Librarian Preview: Little, Brown and Company (Spring 2010)
Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start. If Victoria Stapleton, marketing/publicity/guru makes it her job to wear magnificent shoes on her teeny tiny feet, then it is our job to take pictures of them. Like so:
Yes, Little, Brown once again decided to leave the competition in the dust with their newest 2010 Librarian Preview season. In a room in the Yale Club lingered and laughed librarians. Editor-in-chief Liza Baker said it best when she gave the average everyday librarian preview some context. "If these books were our boyfriends, this would be our Meet the Parents moment." What I’ve always liked about LB&Co. is that librarians really get a sense that we’re contributing useful opinions to upcoming lines of books. Nothing seems set in stone. And while it’s perhaps just wishful thinking on our parts, it makes the experience all the better.
At particular gathering, food was brought in and displayed. Tea made available (more on that later). And spotted around the edges of the space was original art from a variety of Summer and Fall 2010 titles. These included:
Look a Book by Bob Staake (9/10)
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (9/10) – waaaaaaaant
Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier (9/10)
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin (7/10)
If each publisher in each publishing season is governed by a distinctive trend (big if) then Little, Brown’s trend was easy to spot right from the start. While 2010 might be the year for self-published books over at Harper Collins, LB is all about the adult authors now writing for children and teens for the first time.
After Liza Baker spoke, Victoria began the festivities and the editors began doing their thing. Each librarian was given a superior handout. Full-color AND glossy AND each section was divided into its color coded editors who would be presenting AND the names were alphabetical. The sections were torture clipped together rather than stapled, but other than that this was a superior handout product for which I was very grateful. As you might guess, I like to take notes.
Now while I am pretty sure that the first person to speak at my table was Julie Scheina, I’ll just go through this list alphabetically by editor instead. Less confusing that way, really.
First up, a new dual Pinkney creation. I’ll admit to you right here and now that when I saw the stacks of Sit-In: How Four Boys Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney (illustrated by Brian Pinkney) I didn’t initially grab one. Then Liza said the magic word: Greensboro.
My brother-in-law’s family lives in Greensboro and I’ve seen their library, looked at their art, and done the audio tour around the downtown area. The audio tour pays a particular amount of attention to the sit-ins that took place there in the 60s. These particular sit-ins have never been properly recorded in a children’s book until now. Now the Pinkneys are publishing with Little, Brown for the first time, and this is their debut.
For this book, Brian eschews his usual scratchboard style for watercolors instead. Had Liza not told me this, I don’t know that I would have noted it. The pictures do appear to have a fresher style to them, it’s true. From a design standpoint Martin Luther King’s words will occasionally appear enlarged alongside the text, buoying up the students in their protest. The counter too becomes a kind of fifth person in the group. A character in its own right. There is also a Timeline, an Afterword, and photographs of the real people to drill this puppy home to kids reading it that this isn’t just a story. These people were real.
Liza mentioned that the Pinkneys sort of go for an old-fashioned picture book feel here. It gives a person ideas. What if someone wrote a non-fiction picture book biography or historical moment, but illustrated the book in the style of McCloskey or Gag or Burton? Someone – go do that. I want to see that book. Oo! Or even better, different moments in history in the style of the top picture book artists of that time. 1900s – McCay. 1930s – Gag. 1960s – Sendak.
Next up, a book everyone will be longing to see. From our own Chris Barton of Bartography comes Shark Vs. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. You may know Mr. Lichtenheld from this year’s remarkably popular Duck! Rabbit! as well. In this particular outing, the premise is that two boys are playing with a shark toy and a train toy. In the next few spreads shark and train (now on their own and ready to rumble) compete in a variety of different ways. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Train wipes the floor with Shark when it comes to selling lemonade. Shark, on the other hand, is on top of everything water sportsish. Speech bubbles, quick cuts, funny dialogue, it all comes together. The inspiration came when Mr. Barton noticed how his kids were playing together. This book mimics that kind of play just beautifully and, according to Liza, has taken on an energy of its own.
Gear shift! Eagan’s a YA editor in her own right, so suddenly everything was teen at the table. First up, Reality Check by Jen Calonita. Calonita is apparently a celebrity journalist making her way with this, her second stand alone novel. The ARC’s cover sports an interesting look too. Covered in various promotional quotes from the known to the unknown, it was apparently somewhat Glee-like. Glee fans will be happy to hear that their beloved show is an influence of this sort. The premise of the book is kind of fun too (though not Glee-related). What would it be like to be asked to have your own reality show? Four girls find themselves in that very situation. This is one of the Poppy releases (LB&Co’s relatively new teen imprint). I’ll be interested in seeing the final cover.
With the Gossip Girl series ending this fall, there’s a gap to fill what Cecily Von Ziegesar hath wrought. One possible solution: The Daughters by Joanna Philbin. If her last name sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that. Regis has kids. Yup. This one’s about the daughters of boldface celebs (I mistakenly wrote down "goldface celebs" the first time I heard that phrase) and it’s about the trials faced by the daughter of a supermodel, her friend a daughter of a Trump-like guy, and the daughter of a Madonna-like mum. Could go either way. I’m heartened by the fact that one of the girls is normal looking in the book.
Not many books on this list earn themselves the epic "Ages 15 and Up" designation on their books, but Darren Shan is one of the few. The Thin Executioner is due out in August of 2010, and in spite of his history (Cirque du Freak) and the age recommendation, this is actually to be a fantasy rather than a horror adventure. It is, and I’m basically quoting here, "Inspired by Huckleberry Finn and his view of war and religion." Shan’s view, I take it. Not Huck’s.
In Cirque du Freak news, a bind-up is being done on the first three books, which may be of interest to teen library systems. And a four book series from Mr. Crepsley’s p.o.v. is on the horizon as well, so watch for that.
And the award for Best Cover of the Preview goes to . . . . Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce!!!
Here’s what I mean:
Do you see the wolf? It’s like Lon Po Po for teen girls (15 and up, no less). I know we keep slipping werewolves into books all the time and it can get old, but this title has a high concept premise I’m loving. Basically it’s Little Red Riding Hood meets Snow White & Rose Red meets werewolves. Two sisters, orphaned when a wolf kills their grandmother, get themselves some hatchets and go out to kill all the werewolves they can find. That’s just a rough approximation of the plot (and probably not all that accurate) but this looks like good old-fashioned bloodthirsty fun to me. Too bad it’s YA. I’m sold on it.
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the first debut (American) YA novel on this season’s list written by an author who normally pens books for adults (The Shadow of the Wind). In the bookgroup I run for kids the number one complaint I have to deal with is how bored they are with the usual line-up of supernatural characters. Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor got a lot of respect their respect for introducing new ghoulies to them, so I wonder how they’ll feel about this one. Described as being on "the younger side of YA" it concerns a small English coastal town. A family moves there and the kids in particular sense that something is amiss. Statues in the back garden seem to move when no one’s looking. Voices without bodies are heard. And a cat of some sort adopts them. By the time they realize that there’s someone out there called The Prince of Mist and that he’s collecting a debt, it may be too late. Zafon has written four YA titles, and is quite well known in Spain. Little, Brown has now acquired the rights to publish them in English for the first time. Expect more to follow then.
Like Zafon, Paolo Bacigalupi is also publishing teen for the first time in the U.S. as well. On the adult side of things Bacigalupi is best known for his short science fiction stories, as found in the collection Pump Six and Other Stories, which won him a slew of awards. This newest YA book, Ship Breaker, is a good old-fashioned environmental dystopia. 100 years from now the U.S. is scarce on resources and out of oil. America has become a third world country, and the disparity between the haves and the have nots is worse than ever. Our hero is a boy who lives on a beach and makes his living going into ships to strip them of their resources (copper, etc.). One day a hurricane comes and the boy has the opportunity to leave. However, a terrible choice is set before him. If he lets someone die, he can escape where he is. If he helps them, he’ll have to stay. There was much admiration of this cover, by the way. A nice change of pace from the usual designs we see.
Matthew Quick is yet another adult novelist making his YA debut (you see what I meant about this being a trend?). In this case Sorta Like a Rock Star so entranced Alvina that while reading it that she kept not recognizing people, she was so caught up in its world. The Sales Director from LB&Co. said she got the same feeling from this that she got from Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, so that ain’t shabby. The premise involves a homeless girl who lives with her mom on a schoolbus. In spite of that it’s full of "hope and happiness". And tears. Which got me to thinking… if someone put a faux warning label on a YA novel that said something along the lines of "WARNING: THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU CRY. READ ONLY IN A SAFE SPACE" would it help sales? I think so. Teen girls love to cry. Just look at the popularity of Lurlene McDaniel.
As I’m sure you already heard, Al Roker chose to do Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for his December 4th on air book club. Very exciting news! Author Grace Lin’s doing pretty darn well these days. First a nice article in SLJ. Now a new book slated to be released in July 2010. Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! is the youngest Grace has gone so far, readerwise. This early reader book is the first Lin has done, though she initially intended Year of the Dog to go to an even younger audience. It’s about a pair of twins, so this is the first twin-based early reader I can think of off the top of my head (Timmy and Tommy from the Arthur books SO do not count). And because of the research Grace did there are quite a few twins thanked in the dedication of this book as well. Think Betsy-Tacy but just a smidgen younger. That’s what we have here.
Maybe it’s because I was such a Phantom of the Opera fan as an adolescent, but the cover of Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey didn’t really disturb me. It disturbed the rest of my table, though. They just thought it was the creepiest thing they’d ever seen. Monica compared it to the old movie posters of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I dunno if it really compares though. Let’s see:
No, I think Baby Jane still wins this round. Cracked baby doll heads have an inherent advantage.
In any case, this marked a trend that is slowly coming out on the YA side of things for whatever reason: Serial killers. Serial killers are definitely emerging in more YA fiction in 2010. This particular book takes place in New Zealand where a kick-ass strong female girl character and her Maori friend discover there’s a serial killer out there (The Eye Slasher who’s called that because… well, it’s kind of self-explanatory). It will be published in Australia and New Zealand in tandem with its release here. It has also already been blurbed by Holly Black, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Libba Bray who wrote, "Are you ready to have your socks completely rocked?"
After looking at this cover I got the wrong impression. Here. You look at it and tell me what you think it’s about.
If your answer was, "Space ninjas?" then you and I have much in common and perhaps we should have coffee sometime. I totally thought we were looking at the first space ninja book for middle grade! But on closer inspection those ships are actually throwing stars. It’s not a space ninja. Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins takes place in medieval Japan with a couple fantastical elements. It concerns the warrior ninjas who protect the shogun. Some folks at my table compared it to The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Whatever the case, this is straight up adventure with its own John Flanagan blurb. I like the cover a lot, I should note. Space ninjas or no, it’s nice to get a good action shot, full-face, of a fellow who isn’t a white kid for once.
I’m just so very very excited about this next book. VERY excited am I. Suzanne Selfors, for whatever reason, continues to fly below the radar, and with each one of her books I hope and pray that she’ll get more attention. To Catch a Mermaid and Fortune’s Magic Farm had very rough and tumble covers to them in the past. Smells Like Dog, however, will probably lure in a lot of readers based on its book jacket alone (woo-hoo!). The premise of this middle grade novel sounds intriguing as well. A boy lives on a goat farm until his uncle disappears and leaves the kid with Dog. Dog initially seems quite useless. He can’t seem to smell anything. Then it appears that there is something he can smell… treasure. Throw in a girl who runs a soup stand in New York and an evil Director of the Natural History Museum (this I gotta see) and you’ve got yourself a book that not only earned a Sarah Beth Durst blurb but a Rebecca Stead one as well. In my experience Selfors appeals to both boys and girls with her writing, which is a valuable skill to have. Best news of all: They’ll be redoing Selfors’ past covers with new jackets. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Okay. So, now, here’s where it gets confusing. What we’re looking at here is Grey Griffins, The Clockwork Chronicles: Book One by Derek Benz and Jon S. Lewis (not to be confused with The Clockwork Dark series by John Claude Bemis). Please note that this is not the final cover. If Benz and Lewis sound familiar, it may be because they already introduced this Grey Griffins world (also not to be confused with Grey Gardens) in a Scholastic series that included the titles Revenge of the Shadow King, The Rise of the Black Wolf, and Fall of the Templar. Now they’re here at Little, Brown with a new grouping of books, but within the same series (whew!). In this one, Changelings are being kidnapped and getting their souls sucked into clocks. Which, again, is similar to a plot device in The Clockwork Dark, though in that case it wasn’t changelings but orphans. Interesting. In any case, they’re basically reimagining this series as Steampunk, with a new trilogy, the same old characters, and stories that won’t require you to have read the last three.
Andrea likes titles that begin with the number 13. In 13 Days to Midnight by Pat Carman, Carman goes uber-YA on us. In it, a teen has a superpower of invincibility. He also can pass it on to one person at a time. Then something happens and the question becomes, what happens when you save a life from death? Will death want a life in return? What have you mucked about with? Think Final Destination meets Unbreakable. Byline: "The Grim Reaper doesn’t disappear. He catches up." The book takes place in Oregon at a Catholic School, and Mr. Carman himself lives in Walla Walla. This makes him the first Walla Walla resident I’ve ever known of. Now I just need an author from Kokomo and my set will be complete.
13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison is a debut, and that woman must have pleased the book jacket gods mightily. This is a British title, and it won the Waterstones Award overseas. The premise: Seeing fairies sucks. In this book a girl is tormented with visions of fairies and is sent to live with her grandmother. While there, she spots a girl in the woods that disappeared fifty years ago. Andrea called this one a fantasy for the non-fantasy readers out there. A mystery reminiscent of The Secret Garden and *shudder* Pan’s Labyrinth. Already the rights have been sold to 13 countries, and it looks as if it’ll be a natural next book for those folks who have finished reading The Spiderwick Chronicles and want something similar along those lines.
Two final notes as well. The series Daniel X by James Patterson and Adam Sadler is being repackaged as middle grade rather than YA and with brand new covers. Also, Against Medical Advice by Hal Friedman is being released for kids as Med Head. Strangely, the authors are now "James Patterson and Hal Friedman", which struck me as a little odd when you consider that it’s exactly the same text as the adult version, just with a different packaging. Hal seemed okay with writing all by himself the first time. Why does Patterson get his name bigger (or there at all) on the second? A mystery. I’ve seen this repackaging of an adult title for a younger readership done before. Life of Pi, for example, was repackaged for the younger crowd at one point, though they didn’t go so far as to change the name.
Finally, it was time for the super secret guest. Victoria had told us at the start that we would only get one this time, but considering how lucky we’ve been in the past, this was no chore.
The name Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes may not be known in the children’s literary circles yet, but she is hardly an unknown entity. A professor at Arizona State University where she teaches creative writing, Ms. Rhodes has always loved New Orleans. Now, as her editor Jennifer Hunt says, the right author has been found to tell the right story.
Ninth Ward is a middle grade novel about a girl and her experiences during Hurricane Katrina. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, she is raised by a grandmother-like character, much as Ms. Rhodes herself was raised by her own grandmother. Ms. Rhodes turned out to be an eminently personable speaker. She spoke of how her entire life she has wanted to write a children’s book, but it took her a whole life to be ready.
As a member of PEN, I’ve been aware that there is only one school in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans (The Martin Luther King Jr. School for Science and Technology) and PEN is a sponsor and supporter of that school. In the past the school has hosted visits from Presidents Bush and Obama. Now they’ve a book of their own as well, though they might not have known it. It will certainly be something I’ll read soon.
And that just about wraps it up! I made the huge mistake of drinking chamomile tea halfway through and then had to deal with conking out repeatedly. So if this preview is incomplete, blame my inability to process chamomile.
And finally . . .
"Wicked meets Buffy." – Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
"Juno meets Stargirl." – Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
"Because of Winn-Dixie meets From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler." – Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors
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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