Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012)
And we find ourselves back at the Yale Club, across the street from Grand Central Station, and a whopping 10 minutes away, on foot, from my library. There are advantages to living on a tiny island, I tell ya.
As per usual, Little Brown pulled out all the stops for the average children’s and YA librarian, in order to showcase their upcoming season. There were white tablecloths and sandwiches consisting of brie and ham and apples. The strange result of these previews is that I now seem to be under the mistaken understanding that Little Brown’s offices are located at the Yale Club. They aren’t. That would make no sense. But that’s how my mind looks at things. When I am 95 and senile I will insist that this was the case. Be warned.
A single day after my return from overseas I was able to feast my eyes on the feet of Victoria Stapleton (the Director of School and Library Marketing), bedecked in red sparkly shoes. I would have taken a picture but my camera got busted in Bologna. I was also slightly jet lagged, but was so grateful for the free water on the table (Europe, I love you, but you have to learn the wonders of ample FREE water) that it didn’t even matter. Megan Tingley, fearless leader/publisher, began the festivities with a memory that involved a child’s story called “The Day I Wanted to Punch Daddy In the Face”. Sounds like a companion piece to The Day Leo Said “I Hate You”, does it not?
But enough of that. You didn’t come here for the name dropping. You can for the books that are so ludicrously far away in terms of publication (some of these are January/February/March 2012 releases) that you just can’t resist giving them a peek. To that end, the following:
At these previews, each editor moves from table to table of librarians, hawking their wares. In the case of the fabulous Ms. Baker (I tried to come up with a “Baker Street Irregulars” pun but it just wasn’t coming to me) the list could start with no one else but Nancy Tafuri. Tafuri’s often a preschool storytime staple for me, all thanks to her Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails. There’s a consistency to her work that a librarian can appreciate. She’s also apparently the newest Little Brown “get”. With a Caldecott Honor to her name (Have You Seen My Duckling?) the newest addition is All Kinds of Kisses. It’s pretty cute. Each animals gets kisses from parent to child with the animal sound accompanying. You know what that means? We’re in readaloud territory here, people. There’s also a little bug or critter on each page that is identified on the copyright page for parents who have inquisitive children.
Next up, a treat for all you Grace Lin fans out there. If you loved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat then you’ll probably be pleased as punch to hear that there’s a third book in the series. Don’t expect this one to be called Year of the Ox or anything, though. Lin’s switched gears on us this time, eschewing the whole “Year of” idea and instead going for the new title: Dumpling Days. Set against a deep blue cover (lovely but not available for you to see quite yet) the book follows Pacy as she and her family travel to Taiwan to meet her extended family. Now for the first time Pacy looks like everyone else, but since her parents never taught her Chinese she has no way of communicating. Strangest of all, she starts taking an art class and then realizes that she’s no longer the best artist out there. The result of all this is that she grows to understand her parents a little better. After hearing the storyline it got me to thinking. Is there any other series out there where a character goes with her family to meet relatives in the country their parents were born in? I’m drawing a blank myself. In any case, don’t get too excited for this one quite yet. It’s a 2012 title (and the first I’ll read next year, you bet).
The name of the game with today’s preview: Debut authors. Particularly in the spring 2012 season (typically when folks are debuted most often). The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker follows something fairly standard in the tween and teen genre: A girl wants to be popular. It’s 9th grade and Ricki Jo (I may be spelling that wrong) has decided that now is the time to switch her name to Erica. She buys new clothes. She trades her Bible in for Seventeen Magazine. And she generally tries to be popular in adorable geeky ways (sounds a bit like The Popularity Papers to me). Halfway through the book it appears that “Erica” has succeeded in her goals, until her friend Luke needs her help and she has to go back to being Ricki Jo. The real striking detail with this one is that we have an honest-to-goodness Southern YA novel on our hands here. Friday Night Lights-esque, set in a small town where the happening place to be is the local Walmart. Looks cute. I suspect that in spite of its “Ages 12 & up” designation that it might be accessible to middle grade readers as well. After all, it has some similarities to Kekla Magoon’s Camo Girl.
Now with this next book I’d like us to just take a moment to stare in wonderment at the cover:
THAT is a cover. Pray they make it final. I mean, just look at the perfect pentagons and octagons at work here. Gorgeous. The story behind the actual creation of this book is worth telling too. Back in 2009 the New York Times ran an article called Sudden Finale: New York City Ballet Dancers After Layoffs that looked at how the current recession led to the firing of quite a few professional dancers. Ms. Sophie Flack was one of those dancers, and in the piece the young woman discusses how she’d now like to go to Columbia, all the while recounting the facts about her ballet past. At one point the article says:
” ‘I never wanted to be a ‘bunhead,’ ‘ she said, speculating that she had been chosen to be laid off either because her attention was not totally on the company or because Mr. Martins felt less concerned about releasing a dancer with better prospects of coping with the outside world.”
This, as it happens, caught the attention of said outside world. Which is to say, one Elizabeth Bewley. Flack was contacted and asked if perhaps she might like to write something about her time in the corps. And as it just so happens, Ms. Flack had written copious notes in her journals about her eight years as a professional ballerina. If you need someone with insider details, it doesn’t get better than this. After all, here we have a world where perfection is enforced and friends both help and compete against one another. So basically, Ms. Flack’s debut YA novel is a sports book. And timing-wise I have to tip my hat to the company. Black Swan comes out and we’ve a paltry offerings for older readers interested in the ballet world (To Dance is lovely but is too young for the teen crowd). Now we can do better.
So a kid walks up to your reference desk and asks you for the autobiography section. You gently ask if they mean the biography section. Nope! Their teacher has adamantly insisted that everyone read an autobiography of someone. Now if the kid’s a little older you can toss a Knucklehead or a Knots in My Yo-Yo String their way, but if they’re younger it’s tougher. Picture book autobiographies are definitely the rarer breed. As such, this is just one of the many reasons to give Ed Young’s The House Baba Built a close look. Here we have an illustrated memoir from WWII. War was coming to Shanghai, and Ed Young’s father was an architect with a desire to provide for his children. So he made a wealthy landowner an offer he couldn’t refuse: Let Ed’s father have a bit a land to build a home on and after 20 years he would give both the land AND the house he built on it back to the landowner. This is a book about a home and a family and in it Ed mixes up his art styles even more than usual. There are photographs (of both then and now) and collage and paper and painting and all kinds of things. Interestingly, while Ed wrote the notes for the book, the text itself got some help from Blow Out the Moon author Libby Koponen. Alvina then showed us the various incarnations the book had taken on over the two years of its creation, including a version that was all-gatefolds all-the-time. For those of you curious, don’t try this. It doesn’t really work. Once they resolved the look of the book, the result in the end actually reminded me of nothing so much as The Wall by Peter Sis. Which is to say, a sophisticated but still child-centric memoir of a specific moment in history set in a country other than America. Notable.
We all make mistakes in our life. And it is the degree to which one can forgive oneself that lends that mistake power. For example, I may have made a big time mistake when I failed to review Peter Brown’s picture book Children Make Terrible Pets. I thought it was a hoot, and I helped give it a 2010 New York Times Best Illustrated Award, but no review did I give it. Now it keeps on winning awards left and right (most recently the E.B. White Read Aloud Award in the picture book category). Perhaps this great wrong can be righted if I give attention to its companion, You Will Be My Friend! Not exactly a sequel (Squeaker-like kids make a cameo and nothing more in this title). You see Lucy, the overly enthusiastic tutu-wearing bear, has a new goal in life. Forget pets. Friends are clearly where it’s at. Unfortunately her method of making a new pal is a bit more, uh, aggressive than you might normally find. By the way, I suggest that when pronouncing the title you place a solid emphasis on the word “Will”. You WILL be my friend! Could make for a good readaloud. I’ll have to give it another look.
You will note that some books in this preview get lovely jackets while others remain sadly jacketless. This is sometime due to publication date. Titles due out this fall may already have their final jackets in place, while titles due in 2012 are still in the works. In the case of Laini Taylor’s latest (you heard me right!) the jacket is proving to be a bit of a difficulty. When I was at the preview they were working with one that was right up my alley. The cover was a strange kind of amalgamation of red bird on blue girl against a black background. It gave the whole thing a strange kind of 1960s nightclub look. I suspect that you will never see this jacket, but you will eventually get to see the book. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor’s much anticipated novel following the National Book Award nominated Lips Touch, could potentially be described as Alvina put it: “One day an angel and a demon fell in love. It did not end well”. The story follows a girl who lives as a blue-haired art student in Prague. She has little knowledge of her own past, and stays with a foster family in which the father deals in teeth and wishes. Very Taylor. Very enticing. I shall have to get my claws on this.
Julie Scheina (in for the absent Jennifer Hunt)
It was Spring Break this week in New York City so I had a lot of really good readers in my branch asking for books that were already checked out. One kid came up to me asking for “the Secret series”. My blank stare must have informed her that she was dealing with an adult who needed everything explained to her because she started to slowly and patiently name some of the titles in said series. The Name of This Book is Secret, This Book is Not Good for You, etc. I immediately caught on (and realized that it’s probably being called the Secret series and not the Pseudonymous Bosch series, due to the difficult-to-pronounce nom de plume). Too popular even now, we didn’t have many on the shelf, but I was able to say that I had knowledge of a new book in the series: The fifth and final book. She eagerly asked for its name but I hadn’t written this blog post yet so I wasn’t able to say. Boo-urns. Returning to my notes I now see that the book is You Have to Stop This and that it’s about what happens when a mummy’s finger is accidentally removed. Our heroes, falsely accused of the theft, are convinced to work for the museum’s curator. Then things get worse. We were told that with each book in this series the readership has doubled, a fact that I can certainly attest to in my own branch. At the beginning the books were sort of shelf sitters. Now? Can’t hold onto them for four minutes anymore!
Sort of missed this video for Book #4 when it came out. In case you were curious about the author, or just like looking at L.A. landmarks . . . :
Gear switch! I don’t usually cover YA on this blog, but if publisher previews are small (like this one) then I’ll cover the occasional teen novel. The occasional Zarr too. Yep, Sara Zarr has a new book out with the moniker How to Save a Life. This is a thicker Zarr than usual, split between two narrators. Narrator #1: A girl with a dead father. Constantly pushing people away, she’s not exactly thrilled when her mother informs her that she wants to adopt a baby. Enter narrator #2: a pregnant teen with the baby the mom wants. Worlds collide. The girls grow closer. Perspectives change. Zarr-tastic.
Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order) is the YA debut from author Denise Vega. In this particular novel you’ve a male narrator who, in his head anyway, is a rock legend. In real life? Not so much. Fortunately his overbearing older brother has taken off for college, so now it’s our hero’s time to shine. Convinced that he must win the Battle of the Bands, he’s all set to have a great year . . . until his brother returns from college and expects everything to be as it once was. Ms. Vega, according to Ms. Scheina, cannot sing or play an instrument herself but her dad and brother were both musicians. Add in the fact that she attends tons of concerts at the Red Rock Amphitheatre. So she’s got the cred, no fear.
Time to Pinkney it up!
How do you go about following up your first Caldecott Award win? With something the same? Something completely different? I’m sure Jerry Pinkney had to think all of this through when he considered his next project post-The Lion and the Mouse. The solution? Well, where there’s Aesop there’s also bedtime songs. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star first and foremost makes use of ALL the lyrics in the original song (did you know that there were more lyrics?). Then he decided to give the starring role in the book to one of my favorite unappreciated animals: A chipmunk! I love chipmunks. And outside of bluejays they are children’s literature’s most overlooked little types.
In this particular book Pinkney breaks out his blues. Call this book his Blue Period if you will since he has to cover everything from early morning blue to twilight blue to midnight blue, etc. This stands in sharp contrast to the dry oranges and browns of his previous book. In this story (which sort of plays out between the verses) a little chipmunk dreams of seeing star-shaped fireflies, flowers, spider webs, etc. Eventually his dreams become more elaborate, until he’s sailing amongst the stars above. Like The Lion and the Mouse much of this book is wordless, the only text coming from the song. Apparently there was some debate as to whether or not to clump the words together or to spread them out evenly throughout the book. The clumps won and the result is a story that is about how bedtime is where you go through a process of letting go and traversing into the unknown. In a way, the idea of adapting a lullaby to the picture book format makes me think that this would be an excellent companion to Eric Rohmann’s Last Song.
Gear switch! Of all the covers shown during this preview, this may have been my favorite:
It’s the combination of the words and the image. And the subtitle (“They know Lucky’s secret. And they know yours, too.”). There’s something about it that reminds me of that old television show The Prisoner. From A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Dust of 100 Days) Everybody Sees the Ants was surprisingly described as “darkly comedic”. With its Cormier-like cover, I wasn’t expecting that. Lucky, our hero, is bullied but he has a surreal dreamlife to get him through. Imagining that he’s with his P.O.W. grandfather who never returned from Vietnam, the book equates the torture of soldiers with the more everyday torture of bullying. Even more interestingly, it examines the long-term effects of war on military families. If I read YA, I would read this.
Many of you may have heard that Little Brown managed to get itself a little Lemony Snicket action. Which is to say, author Daniel Handler moved with his editor to LB & Co. There have been rumors of a new Series of Unfortunate Events, but until that happy day arrives Mr. Handler is putting out a YA novel with his illustrator buddy (and most recent New Yorker cover artist) Maira Kalman. Why We Broke Up is published under Handler’s real name for a reason. We’re in entirely new territory here. In this break-up story, Min drops off a box of mementos with her ex, alongside a letter that highlights each item and its significance. Kalman, in turn, paints these objects. Something about this premise struck me a not too far off from Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, and not just because you have a male author writing from a teen girl perspective. Both books look back at a past that cannot be changed and recount it for the audience. I’m always going on about how interesting books that mix text and image are. This here’s a rather good example of precisely that.
Lysistrata time. Or, rather, updated Lysistrata time. Remember Troy High? Came out two years ago by a Shana Norris and placed The Illiad in the context of a high school? It was a cute idea, and not the kind of thing you usually see. Now Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (the 17-year-old author who wrote The DUFF and who is now a grand and ancient 19 years of age) does the same thing, only with The Lysistrata. In this high school there is a war on between the football team and the soccer team. And frankly, the girlfriends of the boys involved are sick and tired of being ditched in the midst of the conflict. The solution? No sex until things get resolved.
I’m a little torn on the cover for Boy 21 by Matthew Quick. Take a gander:
On the one hand, I’m thrilled to death to see a contemporary African-American boy on the cover of a YA novel. On the other hand, due to the sheer number of doodles all over his face it can be hard to make out his race when you hold the book in your hand. On the other other hand, doodles are big right now and this could make the book more likely to be read by a number of post-Diary of a Wimpy Kid readers. And back and forth it goes. Author Quick is the man behind Sorta Like a Rockstar and places this book in a dilapidated town where the local industry has left. Racial tensions are high, and the tale follows two teens: one white, one black. The black kid has lost his parents and as a result has adopted an alien personality. Quite literally, in fact. The other boy befriends him and the world within this book is described as believable in spite of the quirky concept. No doodles, by the way, are to be found inside the book. Hmmm.
I admit that I rather adored this next cover (though again the ethnicity of the main character is oddly obscured). The Shattering by Karen Healey (she of Guardian of the Dead) reminded me of nothing so much as a Jonathan Franzen cover. Set in Healey’s New Zealand, this book take place in a vacation town. A girl’s brother has committed suicide and an old friend is convinced that it was actually a murder. Each year in this town, you see, an evil force causes some boy to commit suicide. But what’s behind it? Something about the book sounded vaguely Twin Peaks-ish to me. I also appreciate that it contains a diverse cast.
And that, as they say, is that. Good books, good times, and now a treat. If you would like a galley of a middle grade or YA novel (no picture books, my loves, so put them out of your head), then Ms. Stapleton has generously given me permission to tell you how you can go about getting a VERY early galley of your own.
- Email LBYRGalleys@hbgusa.com
- Put FuseNumberEight is Great in the subject line (I swear this was Victoria’s idea, and not mine . . . not that I object, of course . . .)
- Full street address, please no PO Boxes
- Specify what you’d like to receive.
Many thanks to Victoria, Zoe Luderitz, Faye Bi for their help and for putting this together. Looks like yet another banner year.
Note: Some of the images in this preview may not be the final images. These include: You Will Be My Friend, Bunheads, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Why We Broke Up, and The Shattering.
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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