Librarian Preview: Blue Apple Books (Spring 2014)
Last one of the season, folks! But I figure what with the approaching ALA Conference in Philly, there’s no harm in letting people know last minute about some of the fine and fancy titles that may or may not be available to peruse at the event. Today we focus on small, gutsy, rather lovely little publisher Blue Apple Books and their line-up for the current season.
Elliot Kreloff was kind enough to give me a rundown on what’s happening with his books. Here then is a sneaky peek at some of the titles on offer. We’re going to tweak the format slightly today, just in terms of presentation. Elliot passed along to me some rather lovely scans that I’m going to allow to take up quite a bit of room.
First up, Blue Apple’s brand new “Jump Into Chapters” series. A kind of mix between the easy graphic novels cultivated by folks like TOON Books and the early chapter series you’ll find in any library, the books are a step up from easy readers and a step easier than Captain Underpants. To start them off on the right foot, Blue Apple tapped three fellas with graphic novel (or at least illustrated narrative) experience with kids. Three goofy goofy guys.
First off, the inestimable Maxwell Eaton III and his new book Okay, Andy.
If his name (or style) is ringing some bells that’s probably because he’s the fella behind some great picture books and the even better Flying Beaver Brothers GN series. I consider the Beaver Brothers to be some of the finest easy graphic novels out there. Okay, Andy is simpler still and there’s something infinitely engaging about the characters.
Next up, a mad genius that I am VERY fond of. Michael Townsend returns with Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List.
Townsend wrote last year’s laugh-out-loud picture book (a hard trick to pull off) Cute and Cuter. He first won MY heart, however, when he reinterpreted the Greek myths in his own image in Amazing Greek Myths of Wonders and Blunders. I can’t quite define what it is about him that works for me. His books are like alternative comics calmed down to a kid level, but with that edge of insanity still lingering about the corners. As for Mr. Ball, his adventures are fun and simple, though for me he resembles the white Isz of the Outback from The Maxx (anybody? anybody?).
Finally, a fellow familiar to Blue Apple, as well as a fair number of other places.
Ethan Long actually has done a couple Scribbles & Ink titles for Blue Apple before. He is, if nothing else, shockingly prolific. He is also, often, uniquely talented. I maintain that his Up, Tall & High! remains one of the greatest easy books of all time. In this book the creativity of this 21st century Ben & Jerry pair (they get along better than B&J, actually) is brought to bear on a book with more room to grow. It’s a nice change of pace.
Like the TOON Books, my library system will be putting these books in our graphic novel section. Just in case you were trying to figure out where to catalog them.
Next up, books on the picture book side!
Jenni Desmond is one to watch. Her style isn’t quite like anyone else’s out there, and her books are lovely. In Eric, the Boy Who Lost His Gravity, Desmond takes a kind of Mary Poppins concept (laughter makes you fly) and reverses it. And honestly? It makes a LOT more sense when it’s in reverse. Eric has a younger toddler sister who can often be a bit of a pain. One day he just can’t take it anymore and his anger causes him to literally float up and out the window.
It’s sort of a kind of When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry but a little wilder. Here’s a nice spread.
I love what she does with his mouth.
Much along the same lines, but with a different approach, is Peter Panda Melts Down! by Artie Bennnett, illustrated by John Nez.
I don’t know why but the book really reminds me of the work of Robert Kraus and his books like Leo the Late Bloomer. I’m not particularly familiar with artist John Nez, but I like his style. Besides which, it’s just a lot of fun to watch a panda have a tantrum. I don’t know why, but it is.
Unafraid to delve into the nonfiction market, Blue Apple actually has a bit of an ample backlist to pull from. In their “Think About” series, Blue Apple founder and publisher Harriet Ziefert relocated an older series that was ideal for this new era of Common Core State Standards. In this very simple series, kids are handed “A First Nonfiction Book”. As the titles suggest, the books pose silly questions, but follow them up with serious answers. Two examples include:
The illustrations are all new. Plus I just like seeing miffed polar bears. Apparently I’ve a real yen for angry animals today.
Another nonfiction series include these slightly older books, also by Ms. Ziefert. The first will initially remind you of Mordecai Gerstein’s How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers, but as you can tell from the title we are strictly in nonfiction territory here.
This next book appeals to my little Midwestern heart. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I had a really rough understanding of what constituted “the Midwest”. Insofar as I was concerned it probably mean Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. That’s it, right? Big time shock for me to hear that places like Kansas and Oklahoma fell into that category. Coulda knocked me over with a feather. Well, the “Search & Find Geography” series has a new title, and it’s flyover country as far as the eye can see.
Will I be buying this for my NYC library system. You BET I will! The more Midwest info I’m able to disseminate, the better.
Finally, phonics. Almost. In my library I am constantly asked for good phonics books for kids. These are remarkably difficult to locate, and often we are reduced to simply scanning our easy reader shelves for the simplest reading books possible. Now Blue Apple is meeting this need with some remarkably simple books. The Flip-a-Word series does just that, breaking books down to their most essential elements. They’re not phonics but they hit the same need.
And that’s all she wrote for us today, folks! Thanks again to Elliot for the heads up.
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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