Librarian Preview: Little, Brown & Company (Spring 2015)
As librarian previews go, Little, Brown’s remain the gold standard. The food, the guests, the layout, the everything. It is the rare preview that leaves you feeling more relaxed that when you entered. Yet such is the case whenever Victoria Stapleton don’s her latest pair of delightful shoes (shown below).
And then the editorial stars come out to show us what they’ve been cooking up in their Bunsen burners and labs. Spring 2015 is on the horizon! Can you smell it in the air? Tis there! As such, here’s a sample of some of the books LB & Co. think you might want to know about.
But first! The obligatory viewing of Victoria’s shoes and earrings!
Oooo . . . .
Aaaaah . . .
All right. Now books.
First off, that nice Frank Viva person has another book coming out. If his name is vaguely striking a bell, that may be because he’s the fellow who likes to do books that don’t adhere to the natural rules. There was Along a Long Road which was a single piece of work he broke up into pages for a nearly wordless book. Then there was A Long Way Away which was to be read vertically rather than horizontally. Now we have Outstanding in the Rain (9780316366274) where the carefully placed die-cuts on the pages change both the words and the pictures. This is an oronym book, a word I had to look up for myself. Oronym: A sequence of words that sound the same as a different sequence of words.
Added fun fact for New Yorkers: Mr. Viva will be doing a piece of art for our subway cars soon. Woot!
Now don’t be fooled by this cover:
Yes, it’s by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Yes, the last book she wrote was Sugar. Yes, there were a lot of threads left dangling at the end of that title. Yes, the girl here looks an awful lot like Sugar. However, while Ms. Rhodes may someday write a Sugar sequel, that day is not today. Bayou Magic (9780316224840) is an original tale set in a summer in Louisiana. Maddy is staying with her grandmother for that time and has been informed that she might be a witch. Fortunately, she quickly bonds not just with “Grand-mere” but with the wilderness itself. Then, to top it all off, she discovers that she has a magical legacy. She can call fireflies, dream premonitions, and speak to the bayou mermaids (note: Bayou mermaids are NOT cute). This book looks like it has a lot more in common with Rhodes’ previous novel Ninth Ward than with Sugar. An oil spill proves to be the inciting incident in this book, loosely based on the Gulf Oil Spill of a couple years back. Look for this one in May.
Now as per usual I’ll be eschewing the YA in this preview because it’s just not my bag, baby. But I always make exceptions and when they tell me that there’s a Muslim American heroine featured on the cover of a book that reads like Veronica Mars. Well, sure. I’ll show that:
It’s a pretty darn good title. The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens by Henry Clark (9780316406178). So here’s a true story. Not too long ago someone discovered that if you took the iChing you could find Morse Code messages that actually make a fair amount of sense within it. Talk about a beautiful conspiracy theory! In a book described as “The DaVinci Code meets Back to the Future”, a group of nonwhite 21st century kids get dropped into the 1800s and thanks to the time period have to get out of there FAST. This is one of those books where dropping a pencil can make huge problems for the future.
All this got me to thinking about what kind of time travel fiction people prefer. I guess 12 Monkeys will always be the gold standard for me. I love that creepy little thing.
Not many children’s novels are inspired by Moby Dick but why not? That’s a ripping little yarn, once you get past all the interminable whaling parts. Set in the midwest in the 1850s Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget (9780316245104) features one Hallelujah Wonder, a scientist’s daughter. Through a series of events, it eventually comes to pass that she and a runaway slave go to Antarctica. Like ya do. Add in some supernatural elements and the fact that the author acknowledges in the text that not all abolitionists were pure unqualified saints and you’ve got yourself a book that may find itself compared in the future to “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. We could use another one of those, by gum.
There’s a reason I never went into marketing. In theory I’d like to think I’d be pretty good at it. In practice, I’d probably be pretty lamentable. Take, for example, “The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey (9780316297790). See now if I was the one selling this book I probably would have eschewed the “From the writer of Daddy Day Care and Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas!” that graces the top of the cover and said something more like “From the author of the amazing Chronicles of Egg and what do you MEAN you haven’t read it yet?!?” But, as folks were quick to inform me, more people have watched the films named here than read Geoff’s book. Pooh. His Chronicles of Egg series is truly delightful, containing some of the funniest pirates I’ve ever encountered in a children’s book. That said, I think it was editor Andrea Spooner were said of this book that it was “the guilty pleasure reading of the preview”. I think many of us are already familiar with Mac Barnett and Jory John’s upcoming prank-based book The Terrible Two. Well, come April, you’ll finally have something to pair it with. In this book a prank war between twins escalates from the real world into a Minecraft-like world where the twins tend to spend their time. The book will contain screen shots, chat logos, photos, and transcripts of the texts made between the parents about their kids. Might also pair rather well with Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald too.
And now my favorite book of the preview. Heck, as of this writing, it’s probably my favorite book of 2015. Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9780316226141) features a family of bunnies who come home one day to find a baby wolf abandoned at their front door. The parents are immediately enthralled. The daughter, however, is appalled. She’s fairly certain that the baby is just biding its time until it can eat them all up. It’s a kind of new sibling twist, really. I think Sendak would have approved. The book is set in Brooklyn with the Park Slope Co-op playing a significant role. Note too the all hand-painted art. Fantabulous.
Extra added bonus – this is not the last book these two will ever do together. Expect to hear about Horrible Bear, a story they worked on which is about a bear accused of . . . well . . . you can probably guess.”
Oh, and the cover totally falls into that longstanding tradition of characters wearing bunny suits on covers. Remember Piggy Bunny? Or Big Bad Bunny?
Now it’s a little early to be spotting trends in 2015 books but if I might be so bold I am seeing a SIGNIFICANT uptick in plucky girl detectives who are based on real historical figures. There’s that Random House book about young Mary Shelley and Eva Lovelace, Woolstonecraft. And on the Little, Brown side there’s The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan (9780316403511). This book focuses its lens on the world’s first female detective. Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in pre-Civil War America. She worked alongside the men and was paid the same. Heck, she even helped foil a pre-inauguration assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. In this book her fictional niece is sent to her and is determined to help her aunt solve crimes. I was actually a bit of a fan of author Kate Hannigan’s Cupcake Cousins last year, which was a lovely Michigan-flavored concoction that contained some nice jolts of seriousness beneath its seemingly sugar-coated covering. Looking forward to this one.
Just recently I read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein to my three-year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed it. Happily I’ll have another Gerstein to show her soon thanks to Night World (9780316188227). Now I was a little thrown by the cover at first. What we’re seeing here is a boy and his cat looking out at a night sky filled with stars and NOT a snow filled sky. So FYI. Said editor Bethany Strout, “I’ve never used the word glorious to describe a picture book before.” The book is a pre-dawn to dawn title. It begins in that pre-dawn black and white world we’re all familiar with. Then, as the sun begins to rise, things get (as Bethany put it) “glorious”. Worth checking out.
I’m currently reading Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan which has a pretty darn silly name. Not to be outdone, we now also have Woundabout by Lev Rosen, illustrated by Ellis Rosen (9780316370783). This is more of a young middle grade filled with lots of pictures inside. In this book two orphans and their pet capybara (the largest rodent in the world) are on their own after the kids’ parents die in a freak accident. They move in with their aunt and butler in Woundabout, a city where nothing in the town changes. The river doesn’t move. Everyone has a routine. The town has apparently been “wound down” and these kids are determined to wind it back up. It is, as editor Deirdre Jones put it, like reading “Lemony Snicket’s gentler, younger sibling.” Jacques?
All right folks. It’s 2014. Time to replace Love You Forever. It’s had a good run but I think it’s time to find something new. Something that fills that same need in gift-givers’ brains whenever there’s a baby shower or what have you. My nomination? Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by the great and delightful LeUyen Pham (9780316122177). I know Mr. Spinelli is a Newbery award winner and all that, but in this book I think he seriously lucked out in his publisher’s choice of artist. Mind you, it took some time. The book was acquired in 2009 but it required waiting for LeUyen’s schedule to free up for anything to happen. In this book one mom has four kids and you watch the family grow up and age throughout the years. The hook is that anytime Mama Seeton wants her kids back home she whistles and they arrive. The book covers something like 50 years in total, as the kids move away from home and have children of their own. Worthy reading.
And then there were a couple quick mentions of books that there just wasn’t time for anyone to delve deeply into but that folks still wanted us to know about.
First off, Jerry Pinkney returns with another fable. This time it’s The Grasshopper and the Ants (9780316400817). Now my curiosity was piqued when I heard about this. I always worry that books of this sort might go the Frederick route. Nothing against Leo Lionni but is anyone else mildly disturbed by stories where “dreamers” and “artists” are told they don’t have to worry about simple basic preparation skills because they have different talents? This tale appears to be the original tale done right. I won’t mild delving a bit into it.
Now when introducing the book Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (9780316400022) the librarian attendees of this particular preview were asked what the quote “Wherever you go, there you are” is from. This is a bit of a trick question. When I was in high school this was precisely the kind of question we would obsess over, trying desperately to come up with a good answer. Now that we have the internet we know that multiple places in pop culture contain the phrase. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one, though.
Then there’s Ed Young. His book Should You Be a River (9780316230896), like many of his books, comes with a backstory. When Ed’s wife died she left behind two daughters – a teenager and a preteen. During the course of their healing process Ed wrote his girls a poem. But in the mix and mangle of sending the manuscript of Nighttime Ninja off to Little, Brown, the poem accidentally got shipped off to the publisher as well. Naturally they wanted to print it as its own book and so we now have this book today.
Then at last it was time for the super secret guest. This one wasn’t too hard to guess, particularly when he’s prefaced with Victoria saying “he is a permanent resident of Fear Street”. This was followed up with “He puts a tingle in your spine, the goose in your bumps.” He was also said to have “a dangerous twinkle. More like a dwinkle.” Yes indeed, it was R.L. Stine!
Stine hoped on up as part of the promotion of his upcoming picture book The Little Shop of Monsters illustrated by Marc Brown. He proceeded to launch into not just an explanation of the book and how he got in touch with Marc but also the various things fans have said to him over the years. Some of the highlights:
“Can I have my picture taken with you? The kids all think you’re dead.”
Fan letter: “I want to know everything about you. Do you have hair?”
Fan letter: “You’re my second favorite author.”
The how-the-met story of Stine and Brown was worth telling as well. Apparently a children’s literature book conference was being held in Moscow and Laura Bush wanted to take three children’s book authors. Now put yourself in her shoes. If you could choose three children’s book authors to take with you to Russia, who would they be? In Laura Bush’s case it was Marc Brown, R.L. Stine, and Peter Lerangis. We heard ribald tales of what that trip consisted of, culminating in a Russian orchestra playing “Hang On Sloopy” at a hoity-toity event. In midst of this madness Brown turned to Stine and said, “We should do a book together.” Quoth Stine, “Why?”
But a book they did make and here it is today. To my enjoyment the conversation then turned to the Goosebumps movie out this summer. Why? Because I know that in the film Jack Black would be playing Stine himself and I wanted to hear his take. When the idea was first floated by him, Stine asked his family members whether or not he should play himself. His son suggested Morgan Freeman instead. His wife informed him that “You’re too old to play yourself.” In the words of Victoria Stapleton, “I would now like Mrs. Stine to adopt me and teach me her ways.”
All in all a lovely preview. But that is not, oh no. That is not all. On to the meets! Just two this time. They were:
- “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist meets Easy A” – Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) by Amy Spalding
And my personal favorite . . .
- “Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games meets Little Women” – Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
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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