Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring 2015)
It’s a new year but the librarian previews just ah-keep on coming. Generally you’ll read my previews of “The Big Six/Five” (they haven’t really gone down to a proper five yet, but it’s coming). My heart always belongs to the little guys, though. The folks who aren’t necessarily located in NYC. Folks like Chronicle Books, located more in the San Francisco area part of the country. If Candlewick is the publisher of books that are gorgeous in a classical sense then Chronicle is her mod younger sister. Here are some of the treats we’ll be seeing pouring out of that particular co. soon.
Star Wars Epic Yarns by Jack and Holman Wang
A New Hope (9781452133935)
The Empire Strikes Back (9781452134994)
Return of the Jedi (9781452135007)
A little context might be in order here. Since we’re already on the topic of small publishers, are any of you familiar with Simply Read Books? That’s a small company that cares so much about children’s literature that they pay extra money so that the glue in the bindings of their books smells better. I am not making that up. Simply Read was plugging along for a while when they hit upon Jack & Holman Wang. The result was their remarkable Cozy Classics series of board books. We’ve seen plenty of tongue-in-cheek board book editions of stories like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice but the Cozy Classics excelled by being the most beautiful and meticulous out there. Jack and Holman’s attention to detail is paramount. They care as much about the simplified language as they do the natural lighting in a given scene. Now Chronicle has lured them over to their team so as to present all three of the original Star Wars films in the same kind of format. As you can see they are felt (felt droids!) and incredibly fun. We were told that the only digital aspects you’ll find in these photographs are the light sabers. Other than that, it’s all natural, baby. You know you want one. Or three.
You know, the most consistent surprise I found during this preview was how many familiar names I was already a fan of (the aforementioned Wangs, Mark Siegel, Amy June Bates, etc.) started cropping up as part of the Chronicle roster. I love learning about new folks, but there’s something infinitely comforting about finding someone you already love in a new location (so to speak).
Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera (9781452141992)
If your first thought upon seeing this was to think of the Blue Apple Books series Bear In Underwear by Todd Doodler, you aren’t alone. However, aside from the obvious similarities of ursine undies, Tupera’s book goes in a different direction. Translated from what I believe was the original Japanese, in this book a polar bear’s underwear has gone AWOL. Various pairs are located but each belongs to a different animal. The zebra’s have colorful stripes, the butterfly’s are tiny, etc. In the end this is less “Bear In Underwear” and more “I Want My Underwear Back” (should Jon Klassen be looking for a sequel to his smash hit, I think we’ve found a winner). There’s even an “underwear bellyband” that has to be removed from the cover so as to open the book (thereby rendering our titular hero naked as the day he was born).
Interstellar Cinderella (9781452125329)
Anyone out there a fan of Cinder by Marissa Meyer? Then consider this Cinder for the 4-7 year-old set. Written in rhyming text this colorful concoction stars a parts-loving Cinderella. Thanks to her fairy bot mother she goes off and ends up becoming not the prince’s paramour but his mechanic. Love it, love it.
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins (9781452138510)
I don’t want to shock you folks, but the truth about Rowboat Watkins? That’s not his real name. I know, I know, I was as dismayed as the rest of you when I heard. Living as we do in a world where names like Robert Quackenbush, Mary Quattlebaum, Sara Pennypacker, and even the occasional Betsy Bird proliferate, you kind of hope for the best when you run across a guy with a name you can’t say three times fast. Alas, tis not to be. A former Sendak fellow (how many were there in the end, I wonder?) this book features pastry without manners. A perfect pairing with Scholastic’s recent Please, Mr. Panda, in this tale a cake has to learn a thing or two about being a bit of a boor.
Sea Bones by Bob Barner (9781452125008)
First off, love that cover. It makes me feel as though someone should seriously consider doing a Halloween ocean tale. In any case, bone-obsessed Bob Barner is back. You loved his Dem Bones and thrilled to his Dinosaur Bones. Now check out this remarkably effective little nonfiction title for younger readers. Note the infographic feel and how it incorporates older and younger texts. Behold the underwater informational chart! And see this picture up above of the different parts of the fish. Am I crazy or shouldn’t this be a poster? I would hang it up. Yup yup.
Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9781452124087)
Ah. The beach. It lends itself to lovely art, does it not? It’s never too soon to start mooning over the seaside. Indeed here in the cold of January it’s sounding particularly nice. Using lots of oranges and reds, Bates brings to life Caswell’s rhyming text. There are lots of nice little details as well, like hanging towels up on a clothesline to dry. This is why we have watercolors, folks.
How to Read a Story by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel (9781452112336)
It’s unfortunate that even at as big a scan as this, you can’t quite make out the covers of the books surrounding the boy on the book jacket here. If you could, you’d be able to see how Mark Siegel has cleverly worked in a wide array of picture books, both classic and contemporary, into his art. Pairing two of my favorite children’s book creators together, this is a kind of picture book guidebook on . . . well, you read the title. It sort of reminds me of the text for How to Train a Train, honestly. Fun stuff.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown (9781452111902)
Slowly, ever so slowly, we’re moving away from the books in which having two dads or two moms is the sole point of the title. Still, it’s good to remember that there are a LOT of kinds of tales we’ve not seen before. This book serves more as a story about how there are many different kinds of families out there. When Stella’s class has a Mother’s Day celebration she’s a bit out to sea. After all, she has two daddies. So how can she invite them to the party? It’s a good little tolerance-based tale.
Pool by JiHyeon Lee (9781452142944)
Wordless is the name of the game here. Beautiful might be the other word that comes to mind. From Korean born JiHyeon Lee comes a story of what happens to two kids when they meet at an incredibly crowded pool. Contrasting the nightmarishly crowded pool with a kind of beautiful chaos and underwater adventures, this is one of the riskier and more interesting picture book debuts of 2015.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9781452119366)
Rejoice, oh ye fans of Messner and Neal’s Over and Under the Snow. They’re baaaaaack! And this time they’re looking at spring springing. What’s in the dirt? What’s hidden on the underside of the leaves? It’s a tiny little world out there and this looks like a perfect recommendation for any teacher searching for new nonfiction spring-based picture books.
A Nest Is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (9781452127132)
Speaking of delightful returns, Aston & Long are back with the fifth book in their natural-objects/critters-have-adjectives series (I mean what would you call it?). If you already loved An Egg Is Quiet, A Seed Is Sleepy, A Butterfly Is Patient, and A Rock Is Lively then check out the latest. As with their other books, the duo upset expectations from the get go. You thought this would just cover bird nests? Think again, my friend. Everything from tiny bees to orangutans are on display here.
The Land of Lines by Victor Hussenot (9781452142821)
Because you just cannot have enough wordless books in a given year. The format may be picture book sized but the interiors are pretty darn graphic novelly. Originally French, this philosophical wordless picture book uses just blue and red with the occasional dash of yellow along the way. It sort of reminds me of that old PBS show Secret City, where you’d be shown how to draw in much the same way.
Farewell Floppy by Benjamin Chaud (9781452137346)
Chronicle previews happen in NYC in a restaurant. That’s just how they do. And on this particular day the table of attendees got into a big debate about this book. Created by the remarkable Benjamin Chaud (see my post You Know Him. You Just Don’t Know You Know Him) this tale features a boy who decides to abandon his rabbit Floppy in the woods. Why? Well, the kid is growing up and he’s fairly certain that having a bunny for a best friend keeps you from maturing properly. Trouble is, while losing Floppy might be hard, finding him again once he’s been successfully “set free” is even harder. The debate at my table? Is Floppy a real rabbit or a stuffed one? You’ll have to read it yourself to be the judge of that.
Bigfoot Is Missing by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by MinaLima (9781452118956)
As the art here shows, the interesting thing about this Lewis/Nesbitt pairing (both have been Children’s Poet Laureates with Nesbitt currently holding the title) is that it’s poetry. Cryptid poetry! With the rather lovely art of Miraphora (best first name ever?) Mina and Eduardo Lima at play (put them together and they become MinaLima) we see poems here disguised as street signs, milk cartons, graffiti, newspaper headlines, etc. I’m always on the lookout for new poetry books. This fits the bill.
The Water and the Wild by K.E. Ormsbee (9781452113869)
Chronicle specializes in picture books, generally. So when they decide to invest in a work of middle grade fiction, they do so with their heart and soul. This book is being sold as for fans of A Wrinkle in Time and The Wizard of Oz. A lone girl must find a cure for her best friend’s rare illness. It requires going through a door in an apple tree and discovering her roots (ha ha) along the way. This is a debut for Ormsbee, so let’s keep an eye on it, please.
Boats Go by Steve Light (9781452129006)
One word: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. Now to go tackle the seven OTHER previews I have waiting in the wings presumably *gulp* before summer.
Many thanks to Chronicle for presenting us this list.
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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