Publisher Preview: Ellen Myrick Presents Small Presses of Fall 2022 (Part Seven!)
This preview of a host of relatively publishers at last finishes! If you missed the first part of this multi-pronged publisher preview, you can catch Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three, Part Four here, Part Five, and Part Six here.
Swimmers by Maria Jose Ferrada, ill. Mariana Alcantara
I like an author to show a bit of range. And can you think of any range greater than presenting a book about the children of Chile lost to a cruel dictatorship one year (niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile) and then a fun picture book about interspecies swimming the next? The book begins with a simple statement: “Every species has a recurring dream. 50 meters of Front Crawl. 50 meters of Backstroke. 50 meters of Butterfly.” It’s such a good first line that one might be tempted to steal it. After all, considering our evolutionary origins, I love the notion of all species remembering, in some way, swimming. Fish, meanwhile, what do they dream of? About being Olympic swimmers, of course! The fish even tell an apocryphal tale about a school of tuna that won silver at the 1942 Olympics. It’s such a good natured book, it could be forgiven for the occasional flight of fancy.
My Neighborhood by Maria Jose Ferrada, ill. Ana Penyas
Remember what I just said about an author’s range? Well, Ferrada doesn’t just have one book out this season here in the States. Nope, there’s another import on its way and it’s set in Peru. Now there are certain rules that American publishers truly believe. Some have to do with the age of the protagonists in books for young people. Generally speaking, if a book is middle grade or YA, the hero must not be an adult UNLESS they are a furry animal. But what about picture books? Here the rules don’t apply. Small children read loads of stories about people older than themselves. After all, much of the world truly IS older than they are. They’d have a pretty limited reading diet if that weren’t the case. The heroine of My Neighborhood (and her friends as well, I’d add) is distinctly elderly, but boy does she get around! She’s not a grandmother (that we know of) which is distinctive in and of itself. The art style is this marvelous collage of illustration and mixed media. It feels old, new, and very very not from America. It is also difficult to dislike.
The Moonlight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck, ill. Karl James Mountford
When I think of Tiger Tales I think of one thing: board books. What I do not think of is picture book fiction starring a hearing-impaired heroine (note the aid on her ear on the cover). You want die-cuts? You’ve got die-cuts. You want a story about a girl who finds a zoo of lost animals under her bed? Done and done. And just take a look at the detailing on that cover. Luscious.
Lion Lights: My Invention That Made Peace With Lions by Richard Turere with Shelly Pollack, ill. Sonia Possentini
Ah! So nice when I’ve actually read one of the books on this list already. So what we have here is a bit of an autobiographical picture book. This is particularly neat since we don’t see many of them from countries other than America. Richard Turere is Kenyan and a member of the Maasai tribe. When he was a child of nine his family, like many in that particular region, had a problem with lions taking down their family cows. Naturally, if your livelihood depends on cows, you’ll do anything you can to protect them. But there were naturalists trying to protect the lions at the same time (particularly because Richard’s family’s farm bordered the south side of the Nairobi National Park). The trick to stopping the lions lay in fooling them into thinking people were around. Not with a scarecrow or anything like that. Instead, when Richard was twelve he found a way to rig a series of lights on a circuit that would light up one by one and scare the lions off. Copious backmatter gives further info on the Maasai farmers and their plight with the lions.
Pina by Elif Yemenici
My librarians and I are VERY excited about this next little Turkish import. Indeed, this is actually one of my top picture books of the year, so please excuse me if I wax rhapsodic for a moment. It is remarkably difficult for me to resist models. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s all those Bagpuss shorts I watched as a kid on Nickelodeon. Whatever the case, when a picture book uses models ala Red Nose Studio or something, I’m enthralled. It’s not merely the logistics of the enterprise (though those are fascinating) but rather how perfectly you can create a little world within the overs. Pina proves to be an excellent example of this! At the beginning you have to understand why Pina, a big eyed little cat-like person, would prefer staying inside in his cozy little home, rather than venturing out into the big scary world. So Yemenici fills the rooms with delightful clutter. When I think how long it must have taken to construct each and every last one of those little leather-covered books, or the tiny paintings on the wall, or the miniscule Velvet Goldmine records on the floor (I’m not kidding about that) the mind boggles. Even the light is this soft, cozy, endearing light. The outside world, in contrast, comes across as black and white, harsh and scary. And part of what I find so amazing about this is that even when Pina becomes more comfortable with talking to new people and seeing new things, that doesn’t mean everything black and white has changed. It just means that at the end, sitting on a bench next to the sea, watching the sunset, there’s a bit more color out there than there was before. This is a masterful bit of work. I wouldn’t miss it, if I were you.
And I don’t do this for every book, but please take a good long look at the images collected here. I’m getting a real Baek Hee-na vibe from this one:
Big Lies: From Socrates to Social Media by Mark Kurlansky
It’s a good time to be writing nonfiction children’s literature about thinking critically. I’d already seen Elisa Gravel’s marvelous and miraculous Killer Underwear Invasion! How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories (two thumbs way way up over here on that one) and now we can pair it with Kurlansky’s book that provides a “how-to manual for seeing through big lies and thinking critically”. There’s straight up text and then there are some graphic novel sections for spice. I’ll be very interested in seeing this in its final form when it comes out in September.
The Longest, Shortest Day: How Children Experience the Solstice Around the World by Jen Breach, ill. 14 Global Artists
I’m an old softie when it comes to books about how kids celebrate major events around the world. What causes this particular item to stand out for me is the choice the editor made to illustrate the title with fourteen different artists. My mind aches just thinking about the coordination that would take. It’s an infographic nonfiction title, so hand this one to your more expository readers.
Human Kindness: True Stories of Compassion and Generosity That Changed the World by John Francis, ill. Josy Bloggs
Nonfiction titles for older readers that throw together a bunch of facts are not always surefire winners. I’m sure you’ve seen your own fair share of books that thing that simply putting organized information on a well-designed page constitutes good reading for kids. But with “Human Kindness” I think I’m intrigued. Maybe it’s the premise itself: Activist author presents examples of changing the world through kindness. Full of biographical, autobiographical, and historical examples, it’s an interesting take on something too little examined.
And that’s all she wrote folks! “She” in this case meaning “Ellen Myrick”. Many thanks to Ellen for allowing me the chance to type up some of the books she presented to me lo these many weeks ago.
Filed under: Publisher 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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