I just searched my archives to see if I ever made a “monted eggs” joke in conjunction with Egmont USA. To my chagrin, I did that very thing during the last Egmont preview. Gah. I hate being so predictable that even I can figure out what old jokes I’ll be pulling out at a given moment.
In any case, Egmont recently hosted the Summer/Fall preview of all their upcoming titles for the librarian hoards of New York. And while their children’s offerings pale in the face of the YA fare, they provide me with cheese and so I go. On this particular day the temperature was swelling well into the 90s in New York, giving me a brief glimpse of what pregnant women must normally endure in August. An unpleasant sensation.
Just as it was at the last preview, Egmont has all of one picture book to their name per season. And this year, that would be Little Lost Cowboy by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. The book was introduced with the joking caveat, “We only want to do animals that you can cuddle and are cute.” Crayfish, you are outta luck. In this book a rolly-poly coyote cub is separated from his mommy. He manages to indulge in a couple key “Aroooo”s, which reminded me of the Aroooos of one of my favorite picture book readalouds Katie Loves the Kittens. A well placed Aroooo is worth its weight in gold. Trust me.
And that polished off the picture books right there. No time lost, eh?
Y’know, for a supervillain Vordak the Incomprehensible sure seems to align himself with some pretty up-and-up causes. Our attention at this point in the preview was directed to a nearby Reading Rules poster, as created by ALA. There you may see Vordak tearing up just a little over The Velveteen Rabbit.
For fans of Vordak, a sequel was announced at this time. I can count on one hand the number of children’s books written with adult protagonists that are human. The general rule when it comes to making adults your heroes in books with kids is that they have to be a furry animal or no ten-year-old will be interested (call it The Redwall Conundrum). Vordak flips that theory neatly on its ear . . . or at least he did until the book Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School was announced. Voluntarily reducing his age to that of a mere middle schooler, the newly created thug baby (as of right now there is no blog named Thug Baby, so you are welcome to it, if you like) must traverse the horrifying world of short humans. Fans should be pleased.
2011 is a good year for fantasy novels by professional musicians. Over at Harper Collins they’re wheeling out Wildwood by Decemberist frontman Colin Meloy. Here at Egmont, Shawn Thomas Odyssey, a composer responsible for (amongst other things) the score for Deadwood, turns his attention to his first novel for kids, The Wizard of Dark Street. In this tale our heroine has magical abilities that she eschews in favor of the life of a detective. We’re in an 1877 parallel world with this one, and Oona (our protagonist) finds a mystery to be solved when her uncle, the titular wizard of Dark Street, is attacked. This is a fantasy in a classic murder mystery style. It also happens to include a talking raven best friend (a detail that, in turn, reminded me of Simon & Schuster’s Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe by Scott Gustafson).
Points to the series The Code Busters Club for (A) The name and (B) for Edgar nominated author Penny Warner who has more than one informational children’s book under her belt, but few juvenile mysteries. In this first book in the series “The Secret of the Skeleton Key” kids have to solve the mystery by cracking codes. Of course much like the Winston Breen series a person can read the book through without having to solve anything if they’d rather not. The codes were vetted by a math teacher just to keep everything on the up and up.
It seems strange to me that the Freaky Friday idea isn’t utilized in children’s books more often. When it comes to pseudo-science fiction premises where you don’t have to mess with any, y’know, any actual science, the body swapping premise is right up there with the Groundhog Day trajectory and the Crazy Changes at Puberty maneuver. Egmont is coming up with two such body switcheroo books this year. On the teen side is Switch by Tish Cohen. On the younger side, Bye for Now: A Wishers Story by Kathleen Churchyard will be good fodder for those readers who enjoyed the relatively recent title Freaky Monday and want more along those lines. In this book a girl is miserable and on her 11th birthday wishes she could be somebody else. Next thing she knows she has switched bodies with a similarly unhappy girl, and now she gets to work in London as part of a theater troupe family. After doing a little research, she discovers that many girls have this body-switching experience when they’re eleven. The only problem is that if you don’t change back by the time you’re twelve, you’re stuck in your new body forever.
Series update: Some of you may recall Scot Paul Crilley’s novel The Invisible Order from last year in which some kids stumble on a horrendous fairy war. Well, the sequel The First King is now close at hand. In this book our heroine Emily finds herself in 1666 London. The Great Fire of London is due to happen soon and with this historical setting Crilley is able to add in a little Puck for spice. Elizabeth Law called the series Aiken-ish, which is high praise indeed. I am reminded also of that great time travel title Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer (I refuse to call that book by the new title they slapped on later).
I am now out of my depth, but there’s some fun stuff to be had here particularly in terms of the paperback line.
I will begin with a digression that will make sense in a bit. Now earlier this year Ms. Jenni Holm, whom I adore, wrote a sequel to her fantastic Our Only May Amelia entitled The Trouble with May Amelia with Atheneum at Simon & Schuster. I’ve not read the book but I have seen the cover and I was shocked and amazed to find that it showed . . . well, you’ve just gotta see this for yourself:
Now guess the year that this book takes place. If you said “1900” then you are correct. Look closely enough at the girl and, all other objections aside, you can make out a pink bra strap. A pink. Bra. Strap.
So imagine my delight when I was flipping through the Egmont Summer 2011 catalog and found that SAME girl holding that SAME chicken on the cover of Jane Blazanin’s A & L Do Summer. It’s an old rejected cover, mind you. The new one is just a single girl smiling at the camera. But if you could peer at this tiny jpg here, you can clearly see the same model that was on the May Amelia cover, only this time wearing a hat. Which means it’s a stock photo. Which means, S&S really a truly didn’t care when they stuck such a 21st century girl on the jacket of a early 20th century novel. Pink bra straps and all.
Moving on, Egmont discussed some of their original paperbacks coming out this year at this time. The first was the aforementioned A & L Do Summer, which I wish I knew more about aside from its rejected chicken. Countess Nobody (which I misread as “Countess Mutiny” and rather liked) is the story of a sister who believes that she is destined to be royalty. This hope, however, is dashed when she discovers that in her family royal titles are bestowed only upon the male heirs. In this case, her brother. In revenge she starts gossip blogging anonymously about the royalty she knows, and things start to get out of hand. The third paperback was Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt: And Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell. The story follows a 17-year-old goth who is kicked out of so many boarding schools that she is forced to attend what is referred to as a “Southern belle boot camp”. The author’s name is rather fantastic in and of itself: Crickett Rumley. Almost sounds like a character, doesn’t it?
Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes sounds like the kind of person designed to make you feel inadequate in comparison. While finishing her doctorate at Yale, this young author has managed to write eight books. In this particular case, she recently came out with Raised by Wolves with Egmont. Now the sequel Trial by Fire is on the horizon and the premise is interesting. Our heroine has been raised by a pack of werewolves, and now she has, in spite of not being a werewolf herself, become the leader of her own pack. Which wouldn’t be a problem except her pack consists of a lot of females, a fact that the other packs notice and need. Sounds kind of Watership Down-ish in a weird way. There are bound to be four books in this series in total and the next one is slated to be called Taken by Storm. Elizabeth Law also mentioned that this is one of the few fantasies her naturalist niece willingly reads. That may have something to do with the fact that Barnes has done a lot of fieldwork (two semesters of it, in fact) in places with names like Monkey Island. She brings that reality to her books as well.
Some of you may be aware of the recent USA Today article proclaiming that Mermaids surface as the next big thing. This is evidenced not just by the plethora of mermaid YA novels out there, but mostly due to their appearance in the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. That is, assuming that the film is a hit, which is perhaps a little more up in the air than USA Today might admit. In any case, the article does a good job of highlighting four of the new mermaid-inspired books, but fails to notice that sirens are on the increase as well. Case in point, Undercurrent by Tricia Rayburn. A sequel to her previous book Siren, in the first title the heroine’s sister dies and she decides to find out what happened. In book #2 our heroine, Vanessa, has discovered that she is a siren herself. Also, like the titular character in Kristen Cashore’s Fire, all men now desire Vanessa, and she finds herself doubting even the love of her longstanding and very sweet boyfriend.
I can summarize Ilsa J. Bick’s book Ashes no better than its agent did when selling it to Egmont. To quote: “Hunger Games, Schmunger Games, and it makes The Forest of Hands and Teeth look like Smurf Village.” Unquote.
Written by a child psychiatrist, Bick’s book follows its heroine Alex as she goes hiking with a package of her parents’ ashes to spread in the forest. While there she meets up with some other hikers and everything’s going great . . . until an older man starts spurting blood for no discernible reason. Seems that an electromagnetic pulse has gone off at a high atmospheric level, knocking folks like Alex unconscious and wiping out all instruments that need electricity. The pulse kills some folks (like the old guy), leaves others relatively unharmed (like Alex), and, uh . . . give some others a taste for human flesh. Yup. We’re in zombie territory, people. Yet when you get down to it, the book was described as more of a survival tale than zombie novel. And how about that cover, eh? I feel like Hunger Games did the world a huge favor by making covers without specific characters a-okay.
And while we’re in a horror state of mind, some love for The Shadowing: Hunted by Adam Slater. Interestingly, the American cover is a sight subtler than its British counterpart. See if you can tell what I mean:
Just a hair bit less gory, don’t you think? Anyway, as it was described to us, the book opens with a girl speaking with a guy. Five pages later her eyes have been torn out and she lies on her back in the rain. The crack between the living and the dead is widening, you see. The result is a book that Elizabeth Law assured us was “very scary”.
Having done werewolves, zombies, and sirens, the inevitable vampire book had to come up at some point. Blood is by K.J. Wignall, a Brit, and the cover features a model by the name of Sterling. There was much discussion of Sterling at this point. As someone said about the choosing of the cover, “Dammit. If we’re going to have a vampire, he’s going to work out.” So there you go. Set in contemporary London, a vampire from the 14th century wakes up today. He files down his fangs and attempts to fit in, but soon finds that he is being hunted, and he must figure out why.
Laini Taylor isn’t the only author dancing with demons, as you will find in her book Daughter of Smoke and Bone over at Little Brown. Seems that Trinity Fagan had a similar idea with The Mephisto Covenant, which is coming out at the same time. In this book, a Daughter of Eve falls for a Son of Hell. There is a war in hell for domination and Jack, an immortal soul from there, needs Sasha (an aforementioned Daughter of Eve) for “salvation”. Tagline: “What will it cost her to save his soul?” This seems to be a natural offshoot of the already ubiquitous angel trend that’s been sweeping the nation. I’d love it if these mythology books started utilizing some new gods, of course. Where’s the new sexy Krishna book? Surely someone is working on it somewhere right now (though they’d earn my respect faster if they opted for the far more difficult Sexy Ganesh). Failing that I’d accept Sexy Loki or Sexy Anansi.
YA novels based on the classics are always fascinating. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger is tackling The Lysistrata over at LB&Co. so it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to see Mette Ivie Harrison adapt the Tristan and Iseult tale. Only instead of this:
It looks more like this:
Well, they both have boats.
In this contemporary fantasy the daughter of a witch (Izzie) has a great boyfriend. When new guy Tris comes to town she is immediately attracted to him, but decides to pour her efforts into getting him together with her best friend instead. Unfortunately this plan goes a bit askew and next thing she knows Izzie has downed her own love potion herself. Love the color on that cover there. Shouldn’t have any trouble attracting the teens, I should think.
Now the special guest who wrapped up the afternoon was none other than one Todd Strasser. Todd and I, in the interests of full-disclosure, share an agent, so that’s fun. He’s been described as a 21st century Lois Duncan (and if that doesn’t make you feel a bit old then nothing will). Todd opened with some good remarks about making school visits. He mentioned one where he asked some of the kids at the school the question, “If you could have lunch with any person living or dead, who would you choose?” One kid answered, “The living one. Duh.” There’s something so absolutely perfect about that exchange, it makes me want to cross-stitch it into a pillow or something.
Strasser read from each of his books in what Egmont calls “The Thrilogy”. The first was Wish You Were Dead (about cyberbullying) and the second Blood on My Hands (about viral pictures). For the third, Strasser got the title from the 2009 film Fish Tank. In it, a character says wryly, “I like you. I’ll kill you last.” Of course fans of Commando will recognize that the line was originally uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1985 and Fish Tank was undoubtedly making a reference to that. Whatever the case, the book was inspired by a real life incident. A friend of Todd had a daughter who was approached in the mall by a woman who told her that she could be a model. This is one of the cleverer scams out there, intended to get parents to shell out a lot of dough to fulfill their daughters’ dreams. So Todd took that idea and ran with it, coming up with a story about a young gullible woman, much in the same vein.
And that, as they say, is that. Nothing much left but a whole bunch o’ meets! My favorite part:
Best Meets: “The Face on the Milk Carton meets Flannery O’Connor.” – You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
First Runner-Up: The paranormal meets Jean Craighead George – Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Second Runner-Up: “If Stephen King wrote World War Z and Life As We Knew It and combined the two together.” – Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick