Multi-Publisher Preview: Giving the Small Pubs Their Time in the Sun
Oh, you could attend publisher previews from “The Big Five” all day long, and if you do I salute you. For me, there’s also so much joy to be found in looking to see what the smaller publishers have on hand. And there are few people better suited to this task than Ellen Myrick of Myrick Marketing & Media.
Ellen represents . . . well . . . see for yourself:
And let me tell you, I love my small publishers. I love ’em so much I just wish I could squish ’em all together into one delicious preview. Now, thanks to Ellen, I can. She gave me the 411 on what Spring 2022 looks like, and since I didn’t make it to The Conference Formerly Known as ALA Midwinter (I’m sorry but LibLearnX sounds just half a hair away from a Mountain Dew ad campaign that’s trying to sound “X-TREME!”) this is the next best thing.
So buckle up! This is just a sampling of what Ellen showed me, and it is not complete, but not everything could fit in one post. We’ll go by publisher:
Atlas of Cats by Helena Harastova & Jana Sedlekova, illustrated by Giulia Lombardo (9788000063546) June 28th
When I was a kid, I wanted this kind of book. I remember specifically searching for this book, in fact, and coming up with nothing. Pretty much, I wanted a title that could systematically tell me about all the different cat breeds out there. And while I’m sure we’ve seen such somewhat similar books in the past, there’s something so nice about this flurry of fluffy facts.
Chones por favor! / Undies Please! by Sumana Seeboruth, ill. Ashleigh Corrin (9781646865178) February 7th
A board book! And if there’s anything in this world that I like more than board books, it’s bilingual board books. Now what would you say if I told you that this book was ALSO a potty training title? You see, one thing I discovered when I was potty training my own kids was that so many books for them were, to be frank, too old. I needed board book potty books and yet they were surprisingly scant. This book is all about that important step where you graduate from diapers to underwear. It makes the whole process sound VERY cool to a young child. I think we owe this book a thank you already.
Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa Tarnowska, ill. Vali Mintzi (9781646862924) March 14th
Set in Syria, this story adheres closely to author Tarnowska’s own experiences in the past. The story takes place in Damascus and follows a family that sets up a secret library in their own basement. Keep an eye out for it.
Norton and the Bear by Gabriel Evans ( 9781922610447) April 5th
I was first intrigued, then charmed by this book the minute I set eyes on it. You know that overly enthusiastic friend we all have? The one that’s just a little bit “too much” and are completely lacking in self-awareness? Yeah. That’s Bear. Norton is an unassuming fellow with a penchant for fashion. Trouble is, the minute Bear sees something cool on Gregory, he wants one for himself. The book perfectly sets up the sibling dynamics you sometimes get when one person keeps “imitating” the other. Tell me kids won’t be able to identify with this one.
Where’s Speedy? by Nici Gregory (9780648953395) May 3rd
You know you have problems when your pet snail gets away from you. This is a “lost pet story” but with a bit of a twist. I was particularly taken with the way in which Nici Gregory chooses to draw a snail (it’s got a real Corey R. Tabor quality to it). I also liked that the publisher was hyping up potential craft ideas. Making lost and found posters for wild animals? Why the heck not?
Sneaky Shadows by S.C. Manchild, ill. Sam Caldwell (9781922610454) June 7th
At first this book reminded me a lot of that old Mac Barnett / Adam Rex picture book from 2009 called Guess Again! In both cases you lead astray the reader with “sneaky shadows”. This book has some surface similarities, but it diverges and goes in its own very distinct and very different direction soon enough. Also (and extra points for this) it contains the sentence, “What the actual heck, Wendy?” which makes me laugh every single time I see it.
The Bear and the Little Green Thing by Diandian (9780645069648) May 3rd
Imagine Horton Hears a Who, but if the Who in question was growing out of Horton. In this book a bear discovers a “green thing” growing in its fur, but when it goes to pluck it out, the little plant begs to stay, if only a little longer. I envision an entire series done in this vein. Let’s get some talking moss and mildew growing on sloths and polar bears in future books!
Look, Touch, Learn Tummy Time series by Charlotte Archer
I’m so easy. You basically could slap the words “Tummy Time” on any book at all and I’d be there in a flash. I love board books in general, and anything that lets kids stare at wild, brightly-colored, contrasting images while relaxing on their tums is an absolute godsend sometimes. These books are concertina formats, which means you can pull them out and actually surround your baby with them. I’m so happy to hear about this series!!!
Valentine’s Guest House by Sam Sharland ( 9781786285638) April 1st
There’s an old classic picture book called The Tiger Who Came to Tea. This book reminds me of both that and Ben Hatke’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. Which is to say, what would happen if the animals that invite themselves into your house never left? And what if you had a guest house to place them in? How would you accommodate such a variety of critters?
Grandma’s House of Rules by Henry Blackshaw (9781908714930) April 5th
Man, there are a ton of lovey dovey picture books about going to grandma’s. But what if the stay there isn’t a walk in the park? In this story, you get to see the results of a grandmother, fixated on rules, and her grandson who is fixated on not breaking any of them. Spoiler Alert: Rules get broken. I’m just not gonna tell you how.
Cat Eyes and Dog Whistles: The Seven Senses of Humans and Other Animals by Cathy Evans, ill. Becky Thorns (9781800660137) April 19th
I’m a little peculiar, but I love children’s books about the senses. Why? Because inevitably they’ll do what this book does and explain that there really aren’t just five out there but SEVEN! Would you like a quickie explanation for how you can get kids interested in this book? Tell them to read it through and then quiz the adults in their lives about those seven senses. That’ll do the trick.
What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures by Barney Saltzberg, pictures by Jamie Lee Curtis (9781954354050) March 1st
I just want to pause a moment here while you take this in. The writing in this book is by Barney Satlzberg and the photographs are Jamie Lee Curtis’s. Not the combination you might expect. It’s actually been a relatively long amount of time since we last saw a Jamie Lee Curtis picture book on the market. Now she’s indulging in Found Object Humor (a new genre in and of itself). Who can object?
Beneath the Trees: A Fine Summer by Dav (9781951719548) April 19th
What we’ve got here is a kind of early graphic novel series on hand. This one looks at summer, but there are winter and fall titles on hand as well. Think of this as the kind of book that harkens back to that kind of nostalgia adults often crave in their books for kids. I myself like the nod to animation styles. I’ll certainly be checking this out later.
Cats Cats Cats by Philippe Larbier and Stephanie LaPuss (9781951719463) March 15th
The French are at it again with their clever comic book ways. The description that was handed to me with this book was, “Think Aristocats but for slightly older audiences.” It’s a collection of comics all put together. I think I may be pairing it with Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News series then.
The World of Yaxin: Day of the Unicorn by Man Arenas (9781951719432) March 15th
Sometimes you just sort of wander into a book series that has been years and years and years in the making. By all accounts, this graphic novel was left unfinished for a great deal of time. Now it is done and I literally don’t know a thing about it, but I can guarantee some some kids are going to look at that cover and get instantly hooked.
The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky by Kim Jihyun (9781782507420) April 19th
A wordless South Korean import celebrates nature, wilderness, and traipsing about on your own. Using a technique of writing ink and a “slow-dry blending medium”, it’s funny to think that when you get right down to it, this is a black and white picture book. Such things are rare on the market when they’re homegrown, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that this came from overseas. When Jules Danielson featured this book on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast she mentioned that its original title in Korean was merely “Last Summer”. So somewhere along the lines, someone at Floris Books had the wherewithal to give this book this luscious, loving title. As someone who, as a kid, loved bumming around woods by myself, this book tapped into that feeling beautifully. My favorite moment comes after the kid has been swimming when he lies on his back, on a dock, on a sunny day. You get this two page spread of what it looks like when the sun is directly ahead that is this remarkable example of how human hands can paint ink to look like light. It’s marvelous. If I could frame any sequence from this book, it would be that one. A gentle, wonderful example of accomplished wordless storytelling.
Mama: A World of Mothers and Motherhood by Helene Delforge, ill. Quentin Greban (9781782507710) April 5th
Mothers past and present and all over the world tell their stories, the good and the bad. Lyrical poems and sumptuous art combine in a perfect ode to moms far and wide. To be perfectly frank with you, I’m not usually a sucker for a new mother book. I know that when I was a new mother I would have picked this up and started sobbing before I even got to page three, but these days I’m a bit more strategic in my considerations. So when I read this I had to determine whether or not this was a book for kids, or a picture book that just lets new moms feel good about themselves. The answer is . . . neither? Both? I literally have no idea. I think the “Poetry” category is the best place for this title and with good reason. Each poem talks about the experiences of a different mom. These mothers aren’t just around the world, they’re in different points in time as well. Now this is a French import, so there are a couple things I wish had been different. For example, when we’re in Europe the moms are pretty much white. There are some pretty deep subjects being discussed here like teen pregnancy and breastfeeding in public. And, of course, the art is something else. A real stunner.
Bumblebee Grumblebee by David Elliot (9781776574025) February 1st
Board book alert! See, you gotta spot those tricky little buggers or you might miss ’em. In this book, different animal names get mashed together with sometimes hilarious results.
Elephant Island by Leo Timmers (9781776574346) March 1st
Belgian author/illustrator Leo Timmers has this way about him. His art, which is distinctive and unmistakable, always looks to my eye like it’s just the teeniest, tiniest bit three dimensional. I don’t know how else to describe it. Let’s take Elephant Island as an example. It’s something about how shiny he makes this elephant’s skin (look at that cover and admire all the ways he makes the sun shine off of the trunk, the folds of the flaps of the ears, the toenails, etc.). Or maybe it’s that contrast between the enormous, almost cartoonish eyes and the layered body. In this book, Timmers taps into something I’ve always enjoyed in picture books: the idea of creating a space for you and your friends to hang out together. Stories like this always make me happy. A lonely kid can derive a great deal of pleasure from this tale of an elephant, who finds himself stranded on the world’s smallest “island” (it’s just a rock, barely wide enough for him to stand on) who then engineers his way into constructing an entire edifice on that single point. Budding Frank Lloyd Wrights will marvel at the different ways in which crashed boats (anyone who attempts to rescue the elephant inevitably finds their own boat flotsamed and jetsamed) can become floors, walls, and more. The sheer inventiveness of the entire endeavor is to be commended. Come for the elephant. Stay for his island.
Free Kid to a Good Home by Kawaii Sutego, translated by Cathy Hirano
When the new baby (a.k.a. Potato-face) sucks away all the parental attention, one determined little girl decides to give herself away for free to a better home. A tongue-in-cheek tale of finding home. This Japanese import is the kind of thing I like to see in a pile of potential easy and early chapter books (categories that this title straddles completely). At first this reminded me of that old Shel Silverstein poem “Sister for Sale” but the premise is more droll than that. It would actually work well as a picture book, come to think of it. I enjoyed its mildly sardonic feel. I do wish that it were just a LITTLE clearer that the parents at the end are her own parents. Otherwise, I’m kind of charmed by the whole enterprise.
The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren, ill. Eva Eriksson (9781776574094) April 5th
Hey, that’s a nice heart you’ve got there. Mind if I rip it out of your chest? You do? Okay. Why don’t I just let this book do it for me instead then. By all accounts this is a 1979 classic work of Swedish children’s literature. It was re-illustrated by the highly talented Eva Eriksson in 2010, and now at long last we get to see it here in the States in 2022. Mind you, this book truly does deserve its “classic” status, since there’s not a thing about it that has aged. I compare it to a picture book version of It’s a Wonderful Life, not because there are any suicide attempts or angels at work (though the tiny man does bear a bit of a resemblance to Clarence) but because the first half of this book is SO sad, and is then redeemed entirely by the second half. Our hero is a lonely, tiny man. Other men trip him on purpose and set their mean dogs to bark at him. At night he cries to himself and wonders, “Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a kind person.” Into his life comes a dog. Over time, the two not only bond but the tiny man adopts it. All is well until a neighbor girl comes by and the dog likes her too. This book taps so perfectly into that feeling kids get when they have to share their friends. And let me tell you, NOBODY draws a smug man smiling at making another man miserable quite as well as Eriksson. You can import more of her books into this country anytime!
The Homework by Ashwin Guha, ill. Vaibhav Kumaresh (9788194407126) May 24th
As the kind of person that puts off all her assignments until the last minute (why yes, I did write all these descriptions last night, how did you know?) I can appreciate a book in which our two young heroes try to pull together a report and presentation with minimal effort and a lot of imagination.
Letters to Ammi by Aftab Yusuf Shaikh, ill Ardija Ghosh and Soumitra Ranada (9788193388938) May 24th
Man, I am really really excited about the amount of photography we’re seeing in our children’s literature this year. It’s funny, the cover to Letters to Ammi is so stylized that you wouldn’t be able to tell it was a photograph at a glance. Written in an epistolary style, these are letters to a mother. Are they happy? Are they sad? Gotta read the book yourself to see!
My Must-Have Mom by Maudie Smith and Jen Khatun (9781913747718) March 1st
Now that’s more like it! Here you have a story about a mom and her son where the focus is on upcycling. Naturally, I’m loving the fact that mom’s in a wheelchair but that’s not the focus of the storytelling. In fact . . . have I ever seen a titular mom character in a picture book in a wheelchair before? I’m drawing a blank. Help me out here.
Little Island Books
All Shining in the Spring: The Story of a Baby Who Died by Siobhán Parkinson (9781915071194) August 30th
And speaking of topics I never seen in children’s books, families have to deal with babies that die more often than any of us would like to think about. Where are the books for them? This Irish title (written by Ireland’s first children’s literature laureate at that!) is being reprinted a bit more widely now. It’s an illustrated chapter book title, as it happens.
Wolfstongue by Sam Thompson, illustrated by Anna Tromop (9781915071002) June 28th
Now here’s a middle grade novel that intrigues me. It’s a fantasy, apparently. A popular one that’s been printed to rave reviews oversea. I’ve little more to say about it here. It also has something to say about neurodiversity and speech difficulties though.
Readers to Eaters
Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, ill. Julie Wilson (9780998047713) April 1st
Hey hey hey! It’s the return of Readers to Eaters and look who’s at the forefront? It’s Jacqueline Briggs Martin! She’s always a good person to look to if you’re hoping for picture book biographies of people not mentioned elsewhere. Now I confess to not knowing a lot about Sandor Katz aside from the fact that he is (he was?) a food scientist of some kind. Guess I’ve got some reading to do.
Aaahhh! by Guilherme Karsten (9781734783926) March 29th
I keep mentioning how much I like board books all the time. And I do! Honest! But don’t pigeonhole me. I have a whole bunch of different kinds of books that I love, and “readalouds” certainly fall into that category. Now the true lure of this book is that it allows kids to scream. Not randomly, of course. But when you see that, “AAAHHH!” in the book, consider that your cue. It’s a readaloud with interactive elements.
The Eyebrows of Doom by Steve Smallman and Miguel Ordonez (9781680102673) March 29th
Do I even have to sell this to you?
I Begin With Spring: The Life and Seasons of Henry David Thoreau by Julie Dunlap, ill. Megan Elizabeth Baratta (9780884489085) March 15th
How can one man living in a cabin in the woods make any kind of a difference? The life and writings of Thoreau are explored in a playful, engaging notebook of a book, showing his influence both then and on people today. This is a dive into the life of Henry David Thoreau, but told in such a way as if you were you reading through one of his journals. There’s a running timeline on the bottom of the pages as the seasons pass noting when the first bank swallow is seen or when he collected white pine cones. It makes a pretty strong case not simply for why David’s life was important (civil disobedience and his vehement dislike of slavery are cited multiple times) but also his work. I found the backmatter on how current climate change scientists are able to use his meticulous notes fascinating. I do wish there had been some mention of the fact that yeah, he lived in the woods but his mom did all his laundry, but all told it’s a strong piece with some killer backmatter. A must read!
Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill by Matt Lilley and Dan Tavis (9780884488675) January 11th
My true appreciation of a work of nonfiction for younger readers never burns brighter than when I am able to take a book, look it right in the eye, and say, “GAAAAHHH! NATURE IS SO WEIRD!!!” And friends, I am delighted to say that this little book by Lilley and Tavis, gave me that warm panicked feeling in my belly I always strive to find. Yes, this is a book about krill. If you’re an adult like myself then you may know roundabout two facts about krill: 1. They are important to the oceans from an environmental standpoint and 2. Whales eat them by the truckload but they’re small. Therein begins and ends what I knew about the little buggers. That is also why I found GOOD EATING to be so delightful. Because Matt Lilley does not begin where you might expect him to. He starts with a shot of a single, solitary egg. “Hey, egg. What are you doing? Are you sinking?” Painted a luminous golden brown against a sea of black, the egg sinks down, more than a mile. Yet when it hatches it’s still spherical. To my delight, your average krill is a far stranger story of metamorphosis than anything our butterflies can come up with. Constantly grown and shedding and grown and shedding (and not, for quite some time, eating) krill are shapeshifters. Even when they reach their final state, they’re still shedding armor. This deep dive into the microcosm of their lives is as elucidating as it is mesmerizing. You’ll never think about them the same way again.
Many thanks to Ellen for taking time out of her day to show off these titles. And thanks to you for reading about 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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