Oh yeah, you read that right. Not only am I going to try to tackle my stack of librarian previews just waiting to be typed up, but I’m beginning with a company that had its very first preview for the New York librarian set here last week. School Library Journal was kind enough to lend the Boston-based publisher use of one of their brand new conference rooms, so up traipsed a whole host of Candlewickians to present their some of their list. Not everything can always be covered, of course, but thanks to the combined efforts of Sharon Hancock, Sarah Ketchersid, Joan Powers, and Jenny Choy we got a glimpse of some of the best of the upcoming goodies.
Trev Jones of SLJ began the introductions, welcoming us to SLJ’s new offices. Having moved in as recently as June, I’d not had a chance to experience the glimpse of Varick Street and beyond before. Trev welcomed Candlewick, but also mentioned that there is a new blog on SLJ. Called Adult Books 4 Teens it’s run by Angela Carstensen and covers exactly that. In turn, that aspect of the print edition of SLJ will no longer be happening. Instead, these reviews will appear on the blog and will then be collected on the web with the other SLJ reviews. FYI, folks!
Now the fun stuff. Candlewick chose to eschew the notion of PowerPoints, opting instead for yummy food and the actual physical books themselves. Attendees were handed little pamphlets, just the right size for taking notes.
First up, a Charlie and Lola book. I should probably say, a real Charlie and Lola book since I’m sure some of you have libraries that have been inundated with the television-based picture books that look like they’re from the pen of Lauren Child and, in fact, are not. This one really and truly is. Called Slightly Invisible (possible quote from Child: “I am more than just a super cute title”), it was inspired by a child fan of the books. The kid once asked Ms. Child if she ever felt even slightly inclined to write a book where Charlie gets annoyed with Lola. Those of you familiar with the series may feel horrified at the very suggestion, as Charlie is, at times, near angelic in his patient, very British way of handling his younger sis. However, in this particular book Charlie and his friend Marv are attempting to pretend an array of different situations, only to find Lola carelessly waltzing through said situations guilelessly. Their attempts to escape her do not meet with much success. Fans of Lola’s invisible friend Soren Lorensen will be pleased to hear that he makes an appearance (so to speak) in the book. And, of course, there is an invisibility potion that goes awry.
I spotted the cover of Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand across a crowded room long before Sharon Hancock got around to presenting it. This is because I’ve been on a Bink & Gollie kick, lately. Doing everything in my power to get that book noticed, I am. And the illustrator of that particular title was one Tony Fucile (please note that I will bestow one plump, luscious chocolate chip cookie upon anyone who can tell me without a shadow of a doubt how to pronounce his last name). Mitchell’s License, as you can see, is illustrated by the self same man. Fair play to Hallie Durand (a.k.a. Holly McGee a.k.a. sister of Alison McGee who co-wrote Bink & Gollie) for coming up with such a fun concept for the book too. In this title Mitchell has a “license” to drive his car. His car, in this particular instance, being his dad. Everything checks out. The windshield is his dad’s glasses. The seat is his shoulders. And his nose is (naturally) the horn. Mitchell really really likes to honk the horn. There’s a bit of a Daddy Mountain-esque aspect to this book that makes it work. It also features a casually mixed-race family, which is always nice to see. Should be fun.
On a personal level, I sometimes have difficulty properly enjoying the art of illustrators that indulge in sketchy lines. I like a line that knows where it’s going and what its purpose in life is. This may be partly why my eyes are attracted to the art of Andrea Wesson. In her upcoming book Argus (written by Library Lion scribe Michelle Knudsen) she put her pen to good use. Set in classroom, one day all the kids are given eggs by their teacher to tend and raise. Sally’s is different. Really different. And rather than get a cute baby chick, Sally ends up with Argus who is big and scaly and green. The book is said to be about accommodating and appreciating things that are different. All I know is that I like big scaly green things and this book provides.
Joan Powers was so excited about My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer, that she read us the whole thing cover to cover. And to be perfectly frank with you, I’m glad that she did. If I could write you an entire review of that book from memory right now, I might go ahead and do it. Instead I shall sum up. The story follows a young girl who recounts the various aborted attempts her family has made to go to the zoo. This time, clearly, is going to be different. Yet just as they pull away towards the zoo, it begins to rain. The girl’s father tells her that it’s definitely raining on his side of the car. She, in turn, insists that there is nothing but sunshine and people watering their lawns on her side of the car. Feiffer the Younger perfectly taps into that optimism/willful disbelief children exhibit when reality doesn’t conform to their expectations. I was particularly charmed by her insistence that on her side of the car were people from all over the world, sheer hoards of them, going to zoos. Consider this an excellent storytime readaloud for the future.
I always love me a good Yuyi Morales. Seems that her latest is paired with an author who is the maternal half-sister of our current sitting president. Maya Soetoro-Ng isn’t writing about her monumentally famous half-brother, of course. Rather, her title Ladder to the Moon is about a granddaughter and grandmother. When a girl wonders about what her deceased grandmother is up to, she dreams of being visited by that very relative. The two go about the earth looking at various disasters, offering hope.
Apparently illustrator P.J. Lynch is the nicest guy you could ever meet. He’s Irish, so the chances of running into him over here in the States are somewhat slim, but you never know. That information could prove useful to you someday. Pairing with author Douglas Wood, the two have come out with No One But You, which as far as I can determine falls into definite graduation picture book territory. The kicker? At no point during her presentation did Sarah Ketchersid ever say the words “graduation book”, for which I am eternally grateful. The book itself shows a variety of different kids from around the world. Lynch even worked in his own kids into the book, though you’ll probably only identify them if you can spot any that look particularly Irish.
Then we start moving into middle grade novel territory. That’s when I go to town! And the first offering is rather enticing. Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker comes from an author previously best known for books like Little Klein. I admit to you, I never had a chance to read Little Klein. My library branch owns a couple copies of it, but somehow it’s never made it into my hands. Well, Sharon Hancock compared Anne’s writing to that of Richard Peck, calling her book “true middle grade fiction”. That is to say, she can do sweet without doing syrupy. Best of all, she’s funny. In this book the Button family is unlucky and has been so for generations. Or, put another way, “The Buttons have a propensity for calamity.” So when our heroine 12-year-old Tugs starts doing things well, the family doesn’t quite know how to take it. Throw in a mystery to be solved and a smooth talking drifter, and you’ve got yourself a bit of historical fiction (1929) worth taking a gander at. Love the typeface on the title.
It doesn’t feel that long ago that The Cat With the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin and Ela Weissberger was published, but in fact it was in 2006, a good five years before the publication of this newest book on a similar subject. Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson is a beautifully designed piece of nonfiction with art, photographs, cartoons, and a great font. I’m actually rather excited by this one. Though it covers somewhat familiar territory, the presentation may be quite appealing to child readers.
Thomson’s book is middle grade, but Paul B. Janeczko’s Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto is definitely teen. If you’re anything like me then you probably know Janeczko best because of his Kick in the Head and Poke in the I books of poetry for younger kids. Talk about a genre switch. Thirty years ago Paul read about the music in Terezin, and since that time he’s been working on this book. The result is a series of small poems from a variety of different points of view. It’s one story, really, but told through different perspectives.
Pick-Up Game: A Full Day of Full Court, edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr. is interesting to me for a variety of reasons. First off, because it takes place at the West 4th Street basketball hoops, kitty-corner across the street from the IFC movie theater here in town. Who knew? Second of all, it follows a variety of pick-up games there through the eyes of such authors as Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Flake, Joseph Bruchac, Rita Williams-Garcia, etc. The story never really ends, either. Like the Exquisite Corpse stories out there, one author will stop with the narrative in one spot, while another picks it up and runs with it from there. And for true authenticity one of the authors (Adam Rapp) actually plays there sometimes (though it’s trashing his knees). “He’s like James Franco . . . practically.”
I was pleased to hear that Cynthia Leitich Smith, author and fellow blogger over at Cynsations, has a third young adult book in her trilogy coming out soon. Called Blessed, the book is a follow-up to such titles as Tantalize and Eternal. It also literally picks up where Tantalize ended. There is a restaurant, food that goes horribly wrong, and Zachary from Eternal drops in to help out. Those of you in the know will be aware what that means.
Blink and Caution (NOT to be confused with Bink and Gollie) by Tim Wynne-Jones moves the author firmly out of the middle grade territory he’s recently enjoyed back into full throttle YA. Set in Ontario and its suburbs, Blink is a street kids who witnesses a fake kidnapping and gets himself enmeshed with the wrong kinds of people. Caution is a refugee escaping from her drug dealing boyfriend. Together the two decide to use the age old method of blackmail, which naturally leads to the two of them ending up in the Canadian woods. The book was inspired by a personal event in Mr. Wynne-Jones’s life involving a gun. Therefore, gun violence does occur in this title and manages to talk about the dangers of guns without launching into didacticism.
Not being altogether familiar with YA authors, the name Melina Marchetta wasn’t ringing too many bells for me. Yet the minute her newest title Piper’s Son was announced I saw visible bouncing on the part of the librarians around me. Huh. May have something to do with that Printz Award she won a year or two back. If you were a fan of Marchetta’s Saving Francesca then you are in for a treat. This book picks up five years after the end of Francesca, and stars Tom, a character that at first Marchetta wasn’t certain could carry his own story. After all was said and done, though, she was heard to say, “I’m glad I didn’t kick him out of my head.” The book is already out in Australia and for those of you who loved Finnikin of the Rock, she is planning on another fantasy soon.
The best way to end any preview, as I am given to understand it, is with pop-up books. That’s why it’s always nice to have Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda under contract. You may be familiar with the series they’ve done for Candlewick that covered a variety of prehistoric monsters. They’ve switched gears a bit for this, their sixth and final book in the series, Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons and Monsters. Basically, it’s everything from a Medusa to Chinese dragons to The Kraken (giving a kid something they can actually do when someone calls to them, “Release the Kraken!”). Sabuda has a very beautiful Beauty and the Beast pop-up out this year so I’m not entirely certain where he finds the time to come up with books where you can physically turn a character from a man to a wolf (much as you can turn a character from a beast into a man in Beauty and the Beast).
And that, as they say, is that. Many thanks to Candlewick for taking the time to come all the way to New York City for their preview. A lovely offering of books and more, I’m sure, on the way.