Sometimes these previews happen in a large room with a bunch of librarians, and sometimes they’re a little more one-on-one. So when I was asked whether or not I’d sit down with the folks from Blue Apple Books to hear about their upcoming season I didn’t pay a whole heckuva lot of attention to the names of the two folks meeting me: Elliot Kreloff and Harriet Ziefert. Names are not my friend. I fare poorly with them.
Still and all, when we sat down to discuss the books, Ms. Ziefert pointed out the lovely publisher note at the start of the Fall 2010 catalog, and something clicked into place. My brain is, I have found, entirely dependent on the written word. You can say your name to me twenty times but unless I see it consistently written down on a piece of paper I will not know who you are (this is why I object so heartily to events where lovely young editors place their nametags under their long, sweeping locks). So staring at the publisher’s note I couldn’t help but notice that the name written down was “Harriet Ziefert”. Harriet Ziefert? Well that’s a strange coincidence. We have a very big picture book author out there by the name of Harriet Ziefert and sure would be funny if they were one and the . . . and the same . . . oh.
Yup. Harriet Ziefert herself, author of everything from Where is My Baby? (one of her many pairings with Simms Taback) to Lights on Broadway: A Theatrical Tour from A to Z. Basically, my picture book section of the room goes Yolen to Ziefert to Zolotow. And partner-in-crime/Associate Publisher/Creative Director Elliot Kreloff has plenty of books to his name as well, like the aforementioned Lights on Broadway or really anything by “SAMi”. SAMi, for those of you keeping score at home, is actually Elliot Kreloff.
So! Once we had that established, it was time to look at the upcoming season. And first up is Blue Apple’s Balloon Toons early readers series. Now donchu be thinking that TOON Books cornered the market in graphic novel easy books for small tots. Blue Apple has titles much along the same line, and they’ve three books kicking off their list. And while TOON Books takes words and slots pictures around them, the Balloon Toons strive to replicate the authentic feel of actual comics. Their hope, as I heard it, is that the books will help kids understand the relationship between words on a page and reading. So it is that they’ve three books on the horizon:
You’ve got your Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors by Ethan Long (based on a webcomic Long has been putting out for years). Long hand lettered the whole thing, which I’m sure the artists out there amongst you will appreciate:
Your Adopt a Glurb by Elise Gravel
And finally, The Super Crazy Cat Dance by Aron Nels Steinke. Fear not, canine lovers. Aron’s working on a dog-based sequel even as we speak.
Check out those spines too. I admit that I’m kind of a spine nut. Glimpsing The Invention of Hugo Cabret on my library’s shelves has the ability to, even after all these years, induce a little sigh of contentment. Many happy sighs will come after we purchase these titles as well.
Moving on, the book Alphabeasties did oh so very well for itself when it first came out. You remember it, right? It was the book where animals appeared to be made up entirely of letters. So it was that a zebra would be made of “Z”s or an alligator out of capital and lowercase “A”s. As Elliot told me, the hope with that book was to create something that wasn’t just another coffee table book for design majors. I think we’ve all seen such books coming out here and there, have we not, children? Well, this year Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss are coming out with an accompanying Alphabeasties Amazing Activities book. Which is to say, probably not something that libraries will be purchasing. Though . . . I dunno. My library bought this really high-end coloring book last year, and I was told that the hope was that parents would make copies of the pages for their kids. I haven’t looked at it lately (perhaps out of fear) but I suspect that the pages may not retain that same pristine quality they enjoyed when first they entered the doors of my children’s room. As with this new Alphabeasties book, some things are made to be colored in. Particularly if they have 300 stickers (this one does).
I generally get three different kinds of Egypt questions at my reference desk. When kids ask for “Egypt books” they may mean books on contemporary Egypt (for school projects), books on ancient Egypt, or books on mummies. Books with an Egyptian theme that are wholly original are difficult to come up with, particularly if they don’t slot into one of those three categories. That said, I suspect that How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland, may garner a troupe of fans of both the child and adult persuasion. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. How did the sphinx of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut end up in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art? It’s a practical question, and one that I bet a fair amount of museum docents have to explain. The book sports pretty gold foil on the cover (they spared no expense, I see) and fans of different fonts will be interested in how the text gets broken down. It’s part non-fiction, part picture book, and part cumulative tale. And don’t think it skims over the whole stepson chopping off the statue’s nose part! That’s in there. You bet.
Best of all, this book is just the first in a three book series. Next up will be a title on how a dinosaur skeleton got into the Smithsonian. In point of fact, the Smithsonian was so thrilled when they heard about Hartland’s idea that they invited her on an actual dino dig for the dinosaur she’d be writing about, just so she’d get some firsthand knowledge. Expect that one to come out sometime in Fall 2011, though.
Not many picture books get inspired by Zabar’s. New Yorkers know what that means. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, Zabar’s is an Upper West Side food establishment. The kind of place with a motto like “New York is Zabar’s . . . Zabar’s is New York.” Well in the upcoming Christmas title Christmas Delicious, two mice live in a storeroom in the “Zanzibar’s Deli” (different spelling intentional). You get the drift. The book is by Lyn Loates, and illustrated by Mark Jones who seems to prefer to work in the realm of pastels a.k.a. the unforgiving medium. Actually, it’s kind of cool to hear how Jones does his art. Apparently, he begins with sketches on paper. Then he blows those sketches up on a computer and prints them out. Once they’re at the correct size he paints directly onto the paper and voila. Instant picture book! The man also does a mean snowdrift. Just sayin’.
Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table was a title I noticed at the last ALA Conference. In it, a family realizes a bit too late the dangers of letting Auntie Mabel engage in one of her massive all-encompassing blessings. The author/illustrator in question is one Vanessa Brantley Newton, a name you may be hearing more of in the coming years. She already did Let Freedom Sing and then illustrated Thea Guidon’s Drum City for another publisher. In this book she looks like she’s all about traditional forms of illustration, when in fact she draws directly onto the computer. And here’s something for the computer illustration folks out there: she never does layers. Like . . . never. Largely self-taught she’s had a little bit of formal training but mostly it’s what she learned on her own.
A show of hands. Who loves Grumpy Bird? Yup. Me too. But since it doesn’t look as if Jeremy Tankard has anything in the pipeline for a while (doggone it) we’ll need to find something else in the interim. Daniel Cleary looks as if he’ll fill that gap nicely. His book Stop Bugging Me (But That’s What Friends Are For) has a similar Grumpy Bird tone to it, but a style that’s more akin to Ed Emberley than anything else. Cleary is a clothing designer and an actor and . . . from Portland, Oregon originally. Hm. That’s interesting. You know another Cleary who lived in Portland, Oregon? A woman by the name of Beverly, that’s who. How entirely coincidental.
I should mention that I also got a sneaky peek look at a little of the Spring 2011 list and found something entirely unexpected. There is a book on there that I want. A cumulative book. A cumulative book that’s by Ethan Long. I like Long just fine, but I’ve been waiting for years for the perfect Long book to come out so that I could review it. I believe that my prayers have been answered with the appearance of The Book That Zack Wrote. I’ve never seen a cumulative tale that actually made me laugh before. Somehow or other, Long has managed it. But you’ll just have to wait to see what I mean . . .
Another excellent sounding book was How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst. The book pairs different objects together to show how they “work”. So a robin works when it’s paired with a nest. That sort of thing. It’s a pretty cool idea.
In any case, it’s not a big list over at Blue Apple Books but it is a fun one. Keep your eyes peeled this upcoming season. I know I will.