When asked to cite the most popular up-and-coming trend in books for children and teens my answer for 2012 is always the same: Keep an eye on the twins and clones. Walk into any children’s room this year, throw a dart, and you’ll hit about twenty new books for kids that feature boy/girl twins, girl/girl twins, boy/boy twins, you name it. Walk into any teen room and it’s all about the cloning. Clearly kids today are being shown that two is always way more fun than one. Such an attitude also applies quite well to the picture book biographies I’ve seen this year. The duplication between disparate publishers happens from time to time, but 2012 has turned out to be a particularly clone heavy year. Observe the following:
Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang, ill. Floyd Cooper
An interesting choice all around. There’s no doubt in my mind that the simultaneous release of these two bios caught Boyds Mills Press and Albert Whitman completely by surprise. They’re both smaller independent publishers. Considering that 2012 was the year of the Olympics, it makes sense that these two authors would have looked about for a too little lauded admirable figure from the past. It’s just their own bad luck (or good, considering how you market them) that they hit on the same idea.
Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jesse Hartland
With 2012 being Julia Child’s 100th birthday, it’s more surprising that we ONLY see two biographies of her this year rather than it is only seeing just one. Two bios that are significantly different, I might add. While Harland takes an innovative stand, portraying the sheer detritus of the great woman’s life, Reich chose to follow in the footsteps of bios like Bambino and Mr. Twain by P.I. Maltbie and Daniel Miyares and concentrate on the woman via her feline. Approaching great figures through their pets isn’t unheard of, but it can pose problems unless there’s a story. Fortunately, Reich figured it out.
Baby Flo by Alan Schroeder, ill. Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Alice Coachman came out because of the Olympics and Julia Child because of her birthday. That I understand. What I can’t quite figure is why there were two Florence Mills books this year. Whence the impetus? While Schroeder concentrates squarely on Mills as a kid, Watson takes a more encompassing (and less cheery but more realistic) view in her title. These two bios look as different as different can be too.
Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Raul Colon
Of course there’s never any reason to wonder why two bios of Helen Keller are out in a given year. Talk about a popular subject! Helen, I dare say, was (aside from Anne Frank) the number one request I would get from kids when it came to biographies. They just could NOT get enough of Helen. Kids would read bios about her for pleasure. These two are also particularly strong, differing in terms of how much of her life they show.
That’s it for the duplicate bios I’ve seen (though you are free to tell me what I missed, if you like). There are dupes in the picture book and fiction world as well, but I’ll just leave you with the strangest of all of them. Here are two books so similar that you know their dual appearance could only be chalked up to bad luck. Bad, really really odd, luck.
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, ill. Paul O. Zelinsky