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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Albert Whitman and Company (Fall 2010)

Previews previews, lovely little previews. Previews previews, eat them up. Yum!

Or rather, eat AT previews.  That’s what I was doing, certainly, while Michelle Bayuk of Albert Whitman & Company (based out of Park Ridge, Illinois, doncha know) showed me their upcoming season.  Whiteman’s a smaller company than the folks I usually cover, but I appreciate their dedication to their authors.  There’s always something worth poking my nose into at a Whitman preview.  This time was no exception.

So!  Let’s start off with the big news first.  I’m kind of a dessert first gal, y’know.  As it happened the happiest thing I learned from this preview right off the bat was that the fantastic Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award winning picture book The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max is back in print, babies!  And I do mean babies because this time it’s coming out as a board book.  If you want to get technical about it, the title was always meant to be a board book in the first place.  What goes around comes around.  Folks everywhere will be cheering since, as Judy Zuckerman about its previous out-of-print status, "This was a sin!"

Fun Fact: Illustrator Ken Wilson-Max originally hails from Zimbabwe.  Yup.  So if anyone ever asks you to name your favorite Zimbabwe-born picture book artist, you now have an answer for them.

Just to switch gears on you entirely, we now turn to Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories by Ouisie Shapiro with photographs by Steven Vote.  Written for the grades 3-8 crowd (bit of a range there) the book contains testimonials from real kids who have been bullied.  These are accompanied with photographs of the actual children themselves in full color, giving the book an older edgier feel that will be desirable with the younger crowed.  Some of the kids in this book allowed their faces to be used while others did not.  We don’t really have anything like this book in our collection, you know.  Interesting.

I got a little confused with our next book.  Climbing Lincoln’s Steps: The African American Journey by Suzanne Slade originally had me thinking that it was a sequel.  You see, this past fall Albert Whitman & Co. published Finding Lincoln by Ann Malaspina.  In spite of the fact that the authors of these two books were completely different, illustrator Colin Bootman illustrated them both.  Hence my confusion.  However, while Malaspina’s book was a work of fiction, Slade’s is a kind of non-fictionish picture book about the history of black people in America.  The book examines slavery to the Great Migration to the election of Barack Obama, and connects moment after moment to the Lincoln Memorial.

All well and good, but I found that my favorite thing about this book is the image below.  At one point we see people from different generations interacting on the steps.  My favorite?  The fellow dead smack in the center looking like he just stepped out of 1992.  Flat top, jams, the whole nine yards.  You just don’t see that era appear in contemporary children’s books all that often.  New trend, please.

Can a picture book be called Jerry Pinkney-esque?  I only ask because when I saw In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, I found artist Nicole Tadgell’s art not dissimilar with some of the Pinkney historical picture books of yore.  Dr. George Washington Carver has always been a popular subject of picture book biographies for kids, but recently folks have realized that not only can you sell him as a figure from American History but his work has an agricultural and environmental slant to it.  Hello future Earth Day addition!

You know, Jeannette Winter may have the world’s best nose for sniffing out non-fiction picture book subject matter (Mama, September Roses, The Tale of Pale Male, etc.) but she can’t be in all places at all times.  Enter the one that got away: Librarian on the Roof! A True Story by M.G. King, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  If Gilpin’s name sounds at all familiar that’s probably because he has illustrated approximately one billion books and book jackets in his day (I like his work on Eric Kimmel’s The Three Cabritos quite a bit).  In this particular title, Ms. King heard about a librarian by the name of RoseAleta Laurell.  When Ms. Laurell went to work at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas she vowed to give it a kickin’ kids room.  Her solution?  She was going to live on the library’s roof until enough money was raised to create that space.  There’s a great picture of the real RoseAleta at the beginning of the book, which lends it a nice connection.  And since I’m always in the mood for a good heroic librarian story, I’m a fan.

How do you convey the fact that the child in a book is high-spirited, but not mean-spirited?  What particular adjectives or adverbs come to mind when describing such a child.  If you were author Mara Bergman (or her American publisher), you might come up with the word "Lively" as in the title Lively Elizabeth: What Happens When You Push, illustrated by Cassia Thomas.  Now when I heard Ms. Bergman’s name I was suddenly puzzled.  Bergman . . . Bergman . . . why do I know the name Bergman?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because she wrote one of the greatest readalouds of all time Snip, Snap! What’s That? (a book I only discovered because MotherReader recommended it first).  In this newest Bergman title a little girl accidentally pushes another kid in her enthusiasm causing a chain reaction of epic misery and hurty feelings.  Lesson?  Don’t with the pushing.

Attend the tale of Smelly Bill by Daniel Postgate.  Smelly Bill‘s story is one of woe.  A British title, the book was originally printed here in America by a publisher that was NOT Albert Whitman & Co.  Due to a disagreement of some sort between the Yank publisher and the one on the British side, the book went out of print here in the States lickety-split.  Now it’s back and kids with a love of Dav Pilkey’s Dog Breath will be keen to grab hold of this flea riddled pup.  There’s even a sequel with a romantic bent called Smelly Bill: Love Stinks.  Might be right for your depleted Valentine’s Day offerings.

If your library is like mine then you probably have a holiday section of some sort, right?  We keep ours in the overflow so that when it’s not that particular holiday the books aren’t taking up valuable shelf space.  Years ago some enterprising soul also wrote out little dividers for each holiday.  You’ve got your Valentine’s Days, your St. Patrick’s Days, your Passovers, etc.  Then there’s New Year’s Eve.  Not Chinese New Year, mind you.  That section is nicely stocked.  No, I’m talking about the New Year’s Eve books of which we own approximately three.  To be perfectly frank, nobody writes New Year’s Eve books.  It’s not a sexy holiday.  New Year’s Eve tends to be a day of reflection and looking back at your life.  Five-year-olds don’t have a whole lotta life to look back on.  Mind you, New Year’s is also good for resolutions, hence Pat Miller’s Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, illustrated by Kathi Ember.  The book explains what a resolution is (good idea) and goes from there.

Finally, there’s good old Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs Into Action by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Miguel Benitez.  This would be the middle grade fiction book on this year’s list.  Due to the fact that I can count on one hand the number of MG books for kids starring a Hispanic character where the plot isn’t ALL about being Hispanic, I’m thrilled to see this newest Zapato Power book.  The first one was just plain old Zapato Power in which a boy named Freddie finds shoes that allow him to go super fast.  In this sequel, the shoes get a remote control.

Big time thanks to Michelle for showing me this latest list! 

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. Michelle Bayuk says:

    Thanks, Betsy!

  2. Oh! I had a chance to preview Librarian on the Roof–it’s a hoot! Wonderful, clever writing, on top of a great story!

  3. Why haven’t I heard of Zapato before now? So excited to read the first one to my students!

  4. Brooke Shirts says:

    Hurray for The Baby Goes Beep! Rebecca O’Connell is a former coworker of mine from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and I was always crossing our fingers that this lovely picture book would be morphed into board-book form. Yes!

  5. They don’t play baseball, they don’t wear sweaters, they’re not good dancer, they don’t play drums. =)

    I’ve put the first Zapato Power right high on my TBR list — thanks!

  6. Jennifer Schultz says:

    This is really nice; I think I’ve put each title in upcoming carts to consider. Thanks. Question about the bullying book: do the children/does the author/editor include tips on coping skills? We don’t have anything like this either.