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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2010)

It’s all about self-published authors and flowers this year.

I will endeavor to explain.  Eventually.

Yes, it’s that time once again.  Time to sit back, sip your orange juice, and revel in the Harper Collins librarian preview, season Spring ’10 (you heard it here first) ’10.  We are now officially in the future.

A blogger can’t have favorites.  A blogger can, however, determine the strength of a given season, and this HC season seemed to have legs.  But see for yourself what you think.


Table #1 and I’ve aligned myself squarely at Greenwillow, as is my God given right.  Our hosts include Steve Geck (woot woot!) and Virginia Duncan (also woot!) and here we are with a big name right at the start.  It’s Kevin Henkes in what almost looks like a follow-up to Old Bear.  The book My Garden is a child’s interpretation of what she’d like to see in her own little space.  Jellybean bushes, sprouting chocolate rabbits, patterned sunflowers, the whole kerschmozzle is there for the picking.  Why call this an Old Bear follow-up?  Because the book’s palette mimics OB to a tee.  The same soft greens, pinks, and purples are all there.  This is a springy spring book, all right.  And for those of you who see Mr. Henkes solely as a mouse-production factory, you will be pleased to hear that he’s working on a new Lilly book.  And in light of the New Yorker‘s recent piece The Defiant Ones, his fame only seems to grow.

Dexter fans will sympathize with me if I say that when I saw that the book My Heart is Like a Zoo was written by a "Michael Hall" my first thought was, "Michael C. Hall writes picture books too?"  Not in the least.  This Michael Hall, rather than playing a charming psychopath, instead produces picture books where a single shape takes over the telling.  In this case, Mr. Hall took rhymes that he originally wrote for his family, and paired them with animals made entirely out of hearts.  Each heart is the same size, and you’d never know from looking at the art that it’s done entirely on computer.  Even his author portrait is made out of hearts.  Someone at my table pointed out that librarians with Ellison machines will be finding lots of uses for this book come craft time.  Not a half bad notion.

It’s not often that someone invokes The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear when comparing books, but Steve did it when discussing Ian Schoenherr’s newest title Don’t Spill the Beans!  A follow-up to his Read It, Don’t Eat It, the book uses an economy of language to tell its tale in as few words as possible.  The Wood title was referenced because of the ways in which Schoenherr breaks down that pesky fourth wall. 

In spite of the fact that I never seem to get around to reviewing her, I’m a big time Carin Berger fan.  Her Little Yellow Leaf is one of my favorite autumnal picture books of the last five years.  I mean, how do you resist a woman who says that her best cut paper colors come from Martha Stewart catalogs?  In Forever Friends she tackles a new season: Spring.  Gor. Ge. Ous.  Tres curvy too.

Maggie’s Ball by Lindsay Barrett George is hoping to appeal to that Richard Scarry reader out there who likes busy towns and fluorescent cities.  George tends to change her style the way some people change pants, and in this particular title she’s got her finger on the pulse of all the doggie lovers of the world.  Maggie has good canine eyes.  Very expressive in their moments of true unadulterated dismay.

Lest we think Greenwillow’s a dog-centric town, on the cat side of things is the incredibly bizarre Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters.  Talk about range!  Peters is the woman behind Cold Little Duck Duck Duck, a fact you will immediately forget when you take a gander at artist Jennifer Taylor’s illustrations.  This photo collage title tells the tale of a cat in a hardware store without presenting us with pictures that jar us with their photo-meets-illustration mixing.  And the plot reminds me of New Cat by Yangsook Choi, sans tofu.

When Naomi Shihab Nye was informed that her collection of 25 poets under 25 in fact currently contained twenty-SIX poets, she didn’t have the heart to cut one.  So it is that you will find Time You Let Me In contains twenty-five poems… plus one bonus poem for spice.  It’s a YA collection too, so make a note.

All right Megan Whalen Turner fans.  You’ve been very patient these last few years.  Now your patience is being rewarded.  A Conspiracy of Kings is slated to hit bookstore shelves sometime in April of 2010.  Virginia Duncan informed us that there will be galleys available in time for NCTE, so be aware of that.  And for the sake of secrecy, we weren’t even told what the plot of the book will be.  That said, you can read a plot synopsis here.  There are no secrets where the internet is involved.

The term "pop proofed" is best explained by reading A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Laura Rankin.  It concerns a young porcupine and her misplaced love of balloons.  She is, we are given to understand, balloonishly challenged.  Not to give anything away but a solution comes in a form of candy… lots and lots of a colorful candy.

It is with Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White that we see an interesting book jacket trend emerge that’s been going on for a year or so, but that I’ve only really begun to notice now.  Flowers on YA covers.  Blame Twilight if you like (New Moon, if you want to be specific), but I think this trend has emerged entirely on its own, sparkly vampires or no.  White debuts (byline "Every flower has a secret") with a tale of a girl who has power over flowers that she cannot entirely control.  Flowers, you see, can do things to people if you know how to use them.  And yes, some Shakespeare and language of the flowers plays a part.  Interestingly, this reminded me of a book that came later in the preview from another imprint (Balzer & Bray, to be precise), but I’ll talk more about that later.

One book I was thrilled to see mentioned on this preview was Christoph Niemann’s book Subway.  Cast your mind back in time to July of 2008.  On the New York Times blog Abstract City, Mr. Niemann wrote a fantastic post called The Boys and the Subway in which he talked about his sons’ obsessions with the New York City subway system.  That piece has been shifted about and turned into a book of sorts that covers all the lines (even the G).  All I care is that the 3 train is on the cover.  I’d have preferred a 1, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick is the first of the second trend I alluded to earlier.  This year Harper Collins has been getting interested in quite a few self-published books.  In this particular case, author Bryan Chick (who lives outside of Ann Arbor) self-published a title that actually got a positive SLJ review.  No small feat.  He’s already sold thousands of copies on his own, and this may be due in part to the fact that he got himself a fantastic cover artist (seen here).  The mistake so many self-published authors make is to get a cheapo cover artist to bedeck their book.  A good jacket is clearly worth its weight in gold, when it allows folks to take you seriously.  Fair play to Mr. Chick then.

As any librarian will tell you, there are gaps in our non-fiction sections.  Just the other day I realized that we don’t have any fantastic magic trick books for older readers (cough cough).  There are gaps in the biography section as well.  Once I was working the reference desk at the Jefferson Market branch of NYPL and a kid asked me for a Charlie Chaplin biography.  He might as well have asked me for the moon for all that I could provide him with a book.  Certainly we’ve seen that magnificent Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton by Catherine Brighton, but Chaplin doesn’t tend to get much attention.  This may have something to do with his controversial past.  All the more reason to look at Sid Fleischman’s upcoming Sir Charlie Chaplin: The Funniest Man in the World with great interest.  How will Fleischman come to grips with Chaplin’s peccadilloes?  With this biography Fleischman taps into the third part of his personality.  His history with magic was evident in the Houdini bio.  His love of writing and humor, the Twain.  Now with Chaplin he taps into his screenwriting past.  Little did I know that Mr. Fleischman wrote many a fine screenplay, many of which were based on his own books (The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1971) = By the Great Horn Spoon) and he has his own IMDB page, if you’re interested in his work.

I don’t think the words "action packed" have ever seriously been used in the same sentence as the name Lynne Rae Perkins before, but there’s a first time for everything.  The Newbery winning author of Criss Cross has written her first novel since that win.  Said Virginia Duncan of the book, it’s "Lynn Rae’s version of Hatchet".  This I gotta see.

Mars makes different people think about different things.  Some people would instantly think of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.  Others (like myself) would remember old previews long past where titles were described as "It’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon… on Mars!"  In this particular case, we’re looking at a dystopian fantasy on Mars.  All they would tell us was that Black Hole Sun by Soul Enchilada author David Macinnis Gill had some similarities to Aliens.  Anything that has to do with science fiction and space makes me happy, though, so all power to the Gill.  A pity that the title of the book will now make that doggone song of the same name stick in my head all day, though.

Mistwood by Leah Cypess is said to contain the "flavor of Graceling", which should make Graceling feel good.  You know you’re doing well when other books are being compared to your own.  In this title, a girl wakes up in a forest without any memory of who she is or how she got there.  Turns out, she’s a shifter, a person who can shift into animals and who is bound to protect royalty.  Something isn’t right about her newest charge, however.  This YA novel has a rather gorgeous jacket that is muted with the exception of one shiny green eye.  Sorry I can’t show it to you.  The book’s out in May so the cover is still unavailable.

Katherine Tegen Books

Some of you will be alarmed at how long that mere Greenwillow recap was.  Well, there’s a reason it took me so long to write this post.  There’s a lot to say.  Particularly at the Katherine Tegen Books table where Ms. Tegen and Ms. Hoppe entertained us with books of seasons yet to come.  Mind you, we were going around the room counterclockwise, which so confounded my brain I was having a hard time focusing for a second there.

My first thought upon seeing Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly DiPucchio (illustrated by Macky Pamintuan) was that it was a clever compromise.  You want to write a book about a book lover, but when you write about librarians it sounds pandering.  The solution could be The Library by Sarah Stewart, which is just about a book lover.  Or you could to DiPucchio’s route and merely have the person be a book lover who is forced to share his precious collection with a bookless town. For kids with sharing issues, this is relatable.

I tend to sigh at old Fancy Nancy a lot for the obvious reasons.  She’s pink.  She’s girly.  But she gets points for not being a princess, so there’s that.  And when it was mentioned at the table that the Fancy Nancy book about poison ivy proved to HC that she can teach non-fiction concepts, I didn’t scoff.  To be honest with you, when you grow up in the Midwest, poison ivy is a realistic danger.  And really Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert wasn’t a bad book on the subject.  The fact that it appears to be the ONLY book on the subject in my library doesn’t hurt matters either.  Now FN is tackling poetry in Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire.  A poem was then read at the table to the librarians.  I don’t remember the words exactly, but I do know that the phrase "a boatload of money" was in there somewhere, which was fairly awesome.  As for FN, she’s writing an ode in the book.  There are worse things in this world than teaching your children different poetic forms.

Self-published title #2 appeared at this point.  In fact, it looked hugely familiar.  If I’m not too much mistaken, I’m fairly certain that I’ve run across Nico & Lola by Meggan Hill (photographs by Susan M. Graunke) in my local bookstore in the past.  It was self-published in April (which supports my theory) and since HC already has its own foothold in the real life cute animal category (see: Saving the Baghdad Zoo), it fits.  All I hope is that they change the font on the inside of the book.  As I recall, it was regrettable.

The topic of conversation swirling around the last round of National Book Award nominees was the fact that David Small’s compelling and horrific graphic novel autobiography Stitches ended up in the Youth section.  Mr. Small has a very different book coming out in May with HC, however, and it is as diametrically opposed to Stitches as one could possibly get.  Even the title is amusingly opposite: Princess Says Goodnight, written by Naomi Howland.  I’ll call it the anti-Stitches.  Small apparently has a 3-year-old granddaughter who provided some of the inspiration for the piece.

Self-published title #3 (you thought I was kidding about this, weren’t you?) is Pete the Cat by guitarist Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean.  I was actually quite intrigued by this one.  The art is pretty keen and it comes with its own CD, as sung by the author.  Has a nice look too.

Sometimes I’ll get into some female equality debates with folks.  I mean, why don’t women ever compete with men in chess championships?  Why do we still get paid less than our equivalents?  And why can’t I think of any wacky funny collections of poetry written by a single woman for kids?  I know they’re out there, but my brain… who’s the female Shel Silverstein?  Or the female Prelutsky even?  I don’t know.  Women do a lot of meaningful stuff, but I want silly craziness.  That’s why I was so thrilled with Amy Krouse Rosenthal and the announcement of her book of poetry The Wonder Book, illustrated by Paul Schmid.  Suddenly, Rosenthal is my new hope (though I’m more than willing to be told about other ladies who do silly poems as well).

Here’s a good example of trusting a person’s name.  Glancing at the cover of Race You to Bed I thought to myself initially, "Nope.  Not gonna pick it up.  Fluffy bunny.  Nope."  Oh yeah.  We all have our prejudices that we fight to overcome.  Mine tend to involve rabbits of exceeding fluffiness.  But then I looked at the author’s name.  Bob Shea?  The man who brought us New Socks and my current storytime favorite Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime?  Dear reader, I grabbed that book.  In discussing him Ms. Tegen compared his style to that of both Dr. Seuss and Jan Brett (which is an interesting combination right there).  I was sold.  Dinosaur may have lost to bedtime, but this bunny may defeat it yet.

Okay.  Without a doubt the picture book I was most excited about at this particular table was Todd’s TV by James Proimos.  I will endeavor to explain.  Over at Little Brown & Co., Mr. Proimos wrote a little something by the name of Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace.  It was cute and it was funny (and made a nice complement to another 2009 called Weezer Changes the World by David McPhail) but I think I’m even more pleased by this newest book. Todd’s TV is about a boy who watches so much TV that the television itself decides to legally adopt the boy.  As you might expect, the parents (who were fine with this arrangement until now) are not pleased.  It has a kicker of an ending and a palette of orange and gray that shouldn’t work, but does.  Pretty darn cool.

You know what else is pretty darn cool?  Crunch by Leslie Connor.  Ever since Connor wrote Waiting for Normal (still one of the books the kids in my bookgroup liked the most) I’ve been on Connor Watch.  Whatever it is she’s up to next, I want in on it.  Crunch is a kind of funny alternative to all the post-apocalyptic fiction we’re getting these days.  In this middle grade novel there’s no gas left in the country, so everyone rides bikes.  The kids in the story were inadvertently abandoned when their parents left in a car and then the crises happened.  In the meantime the kids are left to operate the bike repair shop (now amazingly popular) and to solve a mystery.  In a word: Want.  It’s killing me that you can’t see the cover too.  Fabulous fabulousness.

When The Lightning Thief came out it was accused of being a Harry Potter rip-off.  Likewise, when Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Finney Boylan comes out, it may in turn be accused of being a Lightning Thief rip-off.  I don’t think that it is, but that’s the risk it runs with its premise.  A boy goes off to attend an academy of monsters.  The problem?  Everyone else there has turned into a monster (as per usual)… except for him!  This is a funny fantasy along the lines of Leven Thumps (first time I’ve heard that series alluded to).  Needless to say, I grabbed a copy.

Speaking of rip-offs, or lack thereof, I’ve always wondered what the real result of the Hugo Cabret win of a Caldecott might be.  Would we see more author/illustrators playing around with form and illustration?  Apparently so, if A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole is any indication.  This fully illustrated black and white novel is about a mouse befriends the apprentice of John James Audubon.  He also befriends at least one of Audubon’s birds.  The problem?  Audubon needs to kill the birds to draw them.  And so we find ourselves with a mouse/bird rescue mission.  I was a little distracted while paging through this book to see that Audubon himself is, uh (how to put this delicately?) hot.  Tres hot.  Which isn’t completely off, but it was still a surprise.

Patricia MacLachlan has a new title out, this time with a cover by Brandon Dorman.  Word After Word After Word is about a group of fourth graders visited by a writing teacher.  Say they, it will take about 20 minutes to read and will lead to a great discussion with kids about writing.  Okey-doke.

Humor never gets enough respect.  So sayeth I.  In point of fact, no one’s quite certain what to do with it.  Funny books don’t tend to win the big awards, particularly if they are laugh-out-loud funny.  You will never see a Diary of a Wimpy Kid sporting a Newbery on its cover.  And as for funny girl fiction, book jackets are a gamble.  Make it look too goofy and you risk losing your audience.  So I understand why Tera Lynn Childs’s next book looks the way it does.  Dutton gave her Oh. My. Gods. one look.  Harper Collins is giving her Forgive My Fins another.  Essentially this is a romantic mermaid tale that goes horribly wrong.  Our heroine is a mermaid and kisses a guy, only to find to her chagrin that once you kiss a fellow you’re bonded to him for life.  Now think back to your own first kiss, and you’ll see the problem.  Sounds like it would be an excellent companion to Nancy Springer’s Dusssie (a book I feel doesn’t get enough luvin’).

"It’s West Side Story with dragons."  Okay.  That got my attention.  The book in question is Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn.  Vaughn’s name doesn’t ring bells for me, but that’s probably because I rarely read anything for folks over the age of 18.  Apparently Ms. Vaughn is well known for her adult series about a werewolf named Kitty.  In this case, we’re looking at a book that’s about human/dragon interactions.  It’s The War on Terror… with dragons.  It’s the Cold War… with dragons.  And thinking about that West Side Story comparison… sounds interesting.

Balzer & Bray
Walden Pond Press

Now that I’ve oriented myself in a counter-clockwise fashion, it was easy enough to slip over to the table of the BB women.  Last time we had a preview we heard that Mo Willems was working on a series that is even younger and simpler than his Elephant & Piggie books.  The older Trixie gets the younger he writes, strangely enough.  In this case, he’s taking a page out of Chris Raschka’s book.  Remember when Raschka did that series of small books with titles like Lamby Lamb, Doggie Dog, etc?  Well, Mo’s Cat the Cat series is definitely along the same lines (particularly when you consider titles like What’s Your Sound, Hound the Hound, or Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep).  With a bright palette, these are books for the post-board book set.  Catalog says they’re for Ages: Newborn – 5.

Excited.  Very excited.  Super very excited am I about this next book.  Sometimes I like to play a game in my head where I randomly put authors and illustrators together.  Like, what would happen if Gris Grimly illustrated Mem Fox?  Or less extreme, what if Emily Gravett illustrated a Jon Scieszka?  Well, this next book sort of sounds like one of my ponderings.  Mathilda and the Orange Balloon is written by Randall de Seve (who penned that fabulous The Duchess of Whimsy earlier this year) and illustrated by Jen Corace.  I love Jen Corace.  You’ve seen her work if you’ve ever opened up Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Little Pea, Little Hoot, or Little Oink.  With de Seve, Corace has illustrated the sheep equivalent of A Penguin Story.  A sheep sees the color orange for the first time and is inspired.  They’re hoping it follows in the footsteps of The Dot, which is a nice comparison.  I’m sticking with my Penguin Story equivalent, though.  Them’s pretty similar (down to the color orange).

Peter McCarty’s been interesting to watch recently.  Though he’s best known for dreamlike books like Hondo and Fabian, recently he’s been branching out a bit.  First there was that Henry Holt title Jeremy Draws a Monster.  That covered monsters right there.  Now he’s moved on to wuv.  Henry in Love covers the idea of a first crush without turning the writing or plot into mush.  I’ve read it several times and it’s ideal Valentine’s Day fare.  No coincidence it’s coming out in February then.  Aww, I can’t resist.  Look at some of the pics:

I can understand if authors and illustrators publish with different companies, but it’s a little strange when you see one fellow writing with different imprints as well.  Bob Shea was already mentioned when I spoke about Race You to Bed (a Katherine Tegen Books title).  In that tale, Bob was trying a different style.  Oh, Daddy!, on the other hand, shows he hasn’t abandoned his old tricks.  This is a father/son tale where the dad keeps being purposefully silly, causing the child to sight, "Oh, Daddy!"  The shapes are fun to watch.  I like how Shea uses his thick curving lines.

About this point we came to a page where a corner had been ripped out of all the presentation packets.  That didn’t seem to have much to do with Boys without Names by Kasmira Sheth though.  The story talks about the poorest citizens of Mumbai and how a person might get forced into a sweatshop.  It’s definitely a book that may get a leg up thanks to Slumdog Millionaire.  Besides, how many works of middle grade (yes, it’s middle grade) fiction can you think of that make it clear that there’s a price to pay for cheap goods?

I already know one librarian who has read The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood, and she’s about to be joined by yet another: me.  The plot is fabulous.  A governess, who has graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females (perfect), is hired to help some children raised by wolves.  Literally.  On top of that, there’s a mystery of where all these kids (and maybe even the governess herself) came from.  Skim to the bottom of this post and you’ll see that this book had one of the best "Meets" of the day.

The Shadow Project by Herbie Brennan (described at the table as "a charming Irishman") sports a Bourne Identity cover from the Faerie Wars author.  In it, a thief stumbles on a project to use teens as spies to fight terrorism.  There may even be a bit of a Men Who Stare at Goats-like use of astral projection.

And now I see why my packet has had a cover ripped off.  Too late HC decided that it didn’t want us to see the jacket for the upcoming YA Candace Bushnell title The Carrie Diaries.  This would be the prequel to Sex and the City.  Folks may be pleased to hear that it is set in the 1980s.  Said the table, you "don’t have to be a fan of the show" to enjoy the book.  I suspect, though, that it doesn’t hurt.

New Adam Rex YA novel.  There.  That got your attention, didn’t it?  Title: Fat Vampire.  By-line: "A Never coming of age story".  This, like The Reformed Vampire Support Group, and Life Sucks, is going to be interpreted as a Twilight backlash book, which might sell it right there.  Our hero is a chubby kid, now cursed to be a dork forever.  Think of it as a Superbad story with vampires.  There are some reported dark elements to it too, which should be interesting.  I just like the premise.

Maryrose Wood, for the record, is having a busy year.  While we were all cooing over her The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on the one hand, she has yet another title coming out called The Poison Diaries.  Really, when I heard the premise it sounded quite a lot like the plot of Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White too.  While in Forget-Her-Nots the heroine can use plants to her advantage, the hero of this book can speak to poisonous plants.  Huh.  These two may make for a fun compare and contrast, I think.

Those golden words Better Off Dead were invoked when mentioning Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper.  Here’s the premise as I wrote it down.  "Boy’s date dumps him.  At Applebee’s.  Boy sees his father with another woman.  At Applebee’s.  Boy starts his own podcast."  Podcast-lit must be out there, but nothing particularly comes to mind.  This may be a first.

Sarah Weeks has a new middle grade novel coming out called As Simple As It Seems.  Thought I’d mention it.  There’s a new Crispin book by Avi too.

And then we got down to what exactly Walden Pond Press is.  It’s the newest Harper Collins imprint, and it does have ties to Walden Media (the folks who created the new Narnia films and all).  However, this imprint is separate from the studio and they simply produce the kinds of books that would adapt to film easily.  Hm.

Of course Frank Cottrell Boyce is no stranger to the cinematic world.  If you’ll recall the book Millions was filmed in tandem with its publication.  Now he has a new book out called Cosmic.  I know two people who have read it so far, and the way they talk you’d think it was the next Holes.  A Carnegie Medal winner, the book is about a boy who looks 30 and cons his way into a visit to space.  Believe you me, it’s one of the first 2010 books I’ll be reading.

The Billionaire’s Curse by Aussie Richard Newsome has stuck in my mind ever since I heard about the premise.  In this book a kid named Gerald meets the rest of his family when Great Aunt Geraldine dies.  Turns out, everyone in the family has been jockeying for her money for years (hence Gerald’s name).  When the will is read, it turns out that Geraldine has left everything to Gerald.  He’s the richest kid in the world!  But in a letter, his aunt tells the boy that she was actually murdered, and it’s his job to find out who did it.  Sounds like something for those Westing Game fans out there, yes?  I’d show you the American cover but this Australian one is so bizarre that it wins instead.  Wow.

Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island is by Paul Adam and is about a 14-year-old escape artist.  It has a kind of Jason Bourne / Alex Rider sensibility to it.  So there’s that.

Phoebe Yeh
Elisa Howard
Farrin Jacobs

The 10-year-old author.  He’s not a common occurrence, which is why we forgive him his very existence.  I am speaking, of course, of Alec Greven.  Having risen to massive fame after writing How to Talk to Girls, Alec has come out with a book that they’re giving a more kid-friendly cover.  Rules for School was described as being a quasi-memoir.  Or maybe that’s what his style is.  Whatever the case, this book may end up in the non-fiction section of your library.  Be aware!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid‘s success must’ve been bittersweet for Lincoln Peirce (pronounced "Purse"), I should think.  His protege Jeff Kinney (who mentored under him for years) suddenly becomes the hottest thing since sliced bread.  Well, now Mr. Peirce has his own middle grade Wimpy-esque novel coming out as well.  Big Nate: In a Class by Himself gets at least a hundred points for not having a rip-off Wimpy Kid cover.  I know there must have been debates about that.  Clearly HC made the right choice.  Like DoaWK, the book was originally on Funbrain, and has even appeared in 200 newspapers.  Not too shabby, I must say.

Sarah Prineas is coming out with the third and last book in The Magic Thief series.  Fans might be interested to know that after this she’s going to try to her hand at YA fantasy.

Things we know about the book Beastly by Alex Flinn: The movie tie-in edition of the book (note the flower on the cover, which is the third or fourth we’ve seen so far) will be out in July.  The film, by the way, will have Neil Patrick Harris in it as a teacher.  Can I get a woo-hoo?

  The thing about The Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman, which I liked perfectly well, was that it was one of those picture books that were really for incipient parents and not actual children.  Which is fine and all, but I like calling a square a square.  So when I had heard about his newest picture book title via his Twitter feed a couple months ago, I was wary.  Like Blueberry Girl, the book Instructions is based on a poem.  Like BG, Charles Vess is illustrating again.  But flipping through it, I discovered that it’s more kid-friendly than its predecessor.  The book consists of all the rules you learn via fairy tales.  For example, you should never eat the food if you find yourself in a fairy world.  So I’m looking forward to this one, but I do hope that someday Gaiman writes a graphic novel for kids and has Vess illustrate.  That would be my Christmas present, if he felt like announcing something along those lines.  A Sandman for kids (that isn’t Sandman… obviously).  Fun Fact:  This book is dedicated to Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.  Pretty cool, you crazy kids.

Walter Dean Myers doesn’t do a lot of author visits, but the places he goes to often, and on his own dime, are juvenile detention centers.  Seems only natural that eventually he’d write a book about one.  Lockdown is about a boy who goes to juvie and finds himself protecting a 12-year-old boy he finds there.  The story’s about second chances and is definitely YA.  Sounds good.

It’s finally happened.  Facebook friends will promote their books early, and then when I go to a preview I’ll think, "Didn’t this book already come out?"  Case in point: The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz.  Think of her as an Intro to Nick Hornby.  The book is about the music scene and a purveyor of vinyl.  I’ll be watching Ms. Prinz’s use of online marketing to see how she pushes this one.  She seems to have a strong grasp on the process.

After attending this preview I went home and read an old New Yorker that had been sitting about.  It was in this way that I discovered that one of the titles discussed during this preview was mentioned in an article because it’s an Alloy Entertainment book!  Normally Alloy restricts itself to YA fare, so I don’t have to worry about tripping over one of their products.  Now I see that The Zombie Chasers by John Kloepfer and illustrated by Steve Wolfhard (it’s middle grade) was one of their creations.  I’d object, but we’ve been in dire need of some good middle grade zombie fare.  This one looks nice and gross.  I’ll have to read it to decide to what to think in the end.

Flower cover #5 (we’ll say) was The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.  Quickie encapsulation: Romance, mystery, serial killer (a new trend, I think), and paranormal schtuff.  They even have a name ready for book #2: Desires of the Dead.

Fans of that old Roswell High series by Melinda Metz are in for a treat.  HC is repackaging the entire series, and the first one is being released as Echoes.  The original title (back in 2000 or so) was Fingerprints.  Once they release the new cover it’ll be fun to do a compare and contrast of jacket styles between 2000 and 2010.  Surely some trends have died.  I’d love to know which ones.

Andrew Auseon… Andrew Auseon… why does that name sound familiar?  Oh right.  In any case, Freak Magnet, his latest, is going to be marketed to the John Green crowd.  Similarly, they’re doing something along the same lines with Daniel Ehrenhaft and Friend is Not a Verb.  Sounds like a title Richard Peck would have come up with.  Not sure what I think about either of these covers.  Guess I should just be grateful they don’t sport poppies or chrysanthemums or something.

Speaking of which, they’re releasing Printz winner Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta, with the old poppy-rific cover in paperback.  I’m glad.  I actually loved that cover, and it’s looks very nice indeed.

Not in my packet but discussed was a rerelease that I am VERY excited about.  If you review children’s books then there is only one title out there for you: From Cover to Cover by K.T. Horning.  The problem?  It’s been out-of-date for a little while.  No longer!  In June of 2010 we’ll be seeing a gorgeous new edition with a blogging section in the book.  Yippee!  And it’s even being released in hardcover and paperback simultaneously, so no worries there, oh cash strapped fellows.

Rosemary Brosnan
Tara Weikum

Last table (*sniff*!).  First up, a fabulous new Alma Flor Ada companion to Pio Peep.  Once again Ada, Campoy, Zubizarreta, and Escriva have gotten together to create Muu, Moo!: Rimas de Animales / Animal Nursery Rhymes.  Anything Ada touches I basically consider to be gold, so I am very excited about this collection.

Folks don’t usually try to sell me on books with the phrase, "It’s like So Far from the Bamboo Grove," but I kind of appreciate it when they do.  Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong is loosely based on the story of a man who was imprisoned in Laos and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand.  It’s upper end middle grade too.

Funny story, but I’m kind of the person folks send their middle grade Black Panther novels too early on.  So I wasn’t surprised when I received a copy of One Crazy Summer by recent National Book Award nominee Rita Williams-Garcia in the mail.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I was super surprised because in spite of The Rock and the River, I think this is a rich vein of material left virtually untapped by middle grade and YA authors alike.  In this book, three sisters move from Brooklyn to Oakland to stay with their mother.  She, in turn, sends them off to the Black Panther breakfast and daycare program.  This book had the best "Meets" of the day, by the way.  Scroll to the end of this post to see it.  And what a cover.  Absolutely gorgeous.  I wonder who did it.

Once in a while they try selling Robin Hood to tweens and teens.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t (it would help if Hollywood came up with a new version of film too, y’know).  This season we’re looking at Kathryn Lasky’s Hawksmaid.  In this book Maid Marian is just plain old Maggie, the falconer.  I like the cover (girl + animal that’s not a dolphin, pony, or dog = good) and I see from my notes that there is some talk of a Robin Hood movie soon.  We shall see.

There’s a new Dan Gutman in the Baseball Card Adventure series he has going.  Roberto & Me should do well.  And apparently there’s an "environmental message" thrown in there somewhere.  Special note: This is one of the rare books in the series that goes into the future.  Zowie.

Okay.  I like this here middle grade idea for The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler.  If you’re going to adapt a fairy tale, make it one of the rare interesting ones.  Like The Twelve Dancing Princesses, for example!  In this book, there once was a thirteenth princess, kept separate from her sisters.  For this reason, she was able to escape the curse placed on the other girls that forces them to dance every night.  Beautiful cover as well, you know. Definitely something that’s going to appeal to the Gail Carson Levine / Shannon Hale fans out there.

26-year-old author Lauren Oliver penned Before I Fall which to my mind sounds like a mix of Groundhog Day and Mean Girls.  In it, a mean girl dies and then comes right back.  She has to relive that same day, and continues to do so for a week.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman has some surface similarities to Janice Hardy’s The Healing Wars series that were fun to compare and contrast.  As with that book, the focus of this one is on a character that can remove pain.  The kid is called Bruiser (voted Most Likely to Kill Someone) and is befriended by two kids, one named Bronte and the other Tennyson.  Plus he can take away emotional pain, ala that Star Trek movie that Shatner directed.  Sorry.  That’s the frame of reference I tend to turn to in these matters.  Shatner.

Darklight, the sequel to Wondrous Strange, is coming out from the multi-talented Lesley Livingston.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Livingston the other week, and I admit that I couldn’t help but blurt out, "Lesley Livingston, I presume!!!" to her face.  My frame of reference tends to be about 20 years too slow (see: previous Star Trek comment).  In any case, I guess I’d been unaware that these books are based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and take place in Central Park a lot of the time.  The model on the cover of Book #2 is the same as the one who was on Book #1 too.  Nice, not to say rare.

And the award for first female Italian anatomist (1307-1326) goes to . . . . Alessandra Giliani!  In A Golden Web by Barbara Quick, we’ve a book based on that very woman. 

Side Note:  HC was happy to mention that they’ll be publishing Norma Fox Mazer’s last book in paperback on their winter list soon.  So keep your eyes peeled for that.

I didn’t initially grab a copy of The Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean for unclear reasons.  However, when I heard the description I made a point of going back and snatching it up.  Taking place in historical England, Pepper Roux’s aunt has a dream that some day the beloved boy will die on his fourteenth birthday.  Pepper waits his whole life expecting to die, but when the day comes and goes without incident, he decides that it’s finally time to live. FYI: I’m digging this cover artist Scott Altmann.  Great stuff.

Want.  Me.  Want.  Me.  Monosyllabic grunts are all you’ll be getting out of your own mouth as well when you finally get a chance to see yet another wild but inspired pairing.  Take Francesca Lia Block.  Have her write a middle grade chapter book.  Then illustrate it insanely to the nines by Barbara McClintock and name it House of Dolls.  Not only is it filled with the now ubiquitous flowers, but the storyline is great.  A girl jealous of the dolls in her own dollhouse?  This I gotta see.  Did I mention me want?

And for all you Molly Moon fans out there, Georgia Byng’s fifth is coming out in May.  The subject matter has something to do with morphing madness.  We are pleased.

Though Katherine Langrish is probably known for her troll series (Troll Mill, Troll Hall, etc.) her next book is stand alone fare.  The Shadow Hunt is about a boy raised in a monastery that sets out to find out about himself.  It is not the only 2010 boy-raised-in-monastery story out there (The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh comes to mind) but this one sounds less dark than Walsh’s imaginings.

You’ve probably heard about this one already from other sources, but I am here to confirm that yes indeed.  There will certainly be a Little Vampire Women coming out by Louisa May Alcott.  No other name appears on its listing, which is interesting.  The plot is familiar, and I like the idea of Laurie desperately wanting to become a vampire.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got the idea for this after watching the 1994 version of the film and then said to their friends, "Hey!  Did you ever notice that Kirsten Dunst looks EXACTLY the same as when she was in Interview With a Vampire?"  Watch your back, Anne of Green Gables.  You’re surely on somebody’s roster somewhere.  Probably the Steampunkers.

There’s a very interesting cover going on with Allan Stratton’s Borderline.  It’s a throwback, but in a good way.  The plot involves a Muslim boy (the only one in his school) and what happens when the FBI raids his home.  Hm.

Spells by Aprilynne Pike = More flower covers.

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler I want to look at.  Yes, it’s a YA romance novel.  But someone said that Daniel Handler blurbed it and… well.  That’s just something I gotta see.  The Lemony Snicket teen YA romance novel blurb.

And that’s it!  We end there!  Whew!  Exhausting but worth it.  Now come the awards.  Ahem.

Best Cover:  I admit I had a real affection for the way they went with Fat Vampire.  Which is not available online yet.  So I’ll just taunt you with its absence.

Best Meets:

The clear-cut winner:

"The Penderwicks meet The Black Panthers" – One Crazy Summer by Rita Wiliams-Garcia

Worthy runners-ups:

"Aliens meets Seven Samurai" – Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill

"Jane Eyre meets Pygmalion crossed with Lemony Snicket" – The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

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. Monica Edinger says:

    I’m one of those who has been raving about COSMIC to anyone who would listen since last year (as I read aloud the UK edition to my class and am again right now) and I’m also going to rave here about ONE CRAZY SUMMER which I did review on goodreads and need to now write about on my blog. Both books are terrific, terrific, terrific.

    And about LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN. In researching a post a few weeks back about it and the graphic novel LITTLE VAMPIRE I discovered that Jo, I mean, Louisa’s co-author is one Lynn Messina.

  2. Monica Edinger says:

    Okay, decided to post my review of One Crazy Summer on my blog — everyone needs to keep an eye out for it come January.

  3. Kate Messner says:

    Well, thanks for this…I am officially drooling. I’ve put some of these on my watch-for-it list for NCTE.

  4. R.J. Anderson says:

    No sign of my WAYFARER, then? It’s coming out in late April…

  5. “A girl jealous of the dolls in her own dollhouse? This I gotta see.”

    Been done. Lucie Babbidge’s House, 1989. Not that it can’t or shouldn’t be done again, or that they won’t be very dissimilar, of course. :)

  6. For the Billionare’s Curse, you had me at Aussie.

    One Crazy Summer is a beautiful cover.

    Will keep my eye out for Boys Without Names

    Another HC book I am looking forward to is She Loved Baseball: The EFFA Manley Story by Audrey Vernick illus. by Don Tate. Though I don’t know if its a Sping release.

    I love these previews.

  7. Brenda Ferber says:

    Can I quit being an author and become a reader instead?
    Too many books! Too little time!

  8. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it til it comes to fruition. I will give up my first born if I can get a galley of the Eugenidies book.

  9. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Wow-I am really, really interested in Fleischman’s Chaplin biography. I’m a big fan (of Fleischman and Chaplin-his autobiography, along with Shirley Temple’s autobiography, is one of my favorite autobiographies) and I’m also curious as how he will handle the more controversial aspects of his life (as well as his miserable childhood). I hope HarperCollins will have ARCs at Midwinter.

  10. Lesley Livingston says:

    How lovely to be featured in such spectacular company – thanks! And it was a pleasure meeting you too, Ms Bird!

    Now to scroll up and revel in all the pretty covers again…

  11. We Sounisians may have been very patient these last few years, but please we can only hold out so much longer. Please tell us A Conspiracy of Kings is really still on for late March and hasn’t been pushed back to sometime in April of 2010! I am not sure I could last even an extra week.

  12. Hm. The notes I was given said April, but that might be off. I’m not quite sure.

    And I’ll keep an eye out for “Wayfarer”, Rebecca! Thanks for the heads up.

  13. Sarah-GreenBeanTeenQueen says:

    I was a huge fan of Roswell High and Fingerprints by Melinda Metz when I was a teen. I think the re-print is actually her Fingerprints series, not Roswell High. My teens are reading the series at my library now so I’m sure the re-vamp will do well. Thanks for this news-made my day!!:)

  14. Looks like a fabulous season of reading ahead. I am particularly keen to get a look at THE BILLIONAIRE’S CURSE as I have heard it is delightful.

  15. Barbara Quick says:

    Actually, it’s A GOLDEN WEB by Barbara Quick (not–oops–by “Barbara Webb”). I’m trying to figure out a way to visit as many libraries as possible, either virtually or in person, to share Alessandra Giliani’s wonderfully romantic and inspiring story. Three cheers for librarians, literature’s unsung heroes and heroines!

  16. Gah! Why has no one caught this before! Sorry, Ms. Quick. I think I was so entranced with writing the word “Web” once that I wanted to put it into your very name. In any case, it has been corrected.