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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Jan-Apr 2010)

Tell me you love me and I will write for you a librarian preview both sweet of spirit and fair of face.  I shall conjure such words. . . words the world has never seen.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  When librarians in New York are called away from their desks and duties by the siren song of the publisher offering a sneak peek on an upcoming season.  Just when we had come to decision that we could deal with the season now being fall, along comes Spring 2010 to muck with our minds a little.

As per usual the event was held in the Penguin offices somewhere in the vicinity of the Film Forum and my favorite restaurant RARE (and isn’t THAT just the clearest mental image I could conjure up?).  I was in a good mood since they were holding the preview on one of my free days and could now spend an adequate and guilt free amount of time eating their food and picking about their desserts.

Unlike some publishers, Penguin makes no bones about their special guests, and the lure of this particular outing was the promise of a little Oliver Jeffers action.  You are aware that he moved to NYC lo these one or two years ago, yes?  Well I’ve never run into him.  I hear things like, "His studio is awesome", but I’ve never exchanged so much as a dry syllable with the man.  This day, I was fairly certain, would change all of that.  Instead I managed to effectively freak him out.  But more on that later.

Up up up I go in the elevator to the room where it all happens.  The usual pre-show niceties occur.  Then (because they’ve done this five or six times before) the Penguins know to get the show on the road immediately.  No introductory speeches.  You want books?  Sister, you are getting books.  And we’re off!

In these previews the librarians sit at tables with food, bottles of water, Sharpie pens, and catalogs.  Then the different imprints walk in, take a seat at each table, and sell you on their books.  So it was.  So it is.  So it evermore shall be.  In interest of fairness (sigh) I mention that because I am growing lazy in my old age I do not feel like reporting in the same order that the imprints walked into the room.  So we’re working off the catalog today, folks.  Now if everyone will turn their books to page nine . . .

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

G.P. Putnam’s Sons is first to the plate, and the lovely Susan Kochan was our host.  And what better way to start off the day than with an adorable elephant and her faithful dog tale?  Yep, it’s those cuties Tarra & Bella.  Their book came out in September but they’re here front and center in no small part due to their appearance on Oprah.  I wouldn’t necessarily mention this book since it’s gotten a lot of nice press as it is, but mention was made of the fact that the elephant Bella was (and this is true) the elephant that appeared on an episode or two of Little House on the Prairie.  Sadly, she will not be coming to New York for signings.

The next book is a delicate matter.  It’s called Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.  Good title, right?  And it’s by Rosalind Wiseman, better known for writing the adult nonfiction title Queenbees & Wannabes which was turned into the movie Mean Girls.  This book is fiction but since Ms. Wiseman has a credible sense of what it takes to be a teen, the story might be pretty okay.  The cover, however, turned out to be the real focus of our discussion.  The early prototype for the cover (and the one you will find in your catalog) looked like this:

However, this apparently was determined to have adult appeal and not teen appeal.  So the cover they will replace it with is a standard stock image of a boy and a girl holding a notebook in front of their faces.  On the notebook is a blurb by Tina Fey.  Now aside from the fact that the new jacket will not actually correspond to the book’s title half so well as this one (why not cover their faces in police tape or something if you absolutely have to hide them?) there is also the fact that while this nice red and black bomb won’t date a jot in twenty years (that’s the advantage of looking like you were made in 1973) the boy and girl jacket won’t last ten years before it needs a new look.  Ah well.  Lisa Von Drasek was at my table and pointed out that while boys won’t pick up the new cover, Sara Zarr fans and the like will.  Pity they’ll lose the boy readership though, that’s true.  And to be fair, I polled the tweens in the book group I run and they informed me that the old cover looked like a textbook.  They weren’t too pleased when they heard what the new cover would look like either, but on the other hand they weren’t fans of Mean Girls, so they’re probably not the target audience to begin with.

  My concerns about cover art aside, happiness really can be found in a new jacket.  And no one is more deserving of a new look than Jackie Woodson.  I’m sure we have an old copy of From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun kicking around my branch somewhere.  It had a cover that originally looked like this:

Not bad, but not contemporary either.  Well that, Miracle’s Boys, and a bunch of other Woodson classics are getting a whole new look.  But I’ll hold off on showing you what I mean until later in the preview . . .

  I’ve a real fondness for the fact that Penguin will make a big deal about the authors that debut on their list.  One Irene Latham is a good example of this.  Her Leaving Gee’s Bend brings to mind Patricia McKissack’s Stitchin’ and Pullin': A Gee’s Bend Quilt picture book of last year, only Latham’s title is a novel.  In it you have a girl with what may qualify as my favorite name of all time: Ludelphia.  Ludelphia Bennett.  You know what?  I’m just gonna leave it right there.  With its Richard Peck blurb though (does he blurb much?) it’s certainly worth considering.

Following that up we’ve a new Phil Bildner.  If you’re familiar with his Barnstormers series with Loren Long then you know who he is.  Barnstormers is one of those series I tend to forget to promote but that constantly goes out.  I don’t know how the kids hear about it.  They just do.  Of course, when you hear the term "barnstormers" you probably don’t think of baseball but of folks in planes.  And that, interestingly enough, is the subject matter of his newest non-fiction-ish (I say "ish" because the catalog is listing this as fiction) tale of James Banning.  Banning was the first African America pilot to fly across the country, and he did it in the middle of the Great Depression.  The book is called The Hallelujah Flight and it’s illustrated by John Holyfield who I particularly liked when he illustrated sweet Sue Stauffacher’s fabulous Bessie Smith and the Night Riders.  And I guess the book has a fine name, though when I read in the description that Banning and his mechanic Thomas Allen were nicknamed "The Flying Hoboes", well . . . I mean it would be a memorable title, right?  Right?  *sigh*  This is why they don’t let me name the books, you know.  The endpapers of this book will show a map of Banning and Allen’s flight path.  Cool idea.

  You know, I stare at the two-page spread here for Jan Brett’s The Easter Egg and all I can think is, "How has Brett not conquered Easter before now?"  Seriously!  She’s defined Christmas with her fabulous 12 Days of Christmas, and laid waste to any story that involved snow in some manner.  But Brett does superior bunnies.  Bunnies that would make Beatrix Potter proud.  Realistic, adorable, fluffy wuffy bun rabs.  I would even go so far as to say she does the BEST bunnies (oh yeah, I said it) so this book is just a natural next step.  And here’s the best part; she’s not just showing cute fluffiness.  She’s also decided to do for Ukrainian colored eggs what she did for knitting.  And not to give anything away, but when the Easter Bunny arrives in this book, he’s a pure white rabbit, decked out in a white Ukrainian jacket detailed with elaborate gold trim.  For that image alone, this might be worth eyeing.

Manatee picture books . . . . go!  Can you name any?  I’m ashamed to say that the only thing that came to mind was that John Lithgow picture book.  Oog.  Fortunately Jim Arnosky has written Slow Down for Manatees.  Now we have two.

Author Brenda Woods has a new YA novel out.  Called A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame it concerns multiple kids and their stories.  Susan described it as "Similar to Bronx Masquerade but on the west coast."  Not a bad comparison.  Do kids still read Bronx Masquerade these days?  Just wondering.

So, here in 2009 I’ve noticed a couple books with African characters or historical African-American characters, but not a whole lot of contemporary books with black kids in them.  Meet Torrey Maldonado.  In the wake of the Liar controversy a lot more attention has been paid to book jackets (a theme today) and how often publishers put the faces of the kids who aren’t white on their covers.  Secret Saturdays is a new middle grade novel that takes place in contemporary New York AND shows a black kid on the cover WITH a face and everything.  Plus it has blurbs from Rita Williams-Garcia and E.R. Frank.  Hm.

Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams is a debut novel with an interesting mix of old and new feels.  On the one hand it involves three girls, one of whom wants to be known as Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith) and the old journal they find in an attic.  I like that one of the mysteries in the book is whether or not the journal’s old owner is still alive or a ghost.  The cover is interesting since it initially looks like a photograph, but in fact is a painting of some sort.

Philomel Books

Your lovely host: The all-new Jill Santopolo.  I say "all-new" since when we last heard from this editor and sometimes children’s novelist she was working at Harper Collins.  Now she’s a part of the Philomel team and (no pressure) had to present a list to a table full of snarky librarians.  No mean feat, but Jill performed admirably.

Now the thing about Floyd Cooper is that he exists below the radar.  Some people do.  They create these really remarkable paintings for children’s books but never quite get the widespread fame and acclaim they deserve.  Case in point, Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds.  To make his paintings, Cooper apparently paints his canvasses brown and then erases.  His art was on display this particular day for this story of Rosa Parks told by a boy who was sitting in the back of the bus when she was arrested.  Cooper does some admirable things with light here, and from his photo in the catalog he appears to be young young young.  Plenty of time to garner a couple shiny awards then, eh?

Ranger’s Apprentice fans (and there appear to be more of you every day) rejoice!  A new book is on the horizon.  Book 7: Erak’s Ransom.

Go on.  Name the rarest baseball card of all time.  I bet some of you are able to do it while others of you, like myself, are blinking slowly.  Why it’s Honus Wagner, of course!  FYI: I asked my husband "What’s the most valuable baseball card" and he answered without hesitation.  That little $3 million card is so expensive apparently because Mr. Wagner requested that it be pulled because he didn’t want kids buying cigarettes to get the cards.  Good man.  Now Jane Yolen’s All Star!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever is out in March and its illustrator is Jim Burke.  You may remember him from also illustrating Ms. Yolen’s Naming Liberty a year or so ago.  They passed around copies of the book, and I do say it looked very nice.

Simon James confuses the lot of us by illustrating, but not writing, a baby-related picture book (Born Yesterday: The Diary of a Young Journalist by James Solheim) that hasn’t a thing to do with Baby Brains or any of its sequels.  They described it as a proto-Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  So there you go then.

And then we come to the book that has everyone talking.  I’m actually not referring to Penguin folks when I say that.  Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine isn’t due on store shelves until April or so, but already I’ve had folks contacting me about it who haven’t any relationship to Penguin whatsoever.  Erskine actually wrote a novel before this one called Quaking, which APPARENTLY involved Quakers, and I missed it.  I try to keep an eye out for Quaker-related fare, so I’m sad to have never gotten a chance to see that one (it was YA but still…).  Fortunately, there’s Mockingbird to now consider.  It has a special itty bitty trim size, which is unique.  The catalog, oddly, says that it costs $79.95 ($100.00 CAN) which, we will have to assume, is some kind of a massive typo.  More on this one later, as I have a copy to look at.  And yes, this is the final cover art.

Dial Books for Young Readers

Kathy Dawson gave us the good news right off the bat.  Tao Nyeu is BACK, baby.  Yeah, you know you were a Wonder Bear fan.  I sure was.  There really wasn’t anything quite like it out there, all wordless and eclectic and original looking.  So her follow-up book, Bunny Days, is a bit of a surprise since she’s not following up her success with the same old, same old.  This book has words.  And chapters!  Three, in fact.  It also has goats and bunnies that are put through a series of terrible trials.  Looks like they’re going for the Easter crowd with this one (bunnies and all) but I snagged myself a copy so we’ll see what we can see.

And I am infinitely pleased to see that the newest Danny Dragonbreath title is due on shelves in February.  Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs by Ursula Vernon involves . . . um . . . well, ninja frogs, obviously.  Special points to Penguin for calling this "Wimpy Mouse".  That’s a designation I’ve not really heard whipped out before.

In terms of Incarceron by Catherine Fisher I have just four words for you: "The prison is alive."  You gonna resist that?  This YA novel takes place in a prison world.  Someone even went so far as to say "If you read one fantasy this year . . ." so that’s pretty good.  I just like that the catalog was already advertising "Sequel coming Spring 2011!"  Oh my.

Now I have a confession regarding The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne.  I attended a writer’s retreat a couple months ago with some top-notch authors.  Real fine and fancy folks.  And at the end of the conference we read from what we’d written.  One such writer?  You got it.  Erin Dionne.  She read a bit from this new book of hers, slated to come out in February of 2010, and it was a hoot and a holler.  At the time I heard it, the concept was somewhat familiar to me.  In this story a girl (named you-know-what) has to deal with her genius seven-year-old sister who will be attending middle school with her.  There’s a bit of The Lemonade War to it, and a bit of No Shakespeare Allowed (a long forgotten middle grade novel that was also about a girl who hated Shakespeare and lived in a family that was obsessed with it/him).  As for the cover, Travis over at 100 Scope Notes will be able to add it to his sock collection.

As the day wore on the catalog became more and more of a fascination for me.  For example, let’s look at Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib by Darren Farrell.  It’s just your standard picture book about lying (and how you shouldn’t do it).  But I’ve never EVER seen a book introduce itself in a catalog with something like, "A thrilling new picture book from the winner of a record-breaking twenty-seven Caldecott Medals*" and below, "*What?  Where are those medals, you ask?  Oh, um . . . monsters ate them.  Yep, monsters."  I don’t know that there’s much more to say about this than that.

A farm that grows chocolate rhubarb.  Sounds crazy, no?  But here in the little village of Anatevka you might say . . . I’m sorry, I got sidetracked.  What I meant to say was here on the farm of Polly Peabody there are magical plants of every shape and size.  Then the rain stops.  It’s called Drizzle by K.D. Van Cleve and from the description it sounded like a combination of Fortune’s Magic Farm mixed with Holes or Out of Patience with just a touch of Savvy for spice.  And the villain may or may not be a beloved aunt, which I think is an interesting choice of bad guy.

I know what you’re saying at this point.  You’re saying, "That’s all well and good, Liz" (uh… it’s Betsy actually…), "but where are all the dystopian novels hiding?  You haven’t mentioned even one of them yet."  That’s not really true.  There already was one mentioned but I’ll remind you what it was at the end of this piece because it may have won the Best Cover Award of this preview.  Fortunately, there are other books to pick up the slack.  One such book is The Line by Teri Hall.  Basically, there are several essential forms of dystopian literature.  One of the more popular storylines is the old Everything’s-Perfect-Except-It-Isn’t.  Generally this storyline tends to begin with a 12-year-old finding out what job they’ll have for life, that job gives them a glimpse of the outside world, they realize their life is a lie and they must save everyone.  Extra points if there’s a scary "other".  We’ve seen this story done with The Giver, The Windsinger, Below the Root, City of Ember, you name it.  The Line does away with the job at 12 idea (good move) and talks about when the U.S. becomes the Unified States and an invisible line cuts us off from the rest of the world.  Then a girl named Rachel gets a message from beyond the line asking for help.

Brit Joe Berger skipped onto the picture book scene with 2009’s Bridget Fidget and the Most Perfect Pet.  Now he’s illustrated a fellow countryman (countrywoman?)’s book Hattie the Bad by Jane Devlin.  The book is an interesting take.  One of those titles you probably wouldn’t see an American writing necessarily.  It’s about a little girl who is bad.  It starts out small by eating dog biscuits and then it escalates.  She becomes so bad that no one likes her and she decides to be good.  Of course, then she goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction and still nobody likes her (except for grown-ups who don’t count).  So she becomes bad again and is beloved.  I suppose that it’s a book about not going to extremes, but Yankee parents sometimes get their knickers in a twist when badness isn’t put down without a second thought.  It looks good with its orange and black cover, though, I gotta say.

And finally there’s The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter, but sort of sounds like Samantha the Teenage Witch but in book rather than comic form.  And she’s not blond.  And it involves stealing Thomas Edison from the past.  Could be cute.


At which point we began Ben Shranking it up.

I don’t do much YA so just a quickie peek at what’s on the line-up:

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Kidnapped by Yxta Maya Murray – Love the first name of the author, love the idea of a "gang princess", like the book’s cover.

Undead Much by Stacey Jay – There won’t be any more in this series since zombies don’t have the pull of vampires in terms of sales.  My husband pointed out that zombies have to be comedic, while vampires can be any genre (case in point, fellow Razorbill author Kevin Bolger and his Summer 2010 title Zombiekins).

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young – A cover with a strange mix of 80s kitsch and lurid looks.  Contains Little Women-type swearing inside apparently.

Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison – The catalog says "Inspired by The Phantom of the Opera" but unless there’s a dude in a sewer with a skin condition I’m not buying that.  This was called the Most Requested by Bloggers book.

Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg – Great description in the catalog: "Dragnet for middle-grade readers".  Nice.  This is one of the rare middle grade titles to grace the Razorbill list.  Looks like it’s sort of playing off of the Wimpy Kid design vibe, but there are no interior pictures.  Extra points to Mr. Krieg for submitting as his author photo a picture of himself as a long-haired Boy Scout.  I will be reading this.

And finally Scott Westerfeld is getting himself some cool new "packages".  "Packages" is, I believe, the new term for book jackets or covers.  Or maybe it refers to a group of new covers by a single author.  Whatever the case, keep an eye peeled for a new look on Peeps, The Last Days, and So Yesterday in the future.

Dutton Children’s Books

Steve Meltzer presiding.  All rise.

If I were pitching one of these books to a movie producer, this wouldn’t be a bad way to begin.  "Girl walks into a diner with three dogs.  She’s in a prom dress, she’s soaking wet, and each dog is from a different boyfriend."  Best description of this one?  "A Diane Lane movie for YA."  Sold!  It’s My Boyfriends’ Dogs by Dandi Daley Mackall.

I didn’t take many books from this preview.  I hardly took any at all.  There were exceptions, however, and one of those exceptions was Marilyn Singer’s Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse.  Here’s a new term for you: reverso.  Which is to say, poems that can be reversed using only changes in punctuation.  It’s crazy but sometimes it really works.  Singer takes familiar fairy tales and tells them from two points of view, merely reversing the lines in the process.  It sort of feels like a companion to those You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You books by Mary Ann Hoberman.  And the art, which is by Josee Masse, is pretty lovely.  I thought it was painted wood along the lines of Stefano Vitale or something, but this is not the case.  Apparently much of it is CGI.  Wouldn’t know it from looking at it, though.  Zowie.

Laurie Calkhoven has been coming to my Kidlit Drink Nights for about as long as they have been happening.  So it was very pleasant indeed to see her smiling face looking out at me from the page displaying her new title Boys of Wartime: Daniel and the Siege of Boston, 1776.  It’s a middle grade novel, in a series where wars are told by the kids involved in them.  In the future there will be a Gettysburg, WWI, and WWII.  No word on whether Ms. Calkhoven will be writing them.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.  There.  You feel that?  That’s worlds colliding and book covers becoming super shiny.  This is the superband of YA.  The premise is that two guys named Will Grayson meet in a porn shop. . . aw, heck.  Why go on?  There’s also a gay offensive lineman named Tiny Cooper who may or may not be based on Walter Mayes.  And on that note . . . .

Viking Children’s Books

I’m fairly certain that there has never been a Viking presentation where I have not had the pleasure of sitting at the table of editor Sharyn November.  I like to think that this is because she likes me.  It is far more likely, however, that she’s attempting damage control by taking me into hand personally.

In terms of The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard the by-line in the catalog, "Take Romeo and Juliet.  Add The Outsiders," should naturally lead to the next line, "And you get West Side Story."  This seems to be more class than race based, though.  The story has a kind of Twin Peaks plotline, though, where a guy can’t admit to the world that the rich girl who recently died was his girlfriend.

You know what middle grade novel review gets far more comments on my blog than I would expect?  Believe it or not, it’s Someone Named Eva.  And Ashes by Kathryn Lasky looks mighty similar when I glance at it.  Like Eva it takes an aspect of living in 1932 that is not examined much in history books literature for kids.  This one’s about book burning.  Nice cover font too.

Anna Dewdney wants to do for pangolins what she did for llamas.  Roly Poly Pangolin is sort of the cute and cuddly version of an armadillo.  The plot, however, bears striking similarities to David Ezra Stein’s recent picture book Pouch.  Whatever the case, it’s nice to see a new animal in a picture book.  If I see one more chicken this year I swear I’m gonna pop.

Here’s one they didn’t have available at the preview but that my sticky little hands are greedy to grab.  Big Red Lollipop by Rukshana Khan is illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  What makes it desirable (aside from the fact that this is the same author who wrote that hilarious Ezra Jack Keats Award winning Silly Chicken) is that it’s about how cultural misunderstandings and birthday parties, but at its heart what it really does it show just how annoying little sisters can be.  Big sisters are gonna get a kick out of this one.

And at this point I fall to the floor and kiss the feet of Ralph Cosentino because AT LAST he has created a follow up this his Batman picture book.  I tell you, the minute we get in Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel my life will be 500% easier.  And after Superman?  He’s tackling Wonder Woman.  My only question is whether or not there’s a way for him to do a couple Marvel characters as well.  Spiderman, please?  Pretty please?  With complicated copyright issues on top?

When Sharon gets excited about something in particular, I take notice.  And when that something involves Jillian Tamaki, who helped to create that amazing graphic novel Skim a year or two ago, all the better.  Calling this "A bizarre cool book", Half World by Hiromi Goto was picked up from Penguin Canada. It’s YA but I may have to crack and open this one up.  And I highly recommend that you check out its website at  They’ve kept the original cover for the American edition and it’s a wise choice.

Woot woot!  Beastly Bride Tales of the Animal People!  Woot woot!  A short story fantasy collection in the vein of The Green Man and The Coyote Road!  Woot woot!  This time it’s about shape changers!  Woot woot!  Looks good.

Remember when everyone got upset when they learned that Blueberries for Sal was out of print and almost impossible to locate?  It was a crazy rights issue that, I am relieved to say, has been resolved.  So go out and load your shopping cards with as many Blueberries as possible.  Kaplink, kuplank, kuplunk.

And while I think I reported on After by Amy Efaw in my last post, I just have to say that I loved that Sharyn chose to describe it by saying, "Just like Peggy in Mad Men she doesn’t even know she’s pregnant."  Now that’s a reference I can get behind.

Puffin Books

Eileen Kreit, ladies and gentlemen.  Eileen Kreit.

Puffin is part of Penguin’s Paperback Group, so it was interesting to see what was on the menu.  First up, Neal Shusterman’s Antsy Does Time and The Schwa Was Here get a whole new look.  A look that I am a big big fan of.  A look that is currently not available online so you’ll have to wait to see it for yourself.  The Antsy Does Time cover has a kind of Better of Dead vibe going for it (which is a pseudo-macabre feel that I think YA jackets should really take more of an advantage of).  The Schwa Was Here cleverly turns info about the books Boston Globe Horn Book Award into graffiti on a nearby wall.  And I was delighted to discover that on one of books there’s an umlaut over the "u" in Shusterman’s last name, while on the other there isn’t… and why that is will make sense if you read the books.

Then we get to those new Jacqueline covers I alluded to earlier.  Hush – gorgeous.  If You Come Softly – fine.  Locomotion – A very interesting choice.  They’re trying to pair it with the jacket of Peace, Locomotion, I think.  One hand per cover.  And, of course, a pretty cool Miracle’s Boys, which is the book of hers that goes out the most from my New York library system.

The new Puffin Classic covers are released and one of the books, I’m ashamed to say, I have absolutely zero knowledge of.  What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge is being released with an Introduction by Cathy Cassidy.  Am I just entirely ignorant?  Does everyone else in the world know this book except for me?  I asked my screenwriter husband who is fairly well read and he pulled a blank as well.  No idea.  Far more recognizable is the new Wuthering Heights with its introduction by S. E. Hinton (interesting pairing).  WH has been in the news lately due to the silly Twilight-esque covers it’s been released with.  So it’s interesting to see it coming out in two very different venues like this.

The very good news at this preview was that reports of a cover change to Savvy by Ingrid Law have been greatly exaggerated.  In my experience, when you have a cover that children look at and then desperately reach for with their grasping infant hands, that’s a good thing.  That isn’t to say they haven’t changed it a little.  Now it continues to sport Brandon Dorman’s remarkable colors, but a bit of sparkle and shine has been added.  In sequel news, Scumble is on the horizon, but since Dial didn’t make any mention of it we’ll have to assume that if it’s coming out in 2010 then it’s Summer or later.


It’s rare that I give much attention to YA titles in a preview, but I’m feeling expansive today.  In the catalog I paid a great deal of attention to that Quaking novel that Kathryn Erskine (of Mockingbird) wrote.  I find myself coveting the outfit of the girl on the cover, particularly her boots.  Lucky model.

And, of course, there was the obligatory Laurie Halse Anderson two-page spread highlighting Wintergirls.  Some discussion was made of Ms. Anderson’s rabid fans.  I don’t remember who mentioned it, but someone at my table said that when kids ask for Anderson it can be fun to hold up her Prom and say, "Have you read the fun one?"  Fun Fact: The prom dress you see caught in the limo door of the cover of that book was actually given to Laurie by the designers after the photo shoot.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman comes out in paperback soon, and the new cover is quite eye-catching.  Some failed experiments with foil were attempted at first, but the final copy will be subtle and beautiful rather than gaudy.  Someone somewhere mentioned that this book may be hitching a ride on the Slumdog Millionaire train, so we’ll see how that pans out.

In terms of the paperback cover of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, apparently they’ll be going with a different look for the paperback.  This is not a bad thing.  I liked the old cover fine but it was just a touch too Lovely Bones for me (which, undoubtedly, was what they were going for).  Ms. Forman, fans will be happy to hear, is currently working on the second book as well.

Finally, we have Grosset & Dunlap.  They’re always relegated to the end of the catalog so it was kind of nice that speaker Francesco S. got to speak at the beginning of the day rather than the end.  As usually happens with G&D, I tend to space out and then concentrate on odd elements of their upcoming titles.  For example, with that Who Was? series I noticed that the next new titles (Who Is Barack Obama and Who Was Franklin Roosevelt) both feature small black dogs on their covers.  A trend.

Around about the time we looked at the new Katie Kazoo Switcheroo title (Red, White, and – Achoo!) I started getting downright philosophical.  Here’s what the copy in the catalog said… see if your mind goes where mine went.  "It’s Presidents’ Day, and everyone in class 4A is psyched.  It means that they each get to dress up as a president and give an oral report in front of the class.  But Katie finds herself on shaky ground after the magic wind switcheroos her into Millard Fillmore of all people.  Can she prevent the ultimate Presidents’ Day disaster?"    So, if I read this correctly, Katie now has the ability to switcheroo into dead people.  Wow.  That’s an incredibly dark element to introduce into this lighthearted series.  A girl who has the ability to possess the bodies of the dead.  And worse, not fun dead people, but presidents long dead, gone, and forgotten.  Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: Zombie Fun Pack Edition!  I would purchase that. And yes, I understand that they meant she switcherooed into the kid playing Millard Fillmore.  Whatever.  Still more fun if it’s dark.

Sidenote:  Is this series heavily marketed in Kalamazoo?  And if not, why not?  Katie Kazoo in Kalamazoo sells itself, people.

Now in terms of Magic Kitten (you didn’t think I could go through a whole Penguin preview without bringing it up, did you?) I discovered something new about this delightfully unconsciously demented series.  Apparently Magic Kitten runs in direct competition with the Magic Puppy books.  So which sells better?  Apparently, neither.  Sales on Kittens vs. Puppies are neck and neck.  I would have put my money in the kitten’s court.  That’s what I get for making assumptions, I guess.

And that was that.  Flipping through the catalog I was a little sad that no one brought up things like America’s Next Top Model: Mad Libs (hellooooooo, ironic hipster stocking stuffers).  Warning: There was a How to Train Your Dragon Mad Libs also included.  Librarians, the movie of this is coming out in March of 2010.  If you don’t have a copy on your shelves of the first book in this series Get. It. Now.  I mean it.  Those of you who don’t carry picture book copies of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs right now know what I’m talking about.  Oh, and Michael Davis’s Street Gang has a new paperback cover which I enjoyed.

Discussion done, it was time for the super special guest.  Yes!  Good old, Oliver Jeffers.  Author of such fine and fancy publications as Lost and Found and The Great Paper Caper.  Mr. Jeffers, as it happens, now has a new book coming out soon by the name of The Heart and the Bottle.  As I recall, when this book was mentioned earlier in the day the catalog made an unfortunate comparison to, of all things, The Giving Tree.  My table literally erupted into jeers and hisses.  Short of Love You Forever, I can’t think of a more unfortunate name to bring up in front of children’s librarians.  As it happens, I’ve read The Heart and the Bottle and allow me to tell you that reports of Giving Tree similarities have been grossly exaggerated.  This story is loads better (if only because it’s about protecting yourself vs. taking risks while The Giving Tree is about greed and abusive love . . .  but that’s another topic for another day).

Since Mr. Jeffers was there he proceeded to give a simply lovely PowerPoint presentation about his work.  Earlier in the day someone has suggested that rather than soak up all this wonderfulness for my greedy self, I should record Mr. Jeffers speaking for the sake of posterity.  This didn’t seem to be a bad idea, so I pulled out ye olde Flip camera and proceeded to record the man.  Mind you, I didn’t think to warn Mr. Jeffers about this first.   So he got out there and right smack dab in his face was this weirdo librarian with a bright white Flip camera pointed directly at him.  Unnerving?  Undoubtedly.  Later Mr. Jeffers went up to Michael Green of Philomel and said, "Someone was taping me."  "Really?", said Mr. Green.  "I don’t think so."  "No, they were," insisted Mr. Jeffers.  "Probably just Betsy," shrugged Michael.  So there you go.  Just me.

Of course I also don’t want to go about posting videos without the permission of their subjects, so I’ll just sit on it for now.  If and when I hear from Mr. Jeffers that it’s okay to show it, I’ll let you guys know.  Otherwise, rest secure in the knowledge that he is charming, the book looks lovely, and all is well and right with the world.  And now for the awards of the preview.

Best Meets: "Miyazaki crossed with Tim Burton crossed with Coraline." – Half World by Hiromi Goto.

Best New Cover: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher – Now maybe it’s the sparklies talking but this Steampunk vibe I’m getting off the cover is more than just the flashy foil.  Gears and keys and symbols.  I know they’re trying for a kind of Hunger Games but not Hunger Games look, but I like it within its own right.  And yes, the only American image I could find online was this teensy tiny one. 

Trust me, it’s nice.

Best Paperback Covers (otherwise known as Most Improved): Antsy Does Time and The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman.

Best Title: Classy: Be a Lady Not a Tramp by Derek Blasberg – I can’t tell you how much I loved the fact that this book had a big purple, "Perfect for graduation!" sticker on its catalog page.  I want to meet the aunt or grandmother who buys it for their slutty young relation.  Blasberg is called the "Tim Gunn for teens" with this book, and I wish the cover in the catalog was the real jacket.  Sadly, it won’t be.  That’s okay.  Emma Watson is throwing the book release party for this title, which seems appropriate (in that she’s a lady… geez, people!). 

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth 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.


  1. WHEW!
    What a ride!! A lot to anticipate gleefully!

  2. Joyce Moyer Hostetter says:

    I’m lucky enough to have the ARC of Mockingbird. The buzz is well deserved. Erskine leads us deep into the thought processes and emotional journey of a child with aspergers.
    So credible!

    As for Quaking, it’s funny and touching and the writing is stunning. I’m still coveting a certain sentence that involves lima beans and soup. And home.

  3. Jennifer Schultz says:

    When I first heard about Jan Brett’s Easter book, I thought it was a reissue of a long-ago book that she wrote (and that I had never read). I couldn’t believe that she didn’t have an Easter book! We are looking forward to it!

  4. R.J. Anderson says:

    Oh oh OH, I loved the UK cover of INCARCERON but now I cannot wait to get my hands on the US edition as well! So exciting! I love this book like anything. I hope it becomes hugely successful and there is a third book. Or at least some good fanfic. Or something.

  5. RJ Anderson; the sequel to Incarceron is Sapphique, out in UK ’08.

  6. Katie Kazoo Zombie Pack!!!!

  7. Eileen Kreit is the publisher of Puffin. Not Krall.

  8. Doggone wrinkly nametags. Corrected!

  9. Heidi R. Kling says:

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Scope Notes says:

    I love it when my hard-hitting children’s book journalism is done for me – thanks for the lead on the latest in sock covery. Also, thank you for the wonderful who’s who of upcoming Penguin releases.

  11. Erin Dionne says:

    Great list, Betsy!

  12. wow.
    This is what I’m going to miss when you move out west. (or will you take special trips east to attend these publisher’s previews so that you can share the news with your blog readers?) -wendieO

  13. Hey, man, if they want to pay my airfare and overnight hotel fee, sounds good to me. But somehow, I suspect that’s not in the cards.

  14. You are moving out west?! When? Where?

  15. Ah. More to be said on that later.

  16. Laura Crossett says:

    I read What Katy Did in fourth grade because my mother gave me a copy. As I recall, it took me ages and ages to finish, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it (but then I like The Giving Tree–I understand the problems with it, but I still like it–so my taste may well be suspect).

  17. Kimberley Griffiths Little says:

    I’ve been catching up on all your past posts, and loving your blog. I read with a great deal of interest your comment about Richard Peck blurbing Latham’s new novel. I don’t see him blurb much either, which makes me thrilled to pieces that the “demi-god author” of children’s literature is blurbing my MG novel out next summer with Scholastic (THE HEALING SPELL, July). I’m so honored and he’s been a sweetheart to me. Back to reading your new posts!

  18. I’m 15, and after reading Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials, I have to say the cover does not match the content at all. I really like the original cover in that it’s classy, not just two people hooking up. I went in expecting a light-read, fairly stupid chick lit thanks to the cover, but I got so much more. I wish they had the original cover… the second one makes you feel guilty for checking it out at the library.
    Thanks for the list! I’ll be checking some of this stuff out =D