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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Fall/Winter 2012)

Been a while since I indulged in one of these, right?  Well, those Top 100 polls threw me for a bit of a doozy and believe it or not I’m only catching up now.  Before I took a month and a half to post their results I had five or six librarian previews on the menu.  Fortunately August does not count as “fall” per say so I’m in the clear.  Woot!

I’ve mentioned in the past that when you get away from the biggest publishers into the realm of the smaller fellows you begin to detect distinct personalities.  Chronicle’s personality is that they’re the designy pub.  They walk the delicate balance between books you see in museum gift shops and books you actually would want to read.  This season we’re already seeing the reviews for their late 2012 stuff coming in, and things are looking good.  To wit:

Jeff Mack.  I like Jeff Mack.  Jeff Mack is back.  Okay, I’ll stop that.  You may know Mr. Mack (can we have him go on tour with Mac Barnett for a Mac & Mack roadshow, by the way?) best from his rather delightful Frog and Fly, which came out earlier this year with Philomel Books.  Here at Chronicle Mr. Mack has created Good News, Bad News.  Along the same lines as classics like Fortunately by Remy Charlip, the book follows a bright eyed, bushy tailed rabbit and his rightfully pessimistic mouse friend.  It only has around four words in it, but four is all you’ll need with this one.  It’s perky and has a starred review or two under its belt already.

Of course what it really reminded me of the most was this old Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs song Oh, That’s Good, No That’s Bad.


Weirdo animals are great.  Of course, if you’re going to write a book about them you need a better name than “weirdo animals”.  That’s where Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals comes in.  It’s written by Michael Hearst, but what sets it apart to a certain extent are the crazy images inside.  The artwork, diagrams, and other visuals were conjured up by the team of Arjen Noordeman, Christie Wright, and Jelmer Noordeman and stand apart.  They really catch the eye and don’t look a thing like the other animal books you have in your collection.  As for the text itself, I had no idea until now that there was an animal out there that poops cubes, did you?  At this particular preview it was Jennifer Hubert-Swan who pointed out that with that fact alone you could booktalk this book to kids with ease.  The author Michael Hearst actually makes much of his living as a composer and “multi-instrumentalist”.  Naturally, he made songs for this book.  Songs like this one here:

Love the headgear.

Now we’ve a little beauty that I’ve alluded to on this site briefly before but never so much that you could understand what I was talking about.  Korean illustrator Suzy Lee is well-known for doing innovative picture books.  Whether she’s messing with the gutter or the very act of turning a page, Lee’s the gal I constantly curse for not living in the States.  I would LOVE to see that women with a Caldecott in her possession.  Instead, I have to settle for just enjoying her marvelous books.  Chronicle paired Lee this time around with author Jesse Klausmeier for Open This Little Book.  It’s sort of a mind blowing title, one that conjures up the work of Bruno Munari more than anything else.  In this book you open it up to find a bit of a story and another book.  Which you open up to a bit of a story . . . and another book.  Because, you see, there are little books within little books within this book.  About the time you get to the eighth or so book, the story reverses and suddenly everything gets tied up again.  It’s rather meticulous and wonderful all at once.  I think ti was Judy Freeman who mentioned that it worked like a little Japanese puzzle box.  Whatever the case, get your hands on it when you’ve a chance, folks.

When my daughter was born I received many a thoughtful gift, but one of the most useful turned out to be a CD from Elizabeth Michell called You Are My Little Bird.  That music selection is a godsend.  Not only are a good chunk of the songs bird related (always a plus) but they can put the kiddo into a mildly catatonic state sometimes.  That’s a good thing.  On that CD there’s also a very young version of Bob Marley’s Every Little Thing that’s fun to listen to.  It might be fun to read/sing as well, since Cedella Marley has adapted that song into picture book form with the art of Vanessa Brantley-Newton.  Someday I want to do a Literary Salon panel at my library on the great self-taught illustrators of our age.  I’d include Ms. Brantley-Newton and Ms. Barbara McClintock and maybe some other folks.  Whatever the case, this is one cheery looking book.  I look forward to sing/reading it.

David LaRochelle is one of those sneaky children’s authors you never quite notice until at long last he’s acquired an impressive repertoire and you’re left gaping.  I don’t think I’d quite processed that the guy behind The Best Pet of All and The End also happened to be behind one of my favorite picture books of the season.  You see, he’s acquired some good illustrator karma.  Authors with good illustrator karma get paired up with some of the top artists in the field.  Case in point, It’s a Tiger.  I love this book, and that’s thanks in no small part to the art of Jeremy Tankard.  Tankard went a couple years without doing any picture books, but this year’s he’s back with the double whammy of Rachel Vail’s Piggy Bunny and LaRochelle’s tiger title.  In this excellent readaloud a cautious kid keeps running into a tiger wherever he goes, with hilarious results.  That’s all I’ll say for now (gotta leave something for the review) but I will say that we learned at this preview that Mr. LaRochelle is apparently a champion pumpkin carver.  I guess that explains this (how is he not illustrating his own books?).

Here are some other images from the book.

I say CORE and you say Curriculum!

CORE! [Curriculum]

CORE! [Curriculum]

That’s all anyone can talk about this year anyway.  2012 is the year of the CORE Curriculum and we librarians must scramble to help our teacher friends reach their curricular goals.  For those teachers that must cover rocks and minerals for the younger set, naturally you could grab the old Eyewitness or even a delightful Basher title, but if I might be so bold I’d like to suggest that you also consider the lastest Dianna Hutts Aston / Sylvia Long collaboration.  From the team that brought you An Egg Is Quiet, A Seed Is Sleepy, and A Butterfly Is Patient comes the delightful and gorgeous A Rock Is Lively.  Yes, it’s just as good as the previous books.  I showed it to a group of librarians recently and one reached for it actually saying, “I want to see how a rock can be lively.”  Boo-yah!

Oh, and there’s a new Ivy & Bean on the horizon.  Yup!  Ivy & Bean Make the Rules is out in October which may be a tad late since the plot is all about how the two girls decide to create their own summer camp.  It really doesn’t matter what the plot’s about, though, because I know for a fact that the Ivy & Bean fans of the world will glom onto this puppy like there’s no tomorrow.  Oh, how they love the Ivy.  How they love the Bean.  I rather love Annie Barrows’ bio for this book too.  “When she was a kid, Annie Barrows never once went to camp.  She never took any classes.  She never played a sport.  She wasn’t a Girl Scout.  What a weirdo.  She lives in Berkeley, California.”  Soulmate!

Would you like to know what the biggest trend of 2012 is?  I think I say what it is now without fear of repercussion, though it’ll take a while for me to gather the facts on the matter.  The long and the short of it, though, is that in the children’s book world the biggest trend is, without a doubt, twins.  There have been more books starring twins in 2012 than I’ve ever seen before.  Particularly boy/girl twins (the YA trend is cloning which, when you think about it, is eerily similar).  Into this trendy vibe steps The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes.  The book sort of feels like a Lemony Snicket novel, if Lemony were catty.  So we’ll just label this one a Catty Snicket.  It’s getting some nice reviews and Holmes was responsible for the world’s craziest edition of There Was an Old Lady a couple of years ago, so here’s one worth watching.

I wonder if the Choose Your Own Adventure series continues to be read and popular because of their outdated covers or in spite of them.  Whatever the case, when I see a series like The Worst-Case Scenario books, I can’t help but think that with their gorgeous layout they’re bound to be read by the kids.  The latest in the series is Deadly Seas which I believe will kill you off any number of interesting ways.  That’s why I read such books when I was a child, anyway.  To find all the interesting ways there were to die.  Fun!

Does anyone remember a crazy little book out a couple years ago called McFig & McFly by Henrik Drescher?  It was this kooky story about two neighbors who built up their houses to compete with one another, higher and higher and higher.  Drescher lives in Hong Kong, which couldn’t be much farther from the home of author Germano Zullo and artist Albertine (I love one-namers) in Switzerland.  Their book Sky High is somewhat similar if entirely different looking.  Basically it’s Yertle the Turtle meets David McCaulay.  It’s The Money Pit for kids.  It’s . . . okay, I’ll stop.  In any case, it’s a lovely looking little book.  Sort of an adult/kid crossover title.

Honestly, I wouldn’t normally mention Boo: Little Dog in the Big City by J.H. Lee, except that he’s currently my daughter’s best friend.  For her 1st birthday a friend gave her a stuffed Boo (not an actual stuffed Boo . . . that would be gross) and she adores it.  Me, I remember the Mr. Winkle days when folks claimed THAT animal as the world’s cutest.  I think Boo may have him beat, though.  Plus he has 2.5 million Facebook friends so this book will sell.  Oh yes it will.

So here’s a book we all need to know about now, since it’ll be out in February 2013 (and it’s never too soon to start talking about that).  When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders is by J. Patrick Lewis and features the art of R. Gregory Christie, Meilo So, Jim Burke, John Parra, and Tony Engel.  And if that weren’t cool enough the book is about a wide array of civil rights leaders for kids.  Sure, you have your usual Coretta Scott King / Gandhi / Nelson Mandela folks, but I was rather excited to see that the book also has poems for Ellison Onizuka, Sylvia Mendez, and even Harvey Milk!!  There are others too, so keep your eyes very very peeled.  This is the poetry book I’m most excited to get my hands on this season.

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes is one of those books that I just can’t judge one way or another.  It sort of erases my brain temporarily.  Basically, this is an adaptation of the folktale of how Ganesha wrote the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata.  I’m just sort of stunned by the art which overwhelms the senses.  So many colors . . . so many . . .

The nice thing about Seymour Simon is that for all that he’s prolific, his books are consistently good and, more to the point, they get checked out regularly.  But rather than cover the usual rote topics, this time Mr. Simon is going a slightly different route with his Seymour Simon’s Extreme Earth Records.  It’s a book of extremes, from deepest to coldest to crazy weather to plants and so much more.  Plus the photos.  Gotta love them photos.

Finally we come to a book that I remember seeing at SLJ’s Day of Dialog this year.  It was sitting on the Chronicle table next to the Candlewick table and A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats, and the Animals That Call Them Home (written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young) was almost directly next to Jon Klassen’s latest picture book This Is Not My Hat.  Visually, the two books complemented one another eerily well.  Of course the topics are very different.  Here, Ms. Singer has written about a variety of animals, and Young’s art (so different from his 2012 Little Brown book Nighttime Ninja) acts as a kind of alternative to Steve Jenkins.

That’s all she wrote, folks!  Sorry for the delay in the write-ups.  I’ll try to squeak a couple more fall in, though I’ve already been invited to two Spring 2013 previews thus far.  My days are numbered!

Thanks to Chronicle too for showing off their wares to me!

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Heather C. says:

    Thanks! Your previews always get me itching to order (and occasionally wishing I didn’t live in the hinterlands and could attend such cool things as publisher previews). I’m excited to see a Marilyn Singer/Ed Young collaboration. 🙂

  2. These look fantastic! I’m off to look at their entire catalog. I may have to order that Boo book. I know it would be very popular.

  3. Oh, I was so aware about wombats and their square poop. My teenage son found out a few years ago, and has never let me forget it. It IS a very cool feature. I wonder if this book explains how they pull it off…. never mind.

  4. Thank you for doing these previews. They’re fun to read and really useful too.

    I was excited to read how much you love “You are my little bird.” It came out when my twins were babies, and it pretty much represents their early years to me. I loved how Mitchell’s daughter’s voice in “Little Bird, Little Bird” would send them into fits of giggles, for some reason. I love to give it as a baby gift along with “All the World” by Scanlon.

  5. Genevieve says:

    I am a huge fan of the Elizabeth Mitchell albums. She’s also great in concert. (And I went to college with her and foolishly only once went to a Liz & Lisa concert, which was Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa Loeb, who hit it big with “Stay” a year after college.)

    Highly recommend her two earlier kids’ albums, You Are My Sunshine and You Are My Flower. Especially love her versions of Ladybug Picnic and 3 Is the Magic Number.

  6. Loved this roundup. Can’t wait to read Lewis’ and Singer’s poetry books, and LaRochelle’s pb, among others. David LaRochelle did start out as an illustrator. He illustrated several books, then wrote books that others illustrated, and I *think* he recently published or soon will the first picture book he’s both writing and illustrating. And besides the pumpking carving, he’s the nicest guy ever. Thanks for giving me a ton of books to add to my tbr list!

  7. So looking forward to getting A Rock is Lively for my junior geologist! David LaRochelle is soooo talented, Minnesota is lucky to have him! 🙂

  8. Hello Elizabeth,
    Thanks so much for the wonderful words about Every Little Thing! We are so very excited about this newest book with Cedella Marely. I certainly enjoyed illustrating it. I would LOVE to sit on your panel for self taught illustrators!!! That would be awesome. Just let me know he he he he! Thanks again. I just finished another wonderful book with Liz Garton Scanlon called, “Think Big” check it out when you have time. It’s a wonderful book. Thanks so much.
    Best to you,