I’ve just the worst luck at getting to librarian previews on time these days. I don’t know what it is. If I’m not setting my alarm incorrectly then I’m merrily wandering into work having completely forgotten there was a preview to attend to in the first place. That was the state of affairs on the day of the Simon & Schuster Summer 2010 Librarian Preview. I strolled into work without a care in the world until someone asked gently if I wasn’t supposed to be somewhere else. Fortunately the Simon & Schuster offices are not far from my workplace. I merely ran over, wandered around the building for a while until I located the right floor, grabbed a muffin, and snuck in the back.
This meant that I had missed the guest of the day, of course. Rumor has it that it was Debra Frasier, she of the Miss Alaineous: A Vocabulary Disaster and On the Day You Were Born. In this particular instance she was talking about her newest picture book A Fabulous Fair Alphabet. Alas! None for me.
It also meant that I missed the beginning of the presentation of . . .
Paula Wiseman Books
One must assume that kind words were bestowed upon the newest Kate Feiffer / Diane Goode collaboration But I Wanted a Baby Brother. I am appreciative of this little picture book. When I was a kid I recall how my brother and I pronounced loudly our preference for our newest member to be of our own gender. I won, in a sense, by getting a sister rather than another brother. Surely there are big families in the world out there where such cheerleading is common.
I was also pleased to see that the newest Meghan McCarthy nonfiction picture book title is on the horizon. Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum is just as fun and inventive as you would expect from the gal who has covered everything from Charles Atlas to faux alien invasions in the picture book form. And who doesn’t want to know the history of bubble gum, after all? It just begs to be told.
Alexander Penfold was up and talking about Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai when I came in. The book has a plot that has haunted me since the moment I heard about it, and the cover image too for that matter. In Kabul, Fadi lets go of his six-year-old sister’s hand when they’re climbing into the truck to take them away. He loses her when she drops her Barbie doll and goes back for it, effectively separating herself from her family. Now they’re in America and she’s still in Afghanistan. The cover image shows the moment right before the separation. It just kills me, and I haven’t even read the book yet.
I stare with incomprehension at the name Matthew Van Fleet. Matthew Van Fleet. Why have I heard of Matthew Van Fleet? His new book Heads looks adequately adorable. Covers senses, body parts, etc. I can’t take it any more. I look at his little bio in the catalog. Matthew Van Fleet. Author of . . . . ahhhhh. All is now clear. We’ve a copy of his Monday the Bullfrog in my library that I will occasionally use in storytimes. It’s a frog handpuppet with the book as his mouth. Toddler storytime with this book is always a gamble because small children will walk dazedly towards me as I read it, their glassy little eyes fixed on the frog. By the time I’m done reading it my right hand, holding the book/frog, is stretched to the sky, while all around me little tots are reaching their arms high above their heads to get at it. They look like little gymnasts, just moments after a successful landing. Darndest thing. Let’s see if this Heads of his has the same effect.
In the autumnal book season, the pumpkin reigns supreme. No other fruit or vegetable dares question its authority. Squash? Usually relegated to supporting character roles. Apples? They’ve their fair share of titles but even they must bow in response to the sheer number of pumpkin books in a given season. Starting in August horticulturalist Mark Kimball Moulton and Karen Hillard Good are coming out with The Very Best Pumpkin. Apparently these two also wrote a book called A Snowman Named Just Bob, which I will now have to track down since the name amuses me.
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Now I’m comfortable and digesting my muffin quietly. Good thing too because they’re rolling out the big guns. The big Holly Black guns, to be precise. From a design standpoint, I’m sure they couldn’t resist pairing her name in letters just as bold as the title because the two look so good together. HOLLY BLACK / WHITE CAT. This is a new trilogy taking place in a world where magic is illegal. If you can do it then you’re immediately labeled a Curse Worker (fabulous name too). Everyone wears gloves since you never know what someone can do to you if they touch your skin with their own. In this world the boy Cassel has dreams of a white cat. In some way he wonders if there’s a connection between this cat and his best friend Lila, who he believes he accidentally killed years ago. Now he wonders if his memories are intact. And as someone said at the preview, "in this world your nightmares may be more real than your emotions or your memories."
Speaking of Ms. Black, have you seen the new covers they’ve given her old books Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside? I don’t have JPGs for them, but trust me when I say that they will knock the proverbial socks off the fantasy folks. Two words: Elf ears. They’re banking that kids won’t be ashamed to be displaying ’em on the books they read.
I was very pleased to see that P.J. Bracegirdle’s The Joy of Spooking series is getting an entirely new look. Not that I didn’t love the original Nicoletta Ceccoli cover, but if these get more kids picking up the books that is a-okay with me. In number one we met Joy Wells, her brother, the resident villain, and the town of Spooking. Now in book #2, Unearthly Asylum, there’s a kind of David Franklandesque cover at work and (according to the catalog) a story where there’s "a trail of greed and madness" which every proto horror fan should love. I still don’t know why more publishers don’t realize that Goosebumps wasn’t a fluke. We should have some serious fun younger horror fare for the 9-12 set. They love that stuff and ask for it constantly. And there are only so many times you can hand them Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark before their patience wears out.
If there was a theme to this preview, it would have been Cute Pets. Cute Pet book #1: One Pup’s Up by Marsha Wilson Chall. The secret weapon in this particular case is illustrator Henry Cole. Cole’s got such a range, you know. For reasons that escape me he’s not a household name, but I’m sure you’ve all seen his books (and certainly his work on And Tango Makes Three is his best known). In this book, one by one a variety of playful pups get up flounce about, do puppy things, then exhaust themselves into sleepiness . . . until once again one pup’s up. Counting. Puppies. You do the math.
The book The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson does something I’ve been hoping for for a while. It gives illustrator Marcellus Hall work. Heck, it give author Karma Wilson work too, and that’s no small potatoes. After all, no one rhymes quite like the Karma. It’s just a farm story about what all the animals like to eat, including that weirdo cow with its preference for baked goods. Why this is, however, is explained at the end.
It strange that I should already mention my favorite cover of the day, but for reasons that I cannot explain I was rather enchanted with the jacket for Barbara Stuber’s Crossing the Tracks. The story takes place in the 1920s in rural Missouri. There fifteen-year-old Iris has been shipped by her self-absorbed pop so that she can be an assistant to the country doctor. I just like the sound of it. Can’t explain it. Hope it does well.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Oh boy! Grab your hats with both hands, kiddies. This one’s a doozy. Kathi Appelt is back, baby, and she’s brought a mermaid along. Keeper, due out in May or so, bears some surface similarities to her previous award winner The Underneath in terms of structure. Like that book, the book takes the p.o.v. of a variety of different characters. There’s the seagull with the watermelon addiction. There’s the girl convinced that she must be part mermaid. There are the talking crabs. At its heart it’s really about Keeper, the girl, and her search for what she believes to be her mermaid mama, while the story takes place in the span of a single night. Said Atheneum, the story is really about how a parent is a person who loves you the most and who takes care of you, not just the person who gave birth to you. All I know is that our Newbery winners are racking up the mythical creatures this year. Laura Amy Schlitz has fairies. Appelt with the mermaids. If we can get Lowry to tackle Bigfoot I think we’ll have a full set.
Of course the book that S&S is super dooper highly excited about is the Peter H. Reynolds graphic novel Zebrafish. It’s about a bunch of misfits who start a band. And by misfits I mean, kids who can’t play any instruments. In the course of their story they decided to raise money for leukemia. Really, the book is very focused on getting real kids involved in focusing their energy on doing great works like this. And a big portion of the proceeds goes to Children’s Hospital Boston where my college buddy Chris Maddocks works. Woot!
Has anyone else ever noticed that Amelia from Jimmy Gownley’s series dresses like Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes? Unconscious homage? Conscious one? All I know is that there’s an all new Amelia Rules! book coming out and I want want want waaaant it. It’s called The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular and it’s Gownley’s first new Amelia book in two years. Want.
There’s an all new paperback cover for The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O’Roark Dowell (I’ll post it when I can find it). At first I thought I’d pout about there being yet another foot cover. Then I saw that it featured "the boots". Okay. Fair play to the publisher. They’re integral to the plot and they really are rocking black boots. I would wear those in a New York minute. And on the odd side of things, for some reason they’ve kept the hardcover image for the paperback edition of Heather Henson’s Here’s How I See It – Here’s How It Is. Odd. I certainly would have tried something new with that one.
Ah! Here we go. Through no fault of their own there are two similar horsey books out this year. Let’s see. On the Simon & Schuster side of things there’s Heather Henson’s Dream of Night. In it a punky foster kid named Shiloh takes to an abused and injured former racehorse. On the Penguin Young Readers Group side of things there’s The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby. In that one the daughter of a Iraq war amputee volunteers in some stables, "learns more than she ever imagined about horse training, abuse, and rescues" and wants her father to do some physical therapy with the horses. They’re not that similar in truth, but you wouldn’t know it to look at their covers:
Which brings us to Cute Pet Book #2: Where Is Tippy Toes? by Betsy Lewin. Don’t even bother playing the I-won’t-be-charmed-by-this-book-game. Just give up. Lewin already proved that she could do superb cats when she illustrated Karla Kuskin’s So What’s It Like to Be a Cat? With this book little die-cuts reveal the small feline. It’s an early reader interactive book. Awwww. Kitty!
Can’t quite figure out a couple of things when it comes to George Ella Lyon and Lynne Avril’s The Pirate of Kindergarten. #1: Why has no one written a title like that before? Tis awesome. #2: Why has a book about a kid with double vision and, by extension, an eyepatch never been turned into a book where the kid pretended to be a pirate? Or perhaps it has been. Inform me masses!
Fans of Susan Fletcher and, more specifically, her Dragon Chronicle books will be thrilled to pieces to hear that the series is being rereleased with all new covers. The series is basically like those Anne McCaffrey Dragonsong books but without the whole Pern backstory. Speaking of which . . . could we rerelease the McCaffrey Pern books for teens now? I mean, the kids who love Eragon but are now YA could definitely love ’em to death. Failing that, could we rerelease the Menolly Dragonsong books with illustrations by, oh I dunno, Tony DiTerlizzi? Just a thought.
Actually, I may have spoken a bit soon about the whole favorite cover thing. My new favorite cover may be the one they’ve given Alice in Charge by Phyllis Naylor Reynolds. Check this puppy out:
Nice, right? I haven’t been keeping up with the Alice books since she went on teen on us but basically this one’s about neo-Nazis, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, and college applications. Whoo-whee! They say that Naylor is only doing a few more and then the series is over. I don’t buy it. Can’t you see her writing chick lit Alice tales for the adult set? Absolutely you can. I’ve been waiting for years for there to be a children to teen to adult series. Now’s the time.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Okay. Here’s the good stuff. While at mid-winter ALA I spotted a small poster saying that the S&S booth had some new Jon Scieszka novels in its possession. So I rushed over, bugged the nearest employee (who was literally on her hands and knees working hard), and she thrust Spaceheadz into my greedy grasping digits. Which… I have yet to read. Sorry! It’s not out until June! Anywho, now that Scieszka has all this post-ambassadorial time on his hands, I hope we’ll be seeing more of this kind of stuff. The premise behind the book is that three aliens decide to disguise themselves on earth so as to save the world. Think 3rd Rock From the Sun. The only way to save the world, however, is to convince 3,400,001 children to BE SPHDZ. The catch? Two of the aliens are now kids, and their leader is a hamster. Worse still, they’ve befriended a kid who will need some convincing to help them in their quest. All the websites in the book exist, but it doesn’t get all 39 Cluesish on you and demand that you go online to continue the plot or anything. And there’s an extra bonus chapter that shows what would have happened if the normal schoolkid had decided NOT to help. I suspect it doesn’t end well. Oh. And the book is anti-advertising. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
I don’t tend to mention many sequels in this round-up, but I think the fact that book #3 in the Margaret Peterson Haddix "The Missing" series (called Sabotaged and does anyone else have this trouble with that word?) is set in the past in Roanoke is clever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time travel novel for kids try to explain that one. It makes sense!
Don’t really want to tell you much about it since the image is just so well done. But I should probably mention that it’s by Stuart Gibbs (a screenwriter dude) and is about a boy who lives in the biggest zoo in the world. It’s just your average everyday hippo murder mystery. I definitely want to read this one, whatever the case. Not that I have anything against hippos, you understand.
I like that Courtney Sheinmel. I’ve been a bad little blogger and I’ve failed to review her, but maybe I’ll be able to when it comes to her new book Sincerely: Sincerely, Sophie; Sincerely, Katie. As they said at the preview, Courtney has "a real ear for middle graders".
And at long last here we can find Adorable Pet Book #3. Dogs Don’t Do Ballet. Can I confess something to you? Generally speaking I am not a fan of pugs. Dog breeds come and go but pugs remain ugly. OH yeah! I said it! I know you can pull out the old they’re-so-ugly-they’re-cute excuse (and indeed Dan Yaccarino did quite nicely for himself when he played off of that idea in Unlovable) but I care not. They ain’t my cup of tea. You know what else isn’t my cup of tea? Books where a random animal decides it wants to dance ballet. There are, generally speaking, 58 billion picture books out there with that plot. So my question to you today is, how in tarnation is it that I’m loving Dogs Don’t Do Ballet? It goes against all my natural instincts and yet I’ve totally fallen for this one. It’s a purchase from S&S UK, and I can’t help but think that with this cover it’s about to sell big big big time. If an anti-pug/ballet picture book gal like me is charmed, imagine what it’ll do to the heads of folks who actually like dogs.
Periodically I stomp into the center of the nearest road and rant at the sky about how much I hate it that we keep raising boys and girls to believe strange stereotypes (if you haven’t read that recent Shannon Hale piece along much the same lines, do). But really, it all comes down to princesses and pink. Doggone princesses and confounded pink. Can’t we give them something else? Please? Enter Jane Yolen, Heidi Yolen Stemple, and Anne-Sophie Lanquentin in what appears to be a smart little title. Not All Princesses Dress in Pink seeks to feed the craving of little tots who wish to devour all books with the work "princess" on the title, but could also do with a bit of advice along the way. Subverting the pink, Yolen points out that a gal can be a princess and a couple other things too if she wants to. You can keep your crown. Just remember that there are baseball games you can be playing and bike trips you can be taking.
Also in the realm of the why-haven’t-I-seen-this-in-a-picture-book-before, there’s Buzz by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Vincent Nguyen. We’ve probably all heard at one time or another the Snapple cap fact that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly because their wings are disproportionate to their bodies. Spinelli takes it one step further with a bee that suddenly loses confidence that it can fly at all after hearing that fact. Nguyen has a very animation-centric style that I’m deciding whether I like or not (shouldn’t a bumblebee be pudgier?). Opinion pending.
"She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Now she’s living with a plastic spork." Okay. Admittedly that’s not the line in the catalog to describe Kieran Scott’s She’s So Dead to Us, but it should be. Instead that’s how they introduced this YA riches to rags story. I have respect for the plot, actually. Quite timely. In it, a girl’s hedge fund manager dad bankrupts not only his family but also the parents of his daughter’s friends. Now she’s moving back to town and her old friends aren’t exactly delighted with her anymore.
For a second there I thought that I had spotted a new trend involving people going to national parks. Certainly there will be a huge spate of them coming out this year, of which Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson is one. In this book, two kids who don’t know each other go on a road trip together. It’s told in a lot of ephemera so think of it as Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf but for the teen set.
One of my favorite gal’s Jenny Han has a new book out! As part of her Summer trilogy, the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty is coming and it’s called It’s Not Summer Without You. Said her publisher, Jenny has the rare gift of doing books that are both literary and popular at the same time.
Now that everyone thinks that Steampunk is going to be the next big middle grade / YA trend (in spite of the fact that the genre has sold only modestly with no #1 smash hit) I was on the edge of my seat waiting for a steampunk novel to show its face at the preview. It took a while, but at long last they introduced Worldshaker by Richard Harland. It’s very much in the tradition of The Giver / Below the Root / City of Ember / The Windsinger / etc. where a kid is given a new job in a futuristic society and then discovers it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Can we get a name for this genre, by the way? One thing I quite liked about the book was that it mimics the events that led to the French Revolution, only in an entirely new setting. It also features moving cities much as one would find in Philip Reeve’s Hungry City Chronicles (which the book is curiously not compared to in the catalog). Interesting stuff.
On a very different note, Caron Lee Cohen and the exquisitely talented Sergio Ruzzier have a remarkably simply picture book coming out in time for Halloween called Broom, Zoom. It’s a bolder graphic style that Ruzzier usually uses, and the wordplay is simple in just the right ways. A little witch and a monster decide they both want a broom. The witch says "I want the broom." The monster counters with "I need the broom." A solution eventually comes about, but I like how the book distinguishes between wants and needs.
We got a goody bag at this preview and into that bag I would sometimes dive if the descriptions harped too frequently on teen fare. While snuffling about, I discovered they’d given us all galleys of the new D.J. MacHale picture book The Monster Princess. I’m not a huge Pendragon fan myself (that’s the MG series he writes) but I was quite taken with illustrator Alexandra Boiger’s pictures. Apparently she’s done While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert and Doctor All-Knowing by Doris Orgel. I will now have to seek these books out since the gal has a style I am very much taken with. Very much taken with indeed.
Whole lotta dead kids in jacket titles these days. If it’s not Emily Horner’s A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend then it’s Dear Anjali: I Hate That You’re Dead by Melissa Glenn Haber (not the actual subtitle, but it’s on the jacket so I’m granting it temporary subtitle rights). Dear Anjali at first glance looked a tiny bit like Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee (you see my confusion?), but the story is quite different. In this book a girl’s best friend dies and then the boy the two of them both had a crush on starts to become her friend. Which, in turn, makes the living girl feel guilty. It’s middle grade so hand it to the kids who like dead friend titles. They’re out there. Trust me.
A whole lotta teen fare, so what’s the book that really catches my eye?
They brought it back! They brought it back!
You have to understand that as a teen I didn’t read all that much teen fare since the pickings could be kind of slim. One writer did I love back in the day was Christopher Pike, though. And Remember Me, ironically enough, was the only one I ever remembered. Years later I can tell you the plot (though I’m a bit sketchy on who the actual culprit in the mystery is). I loved ghost stories as a kid. This one was one of my favorites. Go, Pike!
Kiss It by Erin Downing was described to us in this way: "This is the empowering story of a girl who wants some and gets some and likes it." Sold!
Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly looks like any other teen novel. See? Check it out:
La de dah. No surprises here. Except possibly when you learn its original publication date. Oh say, 1942 or so. Well packaged, folks. I wouldn’t have had a clue from the plot description or the cover (or the fact that the author’s name was Maureen and there are a lot of Maureens writing YA today) had you not told me.
In other news, the sequel to Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld will be called Behemoth and is due out in stores in the fall.
Poor, Little Simon. Always at the end of the previews when the librarians are just itching to get back to their reference desks. It’s not that they don’t do great books. But their audience is so young and board booky that it can be hard to pay attention. They were clever to lead off with the artist Romero Britto’s new book My Alphabet Playbook then. Aside from the name cache (if you’ve seen a painted cow in your town, he’s the man behind those) there is the fact that the title is bright, catchy, and colorful. They called him "a slightly more accessible Jeff Koons" but I think he’s a good pairing for kids with a Todd Parr bent.
Aside from that, I like the girl on the cover of Jean McElroy’s It’s Harvest Time! I like her because she sports the same hairstyle I myself had as a child from age 2 to about 10. Nicely done, oh one namer photographer Tilde.
And that’s that! Another preview down and even more books to see. It’s going to be a very interesting year, I think . . .
Best Meets: "Gilmore Girls meets The Wizard of Oz." – Ruby’s Slippers by Tricia Rayburn.