You’ve got your big-time fancy pants New York publishers on the one hand, and then you have your big-time fancy pants Boston publishers on the other. A perusal of Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard Marcus provides a pretty good explanation for why Boston is, in its way, a small children’s book enclave of its own. Within its borders you have publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Candlewick holding court. The only time I have ever been to Boston was when ALA last had a convention there. It was nice, though cold and there are duckling statues.
So it was that the good people of Candlewick came to New York to show off some of their finest Fall 2012 wares. Now the last time they came here they were hosted by SLJ. This time they secured space in the Bank Street College of Education. Better location, less good food (no cookies, but then I have the nutritional demands of a five-year-old child). We were given little signs on which to write our names. I took an extra long time on mine for what I can only assume was an attempt to “win” the write-your-name part of the day. After that, we were off!
First up, it’s our old friend and Caldecott Honor winner (I bet that never gets old for him) David Ezra Stein. The fellow’s been toiling away with his paints n’ such for years, so it’s little wonder he wanted to ratchet up his style a notch with something different. And “something different” is a pretty good explanation of what you’ll find with Because Amelia Smiled. This is sort of a take on the old nursery rhyme that talks about “For Want of a Nail”, except with a happy pay-it-forward kind of spin. Because a little girl smiles a woman remembers to send a care package. Because the care package is received someone else does something good. You get the picture. Stein actually wrote this book as a Senior in art school but has only gotten to writing it officially now. It’s sort of the literary opposite of Russell Hoban’s A Sorely Trying Day or Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC. As for the art itself, the author/illustrator has created a whole new form which he’s named Stein-lining. To create it you must apply crayons to wax paper and then turn it over. I don’t quite get the logistics but I’ll be interested in seeing the results. Finally, the book continues the massive trend of naming girls in works of children’s fiction “Amelia”. Between Amelia Bedelia, Amelia’s Notebook, and Amelia Rules I think the children’s literary populace is well-stocked in Amelias ah-plenty.
Next up, a title that may well earn the moniker of Most Anticipated Picture Book of the Fall 2012 Season. This Is Not My Hat isn’t a sequel to I Want My Hat Back, but it certainly exists in the same universe of hat-based morality tales. As you can see, the hero of this book is a small bowler-topped guppy who informs you from the get-go that this is not his hat. He stole it. He then proceeds to inform you that the hat’s owner will not notice its loss or even know whom to blame. As he tells us this, we see the hat’s real owner, and he is not exactly following the script laid out for him by our much mistaken hero. According to Sharon Hancock, who was presenting this book, author Jon Klassen went to Bologna this year and he was the hit of the season. It should be no surprise that other nations are enamored of his work. It has a rather international appeal as it is. And as Sharon said at the end, “Whether you were Team Bear or Team Rabbit, you will now be Team Fish.”
Personal anecdote time. When I was a kid, and this is true, I was obsessed with romance. Obsessed. If I colored in my coloring sheets then I constructed elaborate romances between the purple crayon and the gray one. If I was playing a game of cards by myself I’d have the kings and queen wrapped up in romances worthy of the most hellish soap opera. With all this in mind I know that I would have been a fan of Otter and Odder: A Love Story. Written by James Howe and illustrated by our current Caldecott Award winner Chris Raschka, the book is ostensibly about an otter that falls in love with a fish. “Impossible . . . I’m in love with my food source.” The moral of the story, such as there is one, may well be that love is not easy but even the most difficult romances can work if both parties are willing to commit to one another. It both looks and sounds like it’ll be quite droll and fun. Keep an eye peeled then.
I’m sure Peter H. Reynolds needs no introduction when you consider that his The Dot remains a nationwide hit. Heck, it apparently inspired International Dot Day. Personally, I’m more of an Ish fan. We used to play a lot of Weston Woods cartoons in my children’s room and Ish was one of those films I could play that wouldn’t bore the child audience and made the grown-ups feel good. If you remember Ish at all it’s about a boy who loses faith in his ability to draw when his older brother tells him that his art doesn’t look realistic. Now his little sister Marisol gets a book of her own with Sky Color. In this book she thinks that she does not have a paint color for her sky. That’s when she discovers that the sky is more than just plain blue. You can see every color of the palette there, if you just know when to look.
Random Fact Interjected: Between May 22nd and November 25th the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book ARt will be presenting a Lucy Cousins exhibit. Called Our Magical Cousins: The Magical Art of Maisy and Friends, the show will even sport a visit from Lucy Cousins herself (a British native) in September. As Liz Lemon would say, I want to go to there.
Next up, meet Gary Ross. He’s the guy who won’t be directing the next Hunger Games film. He did direct the first and for that he shall be lauded and praised to the end of his days. Of course, like every good director, what he really wants to do is to write for children. So it is that his first book Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind, illustrated by Matthew Myers, shall be hitting shelves in November or thereabouts. In this book a boy catches a ride on the wind with a bedsheet (a bit Little Prince, no?) and sees boarding schools, pirates, and more.
In other illustrated older reader news, artist Scott Nash has been around for years. Now he’s trying to follow in the footsteps of folks like Tony DiTerlizzi and Brian Selznick. Basically, he’s breaking out of his artistic sphere to write a novel. The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate takes two of Nash’s loves and mooshes them together: Robinson Crusoe + bird watching. Now you can have both! Featuring a loathsome piratical hero, grub that is actually grubs, and realistically rendered pirate birds, this middle grade title is a September release. Here’s some of the interior art:
And now you must forgive me for bragging but I received something at this point that was a real delight. I’ve mentioned on this blog before the fact that Laura Amy Schlitz has a new novel due out this fall. However, it was at this preview in particular that I was allowed a chance to get my own galley of the upcoming Splendors and Glooms. As we all know, Ms. Schlitz does not repeat herself when she writes a new book and this title (which they were calling Victorian Gothic) is best described by one of Ms. Schlitz’s students. When asked by another kid what the book was about he thought about it for a moment then replied, “It’s about a boy with nine fingers and a girl that gets kidnapped.” That’s just about the long and short of it, yep. In this story two orphans, working for a marionette master named Grisini, attend a fancy birthday party. The daughter of the rich household has requested the show for her birthday, but shortly after the performance she disappears. I confess to you that I have actually read this book already and if you’re looking for something dark and mysterious but with a good strong heart, this is the book for you. Plus that cover is by Bagram Ibatoulline. Lovely, no?
I don’t usually highlight YA but since this list was so small I suppose I’ll mention it. Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel by Gigi Amateau has a title that sets expectations with its cadences alone. A fictionalized biography of the man in question, the book interweaves original documents, highlighting a forgotten moment in history. To prepare, Ms. Amateau took a blacksmithing class. Expect a discussion guide to be included with the final book.
And now some zombies, Candlewick style (which is to say, classy zombies). The thing that folks tend to forget in the midst of the zombie genre is that at their heart they are essentially ridiculous. A zombie is a funny thing. How could it not be? Unless you’re dealing with some kind of superzombie (I’m opposed to superzombies in all forms) a zombie is a lurching, not particularly coordinated killer that is bad at its job. The Infects by Sean Beaudoin acknowledges the humor. When 17-year-old Nick’s job butchering chickens ends up with him accidentally stabbing his hand with a boning knife, he has no idea where that little act might lead. Soon thereafter he’s on a hiking trek with some other boys. Then their counselors are turned into zombies. To deal with the situation, Nick has a voice of reason in his head. Which is to say, Dwayne Johnson. Yep. Nick hears his advice in the form of The Rock. I’m actually a big Beaudoin fan ever since I read some of his fantastic high school noir novel You Killed Wesley Payne which ALL OF YOU should read. The man knows funny and now, apparently, he knows zombies too.
On the serious side comes Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie. When a man dies while serving in Iraq, his kid brother sets out to deliver a last letter to what he assumes is his brother’s hitherto unseen girlfriend. Imagine his shock then when he discovers that his bro wasn’t corresponding with a woman, but with a man instead. Suddenly everything he ever thought he knew about this particular family member is up in the air. E.M. Kokie did a great deal of research for the book. Set in 2007 it is now officially a work of historical fiction since they repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This book will be published right before the one year anniversary of that repeal, actually. Good timing.
The story behind October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard is so stunning in its way that when you hear that the book is by Leslea Newman it all makes perfect sense. I think many of us are familiar with Shepard’s story. How he went to a bar one night, left with some men, and was later found dead by their hands. As it happens, Shepard was involved in organizing the Coming Out Day celebration at his college. The proposed guest speaker at the event? Leslea Newman. Told in haikus, acrostics, and other poetic forms Newman incorporates quotes from real people and the true events into this work of fiction.
The Shepard book is young adult literature, but on a slightly young side comes Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport. This is a gorgeous work of nonfiction for ages 10 and up where Rappaport highlights a variety of different people who resisted in various ways. Honestly, on the children’s side of things we have very little on this particular topic. The book is divided into five different parts and will contain backmatter, pronunciation guides, maps and more.
TOON Books joined with Candlewick not all that long ago, so I was pleased to see them highlighting some of those books as well. Now Frank Viva got a lot of attention last year for his New York Times Best Illustrated book Along a Long Road. In A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse he’s written a Level One title based on his own actual trip to Antarctica. The book follows a man and a pet mouse that keeps asking when the two of them will be going home. They started tossing out terms like “retro-aesthetic” and “full bleed pages” but all I know is it looks purdy.
Two other graphic novels weren’t on the roster per say but since some mention was made of them I think they’re worth mentioning. The first of these was TOON book Maya Makes a Mess and it’s by Israeli artist Rutu Modan. Seen here:
The other book was the one I’d give my front eyeteeth to see for a longer period of time. Called The Secret of the Stone Frog, the book is by David Nytra and can only really be described in the context of those fabulous Little Nemo comics of yore. Do you like Little Nemo? Then you’ll have to take a gander at this. Though not drawn in color, the book is an impossibly detailed dreamscape in a small and tidy format. More as I learn it, but keep your eyes peeled for it now!
And that, as they say, is that. Thanks to Kaylan Adair, Jenny Choy, Sharon Hancock, and Leigh Stein for coming all the way to The Big Apple to show us what to expect. A banner year indeed.