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Librarian Preview: Sourcebooks (Spring 2010)

sourcebooks_logoI cannot say that I had oodles of time to spare at the 2010 Midwinter ALA Conference, but there was some down time. And what is down time if not time just waiting to be filled? So it was that I sat down with Kay Mitchell and Melissa Wood from Sourcebooks, Inc. to take a gander at their upcoming season.

Are all our cards on the table? Here’s the thing. Sourcebooks is small and, insofar as I can tell, Illinois based (much like Albert Whitman, come to think of it). I wasn’t certain that there would be enough material to write up for a librarian preview post like this one. But slap my sides and call me Barney, cause BOY was I wrong! And being wrong is what I like to do best (when I’ve got my cynical pants on, that is). Geez, I’m being folksy today. Shake it off, girl… shake it off.

Horrid Henry's Joke BookFirst off, if the name "Sourcebooks" is niggling at any particular part of your brain, it may be because their children’s imprint Jabberwocky has mostly been responsible for two things: poetry and Horrid Henry.  We’ll get to the poetry later.  In terms of Horrid Henry, they’re America’s number one HH provider.  Horrid Henry, in case you have not yet been able to make his acquaintance, is a delightfully vile little fellow of Dahlian terrors.  I reviewed his first book last year along with approximately 1 billion other children’s literary bloggers (Sourcebooks likes to cover its bases on this kind of thing).  There are already nine Horrid Henry titles out at the moment in America (causing on to ponder whether or not Horrid Henry’s Underpants is called Horrid Henry’s Knickers in England . . . but alas this is not the case).  Still, expect two more to join the fray.  One is just your usual Henry fare, in this case called Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman in which at one point Henry "competes with Moody Margaret in the makeover business."  That sounds rather nice.  More interesting to me, though, was Horrid Henry’s Joke Book.  I do not know about you, but I have a regular stream of kids who come into my library branch demanding my joke books.  We have a nice little section, but considering how it is routinely pillaged, this might be a useful addition (always assuming the catalogers put it in the right spot).

Poetry Speaks Who I AmNow the poetry.  Over the last few years Sourcebooks came out with everything from Hip Hop Speaks to Children to The Tree That Time Built.  This year, they’ve a little book that definitely caught my eye, perhaps because of the audience.  Here is what we know about tweens: (A) They hate being called tweens (or at least that’s true of the ones that I know) and (B) They are often very difficult to find books for.  Many of them want to read teen fare or stuff that might be just a tidbit advanced for them.  Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else in Your Amazing Future has been compiled by Elise Paschen & Dominique Raccah, and it looks like the poetic answer to my prayers.  As with most poetry Sourcebooks collections it is an anthology, it comes with a CD, and I’m sure I could say quite a lot more about it but I intend to review this one, so all I’ll say is that it looks quite good, and I think you would benefit by taking a gander at it.

Tighty Whitey SpiderKenn Nesbit once came to my library to perform poems from his book My Hippo Has the Hiccups as well as poems from other books he’s done.  He’s the only fellow I’ve ever seen who can say to an audience of kids, "Should I do one more poem?" and be met by rousing screams of "YES!" from his diminutive fans.  Now Kenn has another book out and it’s The Tighty Whitey Spider: And More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up.  The "totally made up" part of the subtitle is sort of his trademark.  There’s something subversive sounding to it.  Like he’s getting away with something, and the kids can be in on the underhanded nature of it if they want.  I like that about him, and I like his poems.

Magickeepers The Pyramid of SoulsI did not read Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirov, though I admired the cover from a distance.  Now a sequel is out, just in case you’ve hungry fans at your own library branches.  Called Magickeepers: The Pyramid of Souls, this book has our heroes doing battle with Rasputin.  The description says that at one moment the heroes are "leaping off the Hoover Dam".  That’s a good selling point.

Hailey Twitch is Not a SnitchUnder normal circumstances, when a sprite pops out of your dollhouse that’s usually going to lead to chaos.  Thing is, when a sprite pops out of Hailey Twitch’s dollhouse, it’s Hailey that’s the troublemaker and the sprite Maybelle that’s all uptight about following the rules.  Hailey Twitch is Not a Snitch by Lauren Barnholdt (illustrated by Suzanne Beaky) was described as being one a book in the style of Junie B. Jones, but with less misbehaving on the protagonist’s part.  It’s for the younger crowd in any case.

Okay.  Stand back.  I’m going to say a title and I want you to tell me the first thing that pops into your head.


Okay.  Here goes.

The Pony Whisperer by Janet Rising.

Now if you were anything like me, the first thing you thought was, "How have I never thought of this before?" quickly followed up by, "Hey!  Is anybody writing The Unicorn Whisperer right now? How about The Kelpie Whisperer?  Or the Pegasus Whisperer?"  That honestly was my thought process when I heard about this one.  The catalog blurb manages to reference both Dr. Doolittle on the one hand and iCarly on the other.  Simple premise: Girl can figure out how to talk to horses so she gets her own TV show.  The only problem?  The horses are snarky.  "Snarky pony fun" was the selling line on this book.  Good line.

I Rode A Horse Of Milk White JadeFun with reissues time.  Who out there’s a fan of I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson?  Well the book came out in 1998, but Sourcebooks is reissuing it more than ten years later and selling it as a good book for fans of kick butt girl characters.  They’re reissuing another book too, but I’ll get to that one in a moment.

School of PossibilitiesThe number one trend I spotted while at Midwinter ALA can be summed up in a single word: Finns.  Finnish books are coming to America.  Three different publishers are all coming out with Finnish titles for kids, and Sourcebooks is no exception.  The School of Possibilities by Seita Parkkola is sort of Candor meets The Mysterious Benedict Society (my words, not theirs, but trust me on this).  In it, a kid is sent to a school for troubled youth and discovers that the children are being turned into good behavior zombies.  And whatever is doing it to them, it has something to do with something nasty in the basement.  Fun cover, I think.

Flight of the OutcastWhile I’m making crazy "meets" let’s say that Flight of the Outcast (the first in the series "The Academy: Year 1") sounded like Raider’s Ransom meets Leviathan meets Larklight.  It’s a story that takes place in the future, in space, and kids are sent to a school to learn how to compete in battle.  Okay, fine.  The catalog copy says that it’s Harry Potter meets Enders Game.  *sigh*  That sounds closer to me too.  A very interesting cover, though.  Kinda seventies, but in a way that I dig.

Now I don’t tend to report on YA unless a publisher is small.  And really, until now Sourcebooks didn’t have much of a YA imprint to talk of.  Now they’ve created one and it’s called Sourcebooks Fire. And what book launches this new imprint and makes its mark?  Well, I can’t account for the writing (since it’s teen and I don’t read teen) but if the visuals are anything to go by Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin, illustrated by Lisa Brown, looks kind of awesome.  It’s a good old-fashioned Civil War ghost story with a spiritualist element as well.  The book is illustrated throughout in this kind of cool style.  Lots of ephemera splattered about the pages.  You know.  Photographs.  Notes.  Menus.  I was admiring the art (which will be full-color in the final copy, ooh de lally) when I happened to notice that the catalog says that the illustrator, one Lisa Brown, is the wife of Lemony Snicket.  The wife, I says!  Which means only one thing to me really: When are these crazy kids gonna do a book together?  Cause while I do loves me some Brett Helquist… come on!  It’s meant to be!

Oh.  Fun compare and contrast time.  This cover:


And the cover for the paperback edition of The Order of Odd-Fish (which is also not out yet).


Speaking of fun separated at birth covers, check out these too!

The Turning by Helen Ellis

The Turning - What Curiosity Kills

Mistwood by Leah Cypress


You can’t really tell here because they’re so small, but both gals have cat pupils in their left eyes.  Neither book is out yet either.  This happens with book jackets sometimes.  You find bizarre similarities that happen without the designers aware of what else is coming out at the same time.

In any case, The Turning: What Curiosity Kills by Helen Ellis is a near future teen thriller where a girl finds that she is slowly transforming into a cat.  The kids in the bookgroup I run constantly complain that there aren’t enough new mythical creatures out there.  Cat people would count as new, I should think.  Plus I liked the blurb they included in the catalog.  Makes it sound fun.

And now, my favorite cover of the day:


The byline ain’t bad either.  The book is We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni and the byline is "Maggie Fox didn’t mean to create a new religion".  Yes, it’s another spiritualism title (oh, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, what have you wrought?) but this one has a basis in reality.  It’s about two girls who started the prank of the century.  Kate and Maggie Fox fake rapping sounds and other noises in a seance, then find themselves at the head of a gigantic movement across the country.  Fun concept and it would pair beautifully with a book about the girls who faked the fairy photographs of the same time period (is there a book for kids out there about that?).

Two beach reads on the menu are The Summer of Skinny-Dipping by Amanda Howells and The Star Shack by Lila Castle.  One is a beach book that they say leans more towards the literary end of the spectrum and the other is a story that mixes astrology with a mystery. Merlin's Harp

The other re-release I alluded to earlier is Merlin’s Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton.  Originally released in 1995 it preceded Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur, and is a similar idea.  Basically it’s the Arthur legend retold from a woman’s point of view.  Or, to be more precise, the Lady of the Lake’s daughter.

Beautiful Dead - JonasBeautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire is sort of treading on the same path as the whole angel/zombie/ghost/vampire supernatural mystery/romance genre, but it goes its own route as well.  Kids who die must solve the mystery of their own deaths in order to bring the murderers to justice.  I like the concept.  Nothing like a good revenge series.

And that, as they say, is that.  An interesting list indeed.  I’ll be curious to see how these books do in the coming year.  There are certainly enough of them to keep us all occupied for a while!  Thanks to Kay and Melissa for the info.

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. Jennifer Schultz says:

    That is an interesting list. Thank you for sharing it with us. Here in the heartland of Virginia horse country, I can never order enough horse books. Snarky ponies, however, is an entirely different thing, and I can’t wait to read it.

    The book idea about the kids who faked the fairy pictures is a fascinating concept. I’m trying to picture how it can be done without it turning cynical, though. That’s probably due to my lack of imagination about such a project, through.

  2. Really? Your tweens don’t like being called tweens? What do they call themselves? My tweens are, so far as I can tell, pleased with the title. Possibly b/c it is new to them.

  3. James Kennedy says:

    If I turn my head sideways and let my eyes lose focus, all the portraits swarm together as though they’re on the same wall, and it looks like my foppish cockroach is fighting in the Civil War.

  4. I added a couple of books to my to-read list. Thanks for the the preview — some really interesting titles.