This has been a season of firsts. I did my first Albert Whitman preview a week or so ago. I’ll be doing my first National Geographic preview in the future. And I’ve certainly never done a Lerner Publishing Group preview before! That’s the nice thing about New York. Even if the publishers ain’t local, there’s no reason for them not to say howdy when they happen to be in town.
And howdy it was! Two lovely ladies, Lindsay Matvick and Terri Reden, joined me at The Algonquin, home of a very fluffy and elusive cat, and we got down to business. Here’s what’s on the menu over in Minnesota (where Lerner is based).
Because my brain doesn’t do so well on remembering the order of things, I have taken the shiny, full-color, white-space-ah-plenty handouts I was given and put them in age order. That means that first up is . . .
Picture Books (Reading Level 2)
All right. So there’s a prevailing theory out there that you just enter dinosaurs into any equation and the book requires little else to keep it going. Dinos + trains = Dinotrain. Dinos + trucks = Dinotrux. But it’s not that simple, really. A book has to have a hook above and beyond the simple inclusion of dinosaurs. Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott’s sports-based dino series might be a good example of that. This year Carolrhoda Books is coming out with Dino-Baseball, to follow on the heels of the already successful Dino-Hockey and Dino-Soccer. I’m a little surprised that Baseball wasn’t the first in this series, considering that it’s the national pastime and all. Hockey and soccer? Tres Canadian! In any case, the extra hook to the series is that the teams playing are always the meat eaters verses the herbivores. And while I’d sort of love it if the carnivores had an edge because they can eat their opponents, apparently that’s not how these books roll. The title even contains a Steve Bartman reference. Those of you who follow baseball will know what that means. Those of you like me, smile and nod. Just smile and nod.
For a Bible story, there’s something about the tale of Noah’s Ark that crops up in children’s picture books more than any other story in the Old Testament, I swear. Normally, Bible tales are relegated to specific part of my non-fiction shelving… except Noah’s Ark books. Whether they’re illustrated by Peter Spier or Jerry Pinkney or even Zachary Shapiro, there’s something about a boatload of cranky animals that folks gravitate towards. Now Stephen Krensky has penned Noah’s Bark and it has been illustrated by the French-Canadian one-namer artist Roge. In this fairly secular version of the tale, the animals on the ark are loud, but while on the boat none of them have decided upon their own specific sound. The book has a nice look to it. Somewhat reminiscent of Pep Montserrat‘s work, but more Canadian than Spanish (howsoever you choose to define that).
Primary Grades (Reading Levels 2-4)
Early graphic novels make more and more in-roads into our everyday literature with each passing year. Now Lerner’s getting in on the action with Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox: The Meeting. Written and illustrated by Brigette Luciani and Eve Tharlet, this 32-page picture book is an interesting parable for blended families. In it, a fox and her daughter are forced out of their burrow by hunters and find themselves living with a badger and his three kids. The kids are sure that foxes and badgers can’t live together, but their efforts to prove this lead to effects that surprise them. Lerner’s going for a second grader reader audience on this book with a 100 Acre Wood feel. Not a bad combo. And with the popularity of foxes due to increase thanks to the film version of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, there will probably be an audience for this. Plus it’s nice to get some blended family metaphors out there.
If you’re familiar with Tony Ross and his Horrible Harry series then you at least have a passing familiarity with Anderson Press. For the first time, this company is slated to distribute in America and there are lots of offerings on the plate. A new David McKee Elmer tale called Elmer and Rose. A book called Bedtime Without Arthur, which tells a pretty cute story about a girl and her karate chopping teddy bear (that’s how he disperses the monsters each and every night). Something to keep an eye out for.
Okay. Informational text time. Lerner is coming out with a series called Lightning Bolt Books. These are your basic informational titles, and they’re slightly more eye-catching than the usual rote fare. One of them will probably be on our own list of purchases, now that the economic crises is causing parents to want to teach their kids about rudimentary money management. So the Exploring Economics series (with books like Do I Need It? Or Do I Want It? Making Budget Choices) is aiming to fill a need.