Librarian Preview: Macmillan (Spring 2010)
1. Librarians sit and watch a PowerPoint while gnawing on bagels.
2. Librarians sit at tables and speak to editors in a more intimate setting. Depending on the publisher, either the librarians or the editors move about.
Macmillan Librarian Preview: None of the above.
It was quite the event, actually. For the very first time the myriad multiple imprints of Macmillan, that behemoth of publishing, were getting together to do something for librarians. Their very first, one-of-a-kind, brand new, bright and shiny librarian preview. And while some of the basic elements were there (editors showing librarians books) the format was entirely new, not to say eclectic.
Macmillan is located in the Flatiron Building, that strangely shaped triangular workplace that, if you believe some people, was meant to be a big ole raspberry in the face of P.T. Barnum back in the day. I like this building very much because it is iconic and because its very shape demands that the offices in it curve in delightful ways.
We gathered in the boardroom and ate the wide array of goodies presented to us (all thanks to Tim Jones, resident god of Good Tasty Things). But we didn’t really know what to expect. There were a lot, I mean, a LOT of librarians in that space, all milling about chatting. And yes, there was a long table with chairs around it and original art on top. But any cursory glance could show that not all the librarians would fit at that table. Where were we to go then?
The answer was that we were to be split into groups. Small groups of four or five librarians apiece. Then our faithful native Macmillan guides did something unexpected. We were taken to the actual working offices of the editors themselves. Over, under, above, around, and through the Flatiron Building we walked into the offices of great names. Your Lisa Graffs and your Frances Fosters amongst many others. It was fantastic. As a children’s book groupie I was basically getting to visit the rooms where the great books are made.
For the sake of simplicity, I will not name the persons we visited. This is less because I want to preserve their privacy and more because there was one person we visited who knew me and that I blanked on the name of. For that reason I will not divulge whom it was and leave everyone, with a couple exceptions, anonymous.
I should also note that this all went by very quickly. When I was ten-years-old I found a book on how to take shorthand and it seemed a cool thing to do. Needless to say, I tried it out for a day, got bored, and moved on. Oh, how that shorthand would have helped me now! Instead, you will see that while some notations are loquacious, others are a garbled mess of mingled growls and purrs. But to begin . . .
First and foremost was a book so pretty that I found myself drawn to it. Upstairs in the boardroom one of the original pieces of art had been a lovely little Julie Paschkis piece. Gotta love the Paschkis. Of course, I didn’t have any context for the piece so little did I know that it was a spread from Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian. This marks the picture book debut of Margarita Engle and insofar as I can tell, it’s also the first children’s text she has written that doesn’t involve Cuba in any way. In this biography, kids can learn about the remarkable Maria Merian who was a scientist, an artist, was born in 1647, and at the age of thirteen disproved the theory of spontaneous generation. Like Callie V in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate she also took copious notes about the world around her and was a naturalist in the purest sense of the term. Henry Holt is cornering the market on female naturalists, it seems. Not a bad corner of the market to have. Needless to say, I grabbed a copy for myself when it was available.
Lest you think that Engle has completely changed her focus away from Cuba-related texts (The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Surrender Tree, Tropical Secrets, etc.) there is also Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba due on shelves March 2010. The book tells the tale of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish writer and women’s rights activist (circa the mid-1800s) who traveled to Cuba. While there she lived in a sheltered household with a translator who was also a slave. The cover, as I’m sure you noticed, is the fantastic Ana Juan. There may be some interior pictures as well by Ms. Juan. I certainly hope so. She didn’t do much in 2009 and it made me sad.
And in the cool concept category, here we have Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters by Jeannie Atkins. What’s the connection? Well, all three women were born in the same year. All three had daughters that were integral in their lives and carried on their works. So the poems travel from mother to daughter p.o.v. I was particularly thrilled to see the inclusion of Madam C.J. Walker, who I feel like gets short shrift in children’s literature sometimes. I will confess to you that when I heard that those three women were born in the same year my mind immediately remembered an upcoming high-concept fantasy book that someone’s writing where young Edgar Allen Poe, Abraham Lincoln, and Charles Darwin (all born the same year) fight Dracula. So… y’know. If there needs to be a sequel . . . On a more serious note, Ms. Atkins will be interviewing Margarita Engle in an upcoming Booklinks, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
[Note written to self at the bottom of this page: "Why have they never done Little House on the Prairie with zombies?"]
I was pleased as punch to see the cover of The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan. Partly this is because I enjoyed her Fortune’s Folly (which came out this year) and partly because the cover artist is that delightful Brandon Dorman. This middle grade fantasy is a quest novel with a female mixed-race heroine set in a land based on the Louisiana Bayou. Good timing with that Disney Princess and the Frog movie coming out, I should think. And I’m happy to see a dark-skinned girl in a fantasy novel for once. Usually it’s realistic fiction or science fiction (The True Meaning of Smekday, The Doom Machine, an upcoming Jon Scieszka project, etc.) and that’s it. Hopefully we’ll see that change more.
There are a bunch of strange and wonderful fairy tales out there and nobody ever knows quite what to do with them. In 2010 I think we’ll see some of the lesser known stories hit shelves in new forms. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is getting revamped over at Harper Collins as The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler and here at Henry Holt a new tactic is being taken with Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson. Do you remember the story of the two sisters and the witch who curses them? The good sister spills diamonds and roses from her lips when she speaks. The bad sister spills toads and lizards. Well, in this YA take on the book, the story is set in 15th century India. While the Taj Mahal is being built, two religions begin to clash. A goddess gives different gifts to two girls… but which is the blessing and which one the curse? Looks intriguing. Note too that the YA 2010 trend of putting flowers on book jackets.
I will be watching how teens handle The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli with bated breath. I really hope that this magnificent cover garners it a lot of attention. In an era where every other book jacket displays socks, flowers, midriffs, feet, the backs of heads, and a lot of pinks and purples, seeing this intense red and black tale on a table will do it wonders for sales (I hope, I hope). An adaptation of Don Giovanni de la Fortuna (sometimes known as the Grimms’ Bearskinner) the story involves a man who makes a deal with the devil. After losing everything in a tidal wave the man is offered the chance of a lifetime. He can have a purse that offers him limitless gold if, and only if, he doesn’t bathe, cut his hair, or cut his nails for three years, three months, and three days. And if you know your Napoli, you know this is going to be interesting. Between this and her Mama Miti, I predict a very good year for her.
Recently I reported from a Lerner preview that Stephen Krensky’s Noah’s Bark will attempt to show how animals found their noises. Along similar lines is What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson, pictures by Lydia Monks. A kind of Bremen Town Musicians without the music, the story is about a ladybug that overhears two robbers planning to steal the resident cow. Their plan relies on hearing the animals’ sounds, so to thwart them each animal adopts a new one. The ladybug, needless to say, remains silent.
Maybe you’ve been reading my various Spring 2010 librarian previews and have said to yourself, "That’s all well and good, but where are all the Steve Jenkins books?" Since he produced roughly five hundred and seventy-six in 2009 alone (that may be an estimate) I was a little surprised myself not to see his name mentioned thus far in the upcoming year. All that changes with Volcano Wakes Up! by Lisa Wetberg Peters, and illustrated by the cut paper guru of the new Millennium. The book is actually poetry and it tells about a volcanic explosion from five different points of view: Bugs, Road, Ferns, Sun, and Moon. The story takes place on the day leading up to the volcano and in the end there it goes.
One of the kids in the bookgroup I run told me the other day that she’s become obsessed with historical fiction that pretty much resembles this next book. I was so pleased to hear about The Queen’s Daughter by Susan Coventry because it means I’ll have something new to feed this ravenous little reader soon enough. This upper YA novel follows Eleanor of Aquitaine’s daughter and her struggle to become her own person.
Sometimes I heard about a book in this preview and knew I’d either have to read it or keep a very close eye on its reviews. Once by Morris Gleitzman is one of those books. The sequel (Then) was long-listed for a Guardian Award already overseas. Now we’re seeing this series over here for the first time. The book is a Holocaust novel and takes place in Poland in 1942. A ten-year-old Jewish boy is disguised as a Catholic orphan but decides to go out and search for his missing parents. If Gleitzman’s name is at all familiar to you, that’s probably because he also wrote Toad Rage, a very different book from Once.
Laura Schlitz I’m going to have to ask you to avert your eyes for this one. Indeed, I had no idea that bears were subjected to this kind of cruelty. I’ve managed to go a long time without ever knowing what a bear bile farm is. In point of fact, it is a horrific operation, wherein bears are kept in tiny cages and regularly stuck in the stomach in order to get at their bile. This happens in China, and recently the Chinese government has been working to try to stop this practice. Animals Asia is a Hong Kong-based government-registered animal welfare charity dedicated to fighting this and other forms of animal cruelty. Which brings us to Moon Bear by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Ed Young. Moon bears are endangered in the Himalayas, Vietnam, and other countries. There are very few left. In this text, you get a sense of one of these bears in its environment over the course of a single year. There will be photographs of real moon bears at the back of the book. Jane Goodall has given the book a blurb, and some of the proceeds will go to the aforementioned Animals Asia. They even have a program where you can sponsor a bear and get regular updates on how it’s doing. Might be fun for a classroom project.
Willie Perdomo and Bryan Collier paired together when they wanted to present the picture book Visiting Langston. Now they’re back together again for ¡Clemente!, a biography of you know who. It’s a real tribute to this social activist, with a timeline and source material in the back. Apparently Mr. Collier had dreams of football in his youth and, when he entered college, had to choose between that sport and being an artist. I’m sure we’re all very pleased that he made the choice he did.
Over the years I’ve heard how cool Denise Fleming’s art is when you see it up close, but I’ve never really had the chance before. At this preview, however, I did finally eyeball a Fleming, getting my eyeballs as close as humanly possible to the piece without letting my nose touch it. Fleming engages in a unique pressed fiber style that can look like it has depth, but is flat as flat can be when you see it firsthand. Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy is her newest and it’s a lullaby. The refrain "But where’s my sleepy baby" repeats a couple times and there’s even a sock monkey in there for spice. Definitely would pair well with Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, I think.
Everybody now dance and cheer as I announce that the sequel Chickens to the Rescue is coming out soon. The title. Pigs to the Rescue!!! So excited.
An author wondered aloud to me the other day whether or not there’s a concrete mixer picture book out there. You’d think there would be, but I couldn’t think of any book where that was the case, aside from them simply being a character amongst many trucks. You won’t find a cement mixer star in The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas either, but you will find a brilliant concept. Kick yourself for not thinking of it first, authors, since Karas has found an amazing way to combine two big time picture book concepts: seasons and machinery. Set at a municipal garage where all the city trucks are housed, you get to see different trucks run and used depending on the time of year. Fall? Get out the elephant truck to pick up the leaves. Winter? Snowplow time! I am very very impressed. It kind of fulfills a need I didn’t even know we had.
I feel like it’s been ages since we had a new Kimberly Willis Holt title. Maybe I just miss her style. Then again, word on the street has it that her new novel The Water Seeker took her four years to write. It’s got a cool backstory too. Ms. Holt met a dowser, which is to say a person who can seek out water using a dowsing process. Inspired, she did a ton of research and spoke to a whole slew of other dowsers to find out about their lives. The result is a historical piece of work that takes place in the 1800s during the westward expansion. In it, a boy named Amos Kincaid finds that the ability to dowse has been passed on to him by his father. Of course, the gift turned out to be a curse for his father, so Amos keeps silent about his ability. Then, at 15, he finds himself leading a wagon train across the Oregon Trail. While there, he discovers that using his gift may mean the difference between life and death. Sounds interesting, and I rather like that cover.
The most effective thing to do when handling kids who want something "just like Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is to instead give them a book that is similar but has it own unique writing/illustrating take. My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian, and illustrated by Jake Tashjian, is one such example. A 12-year-old reluctant reader is told by his teacher to illustrate his vocabulary words. In doing so, you see his doodles in the margins, but you also read about a mystery that needs solving. The book’s illustrator is the son of the author and has Aspergers. Illustrating his vocabulary words was actually how his mom taught him to read, and is a great way for kids to learn. Cool idea.
When describing The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister by Charlotte Agell, the character was described as just the right girl for those kids into Just Grace, Piper Reed, and Clementine. An interesting choice of three, but I see what they’re getting at. In this early chapter book, India McAllister feels that her life is too full of contradictions. Her name is India but she was adopted from China. She’s a girl who loves science (woo-hoo!) but her best friend is a boy. She yearns for the cosmopolitan life, but she lives in a small town. In this first book (which stands alone but is the first in a series) India’s parents are divorced and she meets her dad’s new gay partner for the first time. Definitely something I’ll want to get my hands on.
Farrar Straus Giroux
Since her Caldecott Honor win, Melissa Sweet is a name that is gaining more and more recognition each year. Easy As Pie, written by Cari Best (and started by Melanie Kroupa… sigh) is about a boy who is inspired to make his very own peach pie in his little Easy Bake Oven. A recipe (Cari’s own) for peach pie is in the back. This will be excellent for those kids into cooking (and with the proliferation of cooking shows there are more of them out there than you might think). It’s also nice to see a boy baking, particularly since I just took a trip to the Easy Bake Oven website and got hit in the face with the sentence, "The classic light bulb oven still delights with a girl’s first real baking experience." Ex-CUSE me???
In the event that Tricia Tusa decides to illustrate the phone book, I will buy it. As an illustrator, I have the distinct impression that she has excellent taste. For example, Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan is yet another new-baby-brother story, but I like Sullivan’s take. In it, a little girl is a writer, and after the birth of her baby brother no one listens to her. Then, one day, her little brother goes away and in spite of her frustration with him she realizes that he provides her with something every writer needs: inspiration.
Funny that we don’t have any picture book dynasties, eh? Sometimes a daughter or son will pick up the mantle of their famous forbears, but it generally doesn’t last more than one generation. Such thoughts flitted through my mind when I heard about the newest Thacher Hurd (son of Clement) book, The Weaver. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven (she and Hurd are buds) the book is about a weaver who gathers emotions and feelings and weaves them into a cloth that she spreads over the world to comfort and protect it. A kind of metaphysical bedtime story, if you will. Kleven, it was rumored, is a weaver herself, so you know you won’t be seeing any poorly drafted heddles or healds.
Quickie Sidenote: We were now in the office of Frances Foster herself at this point and we found out that there will be a brand new Adele and Simon book by Barbara McClintock in the coming year that takes place in China! "Simon has not reformed." Excellent. Ms. Foster also told us a bit about how one goes about getting blurbs for books. It’s a time consuming process, but often worth it in the end.
Katie Banks and Boris Kulikov got together once before to create Max’s Words long about three or four years ago. Now they’re back together for The Eraserheads (not to be confused with Eraserhead, naturally). Banks got the idea for this book after she went to Bologna. It’s a story about making mistakes. Three pencil eraserheads, a pig, an owl, and a crocodile start to get into the story a boy is writing. The owl generally handles math mistakes, the croc words, and the pig… just kinda likes to eat things. Fans of the aforementioned Max’s Words will be pleased to hear that a sequel is due out at some point, and it will be called Max’s Castle.
I suppose that it is a pity that the YA Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania by Haya Leah Molnar isn’t coming out in 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. As it stands, the book should get some nice attention anyway. Molnar began writing this book as a memoir, then switched it to a novel. After submitting it, the book went right back to being a memoir and there it has stayed ever since. The story takes place in 1950s Bucharest and follows a family of disparate adults who can agree on only one thing: their love of Haya. Blurbs have been provided by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and Margarita Engle. It also brought to mind The Wall by Peter Sis which, come to think of it, is also a Frances Foster book. Interesting.
In the interests of full-disclosure I would like to point out that two authors on the Macmillan list are in my writer’s group. I’ve never actually encountered one of their books in a preview before, though, so it was a delight to see This Gorgeous Game by Donna Frietas mentioned. YA readers take note. The story is about the abuse of power. A teenaged girl wins a writing contest and the prize is to be mentored by a university professor in his highly competitive summer class. The relationship between the girl and the man crosses boundaries when he becomes infatuated with her. Ultimately we were told that this is a story about the triumph of innocence. Donna is the author of Sex and the Soul, a study of college students and their thoughts on sexuality and spirituality. In writing this she has sparked a national conversation on the same topic. No better person to pen this particular book then.
Valerie Hobbs may be best known at this point for her good one namer titles. Defiance. Sheep. Now she’s gotten a little older with The Last Best Days of Summer. In this book a twelve going on thirteen-year-old girl has to grapple with a grandmother who is losing her memory and a boy with Down Syndrome who would do anything for her. As Ms. Foster says, Valerie understands the hurt and pleasures people inflict upon one another. It’s full of "insight and moments of revelation" but apparently it isn’t sentimental. So don’t expect Ms. Hobbs to "go soft" anytime soon.
It’s been a while since there was a good sheep book. Woolbur, certainly. Weaving the Rainbow by George Ella Lyon most notably. Now Leda Schubert tosses her own hat in the ring with Feeding the Sheep. The book is illustrated by one Andrea U’Ren, a last name familiar to any librarian or page who has ever shelved her fabulous picture book Mary Smith. I just wish the woman made more books! In this one we watch the process that shows wool go from sheep to sweater. It has a fun mother/daughter theme too, showing mom carding the wool and the daughter "carding" the dog. I’ll be watching for that spinning wheel, though. That’s when you know the artist is paying attention (See: Rumplestiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky for how it’s done).
Henrietta Hornbuckle’s Circus of Life is written by the screenwriter of Jaws 4 (also known as Jaws: The Revenge). Knowing my brain, you can understand how I snatched onto that little fact like a dog with bacon. He even did an adaptation of E. L. Konigsburg’s Father’s Arcane Daughter called Caroline?. Maybe that set him on the path of writing books for kids. Dunno. In any case, you probably know him better as the author of Finding Stinko or The Bamboozlers. Both star boys, and he was close to naming this newest book Humphrey Hornbuckle’s Circus of Life, but something made him change his mind. Now the story is about a homeschooled girl who lives the life of a clown. Her adored father is the head clown. Then she loses him. Might be a good book to do with my bookgroup. We’ll see.
If the cover of the YA novel The Karma Club by Jessica Brody looks familiar, that might be because you’ve seen it here. The plot was given a nice short n’ sweet one-liner: "It’s The First Wives Club for teens." Basically a story of revenge against ex-boyfriends, but not messagey or anything. There also appears to be some kind of a tie-in with karmaclub.org, a site that shows people how they can volunteer in their own areas.
Full-disclosure time #2: Marie Rutkoski is also in my writer’s group. But long before she was I fell head over heels for her fantastic Cabinet of Wonders (which recently appeared on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List). The sequel is due out soon too. Called The Celestial Globe the story consists of high seas adventure and a whodunit. Petra is whisked to London and while there her friends go in search of her. It’s history with a touch of mystery and just the barest hint of romance. The book also sports yet another cover by the fantastic David Frankland. The man’s a master. And oo! Are those drooling skeleton-like creatures I see? Even better.
Sidenote: They are reprinting the Moomin stories with brand new covers. So if your library branch, like my own, has an old dilapidated edition of Finn Family Moomintroll that you haven’t had the guts to discard yet, don’t worry! Help is on the way.
I suppose we all have our favorite cat illustrators. Steven Kellogg has always been strong in that area. Kevin Henkes ain’t half shabby. But give me a Barbara Samuels cat over competing kitties any day of the week. The author of Duncan and Dolores has a new title out and it looks good. You see, when Ms. Samuels was a new mother she had to read a certain truck book which shall go unnamed to her son over and over and over and over again until she was desperate for something with an actual honest-to-god plot in it. Now her son is a teenager, but Ms. Samuels has also answered her own prayer. The Trucker is the story of a boy who is truck crazy. For his birthday he desires a shiny red fire truck, but what he gets instead is a cat. And not a shy unassuming creature either. No, a cat that gets into every possible aspect of the boy’s life until he wants to scream. Fortunately, when the feline proves its mettle by "saving" a rabbit toy from a "fire", the boy realizes that maybe this is a pet he can have some fun with. I suspect I may have some fun with this book myself.
Shrek will be celebrating his 20th birthday next year and what better way to celebrate that to produce an extra fine 20th anniversary edition of Steig’s original tale. The book looks great and the new endpapers are made out of sketches from the original dummy Steig worked on. Reissues of Steig titles are always fun. I was particularly fond of the reissue of his Sylvester and the Magic Pebble that included his Caldecott acceptance speech in the back. Why don’t more reissues do that?
Speaking of reissues, And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle is coming out with a brand new cover. This is a relief since the paperback edition currently sitting on my library’s shelf (and which does go out) sports . . . well, let’s do a compare and contrast of old and new, shall we?
The new edition will contain an introduction by L’Engle’s granddaughter talking about the parallels between this book and her life.
Speaking of covers, check this one out. I’m sort of in love with it, but it brings up a new 2010 trend that I hadn’t noticed before. Since the Liar controversy, publishers are getting better at putting black kids on their jackets. Two have come out that look mighty similar too. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s Finding My Place by Traci L. Jones:
And from Scholastic here is 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich:
Even the arm positions are the same. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this, but it’s interesting that both of these books would be coming out with such similar looks in the same year. You can read editor Cheryl Klein’s post on the 8th Grade Superzero jacket here too.
In the case of Finding My Place, this YA novel takes place in 1975 (hence the grooviness of the cover) and isabout a girl who finds that she’s the only black kid in her whole high school. Her parents were also involved in the Civil Rights movement. Definitely looks like something worth checking out.
Local awesome illustrator Lauren Castillo has illustrated a new book out by Kenneth M. Cadow called Alfie Runs Away. A 5-year-old sassy boy (described as Where the Wild Things Are‘s Max if he had just run away and not found any wild things) decides to pack up his bindle and take off to the backyard (naturally). There’s a fun mother/son dynamic to this one. Spoiler Alert: They work it out.
Feiwel and Friends
One namer alert! I guess this counts as a celebrity book, though admittedly I wasn’t familiar with the name LaChanze until informed that she was the Tony award winning actress from The Color Purple. At any rate, she’s written a book called Little Diva with Brian Pinkney illustrating. As with his other 2010 title Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, Pinkney is eschewing his old scratchboard style. In this book, LaChanze wanted there to be a book about a girl who has a performer for a mama. She has written and recorded a song, as well as a taping of her reading this book.
Bob Staake. Such a great illustrator. You can’t help but love a Staake, even if computer art isn’t your thing. He’s never been afraid of a good caricature either, and that’s good. It’s prepared him for the ultimate challenge: The newest White House dog book. Yup. First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got to the White House is another Bo-related picture book. But but BUT, Feiwel and Friends will tell you that this book is the first of its kind to tell the real story behind how the Obamas got Bo. Unlike those other Bo books which came out practically in tandem with the announcement, this book tells where they got him and how the choice was made. It also contains a shot of Michelle’s dress on election night that I find pretty funny, and the most interesting Obama pictures to appear in a picture book for kids so far, bar none.
Did you know that there are wild parrots living in the Bronx? It’s the darndest thing, but it’s true. Whole flocks of green Quaker Parrots live there on their own. That’s not quite enough information to warrant a Jeannette Winter picture book, but it’s more than enough for Daniel Pinkwater. Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken is written by Mr. Daniel and illustrated by his very own wife. The story concerns a chicken that escapes from her own certain death to rescue a parrot and become an impromptu mother to the birds. The chicken speaks Yiddish, the parrots speak Spanish, and the narration is in English.
On the YA side of things comes Daniel Finn. They say that reading She Thief is like reading Marcus Zusak for the first time. Not just high praise, but clever praise. In this book, two pickpockets work for a crime lord. All goes smoothly until they steal from the wrong person: A corrupt police chief. The book takes places in a fictional South American location and is described as cinematic. Certainly the cover is. Looks like The Bourne Identity or something.
Also YA, S.A. Bodeen got a fair amount of attention last year for The Compound. Not content to let sci-fi alone, Bodeen’s back, but not with a Compound sequel or anything. The Gardener (not to be confused with the other Macmillan title of the same name, the Sarah Stewart picture book) is about a world in which experiments are made. The hope is to create teens who are autotropes and don’t need any food to survive. Then a real boy and an altered girl go on the run. One place they hide includes Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, which I thought was pretty cool. And is it just me or does the cover remind you of Green Angel by Alice Hoffman? It does to me, certainly.
Once in a while a book would be mentioned that didn’t make it into my handout packet. Lazy Lou that I am, I won’t usually write them up, but there are some books born to be exceptions. Tiger and Turtle by James Rumford qualifies as just such an exception. Rendered in batik and rice paper with computer imagery, the story is about a tiger and a turtle that fight over a tiny purple flower. As the fighting intensifies (one would think the tiger would have a bit of an advantage here) so too do the colors. Eventually the two tumble and fall in their anger into a field . . . of the very same purple flower. All you really need to remember, however, is Rumsford + batik = good stuff.
There’s a new Laura Vaccaro Seeger book on the horizon, so get your 2011 Mock Caldecott ballots ready early. I should note that while we were in Neal Porter’s pseudo office he was watched over by the largest stuff Bear and Dog from Seeger’s Dog & Bear books I have ever seen. They were ginormous! I should have taken a picture. Back to books, the newest title What If? is what happens when Seeger gets all Rashomon on us. Playing with different points of view, the book explores choices with three possible endings to the same story. A boy encounters a beachball and kicks it into the sea. Using the terms "What if", "But then", and "Or" we see three different version of what happens when some local seals discover the object. Seeger’s customary seemingly simple style is on display with sad storytelling presented and then rectified.
As children’s biographies become more popular, authors have started telling the stories of folks who aren’t all sunshine and roses. Usually if you hear the term "complicated life" used about a person, that means they’ve never been the subjects of an honest children’s biographies before. Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson is penned by Charles R. Smith with illustrations by Shane W. Evans. Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion, and the man who inspired The Great White Hope. He also loved his money and the ladies so we’ll see how that’s handled. In this book Evan (who illustrated that lovely When Sojourner Met Harriet last year) uses a collage of newspapers, maps, and other ephemera to give it just the right look.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee is by Philip Christian Stead who did that loopy Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast this year. In his newest title (illustrated by his wife Erin) Stead gets a little classic on us. It’s about a zookeeper who takes care of his animals. Then, when he gets sick, the animals return the favor. The book looks like nothing so much as old-timey picture books from your youth. I sense big things. Big big things. I think I’m in love.
Attention all Marcus Sedgwick fans: You’re in luck. Revolver is coming out in April and it apparently feels like a one-act play. In it, a 14-year-old boy has a body on a table. The body is his father. Dealing with that, the boy has to deal with a scary individual who keeps coming by the cabin, demanding "his gold". It’s a tight, fast-paced survival tale, and much of it involves getting to a gun and deciding whether or not to use it. Sounds a bit like Wait Until Dark to me.
Funny recession books aren’t as common right now as you might think. Which is to say, I can’t think of a single one for kids right now. Amy Goldman Koss reckons to change all of that. In The Not-So-Great Depression a girl’s mom loses her job, they have to sell the house, and the older sister may not be able to go to her college of choice. And she doesn’t get a hamster. In spite of all that, the book’s a funny one. And if I don’t miss my guess, is that cover by the same person who does all those Madison Finn books? Survey says: yup. Looks like this one might be coming out straight to paperback.
Fun Fact: Arnold of the Ducks is about to be republished. Rejoice, o ye Mordecai Gerstein fans.
Nerdy me is very excited by the prospect of an upcoming pop-up book. Along the same lines as Home by Jeannie Baker is Popville by Anouch Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud. For one brief moment I wondered if they were the same people behind ABC3D, but no. Marion Bataille is just the other French-monikered pop-up artist out there. This book shows with every turn of the page the growth of a city. You’ll want to see it based entirely on the telephone lines in the back, I assure you.
Special Note: We got to see a very very early sneak peek at the new Lane Smith book It’s a Book. OH. MY. GOD. PEOPLE. If it survives the editing process this is going to be the most notorious picture book to hit the market in years. I will say no more. [picks up jaw from the floor and reattaches it to skull]
Short kids abound. Short kid fiction titles, abundant. Short kid non-fiction titles . . . sparse at best. Non-existent at worst. We all know kids who haven’t hit their growth spurt or have and find that they’re still short. Author John Schwartz is 5’3" and grew up in Texas. And while I’m sure he has other fine features to recommend himself, that’s pretty much all the information I need to approve of him writing Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall at All. It’s the science of the short for kids that aren’t going to be setting basketball records anytime soon.
Lita Judge. She sort of came to prominence when her One Thousand Tracings won everything from the IRA Children’s Book Award to a NAPPA Gold Award. This year she produced Pennies for Elephants alongside Yellowstone Moran. And in 2010? Dinos! More specifically, Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World. These days if you want to talk extinct and scaly then you need to have a hook. And a hook Judge has! In this book we see what the life of a baby dinosaur might have been like. Judge is particularly good at showing the ridiculous scale difference between critters. Some full-sized dinos, after all, were too huge to really care of their young, so these babies had to be self-sufficient from day one. After this, look for Ms. Judge to produce Bird Talk about the language of birds.
I am very very very very very very excited about this next book. Doesn’t sound like much when I just say the title though. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook. Then you get down to the authors (Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter) and the illustrator (Matt Phelan!) and it begins to get pretty interesting. Anne and Ellen tended to get letters from their readers asking for real writing advice. Real advice is what you want? Real advice (that doesn’t talk down to kids) is what you get. Together, these two cover everything from how you plot a story, to story ideas, to how you find your characters. Phelan uses a loose charcoal style to show how human the process of writing can be. Think of it as Bird by Bird for kids. Me want.
Late in 2010 I will have the pleasure of hosting a Children’s Literary Cafe at my library that discusses female graphic novelists for children. One of my guests at that time will be Tracy White, author of the upcoming gn How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story. This YA title is a fictionalized memoir of White’s life at 17, when she checked herself into a mental hospital. Ms. White does a lot of webcomics in her spare time, particularly on the site Traced. I like her style. It’s accessible to those folks who wouldn’t normally gravitate, or are merely unfamiliar, with graphic novels. There was some mention of the fact that it would pair very well with Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, since both books deal with the subject of bulimia. And it got me to thinking of other webcomics I’d like to see in YA book form. Oh, Hark a Vagrant . . .
And for all you Jacqueline Wilson fans out there, here’s a new one headed your way. Kiss, which at first sounded like a British version of Shug, is about a boy and a girl who have always been friends. The girl has always assumed that they would fall in love. The boy has made no such assumptions. One reason: He’s gay. A good coming out and friendship book then.
The thing about Thomas Rockwell is that he never really went away. Sure, he penned How to Eat Fried Worms decades ago, but that novel was illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully and SHE sure is still going strong (example: Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse due out this July from Henry Holt). So it’s nice to see him with a new book in the works. Emily Stew with Some Side Dishes is illustrated by David McPhail and appears to be a nice mix of nonsense verse and classic nostalgia. Think Milne-esque. Rockwell apparently began life as a poet, so this is just a natural outlet for him. For the 2nd and 3rd graders of the world.
At this point I will need to point out something. First off, I am a youngish (ish) person so I do not wear a watch. I saw that it was growing dark outside, but didn’t think much of it. This preview was held in the afternoon and that evening the announcements about who won The National Book Award would be made. We all know how that turned out, so you can imagine that with Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice on the bill (a Melanie Kroupa Book from FSG) they were anxious to get going. I was impressed that they’d thought they could work in both events in a single day, actually. It was only as the light continued to disappear that you got a sense of people frantic to take off. In fact there was only one person I think I missed entirely, and I only know that because I have no notes for their mysterious books.
If you purchase nothing else from this list [wait as I cringe while all the other imprints throw rotten food in my general direction] this upcoming year there is ONE title I suspect you absolutely must buy. If you think your kids are crazy for The Lightning Thief now, just wait until the movie premiers in February. Now imagine (oh, you librarians) hoards of kids asking for your Greek mythology books. They desperately want all the background info on ALL the gods. Trouble is? In the last 10 years there hasn’t been much out there to purchase. And while I love the D’Aulaires, the kids are going to be looking for a little more than that. First Second to the rescue, then. Or, more precisely, George O’Connor to the rescue. A new twelve book series is coming out called Olympians. The first one, Zeus: King of the Gods, is available in January. Inside you get the story of Zeus done in a classic superhero style (not too dissimilar to what Charles R. Smith and P. Craig Russell did with The Mighty Twelve, only this ain’t poetry). O’Connor, who wrote Journey into Mohawk Country and who inks and colors his own books, has written a title that contains everything from Greek god family trees to backmatter with individual bios of each character. The book isn’t huge either, so it’ll be easy for kids to carry about. And #2 is slated to be Athena in April. This may be an answer to your soon-to-be prayers, so keep your eyes peeled for ’em.
I was also very excited to see the rather loopy City of Spies by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, with artwork by Pascal Dizin. Picture this: It’s 1942 New York and two kids want to catch themselves a Nazi spy. The only problem? They catch themselves a Nazi spy. The book looks remarkably like Tintin right down to the font, but the girl in the story reads comics. When that happens, the art style switches gears and conjures up a kind of Joe Shuster pseudo-Superman look and feel, only with a goofy sidekick. There is also an architectural precision to Dizin’s style. For those of you who have kids that are constantly begging you for Tintin but you’re uncomfortable with the racist elements, this may help you enormously with reference requests.
And that [shakes out deadened fingers] is that. A great preview, and I missed a couple titles, but nothing too bad. To wrap it up, here are my bests:
Best Meets: "Hatchet meets Call of the Wild meets . . . something scary." – Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Best Shoes: Margaret Ferguson for her dog and cat identified footwear.
Best Non-Shoes: Nancy Mercado’s skirt, which displayed the different days of the week.
Best By-Line: "This greenhouse . . . grows humans." – The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
A big thank you to Tim Jones for forwarding all these covers’ JPGs to me. That was a lot of work on his part. Cheers, Tim.
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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