There are many reasons to love Little, Brown but at the moment the company has my heart because their last librarian preview consisted of less than thirty books in total. And when you’re dealing with less than thirty books, typing up what they have is much easier on the old post-natal still-carpal-tunnely digits. So it was that we hopped on over to The Yale Club (conveniently located a mere 2.5 blocks from my workplace), sat down to tiny sandwiches involving salmon, brie, and what looked suspiciously like apple slices, and listened to the upcoming roster of what can only be deemed “goodies”. Goodies ah-plenty, goodies galore.
But before all of that, there were several other things to check out. Unlike some publishers, LB & Co. isn’t afraid to display around the room art from books that due out in the distant future. In this way I saw art from the fall 2012 Julie Andrews Edwards / Emma Walton Hamilton number Celebrate the Seasons: A Collection of Poems and Songs, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. I also saw art from September 2012’s Ten Tiny Toes by Todd Tarpley, illustrated by Marc Brown. There was other art as well, but I don’t want to give away what those books were quite yet.
And then there were the special guests to contend with. Guests, yes. Plural. Sometimes Little, Brown will manage to snag one of their biggies as they hop through town. In the past Darren Shan would come early on, for example. This time it was an author I’d been hoping to see at a preview for some time. Really, ever since I heard that he and his editor were now part of the LB&Co family.
If you read my Video Sundays then you may have seen that Mr. Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) was on Rachel Maddow’s program last month. Before he spoke with her, though, he took some time to pop over to The Yale Club to read us a selection from his YA novel Why We Broke Up. It was good. I’ve seen him talk about the book several times now and with him there’s not that horrible repetition there that you sometimes get when an author clings to a set script and refuses to deviate from it so much as a word. Well played, sir. Well played.
All right. Now the books. First up, a lady who had never done one of these previews before but was just ducky:
(Some discussion was made as to whether or not she has the same name as the woman who played Mindy in Mork & Mindy, but it was determined that we were thinking of Pam Dawber).
And we begin today with the award for Best Authorial Name. And no, this is not a pseudonym. Galaxy Craze (I’m just going to sit here and savor that name for a while before I write anything else . . . annnnnnd, we’re done) is a former actress who may or may not be the offspring of English hippie parents. You may have seen her in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives. With her name on the cover like that, I suspect that some kids may mistake her moniker for the book’s title, but that’s fine with me since “Galaxy Craze” would make an awesome title too. So here we have a book that combines two passions that, to the best of my knowledge, have never been melded before. Remember everyone’s obsession with the William and Kate wedding last year? Okay. Take that love of all things English and royal and combine it with the current dystopian craze. The result is The Last Princess, a novel that examines England’s final royal family. Equally inspired by The War of the Roses as it is by The French Revolution, the year is 2090. Our heroine is Eliza Windsor. When a revolutionary poisons her mom and the rest of her family is dispatched during a ball, she runs away and joins the Rebel Tudor Army. While there she falls for the son of, you guessed it, the guy who had a hand in her mom’s death all those years ago. Sort of a Romeo & Juliet type situation. I give the jacket designers extra points for not setting Big Ben on fire or drowning it in the Thames. Sometimes I feel like you can’t have a futuristic English novel these days without Big Ben suffering some sort of an indignity. I have a whole theory about this. Talk to me sometime. But back to the point, hand this one over to readers who want something beyond The Luxe.
Lost Girls by Ann Kelley is English as well, but it’s more of the import variety. And for the love of all that is good and holy do NOT confuse it with the Alan Moore graphic novel of the same name. Ms. Kelley already won a Costa Book Award in England for this title, so it has a pedigree. With this book we’re seeing something I really like about the current Hunger Games craze. Remember when Twilight came out and a million knock-off vampire books arrived on our shelves? Well now that The Hunger Games is a hit we’re seeing the usual slate of dystopias (see: previous book in this preview) but we’re also seeing books that capitalize on the thriller and survival aspects of Collins’ novel. This book is part of the latter group. Set in 1974 Southeast Asia, it takes place in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Our heroine, and other military brats are living in that part of the world and decide to go to a nearby island for some camping. Unfortunately for them they miss their island so they go to another one. That night a storm to beat all storms comes and then the smallest cadet is found dead. As they battle the elements their boatman (who left them there) does not return, and the one adult that’s with their party turns out to be useless. Containing journal entries that slowly descend into madness this is a book that sounds like it may have the immediacy of something like Susan Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It.
I’ve a special kind of respect for a good cover, and today The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney is right up there with the best of ’em. Oh, by the way. Flynn Meaney? Totally a female poetry grad from Hunter College by the name of Elizabeth. She’s the author of Bloodthirsty, the jokey vampire parody book that came out a couple years ago and amused us since it was coming from the same company that produces Twilight. Now she switches gears entire with a He Said, She Said novel. Set in a midwestern high school, the book look at the aftermath of what happens when the local town sees a mass exodus of boys. Families are leaving the area due to the economic depression, and that means that suddenly you’re looking at a 4:1 ratio of girls to guys. Suddenly those guys who were fairly low on the social totem pole are seeing a real uptick in their desirability. Our heroes are a boy and his best friend who is a girl and, naturally, has a crush on him. She might have had a chance before, but now how can she compete? The book has lots of amusing characters, like the senior called The Coug because she only dates freshmen. Apparently the author experienced this very thing herself in high school, so it makes for a natural YA novel. Pam compared this to 10 Things I Hate About You, Ned Vizzini, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in terms of tone. FYI.
And now it’s down to the fine stylings of . . .
You may not be able to make out the tiny type of the byline on the cover of this next one so I’ll read it out for you: “What if the world’s most notorious serial killer . . . was your dad?” Dunno if the ellipses was necessary there, but I’m a bit of an ellipses addict myself so I understand the temptation. Alvina, as it happens, is a big Dexter fan. You’ve seen the show, right? It’s the one about the serial killer who hunts serial killers? Stars Michael C. Hall who went to my college too, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that for years Alvina has wanted to see a kind of “Dexter for teens” and she pitched the idea to Barry. He wasn’t necessarily going for it, until he figured out the perfect way to make it work. The result is I Hunt Killers, a story about a boy who lives with his grandmother. That’s because his dad was a bit of a serial killer and one who really wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Now a dead body has shown up in town and our hero is convinced that it’s the work of a serial killer. As a result he works with the local sheriff and helps him to investigate the crime. It’s a standalone novel but the first in a trilogy and, believe it or not, the WB has already bought the television rights and may even be shooting a pilot this spring for the coming fall. Folks work fast, don’t they?
Now hands down what I believe to be the BEST book jacket of the preview. That would be Revived by Cat Patrick. Patrick, if you’ll remember, wrote Forgotten (a book they called “Memento for teens”). In this story our heroine has participated in a secret drug testing program since she was four years old. That’s the year she was killed in a bus accident. Fortunately, thanks to the drug Revived, she was brought back. Officially an orphan at that point she was adopted by the scientists who saved her and has always been thankful and trusting ever since. Maybe too trusting since she’s a bit careless with her life. Daisy, you see, has died five times since that first accident (she’s allergic to bee stings). Then she starts discovering some strange secrets about her past. Was the bus accident not really an accident? When she makes friends with a kid with cancer she begins questioning other things as well. What does life mean if you cannot die? Alvina said this one reminded her of Lois Duncan’s books with their high concept ideas. A good alternative science fiction novel that doesn’t involve dystopias in any way, shape, or form.
And then we have . . .
The Storm Makers is written by an author who was in New Zealand during its relatively recent and massive earthquake. Little wonder that Jennifer E. Smith, who I believe was already writing this book at that time, penned the rest one-handed and added an earthquake scene. Smith’s a Random House editor and in her book two twins move to the country for the summer. When they see weird weather occurrences, they realize that they seem to be tied to the boy’s emotions. Turns out, he’s a Stormmaker and if he doesn’t get a handle on his emotions the results are going to be trouble. I just liked that each chapter heading included a picture of a barometer. Barometers = awesome.
No fantasy will be forthcoming from Jackson Pearce (Sisters Red, Sweetly, etc.) this season. Purity (no cover, sorry dudes) takes an entirely different track with the byline “A novel about love, loss, and sex – but not necessarily in that order.” In it a girl is told on her mother’s deathbed that she is to live her life without restraint. Taking that instruction to heart, she’s aware that in her small community there’s a kind of purity swearing ceremony coming up. So, by her logic, if she’s to fulfill her mother’s dying wish she’s going to have to loose her virginity before she takes the purity oath. For Sarah Dessen fans, this is a book about the very notion of what “purity” even is and what society expects from teen girls.
Jennifer Brown is back with her third novel and this time it’s called Perfect Escape. Best of all, her book supports my theory that 2012 is The Year of the Jackalope. In this book a girl and her OCD brother go on a road trip together. Because of her brother she has always felt overshadowed by his problems and has overcompensated by being “perfect”. Unfortunately that doesn’t stop her from getting wrapped up in a school cheating scandal. In the aftermath of this she decides to take a trip with her bro to “fix” him. The book examines road trips and family relationships. So what does this have to do with jackalopes? Well, one of the sights they see along the way is a jackalope statue. Awesome.
From there we do a dip over to . . .
Holly Hobbie flies in that odd space that is not quite below the radar but certainly not above it either. She’s sort of a modern day Beatrix Potter or Tasha Tudor, without the I’m-going-to-live-like-it’s-1822 part, of course. Her latest is Gem, a story about a little toad just trying to survive. When a girl finds our hero she takes him and then, ultimately, releases him as well. I identified immediately with this tale since as a child I too used to catch toads in my backyard. Sad to say I wasn’t particularly inclined to release them, but that’s all right. My four-year-old attempts to permanently hold on to such critters weren’t exactly stellar.
Switching gears almost as far as gears can be switched is the latest and greatest Chris Gall offering. I loved his Dear Fish. I cooed over There’s Nothing to do on Mars. And I thrilled to Dinotrux. Now, to my great delight, we have a sequel on our hands. Revenge of the Dinotrux reintroduces those caustic critters. When last seen they were just fossils in museums. Now they’ve bored of the on-display life and so they head out to do some destruction and world domination. That is, until the kid population finds ways to civilize them. They’re selling this one as a great readaloud and I, for one, am disinclined to doubt that.
While I’ll maintain that Revived is maybe the best cover of the preview, I’m seriously torn. That because the Johan Harstad novel 172 Hours on the Moon looks rather jaw-dropping.
Harstad’s a Norwegian so this was one of the rare Little, Brown import and translations going on this season. Consider this a potential boy book. In it, three teens win a worldwide lottery to go to a moon base with some adult astronauts. Two girls and one boy head up there and then something goes terribly wrong. The inside of the novel will contain documents, diagrams, and photos, which makes me think it might be a brilliant companion to 2012’s other odd media-heavy novel Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Dodrigo Corral. Andrea said the book reminded her of LOST, though to me it sounded a bit like that film Moon that came out a couple years ago. Still, it’s hard to resist when an editor tells you that this is, “the scariest book I’ve read in a long time.” One of those immersive reading experiences (see: Life As We Knew It). A better sell? Andrea said that anyone who reads this book has a story about reading it. Now THAT’s a selling point!
Naturally I wanted to check out the international covers.
And what I’m fairly certain are the hardcover and paperback versions of the original Norwegian book:
The National Book Award finalist Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi finally gets a partner in crime with this latest novel The Drowned Cities. In it, two war orphans live in a post-global warming world. These are new characters that you won’t find in the previous novel (though Tool from Ship Breaker does make a cameo appearance). Set in the DC/Baltimore area, roving bands of partisan militias walk the streets since the central government disintegrated. Meanwhile a girl loses her best friend to the world of child soldiers. Bacigalupi researched child soldiers extensively to get these elements right and the book seeks to look at the moral complexities of war. Another one for the boys then.
Up next its green dress, hip glasses, a high ponytail, and a fashion win:
First off, this isn’t the final cover for this next book, so reserve your opinions for the moment. Now here we have Cornelia Funke returning to what she does best (books for middle grade readers) with Ghost Knight. She apparently got the idea for the book on a trip to Salisbury, England. While there she went on a ghost tour and heard multiple tragic stories. Not content to leave it there, though, she next proceeded to speak to the kids of Salisbury. They gave her a tour of their own and told her many of their own ghost stories. The result is a story about a boy named John that is sent to a Salisbury school. While there, ghosts harass him because of the person he is descended from. Because these ghosts are bent on outright harm he must find some way to protect himself. So how do you fight a ghost? With another ghost! John is told to visit the ghost of a knight sworn to protect anyone in need. The book itself is actually on the younger end of the middle grade scale (more for 8 to 9-year-olds than 10 to 12-year-olds). Ibbotson-esque even.
I’ll say it. I’m not a fan of this next cover. Nope. Not a jot. I could be wrong but this just doesn’t seem to have the feel of a Kody Keplinger novel to it, yet a Keplinger title it remains. You remember Kody, yes? She’s that frighteningly young YA author who wrote The DUFF and Shut Out. She started her career when she was eighteen and now has reached the old and wise vantage point of . . . uh . . . twenty. In any case, this book stars a girl who was the child of a terrible divorce. She’s under the distinct impression that no one pays attention to her, so when her dad becomes engaged she sees this as the perfect opportunity to act out. Unfortunately, in doing so she fails to see how awesome her step-siblings really are. This is a book that shows how families come together. Don’t think this is a middle grade novel or anything, though. It’s upper end YA with a “Holden Caulfield-esque” protagonist.
Here’s another book that has more than one cover out there.
UK book jacket:
US book jacket:
Shortlisted for Children’s Book of the year at the Galaxy National Book Awards 2011, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is by Annabel Pitcher. It is also, apparently, a really hard book to describe because if you just say what the plot is, it gives the wrong impression. I’ll do it anyway. In this book 10-year-old Jamie’s sister Rose died years ago in a terrorist bombing. Her twin sister remains alive, their father is racist, and no one has really recovered. “Honesty you can cut with a knife.” Don’t be fooled by the young narrator, though. This is a YA novel through and through, comparable to The Book Thief since it works for a wide range of reader ages. And for Dr. Who fans, David Tennant read the audiobook version in the UK. Currently they’re trying to get that same audiobook over here in the States, so cross those fingers of yours firmly.
And last but not least there came . . .
2012 is shaping up to be a good poetry year. Nothing against 2011, but poetry books for kids were sparse and few. Yet already I’ve been seeing some really top notch poetical ideas and offerings in my previews. The latest of these is Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman (our reigning Children’s Poet Laureate), illustrated by Michael Emberley. You may remember that this dynamic duo have done the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series together. Well in this book Ms. Hoberman addresses a need that I was oblivious to. The Poetry Foundation charged her to find and revive something neglected. Her choice? Memorizing poetry. Remember back in the old days when kids had to memorize poems? My parents certainly had to do it, but today no one memorizes anymore. No one says not to do it, exactly, but no one’s pushing for it either. In this book Ms. Hoberman has selected and collected 120 poems in 145 pages. They start out pretty simple then get progressively more and more complex as the book goes on. Most are just for kids, but there are some poems in there that adults can try their hand at memorizing too. And some are as long as four pages! Megan, admittedly, was a bit skeptical about all this so she used her son as a test subject. Could he memorize Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky? He could! I’ll be adding this one to my collections, absolutely. And hey, if you doubt children’s abilities to memorize, behold! A three-year-old tackles “Litany” by Billy Collins:
Just had to throw that one in there.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For that matter, who the heck is calling Marc Brown an old dog? Me, I guess. I was just so surprised to see that the guy behind the ubiquitous Arthur titles was finally dipping his toe in the deadly waters of collage. He comes out all right for it, of course. In If All the Animals Came Inside by Eric Pinder, Brown uses cut paper collage as well as photos to give the book a tactile look (but not feel). Naturally, it would make sense to pair something like this with a craft program. As for the story, there’s rhyming text and fun sounds to it.
Finally, there was one last book. One lovely little last book. When they ask you where new picture book author/illustrators come from, you can say RISD. You can say Etsy. And now you can say art galleries too. Red Knit Cap Girl is by Naoko Stoop, a Japanese artist who was doing greeting cards in Brooklyn for a while. Megan Tingley was passing a gallery one day when she looked inside and saw art featuring this little girl in her red cap. She appears in a host of different paintings on wood and so naturally Ms. Tingley had to meet this woman. The productive result was this book. In it a little girl wants to meet the moon. But how do you go about meeting something as fantastic as the moon? Well, if you are quiet and still you can maybe get her to come to you. If you get a good look at the art here you’ll see that when Stoop paints on wood she uses the grain as part of her design. How Stefano Vitale of her, eh?
In fact, Ms. Stoop was our second special guest. An amazingly long human being (heightwise), Naoko had parents that wanted her to go to business school. So she worked in the marketing section of a big company for a while, but it really wasn’t her style. As she struggled with it she started to paint. After all, back when she was five her grandmother would remark that she never stopped drawing. Then she sort of forgot about it for a couple decades. Starting again in her mid-30s she started painting in Prospect Park. One day while doing so a gallery owner saw her and tapped her. This is a woman who is continually discovered, it seems.
As for her process, it’s interesting. She never assumed she’d show her art, and she appears to be largely self-taught. For a while there she’d get stuff off the street. She’d paint grocery bags. She takes broken furniture that no one wanted and paints that too. She’d even go to tough lumberyards and ask them to cut wood into small pieces. Mind you, the first time she asked them to do that “they were not nice” but it got better. She tends to do the backgrounds first and then use acrylic paints on top of that.
The red cap girl is sort of her standard. In the gallery you can see that the red cap girl goes on all kinds of adventures. Naoko, similarly, had to nurture that part of herself that always wanted to do those things. So the little girl is a kind of avatar for her creator. It’s a nice way to look at it anyway.
And that was that! The stats as they stand then.
“Dexter meets Silence of the Lambs.” – I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
“Little Miss Sunshine meets Paper Towns with a little bit of OCD.” – Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
Jackalope Count: One in Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
You know how I began this preview by mentioning that I like Little, Brown & Co. for their short list? Well there’s a reason for you guys to like ’em too, and it has nothing to do with the length of their list. Once again Victoria Stapleton has been kind enough offer you galleys of the novels mentioned here. Don’t ask for picture books since they haven’t any F&G’s to spare, but if there’s a novel here you’d like you can contact Victoria at LBYRGalleys@hbgusa.com and ask nicely for what you would like. Mind you, she cannot send to P.O. Boxes, no matter how cute those boxes may be. FYI.