Reporting: Greenwillow Preview 2008 (Part One)
Some publishers offer previews, but they like to limit them to a mere season in advance. In the Fall come the Spring/Summer Previews. In the Spring come the Fall/Winter ones, and so on, and so forth. Greenwillow, imprint of Harper Collins, doesn’t play by those rules though, man. They’re rebels. If they want to show you something cool that isn’t going to even appear on bookstore shelves until Fall of 2008 then they’re gonna do it and devil take the consequences. Yee-haw!
Setting: The Greenwillow offices are one big twisty turney maze. Take a wrong step to the left and whoops! You’ve entered someone’s private lair. Being led by one of our faithful native guides we made it to a room full of original art only to run right smack dab into Kevin Henkes. Okay. That’s exaggerating. We merely walked by him but the shock of treading past someone only to glimpse the name on their chest and to see the moniker "Kevin" followed by "Henkes" is (for your average everyday children’s librarian) the equivalent of being hit upside the head with a very nice and polite fire extinguisher.
So, naturally, I never said a word to him.
Oh, don’t look at me like that. It was Kevin Henkes. Caldecott winner. Newbery Honor winner. Creator of Lilly, Owen, Julius, and God know who all. No, I merely glanced nervously at him for the remainder of the evening. Had I an inch of sense I would have brought up with him the fact that I really enjoyed a performance of three of his Lilly books at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater some years ago. Ah well.
The art on display was really why I was there anyway, and it was superb. First of all, fans of Lynne Rae Perkins will be pleased to hear that she has another picture book coming out. This one is called The Cardboard Piano. The levels of intricacy it must take for her to complete a single picture boggles zee mind. I had a hard time concentrating on anything else for a time. Not far away though was Cat and Mouse by Ian Schoenherr. I didn’t have a chance to talk to Mr. Schoenherr at the time, but again we hit on a theme of mine. I adore intricacy. I love it when an artist as the ability to use delicate little pen lines to convey a character or scene. In Mr. Schoenherr’s case, there were photographs of cats accompanying the art. The cat in the book itself obviously owes its very existence to these very real felines, and I’m looking forward to the publication of the book. It’s a picture book that utilizes a variety of different cat and mouse nursery rhymes (like Hickory Dickory Dock) and turns them into a single story. Quite clever, really.
There were some nice pieces by Lindsay Barrett George (Alfred Digs) and Paul O. Zelinsky (Awful Ogre Running Wild). And Greenwillow standby Anita Lobel has a book called Hello, Day! that I took a particular liking to. With Kevin Henkes there, it will surprise no one to hear that he has another picture book coming out by the name of Old Bear. Just the nicest looking book too. Essentially an old bear hibernates and as he does so he dreams of being a cub again, watching the different seasons. If the autumnal selection doesn’t knock your socks off when you see it, I’ll eat my proverbial hat.
Later on, people would ask me which piece I liked the most and while they were all very lovely I really adored The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. If her name sounds familiar that may be because she did the illustrations for Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant just last year. In 2008 she’ll have the ultimate fall (again with the autumn) book out. Using found paper, magazine sections, and a variety of pulpy substitutes she constructs a tale of a single leaf’s reluctance to abandon its branch until the time is right to let go. It was art I couldn’t forget. Not too dissimilar from the work of Shelley Jackson (the illustrator of The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County, amongst other things), Ms. Berger was also present at the preview and she was able to give me a sense of how she works. She pointed out neat little words slyly worked into the text that you might not notice on a first pass. She indicated love letters she’d purchased and then fit in, as well as a magnificent picture of the sun made entirely from different yellow magazine pages. Consider Ms. Berger a name to watch in the coming year. No question.
There were other pictures, but sometimes it was too crowded to get a proper look at them on the table. Moving on we entered one of the offices where the food and drink were laid out. And there, in all its glory, was the whiteboard indicating all future publications and projects, extended well into late 2010 early 2011.
Problems That Come With Blogging About Previews: I’m not exactly coy when it comes to what I like and don’t like. I also have a weird ability to forget that the very people I’m writing about might, oh I dunno, read what I’ve written at some point. I’ve blogged about the Greenwillow previews before and I’ve mentioned this very whiteboard too. Naturally I don’t divulge what I see there (due less to my morals and more to my poor memory), but it’s so much fun to figure out what titles might be reprinted as paperbacks in the coming year, or which author currently has an unnamed project in the works.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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