Publisher Preview: Levine Querido, Fall 2023
It escapes me not that with the upcoming American Library Conference this weekend, now is an ideal time to be sharing publisher previews for anyone who might be in attendance. Too often we wander the conference floor in search of a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. At least with the fantastic list coming from Levine Querido you won’t have to worry about juggling too many titles. Their list is quick, handsome, and sleek. Just the right size for a post, wouldn’t you say?
Ways to Play by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, ill. Gabriel Alborozo
Pub Date: August 8, 2023
They’re calling this one a love letter to neuro-divergent kids. In this story we meet Riley, who plays a little differently from the other kids. This might include lining up dolls by size or sharpening all the crayons into points. Enter: cousin Emma. Like a lot of kids, Emma is pretty sure that there’s a right and a wrong way to do things and she quickly informs Riley that this kind of play is all wrong. Don’t worry. When things look bleak, Charlie the dog is there to help remind everyone that when it gets right down to it, there is no wrong way to play.
Desert Queen by Jyoti Rajan Gopal, ill. Svabhu Kohli
Pub Date: October 3, 2023
This one’s fun! It’s a picture book biography, coming straight to you from the same author that brought you My Paati’s Saris. Written in verse, it tells the story of Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish, known as the Whirling Desert Queen of Rajasthan. As a kid, Harish has always had a love of classical dance. Then, when his parents died, he took that passion and put on the persona of Queen Harish. So successful was he that he would go onto become a Bollywood star and more. This title is a love letter to gender fluidity, accompanied by stunning art full of vibrancy and warmth.
I got a little curious so I looked up Queen Harish on YouTube. Heavens!
Salsa Magic by Letisha Marrero
Pub Date: August 29, 2023
Onward to middle grade fiction! Now we’re looking at books that are a little older. In this story, Maya is growing up in Brooklyn and she has a particularly a big family. Things start to get strange, though, when she begins to have these vivid dreams. When her Titi Yaya comes from Puerto Rico, Maya discovers that her Catholic grandmother believes the woman to be a witch. What follows involves a perfect pantheon of Yoruban gods. The book hits all those nice middle grade beats and is, additionally, a very NYC story in which a vibrant Puerto Rican neighborhood comes to life. And that cover? That Rudy Gutierrez, of course. As I was told, “You know we don’t play with those covers”. The Kirkus star it just got probably doesn’t hurt either.
The Secret of Lillian Velvet by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pub Date: October 10, 2023
Now I don’t usually do books in a series, but Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty is an interesting one to watch. This is the latest installment in her Kingdom & Empire series, though I’ve been assured that a person could probably read this title without necessarily having read what came before. The plot, however, is not one I can summarize easily, so I’ll leave that to the professionals:
Here are only a few of the wonderful, strange, and mysterious elements in this breathtaking visit to the Kingdoms and Empires: A very proper girl named Lillian Velvet, living a very lonely life with a nasty Grandmother. A jar of coins, each with the power to take Lillian on a journey to a different time and place…and also to grant a single wish. A small boy in a barn about to be crushed to death by a load of hay. A family, each member in mortal danger, who are strangers to Lillian (but whom clever readers will recognize). And a web of dangerous magic closing tight around all. Who IS this Lillian Velvet? And what is her secret?
Only Jaclyn Moriarty has the ability to make readers laugh, even while they grip the sides of their chairs in suspense. In THE SECRET OF LILLIAN VELVET she is at the height of her storytelling powers, spinning, spinning, spinning seemingly disparate elements until all is revealed as one delicious, tantalizing whole.
Alebrijes by Donna Barba Higuera
Pub Date: October 3, 2023
Considering how breathtaking and strange the cover was on the Newbery Award winning title The Last Cuentista, one has to pity the Art Director charged with finding a cover artist for Donna Barba Higuera’s next title. David Álvarez, however, is nothing short of inspired. He has a book out this year called Ancient Night that I highly suggest you check out, if you haven’t already and, in the meantime, he’s creating book jackets for intense middle grade science fiction novels like this one.
Donna Barba Higuera has been working on this book since she finished The Last Cuentista, but don’t think of it as a sequel. In her Newbery Award winner, the Earth was due to be hit by a comet. This story follows the tale of what happened to those who were left behind. 400 years after the comet hit, some people have eeked out their survival in a rough world. A kid named Leandro and his sister Gabi are from the Cascabels, or rattlesnakes, clan in a gritty, despotic society. Essentially, they’re part of a permanent underclass working the fields. The two are also desperate, so when Leandro’s sister is caught stealing fruit, he takes the fall. Only he’s not just banished. His consciousness is put into a metal hummingbird drone and then left in the wilderness. From here, it’s a quest to try to find an oasis called The Cradle. Is it real? All Leandro wants to do is reunite with his sister but first there are mutant monsters, wasteland pirates, and you name it, to deal with. Ultimately the book is a meditation on consciousness and what it means to be human.
The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman by Mari Lowe
Pub Date: November 7, 2023
And speaking of award winning authors, Mari Lowe, author of the Sydney Taylor Award winning Aviva vs. the Dybbuk, returns with a new book as well. Note the Orthodox girl on a cover! The essential plot of this one follows an outcast girl who isn’t great at the whole making friends thing. She’s envious, to say the least, of her next door neighbor Gayil. One evening, though, Gayil holds up a sign to Shaindy saying WANT TO KNOW A SECRET. When Shaindy bites, she finds out that Gayil has a key and wants to do a series of pranks at school. So happy to be included, Shaindy doesn’t think twice. But as the pranks continue, she realizes they might be more malicious than she initially thought. Only certain girls are being targeted and she might be next. Mari Lowe is, as it happens, a 6th grade teacher and is more than aware that that’s a time in a person’s life when middle school girls just wreak havoc on each other because they can. And clocking in at a nice tight 176 pages, it’s further evidence that Mari can really get in and out of a story quickly (a trait which we admire and wish was more common).
The Red Fruit by Le Gee Eun
Pub Date: November 14, 2023
Last one and we’re doubling back onto picture books once more. This little import comes to us from Korea and follows a bear that gets a hankering for a particularly tasty red fruit. Mind you, the bear’s not entirely certain where the fruit has come from. It just has a general sense that it came from up above. What follows is a strangely lovely but equally bizarre trip into the unknown. There’s a nice twist near the end and a finish that nails the landing. All told, a nice combination of pretty and funny.
And that’s it! Many thanks to Irene Vázquez and the folks at Levine Querido for giving us this peek into the future.
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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