Publisher Preview: Spring 2022 Levine Querido!
Oh boy! Here’s an exercise I haven’t engaged in for a while. A good old-fashioned publisher preview! Man, back about seven years ago when I still lived in NYC I used to live for these things. Essentially what would happen is that all the local librarians within a certain radius of Manhattan would be invited to town to listen to the upcoming season of one publisher or another. And each publishing company would do it differently. Little, Brown, for example, might take out the Yale Club, ply you with ham, apple, brie sandwiches and then hand you an author like R.L. Stine at the end, who would sign posters for all. Other publishers would just show the same PowerPoint and sales pitch they did for their own internal marketing team. It was the variety I savored. They may still do this too, though in the midst of COVID it’s probably all virtual now.
It was certainly virtual when Irene Vázquez and Antonio Gonzalez Cerna sat me down to show me what’s going on with the publisher Levine Querido this Spring 2022 season. You see, there are a number of debut creators on the list, but they span a wide range of generations. That’s something I’ve always appreciated about the field of children’s books, actually. You can be a hit at any age. Really and truly.
Here then, are some of the upcoming titles, just in case you’re interested:
A is for Bee: An Alphabet Book in Translation by Ellen Heck
No surprises here, since I debuted the cover of this book on this blog back on January 6th. Just to remind you, it’s a rather amazing concept. Here’s the description I found:
“It’s incredibly hard to make an Alphabet book so fresh and eye-catching that it stands apart. Ellen Heck’s concept is both simple and radical. The word for Bee might start with a B in English, but in many, many languages, it starts with A: Anu in Igbo, Ari in Turkish, Abelha in Portuguese. B is for Monkey. At least it is in Balinese, Lithuanian, Hindi, and Hausa. This book incorporates words from languages and Nations Indigenous to North America as well as those abroad.
All the prints in the book are absolutely stunning. And all the languages in the book received a thorough fact check from fluent speakers of each of the 70 languages represented.”
I also found out that Ellen Heck was reading to her son when the idea came to her to make the book in the first place. And aren’t we glad that she did?
You Are the Loveliest by Hans and Monique Hagen, translated by Marit Tornqvist
Awww, yeah. We’re talking Dutch translations, baby! Poetry, no less. Now to understand this book as it initially stood, you have to know that it was originally about the relationship between Dutch and English. So, naturally, when it was translated it had to change to the relationship between English and … Spanish. Wait? What? Well, the logic is that Americans understand English/Spanish relations in language better than they might English/Duth relations. This is the kind of book that centers kids emotions and focuses on how the kids are feeling. One word: evocative. Look for it soon.
Gibberish by Young Vo
This one’s pretty neat. At its heart, it’s a book about language. Mind you, the argument could be made that all the books are about language, but I think you know what I mean. Essentially, this book reminds me a lot of titles like Pie in the Sky, The Arrival, and Here I Am. In this story, a boy is in a new school, in a new country. And since no one around him speaks his language, to him it’s all gibberish. To convey that, animator Young Vo (who draws on his experience of moving to the States as a refugee from Vietnam when he was young) utilizes a cool 1930s animation style to show other people. Meanwhile our main character is the only one in color… at first. At its core, this is a book about a tough first day. Then, as our hero starts to make a friend she begins to colorize into a real person like him. A neat technique that any kid will understand.
Big Dreams, Small Fish by Paula Cohen
This is a story about Shirley. She is 6-years-old and she is a girlboss.
As I mentioned before, they’re all about the debuts this season, over at Levine Querido. This book is an excellent example of precisely that. In this story you have a young girl living in a small Jewish community that is, in turn, based on a real Albany community. Heck, Cohen based some of the characters in the story on her own mom and grandma. And the plot? Well, you see, there’s a problem at the store that Shirley’s family runs. Try as they might, no one wants to try the gefilte fish that they’re attempting to sell. That’s when Shirley comes up a wholly new idea: Why not give away free samples to lure in customers? Such a thing has never been done before, but they give it a shot. So, for one day, everyone who orders something gets a small tin of gefilte fish with their order. The next morning there’s a line of folks, now thoroughly hooked and in need of more. Badda bing, badda boom, capitalism! A glossary of Yiddish terms, an explanation of what exactly gefilte fish is (for the uninitiated), and a recipe are all included in the back as well. Consider this a book starring a Jewish character where the plot really isn’t about being Jewish. More, it’s about having a smart head on your shoulders, problem solving, and, yes, being an entrepreneur.
Frank and the Bad Surprise by Martha Brockenbrough, ill. Jon Lau
Frank the cat has it good. He has two utterly devoted gay dads. He has a life where he soaks up all their attention. What more could he desire? Then, one day, they bring home a box and he’s all kinds of excited … until he discovers that there’s a puppy in there. Displeased by this turn of events, Frank writes a strongly worded letter to his dads. Oddly, his message is not getting through. Bereft, he feels that he has no choice but to run away. Written in an early chapter book style that’s juuuuuuust above easy books, this is the kind of book where you can come across fabulous lines like, “The rain felt like the tongues of many puppies”. As you might suspect, the puppy comes to Frank’s rescue and Frank comes to realize that the puppy is not the demon child he’d so feared it to be. Not wholly dissimilar in terms of length from your average Mercy Watson title, this is one of those slightly older stories just perfect for siblings who will still be feeling the pinch of jealousy when a new baby comes into the home.
Geo-Graphics by Regina Gimenez
This translation from Spain takes into account everything from the universe to the ocean. Chock full of sources (rare in an import) it attempts to encapsulate everything from the Bing Bang to today. In this book you might find a section on The Color of Stars, on one page or an Active Volcano Chart on another. There are sections on the length of rivers and a global warming chart that looks at total emissions by country. Think of it this way: This book is great for the kids that would have read encyclopedias for fun back in the day. Me? Since I’m a process nerd so I was fascinated by the detail that it took not one but two Cuban translators to work on this.
Aviva vs. the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe
Welcome to the wide and wonderful world of middle grade fiction. First up, a title set in the Jewish Orthodox community. The plot concerns Aviva as she deals with a parent with mental illness. Do not misunderstand me, though. This isn’t the kind of title inclined to demonize what the mom is going through. Meanwhile, there’s a dybbuk, or ghost, causing havoc that only Aviva can see. Maybe the ghost is a manifestation of some kind of inter-generational trauma? Hard to tell. With its Orthodox community and fantasy connections, I initially thought that this might be a good pairing with Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Like Mirka, Aviva’s a sporty kid, and someone you root for all whole way through. Mari Lowe is, herself, a debut author and a teacher at an Orthodox school. She couldn’t help but notice that much of the content out there about Orthodox communities is about leaving them. So, she wrote a book that’s a celebration of someone who’s happy with her community. Already the book has received a star from Horn Book.
The Lost Ryu by Emi Watanabe Cohen
And finally today, let’s close it all out with the genre that made Arthur Levine the household name he is today. I’m talking about fantasy. Author Emi Watanabe Cohen is what you might call a Gen Z author (or “Zoomer” as I prefer). She wrote this when she was at Brandeis University and it draws heavily on her Japanese heritage. You see, Emi’s Jewish/Japanese. Books that cover kids from these cultures are few and far between. Set in 1960s in post-WWII Japan. Kohei lives with his mother and grandfather, and these days grandpa’s not doing so well. Then, unexpectedly, Kohei has an impossible vision of a Ryu (a tiny dragon) and of his grandpa smiling. Such dragons haven’t been seen since WWII, but that’s hardly going to stop our hero. What follows is an adventure to help the grandfather’s memory come back.
I’d like to thank Irene Vázquez and Antonio Gonzalez Cerna for taking time out of their day to show me these titles. On shelves now everywhere. Be sure to look for them.
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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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