Little Brown and Company Fall/Winter 2008 Preview
I get so confused. Is Little Brown & Co. now known as Hatchette or is that an entirely different entity altogether? When it doubt, stick with what you know. And what I know is that this past Tuesday LB&Co. had its seasonal librarian preview for some of those people out there lucky enough to have MLS degrees (and a couple who don’t).
Standard Little Brown and Company Operating Procedure:
– You go to the place they designate.
– They feed you.
– You sit at a table while editors get ten minutes to tell you about anywhere from 2-5 of their books coming up this season.
– You get very excited about these books, and converted by more than a few.
– They feed you again.
– A special guest star (always a secret) comes to speak.
– You get a signed poster from the special guest star…. and they feed you.
Yes, as librarian previews go, Little Brown has the system down pat. Now in the past they’ve always held these delights at the Time-Life building on 5th Avenue. Since their move, however, they have had to make do with shabby quarters. So we went to some no-name place called The Yale Club. I mean, they couldn’t even get a Harvard outfit?
I kid, of course. The Yale Club is, as you might expect, very clubby. About five librarians and myself went up the elevator with three of the club’s members. After two of the men exited the remaining woman looked about the car joyfully. "This is the first time I’ve ever ridden in an elevator that was entirely made up of women!" She then gave us a solidarity salute as she excited. None of us really had the heart to tell her that we were librarians. Breaking the hearts of club members is supposed to be seven years bad luck anyway.
Upstairs Victoria Stapleton had everything running like clockwork. And, as is my job, I had to check out her shoes. I forgot my camera (a running theme of the day, I’m afraid) so I wasn’t able to take a shot of them. Please be aware that they were red boots of the Italian designer persuasion (kind of like this but without the buttons). And yes, she has teeny tiny feet, so sasquatches like myself can’t even pretend that we might get a pair off of her in her will or something.
I always end up at the Suffolk County table at these things, and this one was no exception. Very nice women, all of them. There was also a Staten Island librarian present that I’d never met before. We did NOT see eye-to-eye on covers (she’s pro-back of the head/dismembered female bits n’ pieces and I am not) but we got into some good conversations so that worked out. But Laura Lutz? I am so sitting at your table next time. Seriously, why do we never sit together? It’s not as if they assign us places or anything.
And then an editors sat down and they were off!
All right. So LB likes to leave handy dandy full-color (can’t be cheap) printouts of the books the editors will be discussing. Only 19 books make this list (there are advantages to small releases) and this year they went and made the titles alphabetical to boot. That’s all well and good when it comes to following what different editors say at different times. As such, I’ll just point out some of the books that particularly caught my little eye.
First up, a book that is appearing on shelves September 1st, a fact that I cannot find coincidental since it’s patriotic city. America: The Making of the Nation by Charlie Samuels may as well be called Americaology, since it’s very much in the same vein as those other "ology" books like Pirateology and Dragonology, yadda yadda yadda. Pullouts. A life-sized folded version of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t get a very good look at it, so I can’t say how well this ode to the U.S. mentions minorities or women-folk. Interesting Fact: A Brit has written this. We’ll see how that affects the general tone of the book itself.
Now here’s an author/illustrator pairing that feels so natural you almost wonder if there’s been some kind of shift in the universe and you heard about this book in the past. I’m referring to the new book The Day Leo Said "I Hate You!" by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Molly Bang. Aw yeah, baby. Bang is back. And with her When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry you know that she’s not afraid of any issue Harris is liable to pull out. This is a topic that hasn’t really been covered in picture books before, and there was some discussion during its creation about whether or not to use the word "hate" in the title. I mean, obviously that’s what the book is all about, but you just know that some bookstores are going to be afraid to stock it for that very reason. Bang’s using what looks like mixed media and photos in this puppy alongside her usual pictures, so we’ll see how well that works. I haven’t examined it yet. Could be good, could be bad. In any case, this is one to watch out for.
I’m not going to mention many YA novels, but here’s one that reminds me of a book from my youth. It’s called The Devouring by Simon Holt (the perfect authorial name conglomeration of two major publishing houses). In spite of the pretty purple smoke on the cover it’s a girl horror title and it sounds somewhat similar to The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. The old little brother getting possessed model. You know the type.
Actually, Diary of a Chav by Grace Dent is also YA, but is worth noting because it was the one book where the editor asks us for our opinions on a potential cover. A "chav" is apparently the British term for a poseur (usually white) who adopts hip-hop culture as his or her own. Apparently there will be a television show about chavs on your sets this coming fall, so bear that in mind. The cover showed a white girl with half-closed eyes posing like a fool. I liked it, but people thought she looked drugged. We’ll see what they finally come up with when it’s released in October.
I was pleased to see that Wendy Mass (author of my beloved Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life ) has a new title out for the kids in the 8-12 range this fall. Every Soul a Star was one of the ARCs they had available and I snatched it up. Mass never gets enough attention, so hopefully this one will get a little notice soon.
I fell so hard in love with Fanny by Holly Hobbie that I may have to review it sooner rather than later. In fact, all I’m going to tell you about it now is that Hobbie has finally moved away from her usual piggy protagonists to do a little girl’s story. Oh fine… I’ll tell you one more thing about it. Have you ever kind of wanted an anti-Bratz picture book? I was amazingly shocked, however, when the editor presenting it held up a book called The Art of Holly Hobbie and I discovered to my amazement that the sunbonnet Sue pictures inside were from my youth. I’m one of those crazies who like to track down and find all the books from her youth. Well apparently I missed one, because there before me were pictures that I hadn’t seen since I was five or so. Amazing.
Fortune’s Magic Farm by Suzanne Selfors I’d already seen. In fact, I’ve already vetted it with a co-worker’s son. This kid loved Selfors’ last book To Catch a Mermaid and he was such a big fan of it that when I got this new book I handed it over immediately. He informs me (I’ve not read it) that it’s even better than her first. Well noted. Selfors is best described as Eve Ibbotson-esque and her next book after this may be called Smells Like Dog.
Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks (that’ll hit home with a couple of my readers) has a middle grade novel coming out in September. Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! sounds as if it may be trying for a kind of Phantom Tollbooth feel. We’ll see. I’m a little wary of anyone working in the film or television industry who tries to write a children’s novel. Let’s just say I’ve been burned before. Initially they hoped to put an acetate overlay on the jacket so that the rocket featured there would move but it didn’t work. Aw.
Todd Parr has The I Love You Book coming out. Don’t think there’s much more to be said about that.
Here’s a reprint that deserves some notice. First of all, fun fact of the day: Ed Emberley is still alive! That was the first thought that popped into my head when I heard that LB was working with him to get the original art for his book Night’s Nice , written by Barbara Emberley. This book was not an LB title back in 1962, but they want it now and that’s no surprise. The original book was small and child-sized. The kind of thing we put in our Little Book Section. The new edition will be much larger, with lovely images and a sweetness that makes me inclined to review it. We’ll see. They’re sparing no expense with this one too. There will be a three case cover, die cuts, cloth, and shiny lamination on the back. Reprints are sometimes my favorite things to talk about. If I had my way, I’d do a reprint blog on the side just for kicks. They’re just that cool.
I picked this next one up so there’s no telling how it is, but Donna M. Jackson, author of such non-fiction treats as The Bone Detectives and Hero Dogs has a book out in September called Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses.
Generally, I’ve avoided Patrick McDonnell’s picture books. Mutts is a fine comic strip. I just don’t feel like reading it as a book. Editor Andrea Spooner assured me that South was different though, and maybe it is. With its Krazy Kat look and brown pages this is a story inspired by minimalist Japanese bookmaking art. There’s more brush than penwork here, and it’s generally wordless. We’ll see if McDonnell breaks out of his usual pet lover audience with this quieter, more contemplative fare.
About this time I started to get pouty. Some savory snacks of the sushi variety had been placed out earlier, but my table missed the fishy boat. My lower lip wobbled profusely as Victoria breezed by, but she’s used to dealing with needy netties like myself. "More savory snacks will be coming," she reassured me. Oh good. I was going to a movie after this and basically was hoping for something to fill my belly in the interim.
But first, the guest of honor! To our delight it was none other than picture book superstar and Caldecott winner Ed Young! Mr. Young’s work includes everything from his award winning Lon Po Po to the more recent and touching My Mei Mei. Now it appears that he has illustrated a new picture book and it’s a stunner. Wabi Sabi is the tale of a cat walking out on its own. The story behind this book has already gotten big, in large part because the original illustrations were stolen off Mr. Young’s agent’s porch. Without missing a beat Mr. Young decided to make them again and to make them even better (though he had already thrown out the sketches for the original pictures and would have to begin from scratch). After finishing he turned them in. Then, six months after they disappeared, the original pictures were returned to a local church. Around the room we were able to compare the Before and After illustrations. Mr. Young wasn’t lying. The "After" pics were definitely preferable.
Recently Mr. Young had found a book at a bookstore called Wabi Sabi and he bought it out of curiosity. According to him, the term can be broken down into the two words. Wabi: To go against what was wished. The world is a messy place and it never conforms to what one wishes it to be. Sabi: A love of grime and soot and weather. This was the general definition I heard at the time. It’s probably far off, but who cares? It sounds good.
All in all, Little Brown seems poised for a strong season this coming fall. We’ll see if any of their gambits pay off in the long run.
Filed under: Librarian Previews
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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