Reporting: Little Brown and Company Spring 2009 Librarian Preview
If the convenience of the location doesn’t get you, the food almost certainly will.
There are many kinds of publisher previews for librarians in New York. There are Powerpoint presentations and presentations where you are given delicious pesto sandwiches. There are presentations that hand you catalogs to jot down notes in and others that provide elaborate fruit platters. Some will place you in an audience and others will put you at individual tables in small groups. And some, a few, will give you Sherman Alexie.
If you’ve read any of my prior recaps of the Little Brown previews then you know this much to be true:
1. Marketing guru Victoria Stapleton always wears amazing shoes to each and every event. Example above:
2. They always provide real Coke. Not Diet Coke. Not Pepsi. Real Coke in a bloody beautiful can. Sorry, but that’s where my standards lay. In Coke cans.
3. There is always one super secret guest.
4. They create lush full-color handouts, one book per page, with ample space for note taking. This is because Little Brown publishes a smaller list than a Penguin or a Simon & Schuster or a Harper Collins. It gives them a distinct advantage in the librarian preview realm too, because if these previews are about anything it’s interaction and allowing you to feel that you’re contributing.
I had been told via Facebook chat the night before to come to the event promptly because someone super cool was going to be there. This was a good thing to be told since I had completely forgotten that the preview was the next day (dayplanners apparently only work if you actually open them up and read them). I asked if the someone was going to be Stephanie Meyer. That would make for a good blog post, wouldn’t it? Meeting Stephanie Meyer. I could almost hear the snort emanate from my screen when I wrote this. No. Not Meyer. Someone else. Hmm.
Fortunately my new workplace (more on that later) was a mere three to four blocks away from the location of this preview: The Yale Club. The Yale Club is a nice place to have any event because if you are very very lucky you will sometimes end up in the elevator there with people wearing yellow vests, speaking in pseudo-English accents, talking about “the event” on the roof. The sport of “people watching” in any New York club is one that I indulge in at every possible opportunity.
And a mere fifteen minutes later the first super special guest of the day was revealed to be none other than Sherman Alexie, author of Little Brown’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Wowzer. The man was actually on his way to The Colbert Report to film a segment, but was nice enough to talk to a room full of librarians first. I wish I could report something shocking, like he chewed gum the whole time, or something equally abhorrent but I can’t. He was a lovely speaker. We learned that last year he traveled 300,000 miles for his book. That his books were mostly read by college-educated white women (and the room shifted imperceptibly in its seat). He spoke about how letters from privileged white Connecticut kids were almost identical to letters from kids on a Crow reservation, in terms of their reactions to the story. And when he recently returned to his Spokane hometown to present his book the audience consisted of nine ex-girlfriends, his English teacher, his Science teacher, his mother, his brothers, his sisters, everybody! You can see him here with Victoria Stapleton to the left (she requested that her visage be removed from the picture, so I’ve given her a delightful smiley face instead . . . I don’t expect to live through the night, so please give my parents my love).
A slam bang beginning, no doubt. Now we were comfortably seated at our little tables eating our little sandwiches (Little Brown has shifted their events so that they are now lunch-related with food provided for all). At these particular events the editors move from table to table presenting their books, as opposed to Harper Collins where you move yourself. It’s a luxury, no doubt.
One item that may have been at the last preview, though I missed it, was a Fall 2008 Librarian Preview checklist. Don’t want to lug heavy ARCs home after hearing about them? Simply fill out this form of titles and LB&Co. will ship them to wheresoever you might prefer free of charge. Simon & Schuster does this too, but I’m not sure if they have an actual form. It was nice. Made you feel they cared.
We were told by Victoria right off the bat that Little Brown has been around since 1926. That was an interesting factoid. I mean, I read Leonard’s Minders of Make-Believe so I sort of knew this, but it’s great to get a sense of a history of a place before you hear about their books.
The order of editors as they hit my table was Nancy Conescue, Kurt Hassler, Jennifer Hunt, Liza Baker, Alvina Ling, and Andrea Spooner. Fair enough. Apparently I wasn’t paying much attention though so I didn’t note on my handout who presented what. Ah well. You’re probably more interested in the books anyway, so let’s walk through the ones that I thought sounded particularly keen this cold and rainy day.
Now I am excited . . . . very excited. . . to tell you that author/illustrator Grace Lin has a new book out. I should know, since later in the day I would upset one of the easels displaying her art for her new book and come very close to kicking it to the ground (it was caught, but barely). See the easel in the corner. That was the one my left ankle made a dive for.
The book in question is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a June 2009 release (LB & Co. likes to do these things early). Since I would cross over white hot sands to grab the newest Lin title I was pleased as punch to see that they were making it easy on me and providing ARCs then and there. The final product will contain eight to ten full-color inserts not available in the galley, but I can’t wait to read it. It’s longer than her Year of the DogYear of the Rat fare with an 8-12 age range. Interesting.
I’m not sure if you heard, but our new Children’s Poet Laureate is none other than one Mary Ann Hoberman. Later on this same day I would attend a PEN meeting and come face to face with Ms. Hoberman, much to my own surprise. When this happened I was able to show everyone at the meeting the two books that Little, Brown had provided for our viewing. The first is the picture book All Kinds of Families, which is an inclusive look at what a family can consist of, above and beyond moms and dads. It was described as Richard Scarry meets Hello Kitty, and darned if that wasn’t a dead on way of looking at it. The book is a funny mix of classic and ultra mod illustration and it’s by one Marc Boutavant. If you’ve ever seen the cover of Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love then you should be familiar with this particular Frenchman’s work.
The other Hoberman title due out is a pretty little novel called Strawberry Hill. They described it as the kind of book that fans of The Penderwicks might dig. It’s not a verse novel either, so we shall see what we shall see. And Little Brown has published Ms. Hoberman since 1957 so I guess you could say that they’ve earned the right to be particularly pleased about her recent laureate status.
I will confess to you that Confetti Girl was not a book that I was originally inclined to pick up. It took the plying of Alvina Ling to get me past the cover and become intrigued by its pretty little concept. Author Diana Lopez debuts with a story that described as a kind of Latina Judy Blume. The cover features socked feet (hence my original hesitation) but sounds interesting. It’s Texan and involves a kid who has to read Watership Down in school. The heroine is also referred to as a Sockophile, which I think would be a pretty good title right there. In any case, I was sufficiently intrigued enough to pick this puppy up.
Another title I dragged my feet about picking up was a poetry collection called Countdown to Summer by J. Patrick Lewis. I like Lewis fine but I’m not much of a poetry person at heart. That said, I liked the concept. The book provides a poem for every day of the school year and is illustrated by Ethan Long (a.k.a. the Tickle the Duck man). Little Brown rarely does poetry collections, and this one sounded interesting. There are limericks, haikus, narrative poems, and other variations, making it ideal for teaching purposes. So I took it. We shall see.
Pretty pretty pretty. That’s what I wrote when I caught a glimpse of Henry R. Gideon’s Dinosaur. You hear that? That’s the sound of a million librarians and teachers all saying in unison, “Another dinosaur book?” Yup. Fraid so. So what’s the hook? Like the Abraham Lincoln biographies (total Lincoln count for this preview: a surprising zero) so popular right now, a good dino title needs a hook. This one has a kind of ‘ology style, but in a different vein. The art is actually by paleontologists, if I didn’t misunderstand the editor. And with novelty components on every page and faux coffee stains (you’re supposed to be looking through a paleontologist’s notebook) it’s pretty complex for its twenty-dollar price tag. And like Uneversaurus by Aidan Potts it does interesting things with dino colors and at the back is a sort of dino statistic area, each one on a separate (not punch-out-able) card. Basically if you’re looking to update your collection, this would be a good bet for the older kiddies.
And to my delight Chris Gall has a new book coming out. I’m a big ole Gall fan. His Dear Fish was sublime. His There’s Nothing to do on Mars delighted. And now he’s done something that sort of baffled all of us at my table. Not because it was a bad idea or anything. Have you ever heard an idea pitched by someone and you’ve the sudden shock of wondering why no one has ever thought of that before? Meet DinoTrux. It’s a whole book of trucklike dinosaurs. I’d say more but I feel like this one needs a review at some point. In any case there’s not much more you need to know except trucks-meet-dinos.
More and more child and YA novels are inserting comic spreads within their texts. Is there a name for this technique? If so then I do not know it. But Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin apparently does it, and I was intrigued by the description. One person told me it was Donny Darko meets Being John Malkovich. Another person said it was Donny Darko meets Ghost Girl. And further descriptions said it was like Feed or Be More Chill. So basically I haven’t a clue what it’s about, but with comparisons like that I admit to being a little curious.
I don’t read YA, but if I did I know which book would be number one on my list. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci and contains a whole bunch o’ nerd related YA stories from some of the biggest authors in the field. Alvina ended up as the editor of this book because when she pitched herself she typed up her own Geek Resume. She then passed it around the table for us to read, and I had this funny moment of competitiveness rise up in me. As I scanned the entries I kept thinking to myself, “Well, my resume wouldn’t be too bad either you know. I’m sure I could put down some stuff not found here.” Then I regained my composure, pressed down those memories of watching Deep Space Nine when I was fifteen, and continued to take notes.
The description of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Hannah Montana meets Heroes. Apparently going over to Japan and not knowing about this series is akin to someone in the States not knowing about Twilight. 4.5 million copies of the books have been sold overseas. So . . . . wow.
The title Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn, provided some interesting conversations amongst the librarian hoard. This British import about two mice (“Mice are the new penguins”) is the kind of book you would hand to someone looking for something Winnie-the-Poohish. Originally the three stories in this book were published in separate little titles for the 6-9 set. Makes sense. Yet oddly they’ve been combined here in the States into a much thicker product. I’m not entirely certain that this will be a good idea since in my experience parents avoid thicker books for their younger kids and prefer the thinner novels. After all, we have thick Winnie-the-Pooh collections, but they just don’t circulate as regularly as Now We Are Six and the like. Still, it looks cute. We shall see.
And next, as far as it is possible to go from Tumtum and Nutmeg comes Yen Press, Little Brown’s still relatively new graphic novel imprint. At this moment in time Yen Press does manga only for teens and adults, but it was definitely worth noting the comic adaptations coming up. Cirque du Freak finds itself mangatized (new word?) in a summer release that should coincide with the upcoming movie. The book is a graphic version of the prose novel, so this isn’t like the Erin Hunter manga versions of The Warriors that continue the story in a comic form. A similar title in the same vein is the manga Maximum Ride. Interestingly the comic will contain a fifteen-page preview of the next prose Maximum Ride novel. An interesting way to promote crossover, I think.
Oh. I guess I mentioned that Sherman Alexie started off our day, but did I mention his new novel at all? Don’t suppose I did. It’s called Radioactive Love Song but don’t expect to see any ARCs for a while. Little Brown is still working on it. The brief description is that while Absolutely True Diary was about a kid leaving the reservation and joining a different world, this one’s about a boy from the city who enters into a reservation. It was described to me as a story that talks about how you honor the life of a person with the life that you yourself lead. Sounds good.
And there always has to be at least one book at these things that comes out so far in the way distant future that you’re biting your fingernails in anticipation. I feel that way often at previews, but I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever felt it about something by Jerry Pinkney. I like Pinkney fine but the man’s style really isn’t my favorite. I like dark thick lines and bold colors, while Pinkney prefers sketchy soft lines and lighter shades. But when I saw the images from the Fall 2009 release of The Lion and the Mouse, I just knew I had to get my hands on this book. It’s that old fable of the feline and the rodent he spares, but done in an entirely wordless format. It’s a beautiful book with wonderful Peaceable Kingdom-type animals and settings, but what element did I latch onto most closely? The mouse’s feet. It is remarkably hard for any artist to accurately portray mouse feet. Mice don’t have cute tootsies, and that’s a fact. Even Beatrix Potter wouldn’t go there. So whenever I see someone portraying mice and their strange little appendages, I am well pleased. And Mr. Pinkney, whatever else you can say, does a mean mouse foot he does. Now I’m just wondering how long until he goes the graphic novel route as well (<—- my hobbyhorse).
For all his charm, Mr. Alexie hadn’t been the real super secret guest. But a quick gander through the packet and it seemed pretty evident who it would be. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is the story of a boy and a garden, and even as I looked at it I found myself thinking, “Why, this is a story about the High Line!”. For those of you unfamiliar with this bizarre New York phenomenon, once upon a time there was a line for trains in the city called The High Line. It traveled along the west side of the city and was used for many years until, one day in 1980 it stopped. Normally when this happens the city tears down the line and moves on, but for some reason this never happened to this particular line. It just sat there, untended, until plants began to bloom on it. Trees and grasses and wildflowers. Now the city has embraced the structure and is turning it into a kind of elevated park for all to see. And Peter, who one day stumbled across the line without knowing what it was, was inspired to create this picture book and claim the line as his inspiration.
The book is not actually directly about The High Line, though, so any enterprising author with a Meghan McCarthy/Jeanette Winter non-fiction bent could probably construct a pretty nice informational picture book out of the Line’s newfound regeneration. Until then, we have Peter’s.
Peter spoke a little about his influences and how his images are acrylic paint on illustration board using an old brush to get the strokes just right. Then he signed posters from the book and everyone was happy. Here he is doing just that:
I should probably stop the recap right here. This is a significant amount of information, right? No more needs to be said. I’d only be embarrassing myself if I confessed… if I mentioned… if I admitted…
All right. One more thing you should know. Little Brown sort of cleans up in the Cool Tote Bag area of things. For example, there was a Toot & Puddle bag a couple years ago that may have resulted in bloodshed on the floor of an ALA Conference. They had bags to give away at this preview too. Black and red bags with an adjustable strap (heaven!) an outside pocket and a logo that read . . . that read . . .
Forgive me. This is what it looks like:
I was going to give it away, but I find that I can’t. So when I go on the subway I turn it to my body so no one can read the label. Then I forget and flash the entire car when I leave. *sigh* What a gal will do for a pretty bag.
In any case, that’s the skinny as the skinny stands. And hey, if you’d like to see the segment of The Colbert Report that featured Mr. Alexie, here it is:
They’re so cute. Many thanks to Alvina Ling for the photos of the event (the smiley face, though, was all me, baby).
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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