Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall/Winter 2009)
When a publisher from out-of-state comes to town it is polite to sample their wares. Chronicle Books is based out of San Francisco, which essentially means that they are living the dream. You create high quality books AND you get to live in San Francisco? Where do I sign up?
So Cathleen Brady, the Director of Children’s Marketing and Publicity was in town. And in her possession was information regarding Chronicle’s upcoming season. So alongside luminaries Lisa Von Drasek and Judy Freeman we high-tailed it over to a Korean restaurant, ate our fill, and took a gander at what she had in her possession.
I should note before I begin that with the exception of the soundbooks, some of the images seen here may not be final. This is also why I don’t have pictures of everything I discuss. Just FYI.
Right off the bat the Queen of Chronicle and ruler of all things viral (in the marketing sense, mind you) is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. So right off the bat you have a Reese Witherspoon (really?) quote in the catalog about how "My son gobbles up the books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal." Well I’ll be darned. Certainly 2009 is turning into a good year for her. On the one hand you have her Duck! Rabbit!. On the other hand is Little Oink, the third in the triumvirate that began with Little Pea and Little Hoot. Will there be more? Personally, I doubt it. Not that there aren’t other motifs to milk (a beaver that wants to brush its teeth, a porcupine that wants to brush its hair, etc.) but they’re releasing these three books as board books. On top of that, the board books get a cut little boxed set where you can slip in a picture on the end and make it a bookend. Aww.
Next up, an abecedarian delight. Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman is an alphabet book that, according to the catalog, "features 120 pages of Andrew Zuckerman’s breathtaking wildlife photography." For each letter animals are placed against a pure white background. I appreciated that there were multiple shots of them from a variety of different angles too. There may be some debate over the group shots Zuckerman creates at strategic times, but as photography-related alphabet books go, this may possibly be one of the best (sorry Pilobolus).
Who could have predicted that 3-D would see such a resurgence? First you can’t see a movie these days without there being some kind of a 3-D equivalent. Now the books are going the same route. Only this isn’t your parent’s 3-D anymore. No, when we were looking at Eye-Popping 3-D Pets by Barry and Betsy Rothstein, it was using a kind of technology called "phantograms". This is apparently different from 3-D in that phantograms stand off of a page like a hologram. So while this book has the usual kitties and puppies, there are also 3-D tarantulas to deal with. I’m trying to remember if Chronicle’s 3-D World Atlas and Tour book (which came out last year) was also filled with phantograms or just regular old 3-D. Can’t remember.
Bing is back. The man behind the Caldecott Honor winning Casey at the Bat, the fascinating Little Black Sambo, and the recent Lincoln Shot by Barry Denenberg has gone all softy on us. He’s done a straight up fairy tale, which is rather fascinating to me. I mean, you don’t expect Bing to be so . . . so normal, really. But normal he is, and Little Red Riding Hood is a full color book done in the man’ usual meticulous style. Now the author of the book is said to be "The Brothers Grimm" so I can only assume that this is going to be one of those versions where Little Red and Granny get eaten up at some point. The real question, then, is whether or not the hunter will straight out kill the wolf, or they’ll be completely accurate and fill the poor critter’s belly with stones. I’m putting down $20 for stones. Who’s with me?
Chronicle likes it the technology. Fantagrams not enough for you? Fine. Well, they’ve got some Soundbooks for your audible pleasure as well. It’s only a matter of time before they create a soundbook/fantagram book all in one. Animals leap off the page… in stereo! Well, during this preview we were in this noisy Korean restaurant, but we had to try one of these out. They’re not kidding about the stereo either. Three books are coming out that feature stereophonic (my outdated term, not theirs) capabilities; Stereobook: Dinosaurs, Stereobook: Vehicles (shown here), and Stereobook: Wild Animals. You open the book and little speakers are connected to both the front and the back covers. Then, when you press a button, the sound continues for about 30 seconds. So essentially this is the picture book equivalent of The Very Quiet Cricket jacked up on steroids.
Am I the only librarian out there who didn’t know who Jim LaMarche was? No, seriously, am I? Because I guess I was familiar with his work (The Elves and the Shoemaker, Up, Rainbabies, etc.) and never put two-and-two together enough to realize those books were all done by the same bloke. If some of you have been suffering from LaMarche withdrawal, I have good news. The man who can somehow draw soft pastels without drowning his subjects in an ocean of twee is coming out with Lost and Found: Three Dog Stories. Shoot. Now I have to go and reread all his old stuff as well.
A show of hands (I keep asking you questions, don’t I?). Who was in The Nutcracker ballet as a child. Anyone? Anyone? I was. And my parents had to see so many performances of it, as a result, that if you play the music for them now they have the loving parent equivalent of war flashbacks. Ack! It’s the sixteen-year-old Sugar Plum Fairy! Run! Run!
I mention all this because Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills (along with illustrator Wilson Swain) have come up with a notion so strange that it just might work. You take the story of the Nutcracker, but you tell it from the perspective… of Fritz. Remember Fritz? If your ballet company is working with a small cast then he’s the kid that will play Clara’s naughty Nutcracker-busting brother in the first act, and handsome de-magickified prince (ew.. her brother?) in the second. Anyway in The Nutty Nutcracker Christmas, Fritz gets center stage. Oddly, the story also seems to have been modernized. Ralph Covert is more of a songwriter than an author, and he has also created the music for this book. We’ll see if it becomes a standard.
Now here, of all the books on the list, is the one that I waaaaaaaant. And it’s not just because the photographer Mark Cassino is from Kalamazoo, Michigan (though that certainly didn’t hurt matters any). The book is called The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder, and it’s by Jon Nelson with Mr. Cassino’s photographs for spice. You know the story of Snowflake Bentley? How he figured out how to photograph snowflakes when no one else could? Well now Mr. Cassino takes it one step further. In this title we learn everything there is to know about snow, and the photographs of the individual flakes are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Did I mention, me want?
Mark Boutavant. One of those guys that is probably going to be unavoidable in 10-15 years. I say that because the fellow has been slow about appearing in American until now. Sure, he’ll do a cover for Lulu Atlantis and the Search for True Blue Love, and the illustrations for Mary Ann Hoberman’s All Kinds of Families, but now this Parisian is coming out with TWO picture books with Chronicle this season, one in October and one in November. In bright Urban Outfitter colors and gorgeous interior spreads, these are going to be noticeable on the old bookshelf.
Book #1 is by Mr. Boutavant itself and is called Around the World with Mouk: A Trail of Adventure. As Lisa Von Drasek put it, it’s like a digital Richard Scarry. It also marks the first time I’ve seen Middle Eastern head coverings on fluffy animals. According to the description I have here it contains "fascinating tidbits about local customs" around the planet. I’m going to try to post an extra large view of it here (which will undoubtedly wreak havoc with my sidebar) so you can see what I mean:
Book #2 is by author Laura Leuck (My Monster Mama Loves Me So is probably her best known title in my library) and it’s called For Just One Day. The story just shows kids pretending to be various animals. I’ve managed to write an entire piece here without using the word "cute" to describe Mr. Boutavant’s work but that’s only because it doesn’t really encompass what it is that he’s capable of. I expect great things out of this man. Soon.
Now Over in the Hollow by Rebecca Dickinson has been on my radar for some time. Want proof? On February 20, 2007 I wrote a Hot Men of Children’s Literature piece on illustrator S. Britt. Here is what I said at the time: "According to his agency ‘Over in the Hollow’ a children’s book Stephan is illustrating will be released in September 2007 by Chronicle Books (though according to Amazon, September ’08 seems to be more likely)." Yeah. Try October of 2009, cause that’s when this book is actually coming out. Stephan Britt, for the record, wrote what has to be my all-time favorite response to a Hot Man of Children’s Literature nomination: "Hot? Never. Man? Someday!" Oh. And Over in the Hollow, for the record, is an Over in the Meadow type story, only with a Halloween twist. Looks cute.
Spot the Plot may sound more like the battle cry of your average sardonic reviewer, but this J. Patrick Lewis/Lynn Munsinger pairing has something right up my alley. Lewis writes clues that hint at a classic children’s book or text and it’s up to the reader to guess what it is. And since Munsinger could probably illustrate the national debt and I’d read it, this October release looks to have some real poetic legs.
And finally, the piece de resistance. The crown jewel. The cherry on the cake, the M&M in the sugar bowl, the glory of this preview, I present to you the Unicorn Wishes Journal where you can "record wishes and dreams in this rainbow-edge and foil-stamped" and . . . . . wait a second. That doesn’t seem right. Lemme check my notes again here. Uh . . . eco-Christmas . . . princess tea . . . . AHA! Here it is! Sorry for the confusion. What I meant to introduce is the coolest edition of the old lady/fly song since Simms Taback discovered the die-cut. There Was an Old Lady by Jeremy Holmes is this strange, dark, weirdly gorgeous and goth rectangular concoction. Holmes is a graphic designer you see and so you turn the pages of the woman’s actual stomach, her head and feet poking out below and above respectively. But it gets better! Because when the old lady croaks (shall I give it away? I shall) here eyes unexpectedly and without any warning CLOSE on their own. So where are my visuals for this wonder? Well the book isn’t out until October and they’re still tinkering with the font size and layout, so no pictures for you. But give it half a year (six months exactly, I see) and this is going to be the hit of your Halloween celebrations. I’m very excited, I can tell you.
Thanks again to Cathleen Brady for presenting these books to my fellows and myself and for passing on some of these images. Can’t wait to see what the fall and winter bring.
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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