Librarian Preview: Simon & Schuster (Spring 2010)
Without a doubt this has been the longest preview season I’ve experienced in New York thus far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! But I’m going to be just the slightest bit happy once I get this final Spring 2010 preview up and running. That’ll be the last of the lot (unless Egmont suddenly does one last minute, in which case all bets are off).
Lucky Simon & Schuster gets TWO previews this season since they started us off in October with a Fall 2009 presentation and now we end in December with Spring 2010.
You know the drill. Muffins with chocolate = delicious. Amusingly, all orange juice is now no pulp. Which is what I prefer anyway. Some additional changes to the preview format also occurred. These included:
– The presence of Richie Partington who is now a resident (don’t nobody tell me nuthin’).
– Nametags on not only the attendees but also the editors.
– Time allotted at the end of each imprint’s presentation for questions from the audience.
– The presence of the PowerPoint here as well as on Facebook and Twitter (thanks to Laura Antonacci for that information).
– Within the PowerPoint the names and photographs of each editor (which is most useful to me, I can tell you)
– A corresponding page number that indicates where you can find each book in the catalog.
– Pens. Especially useful for doofuses like myself who tend to forget them.
Notable! So, endowed with our handy dandy catalogs, we traveled up up up to the fantastic boardroom of S&S (one must pass the huge headshots of Mr. Simon & Mr. Schuster in order to proceed). Our special guests? None other than Elise Primavera and Diane Goode, present and accounted for so as to promote their Louise, the Big Cheese picture book series.
After informing us that we were now official card-carrying members of The Big Cheese Club (cards were in our goody bags – cheese not included) Ms. Primavera held up three comics, well and truly familiar to my eyes. Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and Hot Stuff. Fine, upstanding citizens all. Except, obviously, Hot Stuff. These were comics I read as a kid (though I’m more of a Carl Barks fan, just so’s you know). I read something recently that said that Harvey comics would usually take characters that traditionally frighten children and render them harmless. Which I understand in terms of Hot Stuff (devil), Casper (ghost), and Wendy (witch). Guess kids have a fear of rich people too (Richie Rich). Smart kids.
I digress. The point of the comic books (and they really were originals) was to show how they influenced Ms. Primavera. Indeed, if you take a gander at the endpapers in the Louise books, you’ll note their comic formats and lovely panels. In point of fact, what Ms. Primavera has always wanted to do is to create characters that will be as memorable and beloved as those Harvey folks of the past. And lest you doubt her love of comics, she has previously published graphic novels with Hyperion before. So she knows from whence she speaketh.
The discussion turned back to Louise and it was declared that Diane really embodies Fern while Elise is Louise through and through. Said she to the audience, "I want to be a big cheese. I want the marble counter tops and the walk-in closets. Of course, I know you all already have those." "We live in walk-in closets," called someone, good-naturedly. But by and large, it’s true that Louise never actually attains big cheese-dom. Fern tends to. Diane Goode mentioned that Louise is a modern day Betsy-Tacy, referring to the classic Betsy-Tacy books of old. It got me to thinking of another famous character from children’s literature. By and large, the name Fern tends to be relegated to only book: Charlotte’s Web. In a sense, Primavera and Goode have reclaimed that name for a whole new purpose.
It was pointed out that there were delightful (and delicious) cookies on the side of the room created by editor Alex Penfold and sprinkled with pink and purple toppings, not unlike the glitter that is sprinkled on the covers of these books. Still it was editor Paula Wiseman who really got my attention when she started discussing the science of glitter. The science of glitter. That’s a blog post right there, don’t you think? It’s not merely an instance of someone throwing a handful of sparklies at a bookjacket to see what will stick. There’s a form and an art to it. Take a look here at the newest Louise title, Louise the Big Cheese and the La-di-da Shoes and the absolutely perfect glitter letters. They don’t come off all over your hands, they poke up off the page, and they’re meticulous in their curves. Admirable.
So that was that. Now on with the show!
Paula Wiseman Books
In this corner, presenting in tandem cool as cucumbers, we have Ms. Paula Wiseman herself and Alex Penfold, she of the fantastic cookies.
First up, the 2011 Caldecott winner. Yup. I’ve called it already. Slap your hands together people, we are done. On to 2012! But on the off chance that you haven’t heard about it yet, allow me to introduce you to Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The story behind this book was new to me. Apparently Paula was driving along one day when NPR told her about Wangari Muta Maathai, the woman who started the Green Belt Movement in Africa. Touched, Paula immediately pulled over the car and called Donna Jo Napoli, proposing the book. Eventually they got Kadir Nelson on board as well. When Mr. Nelson’s initial painting style didn’t work out, he informed Paula that he was experimenting with sand painting. The result is a Batik style inspired by Kenyan art and Kadir’s first foray into published collage. My sole quibble with the book is that its release date is incredibly early in the year (January 5th, or so). I worry it’ll be forgotten as the seasons pass. Hopefully not. It’s a book with the power to stay with you, that’s for sure.
Do kids know their Aesop today? If you cornered a Kindergartner, could they tell you an Aesop fable off the top of their head? Or at the very least, the name of one? Maybe not, but the adaptation of Aesop to picture book form can be difficult. Often his stories are so slight that it takes a lot of concentration to extend them naturally. When you succeed you get something like Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse or Forest’s The Contest Between the Sun and the Wind. Now Toni Morrison has thrown her own hat into the ring. I admit that I am not actually all that familiar with the fable "The Bundle of Sticks". Just the same, this new picture book, Little Cloud and Lady Wind, will feature words from Toni and Slade Morrison and will be illustrated by the magnificent Sean Qualls. The by-line in the catalog seems to be pushing the "environmental tale" aspect of this. Which was, I’m sure, Aesop’s original intent.
You don’t like celebrity picture books? Fine . . . but what about books written by celebrity’s moms!!!! Eh? Eh? Not going to say no to nice Mrs. Deloris Jordan, are you? You gonna take this away from her? She’s written Baby Blessings: A Prayer for the Day You Are Born (and given birth to Michael at some point). I wonder if this is the start of a new trend. I’m intrigued by the idea. Picture books on puppies by Bill Gates’s mother. Picture books on fluffy clouds by Alec Baldwin’s dad. Oh, the mind just boggles.
Now we come to a treat. A beaut. A little joy of a jewel. Cats’ Night Out is penned by Ms. Caroline Stutson and illustrated by newbie artist J. Klassen. It is also just the sweetest, cutest, most useful little book you ever did see. Teaching the concept of counting by twos (go on… name me some others off the top of your head… hard, no?), the book takes place on a night where the city’s cats come out to dance in pairs. Two dance the samba. Four the boogie and blues. And the thing is, Klassen (an animator) does amazing cats. They’ve these remarkably serious expressions that . . . no. No, I must resist telling you any more. I want to review this book and the only way I can do it is by shutting myself up. Just trust me when I say, this is a book you’ll want to scratch and claw to get your hands on. It’s charm incarnate.
Margaret K. McElderry Books
On your left, Karen Wojtyla. On your right, Lindsay Winget. Play ball!
Fair play to Hilary McKay. When I heard she had written Wishing for Tomorrow, a sequel to A Little Princess, I got that skeptical half-mast look about the eyes we all get when we’re in doubt. But what I like about this is that the book isn’t about Sara Crewe. Nope! Sorry. Her story’s said and done. No, it’s about a girls left behind. The ones Sara befriended. Not a bad idea. Makes me wonder how other Frances Hodgson Burnett sequels would fare. Would you follow Dickon and his family in a Secret Garden sequel? In any case, this new book has already gotten a star from poor defunct Kirkus and a blurb from (of all people) Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat. Is Ms. Harris writing a children’s book soon? One wonders.
Nothing like a little David Diaz to make the world more interesting. David offers his customary luminous pen to a collection of poems about the four seasons called Sharing the Seasons, selected by our very own Lee Bennett Hopkins. Yea verily it glows. I swear you could put this book on a table and warm your hands over the heat emanating from Diaz’s pictures here. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really like how certain types of books get so split over gender lines. There are exceptions, of course. You might find a girl train book here or a boy ballet book there. But girl dino books? Few and far between. Toni Buzzeo aims to change all that. Out comes No T. Rex in the Library, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa. Plot as such: Girl is out of control in the library (we all are familiar with that particular scene) but when she opens the pages of a book, a dino with no manners escapes. Can she make him behave? Mebee.
Woot! New Sheila P. Moses book coming out. Un-woot. It’s teen so I can’t read it. Doggone it. The lady from New York kindly respectfully requests that Ms. Moses write more middle grade.
Trend Alert! Actually, S&S was pretty trend free on this particular visit but there were two that caught my eye. Trend #1 involves cupcakes, and we’ll get to that later. Trend #2: Red hair binding a face. Example A: Raven Speak by Diane Lee Wilson. Quite a cool cover, to be blunt. An exciting middle grade concept too. A Viking clan is starving and the men take off to find food. Meanwhile the skald left behind makes a power grab. It’s up to the daughter of the chief to keep her beloved (and tasty) horse off the executioner’s block and to do so she’ll need the help of an old woman with one good eye and two pet ravens. I always appreciate a book that includes ravens. Ravens have this strange weight to their bodies. When they walk you can actually see it shift from leg to leg. Great birds.
We’re all well and truly familiar with those Margaret Wise Brown books that periodically get re-illustrated by new artists. Her never-before-illustrated books are farther and fewer between, but once in a while one will surface. The Fathers Are Coming Home has never seen the light of day before, and now it has the good luck to be coming out with the art of Stephen Savage. You know Savage. If you’ve seen Polar Bear Night (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book) then you know his work. In this one he brings back the beauty of the linocut and you will need to see the textures here for yourself. It’s just gorgeous. They’ve even tied it into a kind of daddies coming home from the war type idea. Savage even has a website and a nice biography with a pictu . . . . uh, whoa. Just . . . zowie. Paging the old HMOCL files.
Beach Lane Books
Coming in right after the break are the lilting Editorial Allyn Johnston tones coming in via teleconference. I creep surreptitiously into the room, my mouth full of chocolate muffin, and miss a little of her talk.
It’s not often that I have two publisher previews so close to one another that I get to mention the same book in two fell swoops of the pen. Such, however, is the case with Pepi Sings a New Song. Step aside, Snowball. There’s a new cockatoo in town and he’s quite the cutie. In this book it’s just your typical boy and his parrot story. Pepi is sick to death of the old song his boy sings, so he sets out to find some new words. And words he finds too! Lotsa words! Everything from paint to icing to maracas and more. By the end Pepi (and the child reader) have seen all kinds of kooky words, and the song he comes up with is like nuthin’ heard before.
Douglas Florian is back with an all-new collection. Poetrees comes from a personal place for Mr. Florian. Growing up in New York, trees provided a kind of oasis from the city. In this book he pays tribute to them. I don’t know about your library, but I actually get a lot of tree requests and there are only so many times you can hand out A Tree is Nice without wanting to try something new. Might make for a good Earth Day book as well. Noted.
Bringing the cute home is Keith Baker. Baker’s sort of a godsend to my storytimes. His Hickory Dickory Dock and Big Fat Hen take down the house every time, so I was curious about what exactly he was going for with this LMNO Peas. Turns out it’s an alphabet story but with a kind of Richard Scarry twist. Peas of every stripe (not literally) come out to introduce themed letters to kids. Peas are having a good time of it right now. Whether it’s Little Pea or this book, they’re getting a lot more attention. Plus, there’s a ladybug hidden on each page, so kids will get a kick out of that.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Put your hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care for Caitlyn Dlouhy, Nami Tripathi (the voice behind this music video), and Lindsay Winger).
All right! Now we’re cooking with gas. Say hello to the cover girls of the Simon & Schuster Spring 2010 catalog. That would be Alison McGhee and Taeeun Yoo, of course. McGhee has given herself the unenviable job of being a meaningful picture book author. Can you think of a harder thing to do with your time? But honestly, she’s got a feel for the material. Always and Someday are the best examples of this. Now she has a kind of Someday follow-up called So Many Days, and it’s with an entirely different illustrator. Taeeun Yoo wowed the world when her Little Red Fish came out and won her a Society of Illustrators’ 2007 Founders Award. The Umbrella Queen, her next book, impressed in entirely different ways. Now she has scaled it back and created art for So Many Days. Essentially it’s a kind of Blueberry Girl story (you’ll see what I mean when you look at it) but instead of being written with new mothers in mind this is more for the graduation set. It’s rather lovely and fans of both women can rejoice in their coming together in this manner.
The other day my mother-in-law informed me that William Stieg was 83 when he wrote Shrek. It stands entirely to reason to suspect that children’s book authors and illustrators (or maybe just author/illustrators) live long full lives. Ashley Bryan certainly supports that theory. At 85 he’s come out with pictures for Cecil F. Alexander’s All Things Bright and Beautiful. Based on a hymn, the book’s an homage to the world (thereby making it an ideal Earth Day tie-in, I suppose). We learned that Mr. Bryan does not sketch before he makes his trademark paper cuts, but just cuts the images straight. One of the more colorful offerings of the year, to be sure.
There’s a new Cynthia Kadohata on the horizon. A Million Shades of Gray (note the font size of the title in relation to the font size of the author’s name) is a middle grade title that tells the story of a tribe in Vietnam who helped the Americans and were not helped in turn when the Viet Cong reoccupied their village. Elephant included.
I’ve been a fan of Hope Larson since I read her Gray Horses lo these many years ago. When she came out with last year’s middle grade graphic novel Chiggers, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Now Larson moves back into the YA realm with Mercury. Much like 2010’s fellow YA fare Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick, the book takes place in the woods, in the past, in a time when gold is the goal. Two stories are woven together in this book. In one tale it’s 1859 French Hill, Nova Scotia and a girl falls for a handsome young man who promises much, but harbors darkness. In the present day, a descendant discovers a pendant and the story that wraps around it. They recommended this as something for the readers of Persepolis. Whatever the case, I may have to break my No YA ban and take a peek myself. It sounds good.
If every librarian preview could contain the words "a new Frances O’Roark Dowell novel" in it somewhere, I could die a happy woman. As it is, I’ll just have to remain content with the fact that S&S will be producing Falling In this March. In this story a girl falls into another world where she is promptly mistaken for an evil witch. Naturally, I couldn’t actually hear that description without thinking of this. I’m only human, after all. In other news, Shooting the Moon has a new cover and I rather like it. It’s just a girl and her army men. Awesome.
How one approaches catalog copy like "A Lord of the Flies for the twenty-second century will pretty much dictate how you deal with Golding’s novel in the first place. Me, no real opinion one way or another. Maybe that makes me just the right kind of person to hear about this YA import from Denmark called Nothing. In this story Pierre-Anton (clue #1 that this ain’t local) decides that life has no meaning. And when life has no meaning, there’s really only one logical thing to do: Sit in a plum tree and wait. But that just kills the other kids in his class. When hitting him with rocks and verbal abuse don’t get him down, they decide to prove to him that life has meaning by giving up the things they love. Trouble is, even that doesn’t seem like enough. So they start deciding for one another what needs to go. That’s when things go very badly indeed. Nothing already has a Kirkus star under its belt. Definitely sounds like something for the teen that thinks The Chocolate War was all sunshine and butterflies.
Admittedly when I hear that there’s a sort of novel in the works involving a girl in historical England by the name of Kat I think of the Cat Royal series by Julia Golding. But Cat Royal is a eighteenth-century orphan and Kat Stephenson of the new book The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson: A Most Improper Magick is a nineteenth-century sibling. Very different stuff. Within this fun debut novel you’ve the Regency plus magical powers. A kind of Sorcery and Cecelia for the younger set. In this period comedy, twelve-year-old Kat must help her older sisters find love, deal with highwaymen, and add in a little cross-dressing on the side. An upper middle grade option with just the merest touch of Austen.
They’re calling it a subversive picture book. Indeed, you’ll find that the catalog even goes so far as it call it "A bedtime book cleverly disguised as an anti-bedtime book". All I know is that it’s the first time I’ve looked at a Bagram Ibatoulline book jacket and not instantly recognized the man’s style. Simplifying everything, Ibatoulline pairs with author Laura Geringer for Boom Boom Go Away! It’s the loudest lullaby on record with a hero that’s never seen on the page. Intriguing. I’ll have to see it for myself.
I must say, I was rather taken with the description of Julian Hector’s The Gentleman Bug. First off, you’ll remember Mr. Hector since he wrote that charmer of a picture book The Little Matador back in 2008. Word on the street has it that he’s illustrating an Arthur A. Levine-penned book as well, but that’s a story for another day. Now he has a new 40-page title out and it concerns an old-fashioned bug that enjoys reading and who falls for the charms of a lovely ladybug. It occurred to me as they told us the story that there is not a single quintessential bug picture book out there for kids. The closest I can think of is Diary of a Worm and its subsequent sequels. That and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, naturally, but few recent forays into the genre. Well, this I like the sound of much. Much much.
Just speaking from a personal standpoint, if I see a middle grade novel with a jacket that sports the image of a goldfish launching itself hell-for-leather out of its bowl, I am not particularly interested. Unless that fish is the protagonist of the book (in which case, it’s going to be a pretty short story) that kind of picture is the mark of something "meaningful". Rules had a goldfish on the cover too, remember, though I loved it lots. I may love this book lots too, though, since after hearing about it I was very glad indeed to have a galley in hand. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is the story of Melody, a girl with cerebral palsy. Unable to walk or talk she’s a brilliant mind, searching to find a way to let others know how smart she is. The catalog copy compared the book to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Ms. Draper’s daughter, as it happens, has cerebral palsy, so this is coming from a very personal place for this author. Best of all, it was described as being a book with a hopeful but not "pretty" ending.
Generally I don’t pay attention to many of the YA titles being discussed in a preview, but Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont has the distinction of having a particularly interesting plot. When a pregnant sixteen-year-old (hiding the fact) is sent to wilderness camp for the summer in "the wilds of Canada" she finds that she doesn’t have much time left to figure out what to do about it. Mind you, if that’s her on the cover then she’s looking pretty good for a gal who has a decision to make. They stressed that you will not be able to just assume one thing or another about this book. Interesting . . .
As swag goes, I like to pretend I’m jaded. Sure, I’ll drool over a little cake if you send me one, but generally I’ve seen everything from blacklight pens to wooden spoons. You cannot surprise me when you’re promoting your book. Except Andrew Clements kind of did. First off, he announced that he’s writing a six-book series, so that right there is notable. Next, I receive in the mail a little wooden box.
On the front was a note held with a faux bit of sealing wax embedded with a signet ring’s sign. Inside the box was the book (We the Children, part of the new Keepers of the School series) with a key.
The key said to only use it if I must. I have to admit it. It got my attention. In this first book a sixth grader discovers that his historical school is going to be bulldozed to make way for an amusement park. However, the boy finds a leather pouch with a message inside and now he has 28 days (and five books) to save the school and win the day. Illustrated by Adam Stower, we’ll see how this sells to the already existing Andrew Clements fans of the world.
Fiona Simpson, Kate Angelella, Liesa Abrams, Emily Lawrence, and Alyson Heller all take the stage as the librarians shift in their seats and wildly skip past pages 208 and 209 in the catalog like they were hot to the hands.
So here’s my thinking on the new Candy Fairies series by Helen Perelman. We have to assume that Daisy Meadows (which is to say, the four women who write the Rainbow Magic books under the pseudonym Daisy Meadows) must be kicking "herself" right now for missing out on this golden opportunity. You know what isn’t gender specific? Candy. Everybody loves candy. Now sure, usually if it’s a candy related book it’s gonna star a boy. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Chocolate Fever. The Chocolate Touch. Doesn’t make a lick of sense, but there you go. Maybe that’s why it took so long for someone out there to figure out that fairies + chocolate = . . . uh . . . well, basically equals fairies plus chocolate. What more do you need anyway? Daisy, baby, how on earth did you miss this? You did a Disco Fairy before a Chocolate Fairy. That’s just wrong.
You can’t help but see trends when you hear about book titles. They just happen. It’s almost never a case of one author ripping off another either. These things just happen. For example, in 2010 you might see more books where girls interact with boys with Down’s syndrome. From Frances Foster Books you’ll be seeing The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs. And on the Aladdin side of things comes Willowood by Cecilia Galante. In it, a girl and her single mom move to a new city and the girl befriends a pet shop owner’s adult son with Down’s syndrome. Ms. Galante is also the author of Hershey Herself, which alas does not appear to be about candy bars, and therefore does not complement my earlier rant about candy. Darn.
Speaking of candy, let’s talk cupcakes. Someone told me that 2010 is going to be the year of cupcake covers, and perhaps they are right. I haven’t see all that many myself, but there were a couple titles in this preview that definitely caught my eye. Cupcake #1: It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder. With its girl protagonist and daughter of a cupcake shop owner, it sounds like a nice companion novel to The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer.
I was very intrigued to see that The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon is coming out in paperback, which is fabulous. Interestingly, they’ve retained the original cover for the paperback edition. This surprised me since I liked it but figured they’d want to go in a different direction with subsequent printings. I wonder if they’ll have her in as a speaker in a future librarian preview. She’s very good. And I know a lot of librarians in the city like her work.
Jennifer Klonsky, Anica Rissi, Annette Pollert, and Emilia Rhodes stride on-stage. There is a momentary stunned gasp from the audience. Pulse is in the house.
Oh goody! Pulse recaps are quick because I don’t know that much about YA. In brief!
Gone by Lisa McMann – Due out on shelves soon. It’s the follow-up to Wake and Fade. We have been assured that the questions raised in books one and two are answered in this one.
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott – Proves that when it comes to her lighter books (i.e. her not Living Dead Girl books), it’s all about the feet. Feet on the cover of Perfect You. Footsy on the cover of The Unwritten Rule, like so:
Far From You by Lisa Schroeder – Now in paperback. "Angels, dead moms, you’ll love it." Their words, not mine. Still a great line, though.
Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder – Set in the same high school as I Heart You, You Haunt Me. Which is to say, this is kind of a deadly high school, isn’t it? Tres Sunnydale.
The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti – About a girl who’s a little bit of an observer and a little bit of a fixer. Oh. And she’s in love with her new brother-in-law. Yipes!
The Mission by Jason Myers – Interesting Cover. I like.
The Year I Turned Sixteen: Rose, Daisy, Laurel, and Lily by Diane Schwemm – Cupcake cover again. I tell ya. 2011 better be the year of the brownies or something.
Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook – Even if I weren’t already in love with the cover, it’s hard not to be attracted to a book about revenge.
Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie – Apparently there are some 15 books in this Once Upon a Time series. They’re fairy tales written as full teen books. Who knew? Somehow I’ve missed them entirely until now.
Keep Sweet by Michele Greene – Red hair all over the face book #2! A compare and contrast for fun:
Beats backs of the heads. Keep Sweet actually sounds a lot like The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams when you hear the plot. A girl in a polygamous family is excited about marrying the boy intended for her, but finds herself instead betrothed to an old guy who is close to the resident prophet.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Justin Chandra, David Gale, Courtney Bongiolotti, Alexandra Cooper, Julie Maguire. For some reason I’ve scribbled "Men got it easy" in the margins of this page. I have no idea what that means.
This year, for the first time that I can certainly recall, a celebrity picture book made it onto the 2009 New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list. I know. I was shocked too. The title? Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black. Fact o’ the matter, though… not many people would necessarily recognize his name, so maybe it’s not fair to lump him in the "celebrity picture book" aisle. Certainly his next book sounds like it will also be worth checking out. If the fact that it was written by Michal Ian Black and illustrated by Peter Brown weren’t enough (at one point they had written on the cover "by Black and Brown"), the book actually sounds pretty funny. It’s The Purple Kangaroo and if ever there were a Justin Chandra book, this would be it. The premise is simple. A cheeky monkey claims that he can read your mind and what you are thinking of right now is a purple kangaroo. It goes on from there. I kinda, sorta, want this. Bad.
In other news, the rather delightful Homefront by Doris Gwaltney, which had maybe one of the worst hardcover jackets I’d ever seen in my life, is out in paperback with a MUCH better cover. And, amusingly, it has mixed the back of the head trend with the foot trend. It’s all good with me, of course. Just so long as it isn’t sepia-toned.
The sad thing about this preview is that in-between my attending it and my writing up this report, Kirkus has since ended its run. So when I read my own notes that say, "starred review in Kirkus" I get a little tug on my heart. Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson is one such book. It’s the third book in her Heaven trilogy and I absolutely adore the cover. Like her other books in this series, it’s a quick YA read. In this case, about a girl who is in a relationship with a boy who gets his orders to return to Iraq, a place he does not want to go again.
I was pleased as punch to see that the next Frankie Pickle book will be coming out soon. You may recall that Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom was a rather nice mix of early chapter book and graphic novel by Eric Wight. Now Mr. Wight is out with #2 and it’s called Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000. Just your basic derby car Boy Scout challenge. And we got a quickie inside look at the title of #3: Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace.
Emily Gravett = Why yes, I do happen to have just a little more space in my purchasing budget for one more picture book title. Emily Gravett + dogs (as in the book Dogs) = Of course I will purchase this. I’m only human, after all.
Another paperback cover I’m pleased to see, is for Stella Stands Alone. I had some real problems with the original jacket (burning suburban homes, for all their charms, don’t really resemble burning southern mansions) but I hope this one gets it the attention it deserves. It’s a complicated book. I wish more people knew it.
One of the happiest pieces of news I received during this preview was information about Jeff Newman. Now if I say the name "Jeff Newman" I think it’s too early in his career to create the ripples of joy that will emerge when his moniker is repeated in the future. So for now, all you need to know is that he was the creator of Hippo! No, Rhino, which was one of the finest picture book debuts we’ve seen in years. Well, Newman’s back, baby. Back and with a book simply called The Boys. Wordless, it tells the story of a new boy too shy to join the other kids playing baseball, so he decides to sit instead with the old guys on the sidelines to watch the games. The old duffers are touched, sure, but decide amongst themselves that this kid would have a lot more fun playing than watching. As someone who spent much of the third grade hanging out with the recess attendants, this book hits home already. The art is pretty fabulous too, reminding me somewhat of the retro stylings of the movie Up. Want want want.
And let’s just follow up one fab picture book with another. I’m always on the lookout for a good readaloud for storytime. Honest-to-goodness it’s a hard thing to write, though. It takes a certain ear. A certain simplicity to the text. So I do not exaggerate when I say that Jump! by Scott M. Fischer is probably going to be one of the best readalouds of 2010, no question. It was at this point in the preview that I also learned about Mr. Fischer’s daily videos and the fact that I had missed them entirely. Grr, sayeth the masses. Grr! In any case, I’m pleased to report that Mr. F will also be illustrating Angela Johnson’s next picture book. To which we say woo, with a side order of hoo.
New paperback cover alert: Anything But Typical by Noral Raleigh Baskin has a new look. The book was a nice middle grade autism story in the first person, a very difficult thing to create. I rather liked the old cover, if not the title (which I rank right up there with When You Reach Me in terms of memorable-title-difficulty). This cover isn’t quite what I was looking for, though. For one thing, I think the kid looks too young (what little I can make out of him). Dunno. What do you think?
In complete contrast is the cover of Mac Slater Hunts the Cool , which I consider a fabulous mix of title and jacket but cannot download from the S&S site, and so you will have to trust me on this.. Written by Tristan Bancks (who wins the Cool Aussie Name Award of the day) the book concerns a boy inventor who gains a following due to his ingenuity. He’s tapped to be a kid who will report to an online site for trendspotters, but he has to compete against a girl in his school. It’s the first of two books and I liked the way they sold #2: "In number two, he goes to war."
Speaking of war (that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a cool transition) Ellen Wittlinger’s new book has the title I always wanted to write, but never knew it until now: This Means War! Bugs Bunny would be proud. Every year needs a good boys vs. girls title. In 2007 it was The Lemonade War. In 2009 it was Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally). Haven’t a clue what it was in 2008. But in 2010, Wittlinger may win the title since it looks like she may or may not be tying a story of neighborhood boy v. girl hostilities into a Cuban Missile Crisis parallel. It takes place in October 1962 after all. Clever clever writer. Such a pity they didn’t go for the original cover of a girl and boy screaming in one another’s faces. This one’s nice too, but as far as I’m concerned, children’s books don’t show enough screaming these days.
An And Tango Makes Three follow-up? Not exactly, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that way. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell are back in the picture book game having conquered the world with their gay penguin epic. Still loving the non-fiction picture book texts, they’re coming out with Christian, the Hugging Lion. Awwww, sez the world. Remember that YouTube video of the two guys who had adopted a lion, raised it in London, let it go in Africa, and returned to get great big lionish hugs from it? Yup. It’s that story. Macmillan has churned out a couple non-fiction versions, but Peter and Justin have decided to go the picture book with illustrations route instead. And since the illustrator is Amy June Bates (who did Speak to Me: And I Will Listen Between the Lines, which is an awesome book worth seeking out) I am quite interested.
For me, illustrator Stephane Jorisch will always equal that fantastic version of The Owl and the Pussycat Kids Can Press put out a year or two ago. Now he’s paired with the inestimable Jane Yolen for My Father Knows the Names of Things . It’s a book in which a father points out various facts about the world to his kid. A sort of dad’s know everything title. Which is to say, a good Father’s Day book. That fact has clearly not escaped S&S either. Their catalog says as much.
And last but not least, Ms. Sonali Fry.
Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz is hitting its 10-year mark. So now there’s this rather fantastic big version out. I’ve already sent one to a pair of new parents I know. You might want to consider doing the same. Tis huge!
Here’s a book that will have about a millions uses in the classroom.
And finally, they’ve put together all the Helen Oxenbury board books into one nice little boxed set. Which is cool, but I hope they combine them all into a single book someday too.
And that, as they say, is that. Many thanks to Michelle Fadlalla for finding all these fine and fancy covers for me. Here are the Bests of the day:
Best First Line:
"If I’m going to tell you how I killed this kid, I can’t start on the day it happened." – The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys by Scott William Carter
"The Count of Monte Cristo meets Mean Girls." – Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook
Best Meets Runners-Up:
"A Wrinkle in Time meets The Phantom Tollbooth with a sprinkle of Hansel and Gretel." – Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell
"Harry Potter meets Jane Austen." – The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson: A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis
"Frindle crossed with National Treasure." – Keepers of the School: We the Children by Andrew Clements
You Know You’re Old When:
You don’t get a meets. Just like I didn’t get "Mean Girls meets MTV’s The Paper" for Front Page Face-Off by Jo Whittemore. My husband has just explained to me that MTV’s The Paper was a one-season reality show. I still feel old.
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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