Um . . . Didn’t You Go to BEA Recently?
I did indeed, faithful readers! Just about the time this blog was headed to an all new format I was traipsing the halls of the Javits Center during Book Expo 2010. Being a working librarian and all, I was operating my library’s reference desk for most of BEA, but I was able to escape for a Thursday to see what there was to see. I had about two hours on the floor, max. That is a short amount of time, but it is amazing what one can accomplish when one is wearing shoes so uncomfortable that you are inclined to walk fast to dull the pain!
Sidenote: Historically, librarians aren’t BEA’s focus. This is a bookseller convention and over the last few years librarians have started to trickle in. They are not by any means catered to. What I like about BEA is that I get to run into booksellers I wouldn’t normally run across.
Here then is my highly scientific view of all things BEA. Ahem.
HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC VIEW OF ALL THINGS BEA
That was one of the staircases visible during the conference. I admit, I was impressed. I was unaware that Vladimir Tod had the clout to acquire the ENTIRE visible staircase at BEA. Extra points for the colors as well.
After getting my press pass I went inside. Rather than scout out where anyone actually was, I wandered around, vaguely heading towards any area where there was a large group of people. This is sort of how I tackle ALA Conferences as well. Call it my SMS or Systematic Meandering System. In this particular case, I found myself at the end of the conference floor where the authors were signing.
I’m not a signing type o’ author, but if I ever become one I hope that the universe will acknowledge that I feel great boatloads of sympathy for any first timer or small press writer stuck next to a big name. There were a couple of those roundabout 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning, but I shan’t name names. I went over to the big board at this point to see if anyone interesting was coming up.
Dang! Lemony Snicket had been signing the previous day. If I were playing some perverse version of Author Bingo, Snicket/Handler would be The One Who Got Away. I’m horrendously afraid of him, to the point where I was at a party thrown for him once and managed to give him a berth of about six yards at any given time. I can’t explain it. I adore him but he intimidates the eyelashes off of me. Not his wife, the lovely authoress Lisa Brown, she of the YA novel Picture the Dead. If I ever meet her I’ll bloody talk her ear off. But Handler… someday, man. Someday.
So who was around and about? Well, I think Adam Rex was signing, but it wasn’t like I’d be able to engage him in conversation or anything. No sir… I wanted someone I’d never met before. Someone, ideally, I’d read as a kid. The answer?
Aw, yeah baby. That’s James Howe, author of everything from Bunnicula to Totally Joe to his newest picture book Brontorina. Which I got signed for the niece. I like to call that a mission accomplished.
With my signed book in tow, I set out to see what was new from the pubs this season. And not the New York based ones either. I wanted new stuff from folks I don’t usually hear from. Folks like, Candlewick.
Candlewick Press had a nice little booth set up, and it was there that my eyes locked on this beauty.
I mean “beauty” in every sense of the word. This is Mirror by Jeannie Baker. I’m a huge Jeannie Baker fan. I am this close to single-handedly tracking her down in Australia and dragging her by her heels to American soil so that she can be considered for a Caldecott. Alas, this is not to be, but at least we’ve books like this one to admire.
When you open Mirror up the book splits into two. Pages are bound on the left hand side and on the right hand side. The two sides tell two similar but wordless stories. On the left you see an Australian boy going about his day. The way the book opens, you read it front to back. On the right, you see an Arabic boy going about his day. That story reads back to front. Side by side, the two glimpses of everyday life are easy to compare and contrast. There’s even a note on both tales, one in English and one in Arabic, explaining what the book is. Folks I talked to said that this would be an ideal story for two kids sitting side by side to read on their own. It might also work as a teaching tool, but all I know is, it’s gorgeous. Baker’s art is, as ever, stunning. I’ve never seen anyone do collage the way she does. Something to keep an eye out for then.
After Candlewick I traipsed over to Blue Apple Books, because they amuse me. There I saw their classy and mod little titles, and then I saw this snazzy little number. It is not, obviously, a book. Can you tell what it is?
That’s right, baby. You’re looking at hipster bibs. Just tear one off wherever you are and your child looks like an instant Williamsburg resident. One will have to assume that these bibs are reusable, as you can’t just get away with taking, using, and discarding stuff like this anymore.
Here’s another look at some of the patterns:
From there, it was all about Kids Can Press. That Canadian joint is churning out some serious contenders this year. First up, Spork by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.
Why no one else has thought to create a parable for mixed race kids by utilizing cutlery is beyond me. Think of this as somewhat along the same lines as Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Spoon, but with slightly tinier tines.
That book I wanted. But what I want even more (partly because I read it through right there and then and saw how good it was) was this:
That’s a graphic novel called Binky to the Rescue and it’s by Ashley Spires. They only had the most unbound of unbound galleys present, but this I want. It involves a housecat who sees himself as an intrepid explorer when he accidentally finds himself outside. After many trials his owner rescues him, but to his horror he has (in a manner of speaking) left a man behind. Oh, it’s a hoot. You’ll have to see.
Just a hop, skip, and jump from here was the Kane/Miller booth. One of my favorites. Any publisher dedicated to bringing foreign children’s literature into America has my love. And look, just LOOK, at this little beauty:
You are witnessing an early chapter book by a woman, originally from Zimbabwe, writing about a girl and her extended family in modern day Africa. Kane/Miller was kind enough to give me a copy, but I wish I’d been greedy and grabbed the second book in the series as well. One reads nicely enough on its own, but it kind of ends with a cliffhanger ending that made me want part two.
Finally, before I ran off to lunch, I noticed this amazing banner. Check out the size of this thing.
And that’s the long and short of it. I did also speak on a panel at the next day’s Book Blogger Convention, which was nice. This was the second book blogger convention of its kind, the first (I guess) being the regular Kidlitosphere Conferences (now in our fifth year). You can read some nice recaps of the event over at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub and Stiletto Storytime.
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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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