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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Fall 2010)

I may have mentioned in the past that for the most recent librarian previews I’ve been taking my laptop along to type upon.  This is a useful strategy but it has yielded a strange result.  When I get home to type from my notes I find that rather than save me time, my notetaking skills require that I check and recheck every fact that I have scribbled down.  The end result isn’t much faster than if I simply jotted notes in the margins of my handouts.

All this is just a lame excuse on my part for the delay in this preview.

For those of you unfamiliar with these events, here is how they typically work.  At a Harper Collins Librarian Preview, librarians from the NYC city area (and outside as well, if they can come in) are invited to a morning where HC editors will discuss their upcoming season.  Typically, you have five tables around the room and the librarians spend approximately 25 minutes at each table. In the past when it was time to move on to the next editor, Mimi Kayden would ring an egg timer.  At this particular preview, however, the gentle ring of the timer was at least briefly exchanged for the unmistakable honk of a bicycle horn.

I was very good and collected lots of lovely books.  I then proceeded to lose every single one on my way home.  A subway-related loss?  Couldn’t tell you.  I have no memory of where they have ended up.  In any case, that was the sole blemish on a lovely day.

I know where my loyalties lie.*  So the first table I sat at absolutely had to be

Greenwillow Books

A word before we begin.  How amazing is the Greenwillow Books blog?  No, seriously.  How do they do it?  I’m aware of fun children’s publishing blogs.  There are lots of them out there.  But Under the Green Willow is different.  It has an actual personality, for one thing.  And the guest pieces by some of their authors are always delightful.  I’ve had to make it my regular reading as a result.  In fact, at this particular preview there was some debate as to whether or not their Trivia Contest was too difficult (it was, but there were still two winners).

Virginia Duncan and Steve Geck (a.k.a. my editor) were on hand for the first round of tabling.  And we’re off!

You know what Greenwillow loves?  Peggy Parish.  She’s dead, but they just love her to pieces.  They’re mighty fond of her son Herman Parish as well, come to think of it.  And since Herman is writing new Amelia Bedelia books of young Amelia in a picture book style, they like everything about that.  The books have covered the usual topics thus far like the first day of school and Valentine’s Day.  The newest one gets a little different, however, with Amelia Bedelia’s First Apple Pie.  Now each fall in my library I get a slew of parents looking for good autumnal topics and “apple picking” is right there alongside “growing a pumpkin”.  This particular book goes so far as to list the names of different apples within the text, which is cool.  Of course, this being Amelia Bedelia, queen of the literal, the names of apples are paired with pictures of what they might look if they really were “Winter Bananas” or “Black Twigs” or “Greensleeves”. These books might fare well if they followed the path trod by Fancy Nancy.  The fact that the easy reader Fancy Nancy books have started covering topics like poetry and poison ivy has really been a boon to librarians and teachers.  If Amelia follows suit, it could gain a wider following.

Along the same lines, Steve and Virginia directed our attention to this YouTube clip of some boys reenacting Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia.  The boy playing Amelia in full black tights and a maid outfit, is magnificent.

Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson was next on the menu.  Essentially, Fletcher meets winter again.  I say that because I consider the first Fletcher book (Fletcher and the Falling Leaves) to be winter-based.  This makes very little sense since the entire point of that book was to talk about falling leaves.  But the last image in the story was so nice and wintery that I admit to being a little surprised when I saw the title of this newest.  In the story, Christmas is coming, and a family rabbits has moved out of their burrow.  Fletcher notices this and becomes worried that Santa won’t be able to find them.  He leaves a trail of little stick arrows to their new home, but is chagrined when the snow covers his work.  In the end, Santa manages to find the rabbits anyway.  They’re selling this as a good book for kids who have moved and are concerned about Santa locating them in their new home.

Fun fact about artist Tomaso Milian (illustrator of the upcoming Friends (Mostly) by Barbara Joosse).  His father is the great Cuban born Italian character actor Tomas Milian.  This title marks Tomaso’s debut on the picture book scene (he’s normally a designer).  The story pretty much just revolves around a boy and a girl who are friends (mostly).  They’re close but sometimes they don’t get along perfectly.  If you’re curious about the book, you can see a load of Milian’s work on it here.  I was partial to these spreads myself:

I believe that back in 2005 Ginger Foglesong Guy put out the picture book Siesta with illustrations by Rene King Moreno.  This brings up an interesting point.  Throughout this preview, as well as previous Harper Collins previews, I’ve been impressed by the fact that they always have at least seven titles starring Hispanic kids or written in both English and Spanish or written and illustrated by Hispanic authors and illustrators.  No other publisher I can name is quite as consistent in terms of Hispanic-American content.  I certainly hope they keep it up too, since there’s a real need out there for books that apply to the Spanish speaking librarian patrons.  Now Ms. Guy and Mr. Moreno have returned for Bravo!, another book with big simple words.  This type of format will prove to be perfect for very young kids who are growing up in bilingual homes or have parents teaching them two languages at once.  I liked how simple the text was and how large they made the font size.  This is what parents are constantly looking for, you know.  Ms. Guy has an education degree, which may explain why she has so expertly zeroed in on this need in our schools and libraries.

Take a trip with me now, back in time.  It’s 1986.  The record of the year is “We Are the World”.  The Nintendo first hits American shores.  And over at Macmillan, Donald Crews produces a picture book called Ten Black Dots.  As Steve Geck says of it today, “It’s perfect.”  So perfect, in fact, that it has never left the library systems of the country.  Twenty-four years later it is being rereleased in board book form.  The fact that it has never been in a board book format until now is downright peculiar, but there you go.  Something to look for then.

I’m a funny Kate Thompson fan.  On the one hand I was blase about her work on The New Policeman.  On the other, I just couldn’t get enough of last year’s magnificent Highway Robbery.  Now she’s followed up Highway Robbery with the title called Most Wanted and the premise is sublime.  You may remember hearing from your world history classes that during the time of Caligula he placed his horse in the Senate?  Well, this is the story of a boy and that very horse.  In fact it opens with a chase sequence right at the start of the book.  Once again Jonny Duddle has done the interior illustrations.  I like comparing and contrasting the covers too:

Thompson’s other novel coming out is a companion to the aforementioned The New Policeman.  Called The White Horse Trick, the tone is apparently very different from the first.  This particular book has a dystopian (climate control) bent, and that futuristic society is breaching into the fairy world.  The book reminded Steve of Incarceron, which I thought was an interesting comparison.  It also says something nice about Incarceron, for that matter.  You always know a book is doing well if editors compare it to the books on their lists.

Wildwing by Emily Whitman is by the same author who wrote Radiant Darkness, the Persephone myth YA novel.  In this book a girl living in a post-WWI village has been born out of wedlock and works as a maid.  She soon finds a time machine and is whisked back to medieval times.  While there, she has to decide where she belongs.  Folks at my table found it particularly interesting that a time travel story wouldn’t begin in the present day. We were also assured that the title is very romantic as well.

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur is YA and up, it seems.  The first in a sequence, the book is written by two women who graduated from Harvard in 2008.  They started working on the manuscript as students.  As for the story itself, it was described as a highly entertaining title about Harvard friends and how they grow up.  In it, a West coaster is dropped into a East coaster world.  Other descriptions were made of it, but I was distracted by a mention made of the fact that Lauren Kunze designs robots in her spare time.  A robot designer?  Dude, write me a book about that!  It is a fantastic thing to know.

Those of you who harbor Joseph Delaney fans in your midst will be as pleased as I was to see the new Last Apprentice book on the horizon.  Rise of the Huntress is the newest one and in it all the characters are coming together and there’s a new villain.  In brief: “Quite a frightening Witch.”  And just look at the gorgeous cover:

Then came the fun part.  Sometimes Greenwillow gets so excited about their upcoming books that decide to throw caution to the wind and show us some titles from their Spring 2011 season.  Nobody objected to this in the least.  I don’t have images, alas, because these books weren’t included in the handy dandy PowerPoint presentation.  You will simply have to tuck away some of the knowledge for your own future use.

In Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes uses the same kind of color scheme he’s been showing in books like My Garden and Old Bear.  Due out in February, this book is a kind of Runaway Bunny-type tale but significantly less creepy.  And if anyone can draw bunnies, it’s Henkes.  Funny he hasn’t done that many of them before.

After him, Michael Hall (who came out with the lovely My Heart is Like a Zoo) does Perfect Square.  Here are my notes after having seen it: “Oo.  Rothko-esque.”  The story is about a square that finds itself changed into different shapes.  Think of this as a shape-based story not too different from Leo Lionni’s Little Blue and Little Yellow.  Hall makes a great deal of use out of cuttings and pencil lines.  It’s a beautiful array of different styles.  To my mind, this is a book to keep an eye open for.  The writing is good, the colors amazing, Hall painted his own papers for it, and at last I am allowed to say of someone, “This artist is a Leo Lionni for the 21st Century.”

In designer Daniel Roode I see a kind of American Marc Boutavant (who I wish would publish more) though Greenwillow compared him more to Tad Hills.  However you want to categorize him, Roode is coming out in the spring with Little Bea starring a little light bulb shaped bee.  The stories are very short and accessible.  If their rights aren’t snapped up by some kind of Noggin-based television programming in the next few years I shall devour with relish my proverbial hat.

Few illustrators of modest stature garner quite as many coos from folks familiar with her work than artist Jackie Urbanovic.  You’ve probably seen her Duck book series at some point in your travels, and if you have then you’re probably a fan.  In If You’re Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre, Jackie has taken on the illustrations, making for a nice pairing.  The book itself is a take on the old If You’re Happy and You Know It song.  Which is to say, one of my storytime staples.  I am giving thanks for the potential existence of this book because I know that I, for one, desperately need a new toddler storytime book that I can sing.  But the real reason to buy it?  There appears to be a blue-footed booby is on the back cover.  I’m a huge blue-footed booby fan.  And where is THEIR picture book, I ask you?  That’s it.  Dibs.  I’m writing that.  Dunno how I’d possibly sell it to the American market but . . .


Next table! Katherine Tegen, Anne Hoppe, Margaret Anastas, and Robin Klonsky.

Anne Hoppe is excited about a book.  She is excited by YouYou is by Charles Benoit.  You appears to have . . . wait let me count (one, two, three . . .) .  . . yes.  There are nineteen blurbs in this book for this book.  Nineteen quotes that have been broken down and placed on the cover of the galley.  Quotes that invoke A Separate Peace and The Rag and Bone Shop.  I’m sitting at this table and Anne is practically shaking with a need to talk about this book.  Says she, it was the most harrowing manuscript she’s ever read and is now the most important novel she’s ever published.  The plot?  In brief, it’s about the small choices a slacker does and does not make that lead to his destruction.  While reading the book you are with this kid and understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.  But at the same time you’re given just enough objectivity to say, “Dude.  Really?”  Says Anne, sympathy and objectivity come together in an amazing way here.  The opening is also fantastic, which she read aloud to us and which, I will very briefly, write for you here:

“You’re surprised at all the blood.  He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt.  He’s surprised too.”

That’s right.  It’s written in the second person.  When was the last time you saw anyone do that with any seriousness?  If his name doesn’t sound familiar to you, Charles Benoit is perhaps best known at this moment in time for having written three adult mysteries.  This will mark his first book for teens.  One can take some comfort in knowing that the man taught high school for 15 years.  From this Charles says that’s it’s easy to forget that we spend our teen years being afraid.  Of this hero, “At one point in your life, he was you.”  We discussed the age of the right reader, and this is definitely YA.  It would take a strong 7th grader to read it. It’s dark.  The language is clean.  Said one 8th grader about the title, it got into her head and messed with her… and that’s what she liked.  So.  Something to keep an eye peeled for then.

Which brings us to Splat the Cat.  I’m sorry, was that a harsh transition?  Well no matter!  Maria Modugno started talking about Rob Scotton, an author/illustrator that I’ve always enjoyed.  Scaredy-Cat Splat! marks the third Splat book and will fit in nicely into the newest Halloween season.  Some discussion was made of how Mr. Scotton tends to do the art on these.  All the books are begun as storyboards drawn by hand.  Then Rob transfers them to the computer where he creates a special set of tools for each of his characters.  In his studio they say things like “Splat Fur” and there’s the computer piece that he uses to get that distinctive furry effect you see in the books.  Fun Fact: Mr. Scotton is so adept with these programs that Apple sends him their latest drawing programs to test out.  He’s just that good.

Katherine Tegen was up next to talk about her two big tween novels.  Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry is a book that started its life as a New York Times article.  And now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can show it to you.  The piece was called Mystery on Fifth Avenue.  A wealthy couple bought an apartment in 2003 and then embedded a mystery into it for their kids to solve.  The architect, Eric Clough, helped them to do it with ideas that “derive more from Buckminster Fuller than Peter Marino.”  After the article came out, Katherine called the mother, Maureen Sherry, up about it and they talked.  Katherine wasn’t the only one, of course.  Lots of publishers called up Ms. Sherry with much the same idea. Heck,  J.J. Abrams had even approached her about making a movie about the apartment.  But what Ms. Sherry really wanted to do was a children’s book, not an adult book, which brings us up to speed.  The final product is not the exact story of her apartment, but it’s a similar take.  In a Pre-War apartment some kids find a book hidden behind the walls.  They exchange that tome for another book by a long dead fellow who once devised a mystery for his children to solve.  The problem?  His children never found this hidden book.  So the kids in the book decide to find the fortune.

The Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant is a little different.  Mr. Grant is right now probably best known for his YA Gone series.  All I know is that when I read the number twelve these days I instantly think of Greek gods (probably because of the similarly titled The Mighty Twelve).  As it happens, this book has nothing to do with Greek myths (though I’m sure the publisher wouldn’t mind too terribly if it lured in a couple Percy Jackson fans).  Apparently Mr. Grant wanted to do a contemporary funny fantasy.  Say what you will about the Gone books, they ain’t exactly a chucklefest.  So we find ourselves learning about a kid named Mack who one day encounters an ancient creature in the boy’s bathroom.  Mack is told he’s one of the Magnificent 12 and he must assemble the other twelve-year-olds out there to fight a big bad who is coming.  The final description of the book: Monty Python-esque.  Oh, this I gotta see.  Plus it kind of matches a trend 100 Scopes Notes is calling It’s Gettin’ Dusty.

Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis should be out right now (or, at the very least, in a few days).  This pleases me.  I love the work of Ms. Portis, but I’ve been routinely miffed when her books end up sporting December 26th release dates.  Not the case here!  In a this title Portis departs from her previous books a little to bring us a very realistic tale of Kindergarten.  I should mention that my little niece finds her Not a Box just hilarious.  And when I told her about its sequel, Not a Stick, she found that a laugh riot.  Couldn’t believe it was a real book.  I’ll have to buy it for her and prove it to her soon.

And now . . . the moment I know that some of you have been waiting for . . . yes the rumors are true . . .

There’s a new Wee Free Men!!!

It’s true.  Terry Pratchett’s  I Shall Wear Midnight will be the book in which Tiffany finds her way.  She’s been studying to be a witch in all her previous books and now she’s on her own.  She’s the witch of The Chalk, which is to say, she needs to find out how to be a witch for her people.  The danger is that someone is agitating against witches and the powerful women who know secrets.  Someone wants Tiffany dead.  Yet if she fails, the Chalk will go to hell. Fortunately The Wee Free Men are standing by to lend her a hand.  I still miss the Chris Gall covers of yore, but in spite of that I will make a point of reading this the minute I get my hot little hands around it.

History time.  In 1996, The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, illustrated Stephen Taylor, came out.  That was fine, but times change.  These days, the book needs a fresher look, which it shall receive quite soon.  Much along the same lines,  L’il Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans is on the menu too.  Which got me to thinking: Has there ever been a Kwanzaa book with animals celebrating, rather than humans?  If not, why not?   In this particular story, a little rabbit wants to do something special for his grandma at Kwanzaa.

For my part, any year with a new Yuyi Morales book out is a good year.  Floating on Mama’s Song is by Laura Lacamara and merely illustrated by Yuyi Morales, but that’s enough for me.  You know, ever year around Mother’s Day I pull out Ms. Morales’ book Little Night and every year it goes like hotcakes.  If this also sports a motherly theme I’ll be able to pair the two together.  Bonus!

The animators are still out in full force with Which Way to Witch School by Scott Santoro, a debut author/illustrator.  A TV/ film animator by trade, this book presents a fun rhyming text about a school for witches in a picture book format.  Sounds like a Halloween selection if ever I heard of one.


Now starring Alessandra Blazer, Donna Bray, and Kristin Daly

If any of you readers attended Book Expo last month then the fact that the Mo Willems title Knuffle Bunny Free is coming out to complete the trilogy will leave you unsurprised.  For the rest of you, I was as amazed as you might be to hear it.  Not that I didn’t think Mo had another Knuffle Bunny in him.  Books based on family stories are the gifts that keep on giving.  That said, I never really realized that these books were a trilogy of sorts.  And when introducing this book, the ladies at the table said in no uncertain terms, “This will be a five hanky presentation.”

I’ll just explain the whole thing here to you now.  Feel free to skip this if you want to be surprised by the book on a first reading.  Described as the ultimate love letter from Mo to Trixie, the story talks about the moment when a child has to let its favorite toy/blanket/what-have-you go.  Mo is Dutch so in the story Trixie and her family are going to Holland to visit Oma and Opa.  This allows Mo to play with various airport inconveniences, like going through the X-ray machine (and getting special permissions to take photographs of them for this book was no walk in the park).  En route, you guessed it.  They lose Knuffle Bunny again.  By this point, Trixie doesn’t even have to say anything.  Her silence contains multitudes. Yet after a stunning gatefold/dreamsequence of the bunny going all over the world and meeting other kids, Trixie finds peace.  On the way back home on a plane ride, a kid cries behind them.  And that’s when Trixie looks in the seat pocket ahead of her and finds Knuffle Bunny again! [Note: A fellow librarian found this mighty convenient for the story, but I pointed out that the way airplanes “clean” themselves these days, that detail struck me as the most realistic in the whole darn book].  Finally, in a moment of grace, Trixie gives the baby behind her Knuffle Bunny.  About here the editors started to tear up a bit.  Because, you see, the book ends with Mo writing a letter to Trixie about what her life is going to be like someday when she grows up and has a family and finds a knuffle bunny for her own baby.  Sniff sniff sniff.

All right, all right.  Enough of that.  Let’s talk something a little more Cronin-ish.  Something like Rescue Bunnies by Doreen Cronin, ill. Scott Menchin would fit the bill.  Fun fact about Doreen: Her father was a police officer growing up.  So this is a book with a personal connection for her that tells kids the ultimate comforting fact; That in the case of an emergency, someone will come.  The plot follows Newbie, a first-time rescue bunny.  She goes through training (“in her little Richard Simmons outfit”).  There’s a bit of Richard Scarry to these scenes too.  Then comes the moment of truth.  A giraffe is sinking in a mud hole and Newbie must help to save her.  Expect, Rescue Bunnies Underwater to be the sequel at some point in the distant future.

My discussion of All the Things I Love About You by LeUyen Pham could easily be retitled to say All the Things I Love About LeUyen Pham instead.  I just love that woman’s work.  Normally I don’t go in for authors that can “do cute”, if you get my drift.  Cute is hard.  It isn’t all slapping gigantic eyes on mobile fur, after all.  But Pham’s cute images just slay me.  Now normally she doesn’t do many of her own books.  Big Sister, Little Sister was written by her, but aside from that she’s comfortable lending her lines to other authors.  I suppose she’s the kind of person who needs some inspiration, and that inspiration came recently in the form of Pham’s son Leo.  The book is a love letter from a mother to her child.  Ms. Bray made a very good point about such books, mentioning that generally books on that topic are written for the parent and not the kid.  Certainly, I would say that Love You Forever would be a brilliant example of this.  This book, in contrast, is one is for a child and parent to share.  Chalk it up as an addition to the “sweet and funny” category.

What’s the hot new trend for 2010?  One word: Sauropods.  No, honest.  I think I’ve seen three picture books this year that include them in some manner.  Now to that crew we can add I’m Big by Kate and Jim McMullan.  If you’re familiar with their previous books I’m Dirty, I’m Stinky, and (the one that’s the closest to this in terms of content) I’m Bad then you’ll get the gist of this as well.  The book stars a super-sorry Sauropod that discovers that his pack has left him.  An enterprising sort, he sets out to find them only to discover that he is the center of the local predators’ attention.  To escape he has to “think big”.  Spoiler alert, it works and he is reunited with his pack.  Happy day.

I try to think of picture books that discuss parents going through cancer regimens (feel free to inform me in the comment section here what some possibilities might be) and I come up short.  I can name you books like Raschka’s The Purple Balloon but it is hardly the same thing.  Julie Aigner Clark, the founder of Baby Einstein, has penned the book You Are the Best Medicine with illustrations by one Jana Christy.  Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time so she knows from whence she speaks in this book.  Essentially it’s a title that talks about the different ways parents handle cancer treatments, don in a gentle way.  Said B&B of it, it’s a niche book, certainly.  “Unfortunately it’s a pretty big niche of young women who have children who are going through this.”  Sales of this book will go to breast cancer research.

This one’s fun.  About a year and a half ago a lovely young German and his wife Lenore stopped by my children’s room.  I was told that he had recently illustrated a picture book that would be coming out with Harper Collins in the future.  I merrily had him sign The Guest Book (I keep a book handy for whenever a children’s author or illustrator happens to waltz into my room) and then promptly forgot about his book.  Until now.  Audrey Vernick has written and Daniel Jennewein (the lovely young German I alluded to) has illustrated, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? The book takes a buffalo through a day in the life of a kindergartner.  Snack time, recess, etc.  I love the expression on the buffalo’s face.  See eager.  So adorable.  Note that the second book, Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums will be coming out in the future as well.  My sole problem with all of this?  Well, the first book requires children’s librarians to know how to spell both the word “Buffalo” and the word “Kindergarten” in order to look it up in our online catalogs.  I, personally, have a hard time with both words.  Shhh.  Don’t tell anyone!

I’ve been waiting for a while for Don Tate.  Not that he hasn’t done some fine and fancy picture books in his life.  An illustrator by trade, Don was one of the first artist bloggers I remember encountering online when this blog was a mere A Fuse #1 Production (<—- Note: Not true).  Now I feel like he’s finally been handed something to show off his talents.  To really allow him to shine.  She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story is written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by, you got it, Don Tate.  And due to the fact that I know absolutely nothing about Effa Manley (the cover suggests some kind of historical baseball connection) I’ll be reading this one soon.

I recently posted my Halfway Mark Caldecott/Newbery predictions for fun, and asked my readers to tell me what had caught their eyes this year.  Lots of good suggestions rolled in, but one from Stacy caught my eye in particular.  “Just read and loved WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET, by Springstubb. It’s got the feel to it.”  Interesting.  The book in question is by Tricia Springstubb, and Stacy is not the first person I’ve encountered to give it some loving.   All descriptions I have here in my notes regarding it are vague though.  I’ve written things like, “A girl goes through change in her neighborhood,” and “The community and the neighborhood play a strong role”, and “Read THIS”.  Well…. if I say so.

BEA the other week was great.  I have only one regret.  Apparently there was a fantastic presentation of the Guys Read: Funny Business crew.  You know the blokes, right?  Here, this’ll jog your memory:

Guys Read: Funny Business is a collection of funny short stories by Jon Scieszka and friends.  I love that Adam Rex cover too.  And according to B&B, “Every single one of these is a home run.”  Maybe reading it will cool the regret I feel over not having seen some of its creators doing their shtick on the stage.

In an era of Zombies Vs. Unicorns, it seems appropriate that Diana Peterfreund’s killer unicorn book Rampant should get itself a sequel.  Ascendant keeps up the fast pace of its predecessor and Peterfreund has been studying unicorn legends from around the world extensively for these books.  Personally, I think Harper Collins is losing a huge opportunity with these covers.  If you put a big, ugly, slavering unicorn with blood dripping from its mouth on the jacket, those copies will sell sell sell faster than you can print them up.  Oh, and for those of you wondering what else Ms. Peterfreund has up her sleeve, I have five words for you: Post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion.

Speaking of which, we’ve been a little bereft of dystopias today, haven’t we?  Time to change that.  The Unidentified by Rae Mariz is much in the same vein as Feed.  In this story kids go to school in shopping malls called The Game.  As they do so, corporate sponsors watch and encourage them.  When a shocking anti-corporate prank occurs it opens our heroine’s eyes to the problems with the world around her.

Double back now so that we’re in the past rather than the creepy future.  Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill is a fictionalized verse novel of the Salem Witch Trials.  It attempts to give a little context to the girls’ unsympathetic decisions.  That said, oh fans of The Crucible, the behavior, dynamic, and power struggles are essentially still the same.  Plus it has two starred reviews already.  Not too shabby.


And now for something completely different.  So I’m paging through my New Yorker the other day and it’s the fiction edition.  That’s fine.  It’s one of the few ways I feel like I can read adult fiction these days anyway.  Of course it’s chock full of ads as well and one of the ads is for Harper Collins.  At the top, there’s also a large section dedicated to Inkpop.  Or, as they call it “The Online Community of Rising in Teen Lit.”

I don’t deal in teen stuff, but while I was off planting begonias, Inkpop was getting itself 54, 388 monthly unique visitors, 3.8 million page views, 25k registered members, and 24, 325 manuscripts.  And that’s just from existing for six months.  It’s a site for teens that like to write.  Motto #2 says, “Get Read. Get Noticed. Get Published.”  This may all sound like the electronic equivalent of a slush pile, and you wouldn’t be too far off but HC wanted to say that it’s as much a social community as it is a writing site.

Now interestingly enough they don’t blast the HC logo all over the site, but that’s what distinguishes this site from similar ones out there.  They’ve also created “A space for teens to upload and share their writing” in a space monitored by HC where fellow teens can vote on their favorites.  Then each month the top 5 projects that are displayed on the most members’ shelves receive feedback from Harper editors and are featured across the site.  YA Authors also contribute by providing writing tips.

I suppose the hope of every teen that submits their work to this site is that some Harper Collins editor will become so impressed by their work that they decide to make that kid the next Christopher Paolini.  All this reminds me of nothing so much as Trigger Street.  Like Inkpop, Trigger Street asks aspiring screenwriters to submit their screenplays for public consumption.  The hope behind Trigger Street has also always been that some big studio will want to buy up the top scripts.  Regardless of what teens hope to get from the site, hopefully it will act as a conduit for those who don’t have access to writing programs wherever it is they may live.  It may end up doing a lot of good.

On to the next table!  Here we find ourselves in the presence of Phoebe Yeh, Sarah Sevier, and Erica Sussman filling in for Tara Weikum

Yet another animator makes the crossover to the world of PBs.  This time it’s Peter Hannan, who is probably best known for the Cat/Dog television show from days of yore (my algorithm is that 10+ years ago = days of yore).  In The Greatest Snowman in the World, Charles Chinchilla sets out to create the greatest snowman of all time.  And with his friends by his side, they are able to make . . . the worst.  So they try to fix the old snowman up.  They do so well, in fact, that the final product is awesome.  However, the weather appears to be getting warmer and warmer and when the head falls off suddenly it’s Operation Save the Snowman.  Reading descriptions of picture books, I usually get distracted by tiny details.  Here’s the detail that distracted me this time: Why can’t I think of any other chinchilla heroes in picture books?  Is it the odd spelling?  Why have we been wandering through the dark night of a chinchilla picture book-less world until now?  WHY???

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters has a fun little premise.  In this tale a girl discovers her music teacher is a former rock star.  When this fact goes public the whole school goes rock crazy.  However there may be even more to Ms. Finkleman than even mere fame and fortune.  The book was mentioned in the same breath as titles from Gordon Korman or Andrew Clements.  It’s that level of accessibility.  If the author’s name looks familiar that may be because he’s the bloke behind the recently released Android Karenina and last year’s Sense & Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  Actually, Winters teaches creative writing in some Manhattan elementary schools.  Which means he’s local.  Which means I should find a use for this fellow.  And it’s definitely middle grade, but there are a lot of books out this year containing rock stars that aren’t the main characters but deeply affect their lives.  Jane by April Lindner.  True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know) by Jimmy Gownley.  Trend!

The paperback editions of Bear Walker by Bruchac and Louis Erdrich’s Porcupine Year were mentioned at this point.  That reminded me of a happy and recent occurrence.  The other day a dad came into my branch and said, “My son just loves the Little House books.  Do you have anything just like them?”  He might have been a little shocked at how quickly I sprinted across the room to hand him The Birchbark House, but my gratification was complete when he came in a week or so later to say they’d loved it and wanted the sequels.  Sweet librarian satisfaction was mine!.  At the preview we learned that Ms. Erdrich is currently writing the next three in the series, which will be about Omakayas’s son.  Alas, no date scheduled for the first of these three quite yet.  However, when the full series is done it will have covered 100 years in the lives of a single family.  So epic!  What other children’s series have done something similar?

Repackaging info time.  Fans of Two Dangerous Girls and Dangerous Girls: Taste of Night will be interested to learn that they’re being put together and sold as the title Bitten by R.L. Stine.  Francesca Lia Block, meanwhile, is getting a repackaging on her Dangerous Angels.  She’s been getting some pretty darn good covers lately.  The Frenzy will be her newest book, however.  If Pretty Dead was her vampire novel, The Frenzy covers some werewolf territory.  And I am pleased to see that Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes has already included it in his Blatant Barrette Banning post.

Sometimes you read a fake name and you have a real moment of wondering, “Is that real?”  Other times it’s blatantly obvious that you’re dealing with a pen name, partly because you wish you thought of it yourself.  I’m thinking of your Lemony Snickets.  Your Violet Haberdashers.  Your Pittacus Lores.  The last one may be unfamiliar to you since he is the author of the upcoming, I Am Number Four.  It’s the first in a “gripping action packed” series in which six alien teachers on earth deal with a force determined to destroy them.  It was said that you don’t need to be a sci-fi fan for this one.  Whatever the case, apparently Spielberg is filming it, and it’s slated for release 2011.  So I think to myself, “Huh.  That’s strange.  Must be some kinda big author for it to have gotten this far.”  So I look it up on IMDB.  Oh, babies.  You have no idea.

They didn’t describe Paranormalcy by Kiersten White this way (in fact this preview was sadly bereft of many good “meets”) but if I were personally to describe the book I might call it Buffy meets Men in Black.  And yes, I’m aware that that sounds like Buffy, Season Four, but bear with me here.  In this book our heroine Evie starts us off by tasing a vampire in a graveyard.  She has visions that allow her to be part of the International Paranormal Containment Agency.  Actually, the word “containment” makes me think of Ghostbusters.  Anywho, Kiersten blogs every day, so she has a large following.  Blogs every day?  Crazy talk!

My sole question when I heard about Romeo and Juliet and Vampires by Claudia Gabel?  Prose or verse?  Answer: Prose.  In this book Juliet is a vampire to be and Romeo hunts vampires.  The cover is very reminiscent of the Little Vampire Women one.  They are not afraid of blood on these books.

Now it was a little bit unclear to me whether or not Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson could technically be called a sequel to her previous book Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter.  The general impression I received is that this is a companion novel rather than a straight out sequel.  I found the cover very interesting in any case since they’ve decided to go with a photo.  That leads me to wonder whether or not they’ll be repackaging her first novel as well to match.  Couldn’t hurt, eh?  Couldn’t hurt at all.

A good way to indicate that your story takes place in the future?  Put the letter “Z” in the title.  Hey, it worked for Z for ZachariahZ by Michael Thomas Ford uses the letter to stand for something a little less benign than a power hungry last man on earth. Zombies.  In this book zombie wars have taken over the world and many lives lost but at least the zombies are gone.  Or so the living think.  In this world an underground gaming society fights faux zombies.  That’s the thinking, until it becomes all too clear that the zombies are real.  Ford is yet another mash-up writer, having penned Jane Bites Back this year.

Sometimes I like to look back at what I learned when I was in elementary school and wonder if any new subjects have come up since I was a kid.  Well one topic I hope schools today are paying more attention to is The Great Migration.  That point in history where African-Americans moving North en masse to find new jobs and better working conditions.  The Great Migration: Journey to the North is by Eloise Greenfield, and is illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.  Gilchrist did the recent reissued version of Greenfield’s Me & Nessie, and here she’s working with a mixed media collage well worth examining.  Excellent excellent excellent.

When you think of Walter Dean Myers you may think of hard hitting looks at the real issues and problems teens face.  But the man has more than a few picture books under this belt.  Even so, I suspect that more than one person is going to indulge in a couple double takes when they see his Looking for the Easy Life, illustrated by Lee Harper.  I like me my Lee Harper (he of Woolbur and Snow! Snow! Snow!).  Now he’s helping Myers out with a silly monkey book.  In this tale the monkeys in question are good for nothings who are looking not to work very hard.  Could potentially work as a read aloud.  I shall have to inspect it for myself.

A couple of years ago Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros came out and I really wanted to review it.  I like Dorros anyway (Abuela, anyone?) and Rudy Gutierrez’s art is consistently stunning.  However, I missed my chance.  All the more reason to be pleased that a kind of sequel, Mama and Me, will be on the shelves soon.  In this book, we see a friendship between a mom and child, as well as a mother/child relationship.  Not a bad way of looking at things.

To create the art for Big Nate Strikes Again (the sequel to the New York Times bestseller Big Nate), apparently author Lincoln Peirce made a chapter a week.  Whoa.  Slow down, little dude.  No need to push yourself to death.  In this sequel Nate and his nemesis Gina are assigned to work on a project together.  Needless to say, they’re both unhappy with this.  What happens?  All they’d say was, “I promise you there will be detention.”  Apparently Peirce is slated to be at ALA in Washington next week, so go check him out if you’ve a chance.

The Star Maker by Laurence Yep or “Larry” as Phoebe called him.  Like most of the middle grade novels this year, the book is set in the 1950s.  However, unlike most of the middle grade novels set in the 1950s this year, the story follows a kid in San Francisco who is the youngest in his extended family.  Hoping to prove himself he makes a bet with his older cousin that he’ll get fireworks for everybody for the Lunar New Year.  Of course, here in New York kids aren’t allowed to even have fireworks.  I think they’ll be living vicariously through this one.  Consider it a tale for the precocious 7-11 age group.

Now there’s a bit of a story behind Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman that had to be explained to us right off the bat.  Ross is the son of editor Rosemary Brosnan (you may know her best as the editor of Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer, for example).  Well back in September of 2007 Ross sent fan letter to Walter and Phoebe passed it on.  Thing is, it wasn’t your typical fan letter.  At 13, Ross wrote some insightful things.  Ross’s tragedy is that he once had a shot at the Olympic level soccer team, but he got hurt.  So Walter and Ross started writing to each other and Kick is the result of that correspondence.  It’s a soccer story of a kid who has lost his father.  An older guy becomes his mentor and the book discusses their friendship.


One last table to go!  Here we find ourselves with Barbara Lalicki, the aforementioned Rosemary Brosnan, Elise Howard, and Farrin Jacobs

One book I’m particularly excited about is Monica Brown’s Side by Side / Lado a Lado.  A lot of kids today know the story of Cesar Chavez (for which I am eternally grateful).  Far fewer kids, and few adults too, are as familiar with the tale of Delores Huerva.  She fought just as hard as Cesar did for workers’ right, and this book pairs their stories together. There’s even this great photograph of the two of them together at the end. The nice thing is that she’s still living today.  Maybe she could do some author visits with this title?  I think that’d be pretty neat.

The Big Time by Tim Green comes after Football Champ for all you fans out there.  In this book, Troy’s dad has shown up on the doorstep and wants to have a relationship with him.  That’s okay, but on top of that the guy wants to make deals for Troy and the boy’s mother is dead set against these two ever connecting.  Be that as it may be, Troy still wants to get to know him.  The story sounding vaguely Joey Pigza-ish or maybe like Hurley’s dad on LOST.  Whatever the case, we were promised fast-paced emotional tension.  Gotcha.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson didn’t initially attract me coverwise, but then I heard the plot description.  One day an orphan cat finds himself on the run from a bounty hunter.  An opportunistic feline he ducks in a petshop and takes up residence in one of the cages.  After he does so a boy comes in with his wizard master and he picks the cat to be his familiar.  The story is told from the familiars’ points of view (think of Harry Potter if Hedwig was the hero).  It’s a good idea for the book.  I haven’t seen it done much of anywhere before (though I’ve a suspicion that Diana Wynne Jones may have tried her hand at something similar at one point).  The byline: “Magic isn’t just for wizards anymore”.

Wildfire Run by Dee Garretson marks the beginning of a new natural disaster based survival adventure series.  In this book (and maybe others, I’m not sure) the heroes aren’t particularly outdoorsy types.  Think of Wild River by P.J. Petersen and the like.  In this book, Luke is the son of the president of the U.S. and while he and his two friends at Camp David, they find themselves escaping the camp to escape a wildfire that threatens them.  I know this can’t be the case, but I’d love it if these three were the heroes of all the books in this series.  I just like the idea of a particularly accident prone offspring of a president having to battle everything from angry wasp and hail storms to tornadoes and earthquakes in each book.

Saving Sky by Diane Stanley is dystopian which interests me.  Has she ever done anything quite like this before?  Strikes me as quite a bit of a departure for her.  In any case, this book takes place in a future just a few years from now after there’s been an environmental crises and terrorist attacks.  Because of all this, a kid is targeted for his ethnic origins.  It seems that the government is rounding up people of certain ethnicities.  In response, our heroes hide the boy on their ranch ala Anne Frank.  You know, it’s a low key enough futuristic premise that I bet the fans of the Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix would dig it.

Here’s how out of the YA sphere I am.  Roundabout ten years ago one Hilari Bell wrote a little book called The Goblin Wood.  Big hit.  Big big hit.  Fast forward a decade and her sequel, The Goblin Gate, is slated for release.  However, due to the amount of time between the two books, Bell has wisely opted to make this book equally enticing as both a companion novel and a standalone as well.

Now here’s a pairing you don’t see every day.  Consider the book 13 Words by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman.  What you’ve got here is a word book of sorts.  Only it contains the usual words alongside those of a particularly strange variety.  Name me as many picture books as you can that contain the term “mezzo soprano”, for example.  As it happens, Daniel (Handler) and Maira are apparently friends.  He included things in the book that she would like draw too.  For example, she likes to illustrate cakes, so he included cakes.  All this made me wonder if Kalman and Snicket fans are usually one and the same.  Perhaps this bit of cross promotion with benefit both of them equally.  Could be . . .

I’ve mixed feelings about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which have been reillustrated by Brett Helquist.  I mean, the stories themselves were never very scary to me as a child (sorry, Alvin).  Except that Wendigo one.  That sucker freaked me out.  But it was always the Stephen Gammell pictures that really were the lure.  I hold a Stephen Gammell image up to a kid and they instantly snatch the book from my hands.  Well Helquist be able to invoke the same response?  I mean I love him, but I dunno if I see it here.  He can be creepy, but I’ve never seen him attempt to create the truly gruesome.  Funny they didn’t tap Gris Grimly instead.

Elise Howard assured us that Hothouse by Chris Lynch is one of the books that she is most excited to be publishing.  The book is based on a true life story concerning two firefighters who had died in a fire and were lionized by their community.  That is, until it was discovered that they had drugs and alcohol in their systems.  So the question this book poses is, what if they had sons and all their lives those boys had to excuse their fathers’ behavior.  The natural outcome of a tale of this sort is that you find yourself taking on the mantle of heroism one moment, and then you take on the mantle that comes of shame.  The book also looks at the firefighter community that basically raises the boys.  I gotta say, it sounds like a really smart idea for a novel.

All right Luxe fans.  Author Anna Godbersen has a brand new series coming out Bright Young Things. Not to be confused with the movie of the same name (and time period) that was based on Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies.  This story takes place in 1929.  In it, some small town Ohio girls escape on a train into NYC as one hides her true reason for wanting to come in NYC.  When her companions find out her secret they all go their separate ways.  One meets a glam girl.  One is looking for her Gatsby-like dad.  You know what I like?  Check out that font on the cover.  Gorgeous!  Good choice, that.

Firelight by Sophie Jordan is the first in a trilogy and also a dragon romance story.  Which is to say, hot dragon action.  It stars a dragon shape shifter girl (dragons can shift into human form called “draci”).  One day she flies during daylight, and some dragon hunters find her.  She escapes with the help of a human boy who doesn’t kill her.  Unfortunately, her little stunt has just gotten her family in big trouble.  They go into the human world and she finds the boy again.  Sound kinda like The Little Mermaid but with the scales in different places.

Freak Magnet is by Andrew Auseon of Funny Little Monkey fame.  With this book he attempts his first romance story.  To put it simply, Charlie is the freak and Gloria is the magnet.  People walk up to her, say weird things, and she catalogs them all.  Gives them numbers.  But for some reason freak #941 keeps re-entering her life.  And after he does so for a while they start to help one another.  A crazy friendship blossoms into romance.  Said HC, it is, “Sweet, sad, and hopeful.”

Alas, there were more YA titles on the menu, but the night approaches and I must wrap this up.  Thanks once again to Harper Collins for a lovely preview day.  And, as always, here are your best meets.

MEETS: “An older Freaky Friday meets the movie Dave.”- Secrets of a First Daughter by Cassidy Calloway

* My picture book Giant Dance Party is due out with Greenwillow Books in the Fall of 2011.

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. There’s a lot to celebrate here — the Peterfreund reprise, the lovely covers for Highway Robbery and Most Wanted, the unspeakable awesome Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman combined… but I Shall Wear Midnight is taking all my brain power. I am so grateful that Sir Terry finished that one — those of us who are Tiffany fans have all been waiting forever!!

  2. Yay, yay, yay on the new Terry Pratchett!!! I wonder when it will be available on audio. Stephen Briggs did a FABULOSO job on the first three in the series (spit out your milk hilarious). Can’t wait!

  3. Nice books–thanks for sharing them! If I had to pick just one it would be Wildwing….

    (viz familiars: The “My Unwilling Witch….” series, by Hiawyn Oram, is told from the familiar’s pov)

  4. WAYFARER is technically a sequel but can be read by itself, and I am pleased and surprised that it ended up in this Fall preview seeing as it’s coming out in less than a week!

    But what I really want to say is, NEW TIFFANY ACHING MUST HAVE NOW. I mean, my need for this book is like a physical pain. Ow.

  5. The news of I Shall Wear Midnight made my day! Let’s hear it for Tiffany Aching!!! And thanks for this report in general–lots of good stuff coming up.

  6. So much to get excited about! (And so much more I want to go back & pore over in more detail…) I’m so jazzed about the final Tiffany Aching book coming out!

  7. “Well, the first book requires children’s librarians to know how to spell both the word “Buffalo” and the word “Kindergarten” in order to look it up in our online catalogs. I, personally, have a hard time with both words.”

    I’m the same way with kindergarten. Like Willa Jean, I want it to be kidnergarten….because kidnergarten is where the kids are.

  8. My god you work so hard! Thank you Betsy for giving us such good intel on what to look for! I have an ARC of You, but I’m kind of afraid of it. Harrowing? How harrowing? I’m a delicate flower after all.

    And I always go for Punk Wig when it comes to kids with moms who are going through treatment for cancer.

  9. Ooops! So rude-didn’t compliment you on a great post. Lots of great things to look forward to. However, I’m anticipating confusion with Yep’s The Star Marker and The Star Fisher!

  10. Star Maker…that is. See, I’m already confused!

  11. Too many enticing books! Too little time!

  12. A lot of great titles coming out. Benoit’s You sounds very good. I love Knuffle Bunny and Splat the Cat.

    She Loved Baseball is great. Its as baseball history, the Negroe Leagues about a woman who loved and was respected by the game. What’s not to love.

    Thanks for the preview.

  13. I always LOVE these preview lists, thank you! YOU by Charles Benoit sounds incredibly intriguing and amazing, especially when the editor is shaking with excitement about it! Wow.

    It brought to mind A.M. Jenkins novel, DAMAGED, which came out in 2003. DAMAGED is written in second person and I thought it was one of the most brilliant books I’d ever read.

    (I’ve really enjoyed your Video Sundays. I have a wonderful book trailer to send you. How much lead time do you need and how do I send it? Thanks so much!)

  14. Thanks so much, Elizabeth!

    Here is the link:

    There is a Cajun girl voice-over and the original music and sound effects were written especially for the trailer by Nua Music (

    Also, because I needed such specialized images I took about half of them myself and all the bayou pictures were taken in Louisiana.

    I also just learned that Scholastic is going to offer the full 4 minute song as a free download for the book launch which is July 1. Very exciting!

    Thanks, again!


  15. RE: “Floating on Mama’s Song is by Laura Lacamara and merely illustrated by Yuyi Morales . . .” 🙂 Thanks so much for mentioning the new bilingual children’s book, which was written by my wife, Laura Lacamara! Yuyi Morales’ illustrations are truly incredible in the way they bring the story to life. Floating on Mama’s Song is Laura’s first book in print. So, naturally, we’re very excited!! — H


  1. […] And librarians. Seriously, this weekend at ALA, I must meet Betsy Bird (who apparently I know through two different degrees of separation?). Look what she had to say about ASCENDANT in her recent Harper fall 2010 preview: […]

  2. […] you read Fuse 8′s librarian preview recaps, you know that she loves to dub a single book at each librarian preview “Best Meets”, […]