the jugular. Leonce and Lena: A Comedy isn’t your average everyday book for kids. Written by Georg Buchner, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and ultimately retold by Jurg Amann, the book is actually a German play. Reading it feels like nothing so much as a reading of The Fantastiks, which is an odd thing to say but I have my reasons. The story involves a prince and a princess engaged to be wed through an arranged marriage. Neither is particularly thrilled with the notion and through a series of misadventures they happen to flee, meet, and fall in love without realizing who the other is. The play was adapted here by “one of Switzerland’s most respected writers” and then Zwerger (who is famous in her own right) provided the gorgeous art. Since I live in New York and my young patrons often come in demanding plays and monologues for auditions and school shows, this certainly fits the bill.
The ABC of Fabulous Princesses by Willy Puchner would, if you just said the name and did not see the cover, give you the impression that the book is one of those catalogs of princesses. We see these from time to time, usually European in origin, containing various flights of fancy where the likes of variegated royalty are concerned. The difference in the case of Puchner’s book (first published in Switzerland under the title ABC der fabelhaften Prinzessinnen) and those others may be the fact that everyone in this book is an anthropomorphized bird. But as Heather put it, “There’s no point in being a small publisher without stepping out sometimes.” So it is that we read the story of Prince William and his quest to find the princess that will make the best match. Each of the 26 is an alliterative lass. Here, for example, is what you find when you get to Princess Beatriz.
“Princess Beatriz comes from Bogota. She is bashful, bright, and at times badly behaved. She likes bacon, blueberries, and banana bread. Beatriz is a bibliophile and spends her time reading best sellers while her beagle barks in the bookstore. She brings Prince William blueprints of the brilliant Baron Bluebeak and his band of brothers.”
This is accompanied with lovely illustrations where everyone is a bird, one way or another. The child reader is then charged with determining William’s best match at the end. It’s oddly enticing.
Call Me Jacob by Marie Hubner, illustrated by Iris Wolfermann is also originally of Switzerland but I can’t write out its original title because my computer doesn’t contain the correct characters. Now I don’t know about you, but in my library system there are a couple folks who have a distinct distaste for books with that distinctive European illustrative style. Jacob is obviously European when you first look at it, but inside the pictures have a very American flair (whatever that might be). The story concerns a boy named Matthew who wants to be called Jacob, a name which just happens to belong to his brave skateboarding cousin. As his week continues he appropriates the names of the boys who have talents and skills he desires. That is, until the moment he comes back around to good old Matthew. It’s sort of a My Name Is Yoon concept, but without the cross-cultural differences. Names have power, and part of what I like about the book is that it makes use of that understanding in a kid-friendly way.
At the moment the book I’m reading is the third Adam Gidwitz title that was released this past October, The Grimm Conclusion. So it’s all the more fitting to find myself learning about the upcoming picture book The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Gerda Raidt. Those of you who know the original story might shirk away a bit since there’s definitely a section or two in which an evil queen fingers a mute girl with the crime of cannibalism and infanticide. Fun! But actually, this version really lightens the story without coming across as inauthentic. You are probably familiar with the story of the girl with the brothers turned into swans and how she must never say a word as she knits them sweaters. In some versions she’s making the sweaters out of nettles. In this one it’s starflowers. At any rate, the art is great and the story really well told. I can say with certainty that we’ve never had a really good Six Swans picture book. Time to start!
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water is by Gemma Merino is adorable, but not in the treacly, sickly sweet sense. It follows a family of crocodiles and the one who simply does not care much for aquatic . . . . anything. He can’t play with his brothers and sisters or swim well or anything. When he gives it all he has and fails he’s left with a little cold. A little fire-breathing cold. Turns out, he’s not a crocodile at all but a dragon. “And this little dragon wasn’t meant to swim. He was born to fly.” Human nature naturally inclines towards stories of outcasts that come into their own. This one is perfect. It sort of reminded me of Guji Guji but it’s a bit better in terms of telling a story about embracing your own differences, no matter what they might be.
Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh is inspired by a story by Rumi. If that sounds vaguely familiar (parrots… Rumi…) it may be because a couple of years ago Disney/Hyperion published The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, which is based on the same story. The advantage Rashin has here is the art. Because there are certain madcap books that just earn my love in the strangest of ways. Here’s a good example. Check out the cover of this book:
Now check out the very first image we receive of the wealthy merchant (I apologize for the quality, which will be much higher in the final product):
Jon Scieszka once explained that the genius of David Shannon’s work on Robot Zot lay in part in the fact that he made the pupils in the eyes of his hero two different sizes. Nothing conveys wackiness better than that. In this story a parrot and his kin must trick a greedy merchant using their wits. It’s charming.
I think it’s always a good idea to wrap-up a preview with something jaw-dropping. Problem is, most previews don’t provide you with that particular thrill. Fortunately, this time around NorthSouth came through with flying colors. This book trailer is your required watching of the day.
It’s An American Tail meets The Arrival.
Lindbergh by Torben Kuhlmann is German originally and it is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous little books I’ve seen in a very long time. As you could see from the trailer, a single mouse wishes to escape across the ocean. Cats and owls attempt to stop him but through trial and error he finally hits on the ideal mouse-sized flying machine. The art brings to mind illustrators like Bagram Ibatoulline or Robert Ingpen. Always great to have a new name to play around with. And a new book, for that matter. Here’s the cover:
Thanks again to Heather for sitting down with me and showing me these lovely wares! Spring cannot come fast enough.
Sometimes you just want to get your hands on some reliable nonfiction. The other day I was in the office and we’d spread out the vast quantities of nonfiction samples we’d been sent from a variety of publishers (all of whom shall remain nameless). And while some things were okay and other things were tolerable, so little of it was of the “Wow! Awesome!” variety. It would be disheartening if we didn’t have folks like Lerner to fall back on. And I’m not saying this to be all chummy with them. I honest-to-goodness really like their books. Are all Lerner books created equal? Of course not! But they fill gaps in my collection while at the same time providing books on subjects it would never have occurred to me to buy. And it tends to be reliable.
So! With that in mind, here’s how the Spring ’14 season is looking for ole Lerner Books these days.
First up, the Lightning Bolt Books series and their latest topic: “Animals in Danger”. We’re talking Endangered and Extinct Bird, Endangered and Extinct Mammals, even Endangered and Extinct Invertebrates. The lure is that a lot of these contain a heartening comeback story at the end of each book of some animal or critter that nearly went belly-up and then was saved at the last minute. I know plenty of kids that have to do endangered animal units for school, so it seems to me this makes for a much needed topic and category.
Speaking of requests I hear a lot, this is one that I wish to high heaven would go away and yet it never will. I’m talking about “character building” books. Books that by dint of even being read will miraculously transform your child into a better person through their cheery texts. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad books of this ilk are assigned to children every day in schools. So while I loathe and abhor them, I am infinitely grateful to Lerner for at least doing a couple decent ones on the topics we’re used to being asked for. Case in point, the “Show Your Character” series. They’re multicultural and act as a slightly older version of Stuart J. Murphy’s “The Way I Act” series.
So here’s the deal with Common Core. I’ve nothing against it myself. Just the way it’s implemented some of the time. But even as I say that, there are aspects to CCSS that are difficult to deal with. I’m thinking in particular of the areas that are required and need written material, but where there’s very little in the marketplace. Particularly in the case of early civilizations. Second and third graders are supposed to be learning about China or Mesopotamia, but where the heck is the series written at an earlier reading level? Meet the new Searchlight Books series “What Can We Learn from Early Civilizations?” Each book is written on a easier level than a lot of books out there, and they cover everything from how these civilizations influence us today to folklore beliefs associated with those civilizations. Plus anything that touches on Ancient Egypt is all good with me.
In the biography part of the world, finding stuff on contemporary scientists is a bit slapdash. The “STEM Trailblazer Bios” series covers a range o’ folks, from robotics developers to game designers. And there are even some women! I don’t usually write out all the titles when I cover a series, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In this series you’ll find the books:
- Alternate Reality Game Designer Jane McGonigal
- Flickr Cofounder and Web Community Creator Caterina Fake
- Google Glass anId Robotics Innovator Sebastian Thrum
- iPod and Electronics Visionary Tony Fadell
- YouTube Founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim
- And FINALLY, after all these years, Astrophysicist and Space Advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve been waiting for a Tyson bio for years and years and the fact that no one has done one yet just baffles me. Glad to see someone somewhere picked up the slack!
I’ll confess to you that in many ways this round-up is mighty NYC-centric. Because New York kids care diddly over squat about monster trucks and rally cars, I have chosen not to mention series like the “Dirt and Destruction Sports Zone” series. By the same token, kids in this city have a thing for fashion. Go figure. All the more reason then that they might like the “What’s Your Style?” series coming out. Basically everything from boho to edgy to pretty to streetwear gets its own book. Knowing next to nothing about fashion myself, I trust Lerner to do right by my kids.
Have you guys seen that Blue Apple Books series where you follow a single object, be it a sphinx or dino bones or an asteroid from discovery (or in some cases, rediscovery) to their place in museums? How the Sphinx Got to the Museum is one such example. Well full credit to the upcoming book Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, since it takes a similar, if distinctly more biological, trip. Starting in El Boxque Nuevo in Costa Rica we see a place where farmers grow butterfly pupae. Why? To ship to museums around the world, of course. What, you think those butterfly exhibits grow themselves? Written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, we follow a single butterfly pupae, and then go through all the requisite butterfly lifecycle details. In a market where all the butterfly books kind of blend together, this one’s going to stand out.
We all love the Scientists in the Field series, bar none. I love that series. You love that series. But let’s fact it, they’re not the only scientists out there with books to their names. Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman (photos by Annie Crawley) at first sounded nothing so much as Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. The difference is the focus. In this book we follow a research expedition studying the accumulation of plastic in the Pacific. Through this story we see a lot of prepwork, including how to live on a ship, sea sickness, cooking, etc.
I’m a big fan of children’s or teen books that do original research not found in adult titles. It’s unclear to me, but this may fall into that category. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs is written by Sandra K. Athans. The focus, however, is on her brother, Pete Athans, the mountaineer. Pete’s the kind of guy who climbs Mt. Everest on a regular basis (seven times as of this post) but this book focuses on what happened when he decided to explore the caves of Mustang (pronounced moo-stang). Apparently they’re near impossible to get into, located in remote Nepal. In this book you get to see his discoveries including (and here I’ll quote the catalog text) “murals to ancient texts to human remains”. And they say there’s nothing left to explore anymore . . .
When I was in high school I had an English teacher who let us in on a little secret. Certain movements of the body could be translated to explain what a person was thinking or feeling (God only knows what this had to do with English literature). He showed how showing a palm might mean one thing or where your eyes automatically go when you’re lying. I felt like this was the secret to the universe and if I just knew all these secrets I could rule the world (or, at the very least, become the next Sherlock Holmes). Sadly, there was no book I could find that explained these things. Now Lerner has produced Every Body’s Talking: What We Say Without Words by Donna M. Jackson. It is PRECISELY the book I wanted when I was young. For librarians, this will be the world’s easiest booktalk. Hey, kids! Want to know how to effectively lie to your parents? It’s all here! My co-worker Amie, upon hearing about this book, pointed out that it might actually be of a lot of use to autistic kids or those on the spectrum, since decoding physical bodily clues make up a lot of their existence. Smart thinking there.
So you know how I continually vow that I’m not going to report on any YA these days in these previews? Well, that lasts just about as long as it takes to discover awesome YA nonfiction. After that point I’m a puddle. I melt. I am helpless in the face of awesome YA nonfiction. Probably has something to do with the fact that there’s so little of it to choose from. Or, it could be that Lerner comes up with the BEST ideas for books.
Example A: The World Series: Baseball’s Biggest Stage by Matt Doeden. The World Series has a century long history, so it’s fitting that there should be a book out there that looks into it in depth. It covers everything from the wacky moments (“the bloody sock” may mean something to some of you) to the heroic ones. Baseball on the field has pretty much remained the same over the decades. But off the field? The climate has completely changed for the players. Watch the changes take place here.
Example B: Chasing the Storm: Tornadoes Meteorology, and Weather Watching by Ron Miller. Ron, for the record, actually traveled with a group of storm chasers to figure out how they did their work. We’ve tons of fiction in our collections that talks about storm chasers (the “Storm Runners” series by Roland Smith comes to mind) but very little in the nonfiction department. This book shows you not only how to become a storm chaser, but includes information on things like making your own weather station in your backyard. Nicely done.
Example C: When a big event takes place and you wonder which major publisher will produce the first really good title on the topic, Lerner’s usually the first to come to mind (check out how quickly they made a book about the latest Pope when he was named last year). In Curiosity’s Mission on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet by (again) Ron Miller, the book looks at Mars from a cultural perspective. Chock full of diagrams and images as well as mentions of past and future missions, this’ll make a nice little companion to books like Cars On Mars and other Mars-centric selections.
Example D: K-Pop: Korea’s Musical Explosion by Stuart A. Kallen. This is one of those cases where you don’t notice a phenomenon until it’s pointed out to you. If you’d asked me prior to the publication of this book to name the top South Korean performers out there, I would have been hard pressed to answer. But there’s Psy and, of course, Rain (whom I think of every time I hear someone mention that current CW show Reign). Historically The Korean War was how American soldiers with their rock and roll introduced the form to the nation. Now it’s huge, and has a book of its very own.
Example E: Years ago I saw this great documentary of found footage called The Atomic Cafe. Oddly, it was the very first place where I learned about the Bikini Islands and what we did to them post-World War II. No books in school ever touched on the topic and no textbook mentioned it. Now Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster has been written by Connie Goldsmith thanks in large part to a information that was just recently declassified. Between 1948-1956 the United States released 67 nuclear bombs. This is the book that discusses what happened and the accidents that occurred as a result.
Example F: Traumatic Brain Injury: From Concussion to Coma by Connie Goldsmith (who, for the record, is a nurse) is probably as timely as timely could be. But this isn’t just another book about the wide and wonderful world of football related concussions. This book has a much broader approach, looking at the science behind what a concussion is and the different types that occur. Since 52,000 die each year from them (not including all the unrecorded traumatic brain injuries), 1.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with TBI each year. This is the book that looks into what happens and why.
Okay. Enough of that teen stuff. Let’s get some firm footing in the world of children’s books instead.
There is a legend that surrounds the 18th-century composer Scarlatti (which, in and of itself, is a marvelous name). The story says that his most famous melody was created after he heard his cat walk across the keys of his harpsichord. Scarlatti’s Cat by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (illustrated by Carlyn Beccia) follows the legend to its logical end. Pulcinella is the cat in question and she dreams of playing her own compositions. It’s not until the timely appearance of a mouse, however, that she gets her big chance. There’s a nice twist at the end on who gets the cat after Scarlatti gives her away. Cute and musical.
2014 appears to be the year of Mumbet. Next year Harper Collins will produce the young reader’s edition of Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts (illustrated by Diane Goode) and there is a brief mention made in that book of Mumbet, a woman I’d never heard of before. Now in Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle (illustrated by Alix Delinois) we hear her story. In 1781 a slave in Massachusetts just named Mumbet went to court for her freedom (and her daughters’ for that matter). The amazing thing is that she won the case! Here’s her story.
In the past I’ve said that fairytales and folktales are the hardest books to find in a given year. Well, thanks to the efforts of small publishers I no longer believe that to be the case. Now I lament the lack of poetry on our shelves. Poetry, good poetry, is danged hard to find so whenever I hear of something I take note. Lerner has just started the Poetry Adventures series, and they’re kicking off with Brian P. Cleary’s If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems. It’s a continuing series, so we’re bound to find more than just these, but they make for a good start. The rules are clearly stated for each poem and the pictures keep things fun.
Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija paired together back in 2012 to make the soft and simple A Leaf Can Be . . . Now they’re back with Water Can Be . . . which follows much along the same lines. This goes through the roles water plays and since it’s incredibly simple (“Water can be a . . . Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher”) it’s ideal for very early units on water. Basically it does for water what Picture a Tree did for trees. They’ve also paired with Water Aid, so that’s where some of the profits will go.
Poetry is hard to find. Graphic novels? Less so. Yet I’m still amazed that more time isn’t spent trying to find great ones for the kiddos. Granted, the good ones can take years and years to make. Still, there are ways around that. I was then very happy to see a new GN series coming out of Lerner. Tao, the Little Samurai by Laurent Richard (illustrated by Nicolas Ryser) is basically a very young Naruto. A boy who excels in pranks and jokes dreams of someday becoming a martial arts master. My only question? How do you pronounce the hero’s name? Is it Tao or Dao? Questions, questions . . .
We have lots of middle grade books featuring deadbeat parents, but it can be hard to find just the right balance between stupidity/slime and real affection for their kiddos. The new series “The Berenson Schemes” by Lisa Doan (illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic) takes an interesting tack. In Jack the Castaway a boy has two parents obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes. Perfect. Ideal for fourth graders, it reminds me of nothing so much as “The Unseen World of Poppy Malone” series (parent-wise anyway). Oh. And Jack ends up shipwrecked on a tropical island avoiding a shark. So there’s that too.
Last but not least, here’s a smart idea for a very different fiction series. Called “The Cryptid Files” these books by Jean Flitcroft, these stories are of cryptozoology, much as you’d find in Suzanne Selfors’ “Bigfoot Terror Tales”. In each book (starting with The Lock Ness Monster) our heroine Vanessa globe trots trying to finds and prove that cryptids exist.
And that’s the long and the short of it folks! Many thanks to Lindsay Matvick for sitting down with me and showing me her wares. Here’s a long and nonfiction heavy 2014!
It’s official. Should I happen to leave New York City for any reason (I’ve been saying I would for years, but it’s gotta happen someday) and I work for a publisher I want to work for Chronicle Books. No, really. I don’t what it is about them, but I get a really good vibe off of that company. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re one of the few West Coast publishers you’ll find in the continental United States. They have that easy breezy San Francisco feel to them. Or maybe it’s just the tone of their books. Or the fact that they have been luring New Yorkers to their microclimates for years (hi, Tamra Tuller!). Whatever the case, it’s alluring. And so, this season, are their books.
Skipping entirely past their adult section (where in 2014 you’ll encounter titles like “50 Ways to Wear a Scarf” and “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons”) as well as their YA titles, we dive into the children’s books where they bob and glint like so many pretty little jewels.
First up! Middle grade! Chronicle hasn’t done much with MG novels in the past, but they aim to change all that. This is middle grade with a cover unlike any other out there (with the possible exception of Jenni Holm’s Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf). In The Meaning of Maggie by debut author and “award-winning copywriter” Megan Jean Sovern, the book follows Maggie herself. Self-described future President of the United Sates, Maggie Mayfield keeps a memoir of her life during the course of a year. Like Harriet the Spy without the guile, she’s an overweight heroine where that is not the point of the book in the least (name me five middle grade books where you can say the same . . . it can be done but it’s tricky). Unlike Harriet, Maggie sports a fun family, including a dad that loves Black Sabbath and family friends that are bikers. The crux of the novel lies in the fact that Maggie’s dad is diagnosed with m.s., and in fact a portion of the proceeds of this novel are to be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Ms. Sovern’s own father had m.s. and passed away a couple of years ago. The book already has blubs from Kathi Appelt, Wendy Mass, and Walter M. Mayes. Always a good sign.
Here is what all middle grade novels about Hurricane Katrina tend to have in common: They are some of the only books out there to have relatively contemporary African-American characters in them… and the ALL have dogs. Seriously. With the exception of You Survived Hurricane Katrina (which is a series anyway), this has been true of St. Louis Armstrong Beach, Buddy and Ninth Ward. Now we’ve a new book entering the fray and it’s Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Starring Armani Curtis (a girl), it follows her from the happy days of turning ten to the horrors of the Katrina. It may be the only book in which the hero actually enters The Superdome, and she is indeed separated from her family for a time. This is a debut for Ms. Lamana, who was a reading and writing instructor in the Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. And yes, there is a dog, but it’s not a major part of the plot. Still there, though. There’s just something about Katrina and canines . . .
Now we turn our attention to picture books, and this one appears to be a collaboration between an Italian and a Frenchman. I know Davide Cali best for this year’s really delightful graphic novel 10 Little Insects, and in a recent Children’s Literary Salon featuring Carin Berger and Marc Boutavant, Mssr. Boutavant name checked Cali. Well, Cali has been paired with Benjamin Chaud, the fellow behind The Bear’s Song, which was entirely delightful. Together, they’ve created I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . which features a boy with amazing hair and sideburns that Elvis himself would envy. Impeccably dressed in a grey suit with matching red socks and tie, our young hero goes through an extraordinary number of excuses, one after another, to explain why his homework remains unfinished. Someone at one point said it reminded them of the book What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin of yore. Could at that.
Author Germano Zullo isn’t exactly a household name here in the States, but that’s not for lack of trying on the small press’s parts. Whether it’s Chronicle or Enchanted Lion bringing his stories over, he’s here. His latest, and perhaps most accessible, book to date is Jumping Jack, illustrated once again by fellow Swiss (and one-namer) Albertine. In this book a show-jumping horse has difficulty following through, so to speak. Fortunately he has a sympathetic jockey who is convinced he can get to the bottom of the problem.
Now here’s a cause for celebration: Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard are doing a book together! Mr. Reynolds, as you’ll recall, is responsible for the recent Caldecott Honor winner Creepy Carrots (amongst another bazillion gazillion books) and Jeremy Tankard is a genius who does not do enough books. Seriously, someone should just force the man to crank out the product. We deserve more Tankard, consarn it! Well, for now we’ll be happy with Here Comes Destructosaurus! (how can you not just love that title?) which features a raging monster. Only thing is, the narrator is talking directly to the monster, taking him to task for his mess. It doesn’t take much effort to see the monster/toddler parallels at work here. And naturally the ending is great. I should say that I actually laughed out loud when reading this, and I don’t always do that. Awesome.
Those who know me will know why, personally, I was very happy to see a new series coming out of author/illustrator Micah Player called Lately Lily: The Adventures of a Traveling Girl. Player, remember, was the one behind Chloe, Instead and has even been doing the odd Hilary McKay book jacket on the side. With Lately Lily we meet the daughter of journalists that travel all around the world. The media tie-ins are already in the works, including Travel Flash Cards and a little yellow suitcase that’s full of luggage tags, activity cards, sticker sheets, games & doodle ideas, etc. Though Lily will travel to different books in the series, these aren’t really excuses just to see the cities. Rather, the books concentrate on just how awesome travel itself is. An alternative to some of those flight picture books we’ve seen coming out lately, then.
We seem to be sliding down down into the youngest of ages, but that’s okay with me. In Taro Gomi’s The Great Day the man behind Everyone Poops shows us “a little boy just having an awesome day”. It’s simple, talks with simple sentences just showing the basics of a day, and has a kiddo in it that isn’t white. So, basically, the combination of brown-skinned kiddo and Gomi the genius is enough to sell it to me right there.
And for fans of the epitome of all board books Peek-a Who? we have an honest-to-goodness sequel on our hands. Peek-a Zoo! is also by Nina Laden and though she took a bit of a hiatus for a while, she’s back, baby. I know my kiddo was a big ole fan of Peek-a Who? when she was a little ‘un, so it’s nice to see more along those lines. Similarly, Laden will also be coming out with the madcap Daddy Wrong Legs (good title) where you have to pair legs to torsos of everything from frogs and gorillas to skeletons and humans.
If 2014 is notable for nothing else it will be notable for the huge SWATH of Coraline designers and creators who have suddenly all decided to go into the world of children’s books. Here at Chronicle, author Sue-Ganz Schmitt and illustrator Shane Prigmore (who was the character designer of Coraline) are coming out with Planet Kindergarten. The first day of school is like any good holiday in that it doesn’t matter how many books already exist on the topic. There can always be more. In this fun take, Kindergarten is equated with space travel to another planet. Your teacher is the commander, your fellow students are aliens, it all makes sense. Ultimately our space-trotting boyo comes to have a great day, so that’s nice.
Okay. So I’ve been enjoying Britta Teckentrup’s books for years, particularly Animal 123 and Animal Spots and Stripes. In Candlewick’s catalog mention of her latest book Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm, & At the Port they include two readalikes at the bottom of the page. One of these is Rotraut Berner’s In the Town All Year Round and the other is Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant. Those are pretty accurate comparisons to what Teckentrup is working with here. Chock full of details, like a slightly more European Richard Scarry, what sets the book apart is that each of the three settings keep the exact same view of their town (or farm or port) but at different times of the day. Turn the page and it’s 7 a.m. Turn another and now it’s 10 a.m. Another and it’s 3 p.m. Add in a naughty badger who’s hidden (and up to no good) on every page and you have yourself a heckuva lot of fun. So cute!
Remember “Walter Was Worried” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger? That was the book where words turned into characters’ faces, expressing various emotions in the process. I haven’t really seen anyone else do something similar in a while, but that was before I saw Cat Says Meow: And Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt. Basically the book takes words that make up animal sounds and turns them into animals. It’s sort of hopelessly clever.
Following up on the success of Round Is a Tortilla, author Rosane Greenfield Thong and illustrator John Parra tackle a different concept. Where Tortilla was all about the shapes, Green Is a Chile Pepper is a colors book from start to finish. Like Tortilla it rhymes (“Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. / Green is cilantro inside our pot.”) this is yet another very rare picture book featuring Latino kiddos. Lovely on the eye. Rhymes to boot.
While I wouldn’t actually go so far as to call it narrative nonfiction per say, At the Same Moment Around the World will act as a nice accompaniment to nonfiction units. Since it shows off the notion of time zones (but not with real kids – hence the fact that it’s not really straight nonfiction), the book follows the everyday activities of children around the globe. Each section begins with the very nice “At the same moment” and then goes on to say what time it is for that particular part of the world. What it ultimately reminded me of, more than anything else, was When It’s 6 o’Clock in San Francisco.
Then we get a little French. The Ultimate Book of Vehicles promises much with a title like that. Created by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic, the book is part of a new Chronicle imprint for preschoolers called Twirl Books. Twirl describes itself as, “Straight from Paris, curated with legendary French flair.” I kind of love that. Just as I kind of love that this book is the first I’ve ever seen for kids that includes a breathalizer test in one of the spreads. I sort of think that makes for an ideal teachable moment. The interactive elements to the book are lovely, but to my mind it’s the rocket taking off in one of the spreads that makes the whole book worthwhile.
But the most innovative of the books we saw had to be, without any doubt, Presto Chang-o!: A Book of Animals Magic by Edouard Manceau. I might have a little trouble describing exactly what this book is. You see, little flaps (that are also parts of the picture) can be manipulated and moved in such a way as to make a raccoon into a cauldron, a lion into a flower, or a clock into an owl, etc. You’ll have to play with it for a while yourself before you quite understand what I’m saying. It’s not exactly a flap book. More a . . . twisty turney pieces book (no no. . . that doesn’t work either). Whatever you call it, it’s cool and entirely unlike any other book you’ve seen.
And that’s the long and short of it! Many thanks to the good folks at Chronicle for showing us their wares. 2014 is shaping up to be a heckuva year.
Foof! It’s been a while! At least it feels like it has. For whatever reason I haven’t posted a good Simon & Schuster Preview since . . . um . . . since their Spring 2011 list was premiered. Whoopsie! Let’s make up for lost time then.
First off, Simon & Schuster does their librarian previews much, I suspect, as they do their marketing proposals to bookstores or in-house. They hand out these gorgeous full-color handouts of all the titles they’ll be talking about. They also begin the day with the special guest star. Little Brown and Penguin prefer to leave the guests to the last, but not these guys. Best that you be on time, then.
Our guest? The friendly and fantastic James Howe. As you may know the fella wrote The Misfits lo these many years ago. Since its publication it has been showing up on TONS of New York City summer reading lists (I cannot attest to the state of the rest of the country in this respect) and so it stood to reason he’d continue the series. Since The Misfits followed four kids, a book for each kid seemed par for the course. Totally Joe is probably the best known of the four simply by dint of the fact that it was the one with a gay character and Addie on the Inside was released relatively recently. Also Known as Elvis rounds out the quartet and follows Skeezie Tookis (the author still isn’t sure where that name came from) and his relationship with a dog. James gave us a little background on his process. In the case of this particular book, he nailed Skeezie’s personality down by conducting faux “interviews” with the character. Howe also talked a bit about his own youth and his dog Lily, who turned out to be the model for the dog on the cover of the book.
Then we were off! I’ll just highlight a couple titles here and there that particularly caught my eye. Consider this just a random smattering of what’s to come.
It’s funny to think about, but there’s never really been a Ronald McDonald House picture book before. I suppose much of that has to do with the fact that it’s a mighty tricky topic to write about. To get it down right you’d need someone like Kathi Appelt at the helm. Well, with the release of Mogie: Heart of the House (illustrated by Marc Rosenthal) done and done. The book is based on a real dog who just couldn’t cut it as a service dog. By some bit of miraculous intervention, however, the dog found its true calling as a kind of de facto therapy dog in a Ronald McDonald House. Appelt, as we all well know, has the unique ability to write for almost every age (and if you haven’t read her Bubba & Bo series then you, sir, are missing out). It’s a nice, heartfelt story that never slides sideways into schmaltz. No mean feat.
Next up, a book that’s been baffling me for a while. When S&S started talking about The Numberlys by William Joyce and Christina Ellis I was scratching my head. It looked really well done, a kind of Metropolis meets The Wizard of Oz. Still and all, when I went to search for images of it online I found a baffling array. What gives? I was finally able to determine that Mr. Joyce has completely and utterly embraced the worlds of print and film and apps all at the same time. Little wonder from the fellow who created The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (winning an Oscar for the same). In the case of The Numberlys, it appears to have been released as an app back in 2012. I even discovered a whole host of videos about the making of the app on his website here, all skillfully produced. In the case of the picture book, it’s only now seeing the light of day. It has some cool details, though. A transparent cover can turn the book from black and white into color with its removal. Oh, and the story? A bunch of little workers get tired of just making numbers every day and determine to try something different for a change. There’s no real villain in the piece other than the nature of conformity itself.
Here’s a video that serves equally as a trailer for the app and the book:
I’m still kicking myself over the fact that I didn’t review Ashley Bryan’s Can’t Scare Me last year. I mean talk about a fantastic readaloud! The rhythm of that piece alone could have you kicking your feet and dancing a tune. Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Anytime someone wants to create a Church of Ashley Bryan, they’ll find themselves with a million instant converts. He’s the current reigning patron saint of children’s literature, as far as I’m concerned. And coming up this season is the book Ashley Bryan’s Puppets by Ashley Bryan, with photographs edited by Rich Entel. It seems that Ashley has a habit of collecting found objects on the beach to turn into puppets. Everything they’re made of is washed up from the sea. Little wonder from the guy who has stained glass windows made entirely out of sea glass. In this book each puppet is accompanied by a poem discussing what they’re made of and what they might be. Everything has a use is the moral of the story here. I was almost reminded of the Look-Alikes series by Joan Steiner when seeing these. Or Pura Belpre’s old puppets. Mr. Bryan, by the way, will be 91 in four or so months now. As of this preview he was in his Kenyan library. If you’d like to get the sense of visiting him yourself, check out Alison Morris’s old ShelfTalker post Visiting Ashley Bryan. It’ll make you want to take the trek yourself.
Dog books. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. Preferably, leave ‘em. It’s kind of nice. I don’t feel susceptible to a book just because it features an adorable panting canine on the cover. Or, in the case of Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson, an adorable well-behaved, charming canine. However, in this particular case I was charmed. This is one of those being-different-is-okay books, but don’t be put off by the message. DiPucchio works very hard to keep Gaston as far from didacticism as humanly possible. The book follows a little pup who looks nothing like his siblings. When his mother finds a fellow dog with a strange pup of her own, the two decide to make a switch. However, just because you look like someone, that doesn’t mean you have anything in common with them. It’s got a good strong ending and one cannot help but notice that artist Christian Robinson is having a banner year. This, Sugar Hill AND Josephine all at the same time? Well done, man! Tis the year of the Robinson.
Some books suggest quite a bit with their covers. More than they give away, certainly. Found Things by Marilyn Hilton won the SCBWI award for best novel in progress a year or so ago. In this tale, a girl wakes up speaking oddly, discovers that her older brother has disappeared, and when she sleeps she dreams of an oddly familiar house. It isn’t long thereafter that she’s met another girl, started sending wishes down the stream, and finds that her mother is acting strangely. That description doesn’t give away much, and indeed I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to give it a shot. “Lyrical and strange” S&S calls it. Well sold.
So back in the day I loved the old Three Investigators series. Ostensibly rip-offs of The Hardy Boys, the books had their own particular flavor and swing. And in the early novels each one ended with the boys meeting with Alfred Hitchcock to explain how they solved the crime. Why Hitchcock? Absolutely no idea. I guess his estate had some hand in the books or something. Whatever the case, when I was a kid I always felt like Hitchcock was this understandable and utterly relatable guy. Now kids in the 21st century will have a chance to relive that aspect of my youth with Jim Averbeck’s debut novel A Hitch at the Fairmont, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi. You know Jim from his picture books like In a Blue Room and Except If (amongst others). In this book, a madcap mix of graphic novel and prose, a boy lives with is evil Aunt Edith and her chinchilla. When that same aunt disappears and a ransom note appears, written in chocolate, there’s a clear mystery to solve. Each chapter opens with a storyboard (the hat tip to Hitchcok) and the book is chock full of references to the man’s films. It has a good cover and you’ll recognize Bertozzi’s work from stuff like Houdini: The Handcuff King and Lewis & Clark.
The nice thing about Simon & Schuster is that sometimes they’ll send out their galleys and F&Gs awfully early. Such was the case with Five Trucks by Brian Floca. When my family took a plane ride to Atlanta this past Christmas there was more than one occasional where I was kicking myself for not bringing the book along to amuse my kiddo in the airport. Originally released in 1999 and now returning thanks to the man’s recent Caldecott win for Locomotive, the book follows five different trucks you might see on the tarmac of an airport. With a multicultural cast (to say nothing of multi-gender) it’s simple and elegant. Really gets to the point. I’m sorry I missed it the first time around, but very happy that I’ll have a chance to get it for my library system now.
The recent Walter Dean Myers piece in The New York Times probably was a godsend to publicists everywhere. I complain that there are few African-American boys on middle grade covers, but what about YA novels? There are hardly any you can name. And so while I almost never mention YA fare in my librarian preview round-ups, I couldn’t resist showing you the cover to Call Me By My Name by John Ed Bradley. Check it out.
Author Chris Lynch, by the way, says that it’s the best football book he’s ever read. Considering that I just read a great middle grade football book (Boys of Blur, but more on that later) that’s interesting to me. It’s set in historical Louisiana. Says Justin Chandra, “Teen boys will read this book.” Hope so.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Grumpy Bird is in for some competition. Aviary born with short fuses aren’t really a trope but if more books like Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares come out then they may inadvertently spawn their own subgenre. Though I would have pegged him as an animator thanks to the style, that does not seem to be a part of the Miyares oeuvre. In this book an easily ruffled little yellow bird finds himself put upon as more and more animals deign to join his perch. Part manners book, part cautionary tale (perches just ain’t what they used to be) it’ll be interesting to watch the reception to this. From my own experience, New York readers have a hard time with the circle of life (so to speak) in books for kids. You’ll see what I mean when you read it for yourself.
The thing about steampunk as a genre is that since it never really spawned any kind of massive hit, it can continue to exist unabated without wearing out its welcome. It’s not like sparkly vampires or dystopian futures. The market was never glutted with steampunk, thereby allowing books like Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne to continue unabated. Set in an alternate world of Londonia, replete with gears and fairies galore, a bored 10-year-old from our world accidentally crosses over. It seems the Queen is in need of a real boy and our lad fits the bill precisely.
Name the last good Juneteenth children’s book you encountered. Because if we’re going to face facts, Juneteenth is sort of falling the way of Kwanzaa when it comes to children’s books. The number of titles that speak to the holiday are slim at best. With that in mind, All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis fills a very specific need. Based ostensibly on Ms. Johnson’s own ancestors, the book is a work of historical fiction be dint of lack of information. In it, a Texan slave girl wakes up to what seems like a normal day, only to find it’s the most important day in her life. The Kirkus star it just earned bodes well.
Margaret K. McElderry
Simon & Schuster hadn’t been chintzy with the galleys of Mouseheart by Lisa Fielder, illustrated by Vivienne To. Mind you, I never know if that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing. Publicists and librarians don’t always see eye-to-eye on the books that must receive the most information. But I’ve shopped this one around with some librarians of my acquaintance and the responses have been positive. Basically what we’re looking at here are battling rat tribes in Brooklyn. Said one of my test case librarians, “I think both boys and girls will enjoy this new series and New Yorkers will perhaps enjoy waiting for the train more if they believe that nasty rat is actually Zucker fighting for his little rodent colony…maybe.” Comparisons to Redwall and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH were made. Not a bad pedigree by half.
Aw, pfui. I’m not going to remember now. You see, at the time that I heard about the YA novel Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine I realized that it was part of a funny little 2014 trend. This year there are two books that are roughly based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the other one is (50 points for anyone who knows). Fine’s novel is a bit more oblique in its references, but sounds mighty interesting just the same. Recommended for fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the book follows a girl whose wishes are granted by a ghost. Sometimes brutally. Lovely cover, no?
You know I’ve a real love and appreciation for graphic novels of any sort. So when I saw Through the Woods by Emily Carroll I had high hopes that it would fall into my range. Nope. Not by half. Straight up YA, this book sports five short stories, one of which was already published on the web. The stories may indeed be good, but it’s the art that really sucks you in. As Buzzfeed put it, it’s “The most inventively claustrophobic comic online.” The interior images they included in our PowerPoint packet were enticing but honestly this was the one that sold the book to me right there. I may have to crib from this line in the future. Beautifully put:
(Switching gears entirely) simple picture books with simple words that are actually well put together, interesting, and visually stimulating are as rare as figs in December. Enter Big Bug by Henry Cole. If nothing else this book is probably going to be a true contender for the ALA Geisel Award for simple text. The book telegraphs backwards from a bug onward. It starts out saying “Big bug” and it’s not wrong. This ladybug looks huge. But then we pan back and the text says “Little bug / Big leaf”. Another turn of the page and it’s “Little leaf / Big flower.” This continues in this fashion until we’ve zoomed out enough to zoom back in. And, along the way, a kind of story is being told. So basically this is a tale to teach perspective to the very young. Do you now how hard that is to do? Give this book a closer look. It’s simplicity is just the tip of the iceberg.
In other news, Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre is coming out as a board book. And the people rejoiced en masse.
Beach Lane Books
It was just my bad luck that I had to take a phone call for the bulk of the Beach Lane Books presentation. Doggone modern technology. A real pity too since there were at least two books here that had certainly caught my eye. The first was I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy. Rudy, I later had to learn, is an artist who has created these elaborate little mouse-related dioramas over the years (which you can see here). Really, it was only a matter of time before someone offered her a book contract. I recently did a Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL on the increase of photography in children’s books, and at one point there was some discussion made of artists who create models and photograph them. Following in the near footsteps of Rebecca Dudley and her much lauded Hank Finds an Egg, Rudy gives the notion of pet ownership a very realistic feel, particularly when you consider the various pets that mice would have access to. It’s a rather clever little piece. Unique, to say the least.
Another book I had really wanted to know more about was the latest from Jeanette Winter, Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. It just looks so cool. Taking its cues from the life of Queens, NY resident Joseph Cornell, it’s a fun look at a self-taught artist who used found objects in his works. This book focuses in particular on an exhibition he held in 1972 for the neighborhood children of his works. It’s very simple, but a nice look at how everyday objects can become art. A rather good complement to her previous book Henri’s Scissors, actually. And it made me really hungry for some good brownies.
I’ve spoken at length about how 2014 has been doing somewhat better in the realm of getting kids of color on the covers of books. Another trend I’ve noticed? A distinct increase in math and science loving girls. There’s Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea on the one hand and Annika Riz, Math Whiz, as well as a couple others that I’m not thinking of right now. Eliza Boom: My Explosive Diary by Emily Gale, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy follows in the same path. You know what’s also interesting? All these books are on the lower reading level of chapter books. Very interesting indeed, eh?
Then we get to the very interesting rereleases. When they presented Christopher Pike’s middle grade series Spooksville, I just assumed it was something new. Thank goodness for the internet, eh? Instead, I find that this is a delightful case of a publisher really and seriously giving some book jackets a serious upgrade. Behold the befores and the afters.
Clearly the old series had a thing for floating female heads.
Then, in some very happy news, I can report to you that the White Mountains series by John Christopher is also getting a book jacket update. Best of all, they’ve renamed the series entirely. I know it was originally called “The White Mountains series” but all anyone ever calls it is “The Tripods series” anyway. Here are some of the new covers:
And for those of you in the ordering books business, the ISBNs are 9781481414821, 9781481414784, 9781481414807, and 9781481414760 (in that order).
Back in the day, the May Bird trilogy was critically acclaimed but never got sufficient attention from the kiddos. Happily S&S is giving it a new lease on life with some lovely little book re-covers. Like so:
I suspect Katniss Everdeen may have had something to do with cover #3 (not that the original skimped on the bow and arrow aspects at all). ISBNs 9781442495777, 9781442495791, and 9780689869259 for those of you playing at home.
Finally, we come to Bruce Coville’s delightful My Teacher Is an Alien series. I will spare those amongst you a great deal of pain by not mentioning how long ago the original series came out. Indeed, the original covers speak for themselves:
That’s the old cover that got me to read the series when I was a kid. No lie. Now, once again, it’s seeing an update:
Those are the only ones I could find online so far. Presumably the other two in the series (My Teacher Glows in the Dark and My Teacher Flunked the Planet) are just a half step away.
Magnolia by Kristi Cook has many things to recommend it, I am certain. I don’t pay too much attention to YA, I’ll admit. But one thing I did pay attention to was this:
This hereby marks the very first time that a dress in my possession has appeared on a book jacket. That red dress? Yeah, I bought that about 8 years ago at H&M. Only one piece of proof exists that I know of and it’s this teeny tiny picture of me, Jen Robinson, Jay Asher (before he was big), and Gregory K. at a blogger meet-up at ALA in Anahein years and years and years ago. It’s tiny, but as you can see . . . same dress.
And on that name droppy note, that would be that. Should you wish to peruse the Simon & Schuster catalog for those items I have failed to mention here, you may do so at this link: http://catalog.simonandschuster.com/?cid=10868
Many thanks to S&S for inviting me. Happy reading!
This is it! We’ve officially begun! Here is, without a doubt, the very first Librarian Preview of the Fall 2014 season. I’m so thrilled to be presenting it in its full unaltered glory. Chronicle Books, that plucky little Californian publisher, has really made a name for itself in the past few years. And now, with their very first (can you believe it?!) Caldecott Honor, it seems like their star is on the rise. All the more reason to see what wares they’re hocking. After all, if Candlewick rules the Beautiful Picture Book World of the East Coast, Chronicle rules the West.
But before we begin, let’s look at a little book they have coming out of their adult division:
Goodnight, Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown
How do androids go to sleep? How do wookies? Ewoks? Whatever the heck Admiral Ackbar is? It was bound to occur. With the phenomenal success of Darth Vader and Son (to say nothing of Vader’s Little Princess) it didn’t take long for a play on the old Goodnight Moon trope. Jeffrey Brown, for the record, is to be commended. Can anyone else truly say they have two Star Wars related book series out with two different publishers for the trade book set? Nay. I’m just sad the adult book division of my library lays claim to these. I would have bought this one anyway as juv.
Mix It Up by Herve Tullet
Awwwwwwwww, yeah!! It’s exactly what you think it is. The one. The only. The SEQUEL TO PRESS HERE!!!!!!!! Could such a thing be possible? Could such a thing even work? It could if said sequel were to go the logical next step. This book? It’s all about mixing colors together. You can kind of tell from the cover that inside it’s huge fun. Kids can squish pages together to make new colors. They can tip the pages so that the colors run together into new hues. It’s the same feel as Press Here but with amazing educational applications. My kid is really into color mixing right now but all we have for her is Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh, Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri, and The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. Time to shake things up a little (literally).
The Bear’s Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud
Remember The Bear’s Song, which was released last year? It was sort of Where’s Waldo with very French bears. Well the whole story built to an ending wherein the bear and his cub decide to hibernate after discovering the bee hives on the top of the Paris Opera House. In the sequel, the Paris Opera House’s roof turns out not to be the most ideal place to sleep. The bears move into a department store but next thing you know the baby has been mistaken for a toy and the papa has to follow him once more. The energy in these books makes me feel as though I’d like to see them animated into little French shorts for the enjoyment of the masses. Wouldn’t that be awesome? It could happen.
Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
A Mac Barnett book at Chronicle? Well, considering the fact that his girlfriend works there, it just makes good sense. Mac’s back, baby, and this time he’s been paired with none other than the woman behind the art in those wildly successful Amy Krouse Rosenthal books Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink. This is actually a pretty strong year for Ms. Corace. Her other book I Hatched by Jill Esbaum only goes to show that she is in a SERIOUS bird phase right now. Barnett’s book is fine and feathered and a play on the old telephone game. It’s not the first book to go this route (the lovely Pass It On by Marylyn Sadler did it a couple years ago) but Barnett’s has a different tone and, quite frankly, a different gag at the end. I also like how each bird hears a message that pertains to his or her own interests. Just consider this whole enterprise a metaphor for hearing what you want to hear.
Planes Go by Steve Light
And SPEAKING of illustrators who are having good years, can we talk a bit about Steve Light? Because here we have a guy producing crazy beautiful books with Candlewick like Have You Seen My Dragon? on the one hand, and then turning around to continue his incredibly popular “Go” series. If you haven’t seen Trains Go, Trucks Go, or Diggers Go then you don’t know your board books. The man specializes in readaloud board books, for crying out loud. And nobody does it better. When I saw that the next one was a plane book I had to ask if boats were next. Ask and thou shalt receive. Boats are on the roster for 2015.
Bonjour, Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrated by Laia Aguilar
Meet the Spanish Eloise. That’s the only way I can accurately describe what it is that you’re seeing here. Written by a Spaniard and illustrated by a Spaniard, the book is a gentle series of absurdities, each and every one logical to the petite young heroine. Decked out in a top hat, black striped shirt, and black tutu (tell me that isn’t one of the more iconic visions I could conjure up), Camille is what Amelie might have been like as a child. I’m seeing definite Urban Outfitters potential here. In fact, it might even make a good graduation book, what with its wacky go-against-the-grain advice and all.
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
And here it is! The answer to your prayers. Prayers you may not even have known you had. As a sequel to the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book Flora and the Flamingo, Idle’s latest follows up its long and lanky avian from Book #1 with a cheery, squat, dumpling of a little fellow. And like its predecessor, there are flaps to lift that advance the plot and show off the pair’s dance moves. It would pair beautifully well with Kristi Valiant’s fellow dancing penguin book Penguin Cha-Cha, come to think of it. Interestingly, this book is not the only sequel to a 2014 Caldecott Honor out this year. Also keep an eye peeled for Aaron Becker’s Quest (the sequel to Journey) later in the fall. Oh, and word on the street has it that the next Flora book might involve a peacock. Squee!
In This Book by Fani Marceau, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet
Librarians get a lot of requests for “concept books”. Trouble is, folks never just come out and call them that. They as for opposite books or color books or shape books, and that’s fine. It’s when their requests get a bit more esoteric that you’re in trouble. Imagine sitting at your reference desk one day and a well meaning soul comes up to you and asks for “books that deal with the concept of in and out”. Don’t laugh, it’s happened and it’s a devil of a request to meet. Now, at least, we’ve something we can hand over. The fabulous French team of Marceau and Jolivet have paired together to create a truly beautiful variety of “in”s. Now when I saw that illustrator Jolivet was involved I got a tad bit nervous. Jolivet is best associated, to my mind, with these gorgeous but enormous picture books like Zoo-ology and Almost Everything. They’re gorgeous but they don’t fit on my shelves. In This Book, by contrast, will come in at a sweet 9 1/2″ X 11″. In (ha ha) teresting.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
I wracked my brain and came up with nothing. Maybe you’ll fare better. Can you think of a single solitary book in which a kid walks around with a flashlight seeing the cool things that come out at night? Boyd was the person behind that lovely little Inside Outside last year (a book that garnered no less than four starred reviews). I liked it a lot but always felt that it suffered from its color scheme. The color brown may get the literary credit, but certain types of people avoid it like the plague. Flashlight suffers no such problem as it follows a boy outside at night with a helpful flashlight aiding him. Eventually the nighttime creatures want to get a look at him too, so they point the flashlight back in his direction in their curiosity. Cute concept. Never seen it done before.
The Memory of an Elephant by Sophie Strady, illustrated by Jean-Francois Martin
This one may be a bit special. Nothing wrong with special books. They keep things interesting and amuse the children of hipsters nationwide. But you have to keep an open mind sometimes when you read them. In this tale, a well dressed elephant writes an encyclopedia inspired by his daily life. The book will, on occasion, show an encyclopedic spread from his book while also explaining what those items are. For his part, I haven’t seen a pachyderm this dapper since Babar (spats and all). The clothes on the animals are extraordinary and the modern furniture quite a riot. Seriously, you have everything from the butterfly stool to the tulip table in the backgrounds here. It is not, I should note, by any means the first children’s book to take on well-designed furniture (Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne comes immediately to mind) but it may be the most attractive to the eye.
Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third
You have undoubtedly heard my cries of complaint when it comes to the sheer derth of Latino books for kids on our shelves. And graphic novels? Don’t even get me started. Aside from the Luz books (Luz Sees the Light, etc.) they are few and far between. All the more reason I’m excited by Lowriders in Space. I mean, the title says it all. It’s a GN that happens to include some science and Latino culture all in one fell swoop. Not exactly the most common of critters. Looking at the art I was immediately drawn to the fact that though it’s clearly done in a particular style, there is just the faintest hint of Astroboy about it. I should also note that Raul the Third, the illustrator, will apparently be speaking at SLJ’s Day of Dialog this year. Don’t miss him!
Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt
Yesterday I wrote up a Poetry Month post on different rhyme schemes and poetic forms that you might not have heard of. While typing it up I was tempted to include some info about this here little middle grade verse novel. The premise is that a bully, one without any real problems in his life to justify his bullying, uses poetry to bully other kids. Then the tables are turned and the bullier becomes the bully-ee. Curious? So am I. This one’s moving to the top of my To Be Read Shelf and fast.
The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg
Pity the Australian import in America. Unless your name is “Shaun Tan” or “Markus Zusak” you’re unlikely to be particularly well known here in the States. Even if your book happens to win the Children’s Peace Literature Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and the Golden Inky Award, it may not be a household name here yet. Naturally Barry Jonsberg’s book won those very things and now he is poised to take America by storm. In this tale a girl on the autism spectrum sets out to make everyone in her life happy. Along the way the book utilizes a trope that I enjoy very much. Paired with a penpal in the States who has never written back to her, Candice merrily writes off letters in the course of the novel to them anyway. I love that.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cookbook and Cookie Cutters Kit by Lara Starr
Okay. Admittedly this isn’t the kind of thing the libraries out there should be looking at. I mean, it comes with its own cookie cutter. Hard to top that. But I just had to mention it, and not just because Lara Starr of Chronicle herself did the recipes. I just like that something like this helped to inspire a book like this one. That and the fact that I really want to eat that caterpillar’s head. A lot. Nom nom nom.
Creature Baby Animals and Creature Sounds by Andrew Zuckerman
Boy, remember when Creature ABC came out all those years ago? I loved that book so much that I held onto it tightly in the event that I someday had kids of my own. That was a wise move, but it’s taken a long time for my kid to be ready for that book. Now two new board books seek to solve that very problem. They’re eye-catching. They’re beautiful. Basically, they’re some of the best animal photography I’ve ever seen. No mean feat.
The Ultimate Construction Site Book by Anne-Sophie Baumann, illustrated by Didier Balicevic
I view the coming of this book with a mixture of longing and fear. Longing because when Baumann and Balicevic produced their previous book, The Ultimate Book of Vehicles, this past spring my daughter became enamored of its tabs and doors and other movable elements. Yet to read the whole book cover to cover can take forever, so I sometimes have to put it judiciously in places where she won’t see it before bedtime. Such is her all encompassing love. To discover that the next book is nothing but construction . . . well that’s just a treat.
Nocturne by Traer Scott
I’m on a real photography kick these days. And have you noticed that the number of children’s books featuring photographs has increased tenfold over the last few years? Apparently a lot of this has to do with the fact that thanks to digital photography, costs are down. Traer Scott was hitherto unknown to me before I saw this book, but now I’m a huge fan. The concept is great too. Scott photographs nocturnal animals against these deep rich backgrounds. They just pop into the foreground. It’s almost as if their portraits were being taken. As if you needed another way to make some of these critters even more cute than they were before.
You’re Awesome Journal
This isn’t anything to do with children’s books. I just needed somewhere to put a note to remind myself to buy this for a family member once it’s been published (not until September. . . arg!!). So, note to self: Purchase this item (ISBN: 978-1-4521-3660-8) when the time is right. Because, after all, it made me laugh out loud and few blank journals in this world do that.
A million thanks to the kind and gracious Lara Star for entertaining me. Looks like a great line-up for the coming year.
There is a certain element of mystery that accompanies each and every librarian preview here in New York City. When the larger publishers gather the librarians to their proverbial bosom, those same librarians walk in with just one question in your mind: How long is this going to take? If you’re lucky you’ll be out by lunchtime. But with Penguin beginning their preview by providing lunch, the day was rendered simply more mysterious. Fortunately the answer to the puzzle lay on our seats. Each librarian was given a 48-page collection of PowerPoint slides for the event. 48 pages! The length of a slightly long picture book. That’s entirely doable! And indeed, for this particular preview I was pleased to discover that we’d only be covering a sampling of the books from each imprint. Bonus!
During the course of the event a photo was taken of the librarians and posted to Twitter that day. See if you can spot me in this shot:
If you said, “Why Betsy is the woman in white imitating a small ocean liner” you would have earned yourself a cookie. There is very little photographic evidence of my pregnancy this second time around. As such, this is one of the very rare shots in existence. Credit due to @VikingChildrens.
But enough of this silliness. Onward to the previews! As per usual I’ll just be reporting on the children’s fare, with the exception of the rare YA novel here and there. And, naturally, we begin with . . .
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
To be slightly more specific, we begin with Lisa Graff. Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff has, as of this blog post, earned itself four starred reviews thus far, unless I am much mistaken. Like all her other books out there, it’s a standalone. There’s something infinitely comforting about authors that aren’t afraid to write standalone novels. Heck, in this era of ubiquitous sequels it’s a downright relief, it is. In Absolutely Almost our main character goes by the name of Albie. He’s a good kid but he thinks of himself as an “almost”. You know. He does a lot of things . . . almost well. So what do you do when you’re just almost everything? Aye. There’s the rub. Set in NYC the book is apparently for fans of Wonder, Rules, Joey Pigza books, and Liar & Spy. An interesting assortment of connections, to say the least!
Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton
Next up? A little Moulton. Editor Jill Santopolo called her a “gorgeous under the radar” author. One must assume she is referring to her books, though I’m sure she’s quite cute. In this particular title two sisters try to take care of their mentally ill mom. A common theme this year, what with the near simultaneous release of books like Under the Egg. Lucy the eldest, however, can’t keep everyone safe. Ms. Moulton’s own mother is a social worker and took her daughter along on the job often enough that it made a significant impression. Authors Moulton was compared to included Jerry Spinelli, Katherine Paterson, and Sharon Creech. But no pressure or anything!
Brotherband: Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan
If your library system is anything like mine then you have a devil of a time figuring out where to catalog John Flanagan. Is he Juv? YA? Well don’t expect the answers to come any easier. Penguin is planning on repackaging the first four books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series as well as the Brotherband books. Speaking of which, in this latest little novel, the Slaves of Socorro, editor Michael Green called it a “crossover episode” of sorts. Characters from the Rangers books and the Brotherband books are now banding together. It’s a fictional literary character supergroup! Expect already existing fans to be pretty stoked over the idea.
The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
Ah. The first of the true YA novels to be mentioned here today. I might not have even mentioned it except that Jill, its editor, got so existed. “This is THE most important book I’ve ever edited”, said she. Hard to ignore enthusiasm like that. A love story set in the time of the Taliban, the book is by ABC Bureau Chief, Atia Abawi. Raised in Germany and the American south after her mother escaped Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, Ms. Abawi’s book has been getting blurbs from authors (Daphne Benedis-Grab, Trent Reedy, etc.) as well as folks in her own business (Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondant of NBC Andrea Mitchell, for example).
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Now to switch gears as far as those gears will go. Oliver Jeffers is a tricky fellow to judge. I’ve loved some of his stuff (I maintain that Stuck is a modern classic for our times) and loathed others. I think it’s fair to say that Once Upon an Alphabet is going to fall a little more squarely on the love side of the equation. Jeffers tackles the alphabet on his own this time and isn’t afraid to break out the fancy words. Calling this, “Oliver’s magnum opus” the book contains little stories for each storyline. Here’s one example: “C: Cup in the cupboard. Cup lived in the cupboard. It was dark and cold in there when the door was closed. He dreamed of living over by the window so he’d have a clear view. One afternoon he decided to go for it.” I won’t spoil the ending of that one for you. Regardless, think of this as a lighter companion to books like The Gashlycrumb Tinies and the like.
Nancy Paulsen Books
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
Then we’re off to the Nancy Paulsen Books side of the equation. And can I tell you how goofy crazy my librarians are about The Baby Tree right now? I tell you, the cover of this book came up onto the screen and there were universal coos from the librarians in attendance. And why not? The whole where-do-babies-come-from niche is still fairly wide open. In this story a boy asks for some straightforward explanations of where babies come from, only to be met with a flurry of ridiculous answers from a variety of elders. It’s a pretty darn good second sibling book for the older set (the 4, 5, and 6-year-olds) out there. Definitely a keeper and one to watch.
Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear by Monica Carnesi
And speaking of keepers covering well-worn topics, let us now discuss hibernation. Or not. Totally up to you. Now you may think every possible hibernation book out there has already been published but that’s just because you didn’t realize that Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear was on the horizon. Carnesi was best known to me as the woman behind that rather lovely early chapter book Little Dog Lost a year or two ago. Nancy Paulsen calls her “our librarian author” so, y’know, right there. Occupational pride. In this story a bear and rabbit are buddies but soon it’s time for the bear to hibernate. Beatrice, the aforementioned bunny, decides she will hibernate too, though she’s not entirely certain what that would entail. As it turns out, bunnies are no good at hibernation but rather than turn this into one of those books where the bear wakes up in the winter and has a spiffing good time (those storylines always bug me for some reason) the solution to Beatrice’s problem is far more charming. Good stuff.
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
Onward to Putnam and a book that I’m just going to have to read for myself if I’m going to figure it out at all. As you can see, it has one of those non-covers and poetic titles that publishers give books when they’re super excited about their literary award possibilities. And when they start bandying about the phrase “lyrical”, you know something’s up. In very brief terms it’s a girl with a dead mom story. Elaborated upon a bit, the girl in question is ripped from what she knows and is placed with a grandma she never knew well. In time she goes on a treasure hunt, believing that her mother, in whatever form, is behind it in some way. Basically, all she wants is for her mom to be the treasure at the end. Rife with clues, it reminded me of Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur or Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. I’ll give it a go!
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey
This year carnivorous trees are quite hot. We’ve seen four different middle grade novels thus far with trees that have dark desires/appetites, and Dreamwood falls into that category. Don’t write it off as a mere example of hungry wood, though. No no, this one’s supposed to be pretty good. Set during the turn of the century in the Pacific Northwest, a girl’s father goes missing in the forest. So what else can she do but set off with a boy to find her missing father and maybe along the way find a cure for tree blight? One of my librarians who loves fantasy read it and gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up. For my part, I was just grateful that the words “eco-fantasy” were never used when describing it. Oo, I dislike that term!
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
I got name checked with this next book, which had me just knocking my brain try to remember the context. Perhaps it was another librarian preview in the recent past? Could have been. In any case, apparently when I saw the version of The Three Little Pigs by duo Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat I wondered out loud for all to hear why no one had ever done the same for Little Red Riding Hood. Enter the answer to my prayers (though I’ve no doubt they had the idea long before I did). Basically, this is the book for you if you ever wanted to see the wolf get the ever-loving-crap kicked out of him by a girl in a red cape.
Oh, and here’s a non-workplace safe fun activity for you: Google Image the term “ninja red riding hood” sometime and see what comes up. I was looking for a copy of the jacket of this book. What I initially found . . . wasn’t that.
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Finally, something light and frothy and VERY New York. I have witnessed firsthand the existence of the foodie child. They exist, often raised by foodie adults, so that they know the difference between flavors and can go so far as to distinguish between them for you. This, however, is not the life our heroine leads. She’s a foodie kid, sure, but her parents are fast food lovers. Still, the kiddo has prodigious talents so she gets hired to review a restaurant professionally. The catch? Her new bosses don’t know that she’s a kid, so she basically has to sneak to NYC and the restaurant in question on her own. Ms. Dairman is a bit of a foodie herself, though alas the book will not include any recipes. Ah well. The sequel is due out in 2015.
Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney
There was a time when I wouldn’t have understood the lure of the Llama Llama Red Pajama world. But have a small child and your view of things changes. Say what you will about Anna Dewdney, the woman scans. Consistently and without fail. You can read a book of hers cold and come out looking like a pro every time. Since Llama Llama is the unofficial poster child of the single mama household, it was only a matter of time before the masses demanded a book along similar lines with but a daddy. Llama Llama’s best friend Nelly Gnu now gets her chance to shine in the sun with this latest title. Daddy Gnu, I should note, is a pretty darn good feller. He takes care of his kiddo and makes dinner to boot. This is hardly a novel idea, but it’s not like we see it in picture books as often as we might. Well played.
Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock
It’s a toss-up as to what I like more: The title of the book, or the name of the author? On the one hand, “Starbird Murphy” just feels right. On the other hand, who can resist a last name like “Finneyfrock”? The plot of the actual book is nice too. It stars a commune kid who lives entirely off the grid. This world is entirely normal to her, but eventually she must leave normal and travel into the city. Think of it as a girl version of Alabama Moon.
Brave Chicken Little by Robert Byrd
Now here’s a real beauty that deserves some of your time and attention. For the most part, big publishers eschew folk and fairytales. You want the latest version of Snow White and Rose Red? Get thee to a smaller company! But once in a great while a biggie will take a chance. Mind you, after reading this book I don’t think there’s anything the least bit chancey about Robert Byrd’s work. The ultimate cautionary fable gets a leg up in this updated look at the chick that went for the most extreme of explanations. It follows the usual storyline to a point, then diverges and allows the hero to come out triumphant. The moral of the old story was probably something along the lines of “don’t believe everything you hear”. The moral of the new story? “Don’t get eaten. Get even.” [This phrase, by the way, when you Google it appears to be the tagline of a popular Bear Pepper Spray. Just thought you'd like to know.]
Follow Your Heart: Summer Love by Jill Santopolo
One of these days, my children, my prayers will be answered and someone will republish those old Sunfire Romances where the historical girl had to choose between two hunky men. Them’s my youth! Until then, however, we have the next best thing. Something that sounds so obvious when I say it that I’m shocked SHOCKED that no one until now came up with the idea. Meet the Follow Your Heart series by Jill Santopolo (she edits AND writes because she is a Renaissance woman). Basically we’re talking Choose Your Own A Romance here. A girl has to choose between two boys and you help make that choice. I wonder if they’ll allow you to plug your fingers into the pages where you make the choices so that you can backtrack when things don’t start going your way (anyone else do that back in the day?). “The Bachelorette in book form” someone said. There you go.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (50th Anniversary Edition) by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Sweepstakes time. And really, was there ever a book better suited to a sweepstakes than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Because it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary, you’ve probably heard the rumors about the current Golden Ticket Sweepstakes. Well, it’s all pretty standard stuff. Before August 8th kids ages 6 and up can apply for this pretty cool prize. According to the site:
FIVE lucky winners will receive a Golden Ticket trip of a lifetime to New York City that includes:
- A VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar
- Tickets to Matilda the Musical
- A year’s supply of chocolate
- A visit to the Empire State building
- A library of Roald Dahl books
- And MORE!
I love that they get to work in Dylan’s Candy Bar for a day. But how does one determine what a “year’s supply of chocolate” really consists of, I wonder. Hm.
In other Dahlian news, copies of Charlie are about to be published with golden tickets in the back of the paperbacks. Aw. There was also some mention made of the Miss Honey Social Justice Award which, “recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.” Awesome. In my own life, I recently finished reading Danny, the Champion of the World for the first time in my life. I’m feeling pretty good about filling that gap in my knowledge now.
Grosset & Dunlap
The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Diamond Mystery by Martin Widmark, illustrated by Helena Willis
A good early chapter book is hard to find. And a good early chapter book from Sweden? Much easier to find now that Martin Widmark is being brought over to the States in book form. As a librarian of my acquaintance put it recently, this book apparently contains “A snappy little narrative that will have young readers saying, ‘I know who did it!’ right out loud.” Little wonder since the original books sold two million copies worldwide and the author is sometimes referred to as the “Children’s Agatha Christie”. Are you curious yet?
Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George
There are some authors that pass away and their posthumous novels go on and on and on until you begin to doubt that they ever died in the first place. Tupac Syndrome would be a good description of this. It tends to hit children’s authors quite often (see: Eva Ibbotson, Diana Wynne Jones, etc.) and was even mocked in a rather brilliant College Humor piece called I Think They’re Running Out of Material for New Shel Silverstein Books back in 2011. All that aside, we were assured that this final Jean Craighead George novel really will be her last. Two of her children finished it and I like that it has a kind of a Heart of a Samurai book jacket going on. Set in Northern Alaska (the same location as Julie of the Wolves, for the record) the book follows an Inuit boy who learns to bond with a whale. From the description it sounded like it would pair particularly well with Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone from last year. And as Travis Jonker pointed out in his recent post 2014: The Year of the Whale, this book is just a drop in the ocean of a much larger trend.
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Speaking of whales, here’s a book that gives them some full credit. I was so blown away by this title when I first read it that I immediately had to rush out and review it without considering how long it would be before it actually reached publication. Really, this is the book of the year for me. If you read no other picture book, read this one. It’s a stunner in the purest sense of the word. Really remarkable.
Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raul Colon
And finally, a book that I would like right now please. Please. Right now. What’s that you say? It’s not coming out until August?! Well who made up THAT crazy rule? Look, I don’t care when it’s coming out, I would like to see this book in my lap pronto. I mean, first of all, it’s art by Raul Colon. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention but the man’s been on fire this year. Have you seen his work on Baseball Is . . . by Louise Borden? Or how about the pictures in Abuelo by Arthur Dorros? Now we have 24 of his portraits in, what Penguin described as, “tawny golden tones”. Penned by 2012 California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, it covers the well known folks and the lesser know folks in equal degrees. Admit it. You haven’t seen anything like this before that came close to this level of quality. It’s going to be for the middle grade crowd too, so bonus!
And that, as they say, is that. There were plenty of other YA titles mentioned and even a guest or too, but I’ll quite while I’m ahead. Thanks to Penguin for the preview. Thanks to all of you for reading!
Smell that? That’s the smell of Fall 2014, my friends. Yes yes, I know you thought we’ve only just turned the corner into spring, but we’ve no time for that now. The future is where it’s at, babies! And right now the future is all about the fall/winter/spring books. Such was my thinking when sitting down at the latest Little, Brown & Co. librarian preview. After informing my unfortunate table that my pregnant self was going to drink ALL the water placed there so they should be warned (and I would’ve gotten away with it too had it not been for those meddling / remarkably attentive waiters too) we got ready for a day of books, editors, and super secret special guests. Oh, and peanut butter cookies. For some reason they were serving the best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever eaten in my life. No idea what was in those things. Crack cocaine would be my best bet.
By the way, before I begin with my recap, a word to the wise. If you are an author or illustrator and you ever say something nice about your publishing company or editor, be warned that it is entirely possible that this information will be recited loud and wide at a librarian preview in New York City for the various assembled librarians to hear and digest. Just FYI.
And we’re off!
Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards, illustrated by Theodora Richards
First off, a celebrity picture book that by all rights shouldn’t work. And yet . . . okay, let’s face facts. Nine times out of ten when a celebrity suddenly decides to write a picture book for children it’s awful. That’s just how the universe works. The subpar words are paired alongside a decent illustrator who needs to make some quick cash and then loads and loads of the doggone books sell. We’ve seen it a million times before. And even worse? When the celebrity walks in with a friend and wants THEM to do the art (see: I Am a Rainbow by Dolly Parton). So what are we supposed to do when the enterprise actually works?
Here’s what happened. Keith Richards wanted to write a picture book. Sounds ludicrous, right? And worse, he wanted his own daughter to do the art. So you’re thinking about the train wreck this will be and then you see the book. Editor Megan Tingley pointed out that Little, Brown isn’t exactly a celebrity picture book publisher but that this book actually appealed to them for a number of reasons. As Theodora (the daughter) has “the inside track on all things Keith” she was uniquely positioned to work with him. The book itself is actually just based on his own life and story, so it’s not one of those didactic slogs through “lessons” and “morality”. Just a small, still story about a boy and his grandfather and finding something he loved. And the craziest thing is that the art is good. I mean really good. Like this Theodora Richards person should be doing other books without her father involved good. Whodathunkit?
Diamond Boy by Michael Williams
Generally speaking I sort of eschew YA recaps in this previews, since that’s not really my bag. I will make the occasional exception here and there, however, and this book fits the bill. Much of that has to do with the book jacket itself. With art from illustrator Edel Rodriguez, it reminds me of nothing so much as one of those old timey paperback mystery novels where innocuous objects form skulls. This particular book was written by the Managing Director of the Capetown Opera. Williams, however, is also a human rights activist, and this book looks closely at the blood diamond industry. Keep an eye peeled for it, then.
The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Switching gears possibly as far as those gears can conceivably be switched, we come across a familiar name. Which is to say, the name “Eric Litwin” will certainly be ringing bells for a few of you out there. Does the name “Pete the Cat” mean anything to you? Well, then you know Litwin. Having moved on from the sneakered kitty (the illustrator seems to be the one behind the books these days) rhymesmith Litwin finds himself at a brand new publishing house with a brand new series under his belt. Apparently selling 1.8 millions copies of Pete can’t keep a good man down. Much like Pete, this book has an accompanying song that you can download. In the tale Mama Nut wants to get the little nuts off to bed. Their thoughts on the matter are not all that positive, though. As editor Connie Hsu put it at one point, “Nuts are the new legume.” I’m not entirely certain what that means but I liked it as a capper. Multitalented Scott Magoon is behind the art as well, so that’s nice. He’s good people.
Bad Magic by Pseudonymous Bosch
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was getting the world to regularly pronounce the name Psudonymous Bosch. So I don’t have a book jacket for this particular title, and that is because the one that you’ll find online right now isn’t the final. In fact, with its 9/16/14 release date, I don’t think it has a final jacket at all. Ah well. The important thing to know is that Bosch, the fellow behind that massively successful Secret Series, has started a new series entirely. In this book 13-year-old Clay is given an assignment to fill a journal with information on Shakespeare’s classic play The Tempest. Clay’s magician brother disappeared years ago, causing Clay to hate the stuff. Then, somewhere in the course of his adventures, he’s sent to a discipline camp on an island with an active volcano, an abandoned mansion, and multiple llamas (each kid gets his or her own). Add in the fact that one kid’s a kleptomaniac, another an anarchist, and another a gambler and you get a sense of the book. The meets? “A middle grade LOST meets The Tempest with some Lord of the Flies.” Nice.
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
First of all, just take in that cover for a moment. That is a pie made entirely out of Twinkies. And depending on how you view the immortal apocalyptic-defying food (question: Is there a YA dystopian novel out there anywhere where they devour Twinkies?) that’s either a good or a bad thing. The image, for the record, is by the author herself. This little book actually isn’t due onto shelves until February 10, 2015, but no harm in letting you know about it a touch early. In this story two sisters live together in a trailer park. When one of them wins a million dollar recipe contest it’s time for them to reinvent themselves. I think editor Alvina Ling described this book as being about “food that pretends it’s something it’s not,” which is a great line in and of itself.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Anyone who saw my recent review of The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires knows that I’ve a weakness for books that acknowledge the beauty of clutter, mess, and messing up. Well, Patrick McDonnell is back and he’s tackling the same dang thing it seems, though his focus is a bit more on helping kids move beyond mere frustration. After having wowed the world with Me . . . Jane he scales back his seriousness with something a little more along the lines of his Krazy Kat influences. With mixed-media (!) we watch as a jelly and peanut butter sandwich’s remains start to “destroy” a character’s story. Think “Duck Amuck”. The trick to the book is of course the fact that by the end the character has learned that it’s okay if your story is a bit messed up. For my part, I’m pretty sure this book is going to be embraced by librarians doing introductory welcome to the library readings for kids on how to treat their books. McDonnell may be talking about ideas like the use of frustration, but for we the librarians the lesson is clear: Don’t Eat When You Read!
Pirate, Viking & Scientist by Jared Chapman
So, y’know. Right there. Awesome. The premise of this little picture book is so charming that one is inclined to just love it on sight. Drawn in a kind of Brian Biggs-type style (or Hanna-Barbera, if you prefer) the plot follows a little boy scientist and his two best buddies. One is a pirate and one is a viking. You would think the three would be besties for all time, but it turns out that the viking LOATHES the pirate and the pirate simply cannot STAND the viking. The scientist, true to his nature, sets up a series of scientific experiences to prove that these two can become friends. So, basically, this is a book about utilizing the scientific method. A lot of hypotheses go down in the course of this story and there’s even a little Venn diagram on the title page and graph paper used in the backgrounds. We’re always looking for fictional scientific tie-ins in our picture books. Seems to me like this is an excellent case of problem solved!
Kenny Wright, Superhero by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Cory Thomas
Promoting a James Patterson book is sort of a moot point. It’s like watching a Coca-Cola commercial. You half wonder why anyone bothers since the product is so ubiquitous. But since we’ve just seen the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign take off like wildfire, I can’t help but think it’s a good thing when hugely popular authors write books starring African-American boys like Kenny here. Filled with comic panel sequences, the book concerns young Kenny Wright and his dreams of transforming himself into the superhero Stainless Steel. Patterson, for the record, has another work of fiction coming out just prior to Kenny (who isn’t on shelves until March 16, 2015) called House of Robots: My Brother the Robot. That book stars a boy who appears to have the name Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez. A Latino boy character? Could be the case.
If You Find This by Matthew Baker
“Goonies meets Holes” (which I briefly misheard as “Grease meets Holes” so somebody get on THAT book stat). With the recent announcement that there really and truly is going to be a Goonies 2 there’s really never been a better time to invoke its name in the cause of children’s literature. Basically what we’re looking at here is a big adventure story without any magic but plenty of smuggler’s tunnels to make up for the fact. Nicolas’s dad has lost his job so the family must leave their current house. Which wouldn’t be a huge problem except that Nicholas’s dead brother’s tree, planted in his memory, is currently in the backyard. Meanwhile, the boy’s now senile grandfather is saying he buried some priceless heirlooms and made a map of where to find them. So really, when you think about it, what choice does Nicholas have except to break his grandpa out of a nursing home with his two best friends? In an interesting twist, musical dynamic notations appear throughout the text above certain words, reflecting how Nicholas sees the world. These may or may not prove distracting to readers. It’ll be interesting to see the kid reactions to this, but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. This book isn’t slated for release until March 17, 2015.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
And now the book that I am most excited to read next. Because, quite frankly, Sudanese children’s literature isn’t exactly cropping up on my shelves every day. In this book our heroine, Amira, is growing up in war-torn Sudan. She loves her sheep and her dad but when she and the family are forced to flee she ends up in a refugee champ. The trauma of the event causes her to lose her voice, but with the help of some paper and a pencil she’s improves. Inspired by true stories, Ms. Pinkney interviewed countless Sudanese refugees to get Amira’s voice right. It’s a verse novel well. As for the art by Shane W. Evans, it’s mostly spot illustrations, which is a form that’s new to him. The greatest selling point in some ways is the fact that the book is capable of making the horrors of war accessible to young readers. And as editor Kate Sullivan said of the art, Shane was her first, second, and third choice.
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
You must forgive me for not recognizing Ms. Ryan’s name at first. When you work almost exclusively in the world of children’s literature, the big YA names sort of pass you by at times. When folks started mentioning that this book was by a married team where we’ve all heard of the wife but maybe not so much the husband, I just assumed she was a celebrity of some sort. Took me a while to realize we were talking about the woman behind The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Now I was initially very excited to see this book because the art is clearly by one of my favorite new illustrators, one Mr. Todd Harris. Those of you who have seen his work on The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and its subsequent sequels will understand my cheer. In this dual perspective book, a girl gets caught up in something called The Pirate Stream. Meeting an orphan by the name of Finn, the two form a bond. You see, usually no one can remember meeting Finn five minutes after they’ve done so. The girl, it seems, is an exception. On the ship The Enterprising Kraken (which is a GREAT name right there) all the girl wants is to get home and all Finn wants is his mom. So really, it’s just natural that they’d pair with a crazy wizard and a sailor. They described it as Terry Pratchettesque and future installments are indeed in the works.
Love, Lucy by April Lindner
I won’t say much about this YA novel except for this fact: It’s an update of E.M. Forester’s A Room With a View. What more do you need to know?
Finally, all that was left was to reveal the super secret guest of the day. You never really know with a Little, Brown preview whom you might get at any given time. Sometimes it’s someone local like a Peter Brown and sometimes it’s someone from overseas like Darren Shan. In this case, we had a guest who was not local in the least. One that turned down a Creative Director job at Google to continue doing what he loves most – making children’s books. You hear that and you suddenly realize who it might be. I’ve only ever known one person to turn down Google and that was none other than the inestimable Dan Santat. And sure as shooting, twas he! In town, he was, to celebrate his latest picture book Beekle. From him we heard that the book is almost a kind of metaphor for the birth of Santat’s own son. At the same time, the book really would work well for those kids going to a new school, wondering if they’ll find the right person to be their friend. I hadn’t looked at the book in that way before, but it made a lot of sense when I did.
In other news, it appears that Mr. Santat is working on a book right now called Are We There Yet? about a kid so bored on a road trip that he actually manages to make time go backwards. Love that idea.
And in case you missed Beekle’s trailer, here it is for your viewing pleasure:
That’s all she wrote, folks. Thanks to the good folks of Little, Brown for hosting us.
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.
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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