Ellen Myrick Publisher Preview: Fall 2023/Winter 2024 (Part Four – TOON Books, Albatros, Arctis, and Barefoot Books)
Okay! Now we’re really cooking with gas! I’ve got a schedule and by gum I’m gonna stick to it. For those of you joining us a tad late, this is the post where I round up a bunch of smaller publishers’ publications coming out in Fall 2023 and Winter 2024. And good news, folks. Today we’re starting off with a bang:
A TOON Books bang, to be precise.
Paul Bunyan: The Invention of an American Legend by Noah Van Sciver, with stories and art by Marlena Myles
Publication Date: August 8, 2023
First off, this book is smart. Smarter than a great number of titles I’ve seen presented on this particular topic, and an excellent example of how we can take something as old as Tall Tales (which were presented to me, as a child, without any context or criticism to speak of) and bring them into our 21st century. When Ellen Myrick, the woman who presented to me the books I’m discussing with you today, talked about this title, she said that it was a great example of how to bring early literary criticism to kids.
If any of you are near my own age, when you think of Paul Bunyan you either think of the Disney short about him or you conjure up the Steven Kellogg book in his name (Kellogg created a whole series of tall tale hero stories, and I’m surprised no one has picked up that mantle since). This book, while a young graphic novel for kids, is far more complex. Not only does it tell the Paul Bunyan story, it considers the impacts of that story and its cultural impact as well. So, on the one hand, you might see a fabulous Underground Comixs-worthy image like this:
While at the same time you’re reading backmatter like this:
Let me put it this way. The art in this book is by Marlena Myles. A self-described self-taught Native American (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee) artist located in St Paul, Minnesota, she is putting her heart and soul into this title. And why? Read the plot, folks. It’s a doozy:
“Few people realize that Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack, and his blue ox are the product of corporate marketing by a highly industrialized industry.
Cartoonist NOAH VAN SCIVER shows us the myth creation as real life marketing man extraordinaire W.B. Laughead spins ever more wondrous tall tales. Van Sciver’s story is bracketed by rich contributions from contemporary Native artists and storytellers with a very different connection to the land that the Bunyan myths often conceal. Readers will see how a lumberjack hero, a quintessential American fantasy, captures the imagination but also serves to paper over the seizure of homeland from First Peoples and the laying bare of America’s northern forests. It’s a tall tale with deep roots . . . in profit-making!”
I cannot WAIT to get my hands on this!
Gotta Go! by Frank Viva
Publication Date: September 5, 2023
I’m not gonna lie to you. Frank Viva is a cool artist. Liking Frank Viva books? That just makes you cool by association, right? And TOON Books has worked with the man before. It’s not his only publisher, though. Anyone else remember his trippy Along a Long Road from Little, Brown about 10 years ago? That book kind of typified the Frank Viva Style for me, for quite some time. Now he’s with TOON once more (he’s done quite a few titles for them in the past) and the focus is squarely centered on kids that don’t pee when they should. Here’s an example of what I mean:
And yes. If you’ve noticed that the primary color featured in these layouts is, in fact, yellow, that isn’t a coincidence.
On we move to the publisher Albatros. And what’s this I see? A book that may be of use to adults as much as it is to kids:
How Not to Kill Your Plant by Magda Gargulakovam and Marie Lenka Chitilova, ill. Hannah Abbo
Publication Date: December 12, 2023
Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to not kill your own houseplant. Good luck with all that. Still, this nonfiction title for kids should provide you with all the information that can help you out. And it really does. It lays down all the requirements, all the equipment, all the know-how. For example, in terms of the aforementioned equipment:
I actually do own two watering cans, but that’s mostly because my rain barrel fills the first one so quickly that I often need to have a second on hand. Next:
Not gonna lie. I learned a lot from this two-page spread. Like, I’m supposed to trim my plants at an angle?!? Aw, man. How come nobody told me this before?
See? Useful stuff!
Famous Finds and Finders: Searching for the Past by Sepanka Sekaninova, Tom Velcovsky, and Adam Wolf
Publication Date: November 28, 2023
I’ll confess that this next book is the kind of pure, rarified nerd-fare that 12-year-old me would have totally have adored. It’s not enough to learn about the past. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s much more interesting to find its missing bits and pieces? Or, failing that, learn about the other folks that found fun historical artifacts over the years? For example:
(I like this one because it reminds me of the obscure but not forgotten Newbery Honor winning book The Winged Girl of Knossos!)
For a certain type of kid, this book is gold! You may need to hand-sell it to them, though.
Kepler62: The Invitation by Bjorn Sortland, Timo Parvela and Pasi Pitkanen, translated by Owen Witesman
Publication Date: September 26, 2023
Are you ready to increase the Finnish representation in your middle grade section? Of course you are! And to find a new science fiction storyline? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake.
The plot, as it happens, is pretty fun. It takes place in a utopian society where all the kids are obsessed with a video game they simply cannot beat. When a boy and his brother happen to beat the game that very success spells their fate. They are now governmental helpers on another planet. And if you’re thinking that there are aspects to this story that sound a bit like Ender’s Game, you’re not alone.
The illustrator, as you can see here, is from the movie world and is inclined to big, beautiful cinematic set pieces.
Something for your science fiction addicts, then. And a very different bit of children’s fare from the land that gave us the Moomins.
Stranded! A Mostly True Story from Iceland by Aevar Por Benediktsson and Anne Wilson
Publication Date: August 8, 2023
Quick question and show of hands. How many of you out there like to buzz through the Kirkus stars on books coming out in the next few months for kicks? Is it just me? If so, I understand, but that habit of mine has some distinct advantages. For example, I knew long before Ellen Myrick told me, that Stranded! A Mostly True Story from Iceland got a star from Kirkus. It’s a neat concept as well. Essentially, the book takes a kind of “two truths and a lie” approach to its material. Two explorers are on an island off the coast of Iceland. In the course of the story, then, it makes you read critically, to figure out which elements may or may not be the truth. Bonus: You learn a LOT about Iceland!
Ganesha Goes Green by Lakshmi Thamizhmani, ill. Debasmita Dasgupta
Publication Date: September 5, 2023
Sometimes it feels as if the books we find in America about international environmentalism begin and end with Greta Thunberg. In contrast, this book offers a nice corrective. In it, a girl in India attends a celebration of Ganesha. She loves the festival, but doesn’t feel great about the fact that each year people pollute the river when they throw the statues of Ganesha in. The solution? Why not make the statues out of river mud? It catches on and allows her to become a changemaker within her community. Look for abundant backmatter that discusses things like making your own earth-friendly statue.
And that’s all she wrote today! Stay tuned next week when I make sure to bring you even more!
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.
SLJ Blog Network
Endangered Series #29: The Zack Files
Ellen Myrick Publisher Preview: Fall 2023/Winter 2024 (Part Five – Berbay, Cicada & Creston Books)
School-Live!: Letters | Review
Have Some LGBTQ+ Books for This Year by Riley Jensen
The Classroom Bookshelf is Moving