Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)
Oh, it’s a big one. A big honking preview, this is. Yes indeed, folks, Harper Collins is in town and they’ve a mess of good looking books just aching to arrive on your shelves. Now the last time I attending a preview for HC I was massively pregnant with back pain to match. This time around, in comparison, I was positively lithe, leaping from table to table as the editors showed us their pretty baubles. Here then is an encapsulation of some of the goodies that will be hitting shelves nationwide fairly soon. To wit:
At these librarian previews we the MLIS degree holders move from table to table, where each imprint gets its own say. With Table One we began with Greenwillow and a season that’s going to feel a little distant to us for a while:
Finding Spring by Carin Berger (97800622510193)
Cute, right? In this story a bear is searching for spring. So what does he find instead? Snow. Lots of it. Done in Berger’s customary collage style, this is one artistic little book that rewards close reading. Note, for example, that the snowflakes and flowers see in these pages are held in place by tiny pins. Sort of gives the whole book a three-dimensional feel. Gorgeous.
For a closer look at the interior art, stop on by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for a sneak peek.
Red by Michael Hall (9780062252074)
I actually already talked a bit about this one back during the last Harper Collins preview, but I like it so very much that I’ll mention it again. To wit, snarky faceless crayons populate a book where a blue crayon is mislabeled as red. A pencil tells the tale (as you might imagine). I’m already imagining a LOT of applications for this as a gift book. It sells itself.
Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson (9780062274472)
Since the popularity of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a load of different interactive picture books have swamped the market. The best of these do more than simply tout their interactive elements, though. And those that have a purpose above and beyond the directives aimed at child readers tend to be worth seeking out. In Matheson’s latest, kids are encouraged to embrace the dark rather than fear it. Touch the firefly and watch it glow on the next page. That sort of thing. It’s interactive bedtime fare and even includes some night sky info as well. Matheson first started these series of sorts with Tap the Magic Tree. The plans for the third book in the works? Planting a seed. Awwww, yeah.
Backyard Witch: Sadie’s Story by Christine Heppermann, ill. Deborah Marcero (9780062338389)
That’s clever. They were pitching this early chapter title as something to hand to the Ivy & Bean lovers of the world. Of course it has magic in it, but that’s okay. If author Christine Heppermann’s name sounds familiar that may be because she was recently responsible for the very YA Poisoned Apples this year. Switching gears a tad, she is now coming out with a story of Sadie. When her two best friends go on vacation without her, she’s none too pleased. A trip to her play house leads to the discovery of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle type witch. She’s asked to help find the witch’s friends. One is a bird (a yellow warbler) who was turned avian by mistake. And since I’m always desperate for early readers, I’m excited to give this one a go.
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062238610)
Oo. This one sounds exciting. Written by an author who was born in the Philippines and moved to Louisiana, the book features a Filipino girl dealing with growing up. The girls at school are no longer nice and her mom runs her home as if she’s still in the Philippines. She would prefer to learn the guitar and emulate her favorite artist – George Harrison. Sounds good.
Anyone but Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp (9780062364340)
Note, if you will, the tiny skulls on the cover. From what I could gather then it was a kind of Amelia Bedelia by way of Downton Abbey in a Tim Burton-like book with a Lemony Snicketesque plot. Got that? In this story the titular Ivy must deliver a diamond to a girl on her birthday.
Waiting by Kevin Henkes (9780062368430)
I have excellent news. I’ve seen the Caldecott winner of 2016. You see? I just saved you an entire year’s work. Slap your hands together, folks, because your work is done. Yes, Kevin Henkes has a new picture book coming out and it is absolutely fascinating. The toys on the cover are, you see, waiting. Based on Kevin’s kids’ own toys, the story takes place at a single setting: the window. And you would be amazed how much drama can be derived from such a location. Beautiful beautiful beautiful . . . and not out until September 2015. Sorry, guys.
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon (9780062320940)
What you’re seeing here isn’t the cover so much as an example of some of the full-color art found in this title. Three kids (Archer, Adelaide, and Oliver) are waiting for an adventure. Their intent? To find Archer’s grandparents, last seen on an iceberg. Add in a pinch of a Hitchcockian flavor and maybe a little Wes Anderson and you’ve got yourself a fascinating little number.
Ding! Moving on.
Bunnies by Kevan Atteberry (9780062307835)
I’m always on the lookout for that rarest of rare beasts: The very young readaloud picture book. And in this story you will find precisely that. Not too dissimilar from Bob Shea’s 2014 title Don’t Play With Your Food, the story centers on a monster with a serious bunny obsession. They appear. They disappear. They don’t seem to care that all he wants in the whole entire world is just to see them. Awww.
Teddy Mars Book #1: Almost a World Record Breaker by Molly B. Burnham, ill. Trevor Spencer (9780062278104)
Teacher debut alert! There are many things I could tell you about this book, but I think I’m just going to leave you will the first line (which may be slightly paraphrased, so forgive me if it’s not 100% accurate): “The day my brother crawled into the catbox I knew my life would never be the same.”
What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan (9780062327246)
I’m also always on the lookout for picture books with very simple texts. When the Geisel Award goes to picture books, I stand up and cheer. Seems to me that this book, described as containing a text, “where every single word is important,” fits the bill. The plot is simple. There is a pig. Too many animals jump into her boat. Hijinks ensue.
Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream by Tom Watson (9780062278074)
Were you aware that Stick Dog started as an app? Not I, said the fly. Now on his third book, the eternally hungry hero continues to lure in readers not yet ready for Wimpy Kid, looking for something with slightly more text than Bad Kitty. And the good news? Stick Cat is on the horizon. Woohoo!
Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, ill. Peter H. Reynolds (9780062302038)
Last seen in the book Plant a Kiss, two siblings return to the picture book stage. Clever in its simplicity (and how has no one ever thought to write a title like this one before?) the book contains a young but very funny text. And since funny is at a premium these days, this is a book I’ll be looking to read.
Lazy Dave by Peter Jarvis (9780062355980)
One namer children’s authors are not unheard of (Avi, anyone?). And like all one namers, Jarvis actually has two. His name is Peter Jarvis and in 2015 he’ll be debuting with a story of a girl an her dog. The girl in question loves the dog but is perturbed by the fact that he’s so ding dang lazy. Truth is, the dog gets up to a LOT of adventures. He just happens to experience them through sleepwalking. Certainly this will pair well with that recent TOON book Tippy and the Night Parade, that’s for sure. Look for Jarvis to come out with Forgetful Fred at some point as well.
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (9780062229182)
I covered this book briefly in my last Harper Collins preview, but it’s just so nice I’ll cover it twice. Coming from the author of Inside Out and Back Again, this book is Thanhha Lai’s first title since she won her Newbery Honor. No pressure or anything. Fortunately it looks as though she’s not let the win go to her head. Like her last book, this story also features a child of Vietnamese parents, but there the similarities pretty much stop. Writing in prose, in this contemporary novel a girl lives in Orange County with her family and grandmother. When her grandma discovers that there may be new information about her husband, who disappeared during the Vietnam War, our heroine finds herself forced to go along. Inspired by family history it’s getting starred reviews left and right. Better check it out then.
Ferals by Jacob Grey (9780062321039)
10 points to the author and publisher for not naming this book “Crow Boy”. The temptation to do so must have been extreme. I mean, c’mon. “Raised by crows”? Writes itself. Described to us as “Batman meets The Graveyard Book” (surprised they didn’t reference the film The Crow as well) the story stars a boy named Caw. He has the ability to speak to crows, which marks him as a “feral”. Now the most evil feral, a fellow known as the Spinning Man, is returning. Beware the spiders, folks.
The Last Dragon Charmer #1: Villain Keeper (9780062308436)
Here’s a term you may never hear again, but that just sounds interesting: Reverse portal fantasy. Know what it is? Well, the plot of this book might give you a hint. In this story a prince wants to slay a dragon. Pretty standard stuff. Or at least it would be if the prince wasn’t mysteriously sent to Asheville, NC. Number of dragons in Asheville? Zero. Or so you might think . . . They said this would be a good complementary title to The Hero’s Guide for Saving Your Kingdom. Absolutely.
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (9780062215871)
It’s here! It’s here! It’s almost here! In April or so we’ll be seeing the third and final volume in the Rita Williams-Garcia series that began with One Crazy Summer. I thoroughly approve of the clothes featured on the cover here (the bell bottoms on book #2 still rankle). In this book the girls take a bus to visit Big Ma in the family home. The time period is Summer 1969. The place? Alabama. And the three find out pretty quickly that they are not exactly in the best possible time and place to be chanting Black Power slogans. The editor, Rosemary Brosnan, said in all seriousness that it’s the best of the three.
Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly, ill. Skottie Young (9780062272713)
They say it’s Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm but I suspect there might be a bit of Monster High stuck in there on the side. Meet our heroine. She has the eyes of a cat, the wings of a raven, and she has one purpose in life: To rescue girls under the spell of an evil wizard. Simple, right? But when you’re a monster you have to learn that sometimes there are things and people out there even more monstrous than you.
Endangered by Lamar Giles (9780062297563)
Yep. This one’s a YA novel but I’m highlighting it because it’s one of the very rare titles with a contemporary African-American girl on the cover. Little wonder. It’s by #WeNeedDiverseBooks fellow Lamar Giles. Well played.
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker, ill. Daniel Salmieri (978006198563)
Now again, we talked about this book before, but there’s a lot to love here. Salmieri, man. That kid’s going places. It hurts matters not a jot that his Dragons Love Tacos is on the New York Times bestseller list every week right now (sidenote: the best Dragons Love Tacos video of all time is here). In this book long time pro Pennypacker pairs with Salmieri to present what may be the greatest childhood metaphor of all time. Mom and Dad are dull. Proudly so, and like all good parents they are attempting to inculcate their children in the wide and wonderful world of blahness. Trouble is, the kids are dangerously attracted to activities more interesting than watching paint dry. The description? “The Stupids with boring people”. Nice.
Cat and Bunny by Mary Lundquist (9780062287809)
Doesn’t look like much from the cover, does it? But doggone it if this isn’t one of the cleverer little books coming out right now. A debut, the book features a large menagerie (for lack of a better word) of kids in animal costumes. In this book, a topic horribly familiar to many a kiddo is tackled: Sharing your best friend. Quail, you see, wants to play with Bunny but Cat is NOT down with that plan. Understanding ensues. Talk about a topic parents ask for that we hardly have any books to cover!! Note: My table insisted that the endpapers be turned into a poster someday.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson (9780062298898)
Kadir continues with the cute. Picasso had his Blue Period. Kadir has his Cute Period. Described as “intense”, in this book a mouse and a rabbit plant a seed. What ensues is a tale of selfishness, kindness, karma, and consequences.
First Snow by Peter McCarty (9780062189967)
Okay. So we need diverse books, right? Absolutely. But don’t we also need diverse animal stories? Is there any reason why animals can’t be diverse as well? Peter McCarty has always been remarkably good in this arena. Now he continues his series of books starring familiar characters. He began with Henry In Love, continued with Chloe, and now we have First Snow. Pedro is from South America and has come to spend time with his cousins in the north. When they learn that he has no experience with snow they insist that he join in the fun. He takes some convincing, of course. Snow is, and it’s hard to argue with this, cold. Fortunately a sledding mishap ends with the unintentional consequence of Pedro suddenly loving the white, fluffy, and (yes) cold stuff. Great great great.
Every Little Bit of You is Yummy! by Tim Harrington (9780062328168)
Like a lot of librarians I’m always on the lookout for good picture book readalouds. Did you see Jbrary’s 2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. So I was intrigued by what Harrington is doing here. Like a kind of follow-up to Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, the book is interactive with a song online to boot.
Masterminds by Gordon Korman (9780062299963)
The heart wants what it wants. And what my heart wants right now is for 2015 to arrive so that I can finally pick this book up and read it. For whatever reason, Gordon Korman has managed to pen a book that pushes all my buttons. As a kid I would have been all over this thing. You see, in this book a group of kiddos live in a kind of Pleasantville-ish town. They’re good kids too. Then one day a kid bicycles to the town limits and pretty quickly they discover that nothing they know is the truth. They’re a sociological experiment in the making and their purpose has yet to reveal itself.
The Girl in the Torch by Rob Sharenow (9780062227959)
Here in New York we children’s librarians keep one eye peeled at all times for NYC-related children’s book fare. Happily there’s a bloody ton of it out there. Case in point, a book they’re calling “Hugo Cabret meets True Grit“. While on Ellis Island a girl’s mother dies in quarantine. So what’s a daughter to do? With the prospect of deportation looming, our heroine does what any forward thinking young woman would. She decides to live in the torch of The Statue of Liberty. Tackling big themes like what it means to be “American”, this just sounds fun.
Joey and Johnny, the Ninjas: Get Mooned by Kevin Serwacki, ill. Chris Pallace (9780062299338)
Speaking of fun: Ninjas! Ninjas make everything better. The first in a four book series, imagine if Roald Dahl wrote a story about a ninja school and it was then animated by the creators of Adventure Time. That’s what you’ll get in this book of two competing ninja schools. Apparently the book tackles the tricky issue of taking the easy way out of things. With ninjas. Did I mention that part before?
Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb (9780062112934)
Gilbert Ford. I hope he’s very rich by now. Periodically middle grade book covers go through phases. There was the Brett Hardinger phase for a while, and before that the C.F. Payne phase. Now it’s all Gilbert Ford all the way. He started out luring in the kiddos with the Pseudonymous Bosch “Secret” series, and cemented his reign with the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky. There’s just something appealing about his style. Now he’s done the cover for the latest Tricia Springstubb novel. This book is about seeing things for the first time. It’s also about a mom who leaves to take care of grandma, themes of evolution, and a load of trilobites (note the cover).
The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson (9780062338143)
Hard to tell. Is this a Dan Santat cover? Sure looks like one. In any case, the author of the delightful Sidekicked is back, but not with any superhero tales this time. Nope, this is a story of Colm. He’s a peasant who, quite frankly is fed up with being a peasant. After picking the wrong pocket (to put it mildly) Colm’s given a choice. He could be done away with in a suitably medieval manner or he can become a member of low born adventurers. He chooses the latter and is enthralled, until he realizes that there are problem with this particular group.
Omega City by Diana Peterfreund (9780062310859)
Strap in, folks. We’re clearly in adventure mode now. I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed a significant uptick in the number of books described using Goonies as a reference. They called the Little, Brown & Co. book If You Find This by Matthew Baker as “Goonies meets Holes“. Now Harper Collins is calling Omega City “Goonies meets City of Ember“. After a girl’s father loses his job she follows clues left by a diary and finds an underground bunker. It’s first in a three book series and promises action. Just so long as it doesn’t reference Omega Man in any way (it’s the title that made me think of it) we’re cool.
The Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby (978006224873)
That Matthew Kirby. He just can’t keep away from ice. First it was the remarkable Icefall. Now he has a new three book series set in the near future. Earth has succumbed to a new Ice Age. Meanwhile our hero’s mother is in the Arctic doing some kind of work there. When she disappears after sending a cryptic message, her daughter Eleanor goes to find her. Apparently the book asks the rather difficult question, if we can’t save everyone on earth, who do we save and why? Sounds like it would pair well with the Rebecca Stead debut novel First Light.
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ill. Gris Grimly (9780062293756)
Cool . . . and YA. Doggone it. Yes, the wonderful Gris Grimly is back and this time he’s chosen to illustrate the debut of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous hero. In color no less! Now when I saw what book it was I admit I was a bit incredulous. Anyone who has read this knows that there is a LONG section dedicated to a subplot involving Mormons in America. I asked and yes indeed. The Mormons made it into this book intact. Fascinating.
Picture Perfect #1: Bending Over Backwards by Cari Simmons (9780062310224)
Someday an enterprising librarian in a small system will create stickers that say “snark free” or “mean girl free” and put them on certain titles in their collection. I know that when I was a kid I would have vastly preferred those kinds of books. Those stickers would actually apply pretty well to this new series by Cari Simmons. Each story is a standalone but they all have one thing in common: What happens when you realize that you and your longtime best friend are two VERY different people? They said it was for the Mix / Candy Apple readers. I say it’s also for the fans of The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and the upcoming Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.
Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D. Everest (9780062312112)
Kids, here’s some safe advice. Should you receive an ancient book for your birthday, just put that sucker down. You don’t want to know what it’s going to get you into. In the case of Archie Greene, such a book helps him to discover that he’s a Flame Keeper, charged to find and preserve magical books. Mind you, occasionally there are books where characters pop out of their pages. Just consider that one of the hazards of the job.
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (9780062352934)
Adventure! Pirates! Airships! Slum kids who’s made themselves a kind of patched together family. In the future we live in the sky. Why? Because a deadly fog is on the ground, of course. The worse news? It’s rising. For that reason we’re all living on the mountaintops these days. The wealthy are the uppermost while fog divers scavenge below. Our heroes must save their guardian and to do so they must go on a journey. Amongst them is a boy who can survive the fog so, naturally, the bad guy wants him. This will be the first of two books in the series.
The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly (9780062275820)
And this one will be the first of four books. I’ve written about this before, actually. In this book a boy meets a group called “The Keepers” and is given a box that shows the future. Only thing is, this isn’t a fantasy. Nope. It’s a highly developed science fiction title where all the “magical” elements are based on theoretical physics.
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (9780062293992)
My resident science fiction expert librarian (see: Views from the Tesseract) assures me that this book is excellent. In it, Earth is at war with aliens so the kids are evacuating to Mars. Our heroine arrives there and next thing you know all the adults have disappeared. So the kids, the robots, and an alien (!) team up. They described this one as Pixar-esque with plenty of humor. And the name of the sequel? Space Hostages. Awesome.
And that’s that! All that remains is to look at the . . .
You know, sometimes in my quieter moments I look back and think about my favorite bizarre “meets” overheard at a preview. It didn’t even use the word “meets”, but the implication was clear. The name of the book has long since faded from my mind but the description . . . ah, the description is forever. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . . . on MARS!” Still the best. In the meantime, these are pretty good too:
“The Monkey’s Paw meets E. Lockhardt meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman
“X-Men meets Game of Thrones” – The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
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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