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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Penguin Young Readers Group (Summer 2011)

I’d been feeling a bit guilty about Penguin recently.  If my calculations are correct (and I think that they are) I haven’t been to a Penguin preview since April of 2010.  The timing just never worked out!  I do hold down a 9-5 job in the library, after all, so angling my free days to be on preview days doesn’t always work out for me.  Fortunately I was able to make up for my missing mug at the most recent librarian preview so as to see the goodies and not be caught in the cold when something like A Tale Dark & Grimm comes down the pike (one of the books I missed hearing about last year).

Preparations this time around included:

  1. A promise to myself not to eat ALL the desserts on the dessert table at lunch.
  2. A orange concoction placed in my purse that I would have to drink at precisely 1:30 for my doctor’s appointment.  It’s a pregnant thing.  There’s a test they do where they make you chug what essentially amounts to a drink that has more in common with that horrid orange pop McDonalds used to serve when I was a kid (not quite juice, not quite good) only warm and flat.

But enough of that!  You want to hear about books, and I want to tell you about what’s on the roster.  To the previewing!

Dutton Children’s Books

Lauren Myracle.  Is there a nicer gal in the business?  Place your bets now, but I’m telling you that I have the inside track on this one.  Lauren’s the sweetest, hands down.  There are some authors out there you just feel grateful to the universe for properly appreciating (“properly appreciating” = “allows them to make a living at writing”).  Lauren is one such person.  I say all this in preparation of the glorious news that she has a new book out in her Winnie Perry series.  Ten will be a prequel to the books Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Thirteen Plus One.  Think of it as the thing Phyllis Reynolds Naylor did with her Alice series.  Actually this particular series is now being rebranded “The Winnie Years”, so be warned librarians.  When desperate ten-year-olds cling to your leg demanding a particular book in “that Winnie series” know now what that will actually mean.  By the way, any idea who the cover artist is on these books?  Seems to me that this person deserves some of the credit for the popularity of the series.  Or at the very least, the look.

You’re not gonna get a whole lot of young adult books out of me this time around, but I feel obligated to mention Nova Ren Suma’s upcoming novel Imaginary Girls, in part because her debut (Dani Noir) was a middle grade book that I thoroughly enjoy.  With this book Suma goes deeply YA.  Editor Julie Strauss-Gable did a heckuva good booktalk for the title, which I will not attempt to recapture here. My own short summary: Chloe loves her cool older sister Ruby.  Then one night Chloe finds a classmate’s body floating in the reservoir.  She is sent away from the town, and from Ruby.  Two years later, Chloe gets a call from Ruby saying that she “fixed” everything.  So she returns and something is terribly terribly wrong.  I’m convinced that the model they used for this book must be the same model used for the Bree Despain books.  Compare and contrast:




Switching gears entirely, I was pleased to hear that there’s a new entry into the Good Night, Good Knight genre.  Written once more by Shelley Moore Thomas and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas, the sixth book, A Good Knight’s Rest, is coming out not as an easy reader but rather as a full-on 32 page picture book.  I regret the loss of having yet another early reader book to add to my collection (it’s looking a bit empty at the moment) but if the picture book version brings more kids to the series then so be it.  Whatever works.

Skippyjon Jones doesn’t need me to promote him, so all I will say about his newest release (Skippyjon Jones Class Action) is that the title made me snort.  In a good way.

If I were to show you the next cover without the author’s name, I doubt highly that you’d be able to figure out the writer.  However, since I am too lazy to go about removing said title, you’ll just have to see it for yourself:

Yup!  That’s the newest (last?) Eva Ibbotson.  The catalog copy for the Summer 2011 books must have been printed up before October of last year since it has Eva listed as currently living in northern England.  Not so much.  In this book the usual ogre kidnapping a princess story is turned on its head when it’s clear that the ogre is the one in need of rescuing.  I find the non-Henkes jacket art on this book inspiring too.  I can’t help but wonder if it might be possible to reissue Eva’s backlist with this new art, thereby attracting a whole new host of readers.  Couldn’t hurt, right?


Razorbill fills me with guilt.  This is the fault of Jim Krieg and his 2010 debut Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol.  Now there’s a book that I had every intention in the world of reviewing.  Unfortunately sometimes the universe doesn’t work in your favor.  Griff was forgotten by the time December rolled around, and I’ve felt awful about abandoning him ever since.  That was a book that deserved a good review.  *sigh*

In the new look department The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June is getting a new look.  Compare and contrast.

Old Cover:

New Cover:

I rather like the new one, date though it might.

We need a name for a genre.  The one you would ascribe The Warriors or The Wolves of the Beyond or The Guardians of Ga’Hoole or the Silverwing (and so on and so on) series to.  Animal Wars?  Maybe.  All I know is that Razorbill’s interested in getting in on the action, and they noticed that the series I’ve just mentioned all had one thing in common: They’re all above sea level.  Plunging down into the ocean we have the new Shark Wars series by E.J. Altbacker.  What’s interesting about this is that unlike the aforementioned series, Shark Wars gives the books a very cartoony look on the jacket.  Will kids be willing to pick up a title that looks more like a Saturday morning cartoon (Altbacker has worked on everything from Justice League to Static Shock) than a “serious” novel, or will they deign it too babyish?  It will be interesting to watch.

By the way, when is the parody of the animal books I’ve just mentioned coming out?  Surely someone somewhere has to be writing an epic earthworm series where a brave lumbricus terrestris uncovers a prophecy in a pile of mulch predicting that he will someday gain dominion over all his fellow dirt eaters.  Or am I asking too much?

There is a typo in the Penguin catalog.  When you read that The Robot by Paul E. Weston is “Superbad meets Short Circuit” you should cross out the Short Circuit part of that sentence and replace it with Weird Science.  First off, I sort of adore the cover (it’s not up yet, but when was the last time you saw a photograph of a guy on a book that didn’t look like Alex Rider?)  I even like the tagline, “These Guys Know How to Turn a Girl On” because I’ve a weakness for the cheesy.  Watson (who is actually Polly Watson) has written a story about two boys (Gabe and Dover) who discover that Gabe’s dad has created a hot tamale of a robot with a single purpose: To kill Dr. Phil.  I was a bit sad to hear the robot’s ultimate goal since I fear it will date the book faster than anything.  Then again, if the book’s a hit they could just update it every ten years with the contemporary Dr. Phil equivalent, whosoever that might be.  I’d go for that.

Hey!  Check this out!

Any of you ever read Spud by John van de Ruit?  I always meant to but never quite got around to it before I swore off young adult fiction altogether.  They’re calling this the South African Billy Elliott, though if the movie poster based on the book is any indication it looks more like they’re going for the South African Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Viking Children’s Books

“Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration” instructs the catalog.  Okey-doke.  Their suggestion for how to best do this is to purchase the newest title in their Words That Changed America series (good idea for a series), The Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy.  They got Betsy Partridge to do a historical overview of the speech itself, which I think was a rather clever move on their part.  I’m just a little sad that the book is probably not going to contain that cool story that broke recently about the rediscovered early draft of this speech by Kennedy’s speechwriter’s former secretary.  Ah well.

You know what’s older than Kennedy’s inaugural address, though?  The publication of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  Yep.  With that in mind Viking is releasing a rather purdy slipcased edition of the old standby.  However, don’t ask me to put any store in the upcoming movie folks have been discussing about the old classic.  If I find out that they’ve changed the book’s entire pacifist message for the silver screen, blood will the spilt (or, at the very least, copious angry tears).

I have a weird fantasy regarding the covers of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasantis books.  Bear with me here.  My theory is that the people in Dessen’s world are forbidden to ever wear shoes.  This is evidenced by Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, Someone Like You, That Summer, and her latest What Happened to Goodbye.  Meanwhile, in Susane Colasantiland, her teens are allowed to wear shoes (boots even) but they must NEVER show their faces (not even in her newest book So Much Closer).  Taken in that light, these books suddenly shift from sweet romantic teen novels to desperate dystopian nightmares.  Fascinating.

By the way, I would just like to state for the record that if cupcakes are currently a YA trend, I am all for them.  Cupcakes, after all, are less annoying than vampires and they’re certainly less sparkly.

Gearshift back to board books.  My husband’s cousin is the father of twins, and not too long ago he lamented to me the lack of a good picture book twins series.  I found myself a little baffled when I thought it through and realized that he was essentially correct.  There are twin-related individual titles out there, but the market is ripe for a board book or picture book twin series (particularly with older women having more and more of them these days).  Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Hiroe Nakata step into this gap with Two Is for Twins.  The book is perfect for new parents of duplicates, though the nice thing about twin books is that children who don’t have similar siblings also get a kick out of them as well.

We now come to EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.  I see that in my subtle hand I have scribbled the following words in my notes in large over-excited letters: “THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY EARLY CHAPTER BOOK IN 20 YEARS!!  OH! MY! GOD!’  This is not strictly accurate if you consider Sharon Draper’s Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series.  However, while the market has been getting better and better at providing early chapter books starring African-American girls (Dyamonde Daniel, Sassy, Nikki & Deja, Sunny Holiday, Anna Hibiscus, etc.) boys are few and far between.  So seeing EllRay Jakes here just thrills me to the core.  I see it as a sign of things to come.  I’m a little baffled by the cover art, of course (excuse me, EllRay? The Fresh Prince of Bel Air wants his flattop back) but inside the book (though I only got a glimpse) it looks as though EllRay has some slightly more contemporary hair.

I admit to also being a bit excited about Christine McDonnell’s Goyangi Means Cat.  A newly adopted girl from Korea has difficulty adjusting to her new life in America.  Fortunately the family cat is a comfort to her . . . until he runs away.  Usually when cats run away in children’s books they come back pregnant, but this is not the case here.  The great lure of this book has to do with the illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.  I don’t want to say too much in case I review the book, but trust me when I say that there’s an artistic style at work here that is definitely worth a close examination.

Seems that every Revolutionary War book that comes out these days stands in direct opposition to the book that defines the genre: Johnny Tremain.  When Chains first came out, remember, a lot of folks hoped that it would supplant Johnny Tremain in nationwide curriculums.  Not sure how that plan played out exactly, but Five 4th of July by Pat Raccio Hughes is definitely along the same lines.  I approve of the fact that the cover doesn’t hide the fact that the book is historical.  I do wonder if the book will mention the state of slavery in America during that time, of course.  In a post-Chains world it would be unfortunate not to.

This season the hot years to write about are 1968/69.  War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace seems to take a slightly different track than your usual Vietnam War fare, though.  Sure the war is raging, but in this book a twelve-year-old hitches a ride to Woodstock with his older brother.  Woodstock!  In a middle grade novel!  I am thoroughly intrigued.  For some reason I can’t recall seeing that festival of peace and love in a book for the young ‘uns before.  Can anyone else think of one?  I’m stuck.

They say that the best way to kill humor is to dissect it, but I really like the premise behind What’s So Funny?: Making Sense of Humor by Donna M. Jackson.  Editor Sharyn November introduced this book by telling her favorite joke.  Here goes.

Q:  Why is the beach wet?
A:  Because the seaweed!

Ar ar ar.  Due to the sheer number of joke books requested in my collection (kids never can seem to get enough) I betcha this one will turn out to be a big time hit.  You bet.

I’ve loved the work of artist Laura Ljungkvist for years.  Ever since her first book Follow the Line came out and she created a kickin’ window display for the MOMA’s gift shop.  Since that book’s release she’s worked on follow ups that went around the world or through the house.  Her newest is Follow the Line to School and includes this ultra-mod library as one of the rooms.  Definitely worth checking out.

Animals trend.  In picture books anyway.  For the last few years it’s been chickens as far as the eye can see.  And while I’m sure that chickens will continue to be popular this year (just off the top of my head I can think of Little Chicken’s Big Day and Chicks Run Wild) my perception is that bunnies are now where it’s at.  Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby sort of backs me up on this one.  It’s a little friendship book but with the pure clean outlines of an illustrator (Katherine Battersby) that somehow feels not quite American.  Indeed she’s Australian, though the look of Squish seems almost Japanese to me.  Whatever the case, it’s lovely.  Cute to boot.

I was a big time fan of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Thresholds last year.  Just thought it had the nicest fantasy/sci-fi vibe to it.  The sequel, Meeting, is due out this August and I desperately hope I get to see the villains in it.  I don’t need a final reckoning or anything.  Just a glimpse of the baddies.  Oh, and it also sports yet another purdy cover and has (I am told) “a great Halloween scene at the end.”  Note to Self: Write a post around Halloween of some of the great Halloween scenes in children’s literature.  Robert Peck’s Soup books come immediately to mind . . .

Philomel Books

I feel like we’ve been seeing a lot of great children’s literature related folks dying lately.  Or at the very least, within a couple weeks’ span of one another.  Well, The Rogue Crew by Brian Jacques marks the man’s last Redwall novel.  Interestingly, Philomel has decided to release all the Redwall books with numbered spines.  I think this is an excellent plan.  I’m pretty good at keeping some series in order that haven’t any numbers, but Redwall was too tough for me.  Good to know.

The Philomel folks are mighty fascinated with Erin E. Moulton’s debut novel Flutter.  I know that editor Michael Green said at one point, “It makes me wish I was somebody’s sister.”  Strong words.  There’s a lot of nature survival in this one (bear, poachers, beaver dam, etc.) which may mean we can count this as a girls-surviving-in-nature book.  I hope so.  You can only recommend Julie of the Wolves, A Girl Named Disaster, and Island of the Blue Dolphins so many times.

I think a lot of folks who go to college and draw comics for the college newspaper live with the dream that maybe someday out of the blue some fancy New York editor will call them up and tell them they like their stuff and want to turn their comics into a book.  And that’s sort of the story of Stephen McCranie.  Of course, Stephen was putting his work on as well, so that accounts for how he got discovered.  His book is Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! and is born out of a love of Calvin and Hobbes and what almost looks like Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius.

One part Alex Rider, one part Jurassic Park, all parts awesome.  That would pretty much be the description of Z. Raptor, Steve Cole’s follow up to the fantastic Z. Rex.  I had a library student in my branch the other day asking what chapter books make for great booktalks.  You know what works for me?  Z. Rex.  I’m sorry, but how does a talking, sometimes invisible, five-fingered dinosaur with wings not rock your socks?  In the sequel Cole ups the ante.  Now there’s an island (durn) out there full of death-row inmates and velociraptors.  Best of all, I really do think these work for the 5th and 6th graders out there.  The ones that are eyeing Jurassic Park with a greedy eye already, I mean.

How cool are the Michael Carroll covers for his Super Human books?  I mean, just look at this:

That’s beautiful.  Makes me want to kiss the book designer on the lips, it does.  I’ve never read a single book by the man, but I like that cover.  It is, for those of you in the know, the sequel to Super Human.

There was a small problem finding the cover image for Maria van Lieshout’s adorable picture book Hopper and Wilson.  If you, in fact, go to Google image and type in “Hopper and Wilson” and this is what you find.   If you said, “Uh, why is Dennis Hopper in a car with Rainn Wilson?”, your guess is as good as mine.  Particularly when the image that should have come up was this:

That’s more like it.  Fascinatingly, Maria was inspired to write this book by relatives (her father and brother) who went on a sea voyage, got lost, and came back with a healthy appreciation of what they’d left behind.  I’ve always enjoyed Maria’s small books like Bloom so I’ll be interested in following up with this one.  Particularly when they say that it has hints of Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found to it.

Watch your back, Ted Lewin.  William Low is gunning for your territory.  Well… not really.  But you can understand why I was a bit confused when I saw the cover for T.A. Barron’s Ghost Hands and thought to myself “Has Lewin always worked with Penguin?”  William Low (last seen wowing my toddler community with his stunning I-can’t-believe-that-was-illustrated-on-a-computer Machines go to Work) illustrates what they are calling the “first-ever picture book about the Patagonian Cueva de las Manos”.  Gotcha.

Insofar as we know Christopher Ford was not discovered in his college newspaper.  However, he’s lent his illustrative talents to Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle, Book One which is essentially a stickperson version of The Odyssey.  I’ll be interested in taking a closer look at this one.  It has a style that reminds me just a bit of Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half (and where is HER book, for that matter?).

Dial Books for Young Readers

Okay.  So you know when you can tell that a publisher is excited about a book?  When they keep hopping up and down in their chairs about it.  That’s the general reaction Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan incited.  The author doesn’t initially raise your expectations, of course.  Kaplan’s probably better known for penning episodes of Frasier and Roseanne than classic titles for kids.  But do you remember that Pee-Wee Herman bit where Pee-Wee would say that he loved salad and his furniture would reply, “Well why don’t you marry it?”  That’s pretty much what you have here with Betty Bunny.  It’s about a picky eater who initially resists the lure of chocolate cake.  When she tries it, though, she decides it’s the greatest thing in the world and nothing else will do.  For me, I was most intrigued to see that Dial had managed to nab my beloved Stephane Jorisch for this title.  Since his version of The Owl and the Pussycat came out all those years ago I’ve been waiting and waiting for Jorisch to go mainstream.  At long last, my prayers have been answered.  We’ll see if Betty Bunny answers Dial’s prayers in turn.

A nice pairing with Betty was Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb.  The illustrator on this one is a fellow by the name of Joe Berger.  I’ve been intrigued by Joe’s work ever since I took a good long gander at it in this year’s Manners Mash-Up.  It’s an intriguing style, not too dissimilar from that of folks like Tony Fucile.  In this book a boy acquires an alien pen pal.  Trouble is, the kid doesn’t want a pen pal of any sort, alien or otherwise.  To dissuade his alien pal from future correspondence, the kid does what any enterprising young man might: He sends the alien his annoying older sister.  And that would be all well and good except then the kid gets an annoying Zoid in exchange.  It all works out well in the end, of course.

Remember Nathan Brandsford?  Wrote that agenting blog that was so marvelously popular?  Well, he’s also gone into deep space with this his first middle grade novel.  They’re calling it Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow.  I like the use of “Wonderbar”.  Wonder if “Cosmic Space Kapow” won’t make it sound like it’s for a younger than 9-12 audience.  In any case, I’ve always wondered why we haven’t a space-related middle grade novel that’s a huge success.  I mean kids love Star Wars, right?  But aside from My Teacher Is an Alien and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, I don’t know of much space stuff that’s managed to plant itself in the general consciousness.  We’ll be watching this one, then, with interest.

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson provides me with something I’ve longed for: A soccer related middle grade novel that’s not Tangerine.  I wonder why these books are always about goalies, though?  Is that the most dramatic position to play on a team?  Something to ponder.

Bob Shea is slowly infecting your children’s minds.  Odds are a fair number of them have either seen the television adaption or read his Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime.  His gorgeous Oh, Daddy was something I was totally going to review, until I didn’t.  Now Shea taps into his inner Bob Staake for Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet, written by Kelly DiPucchio.  In this book a fish in a bowl determines that he wants a pet.  But what would make the best companion to someone who’s stuck in small circular area?  There are some good answers out there.

Part of what I love about Joseph Bruchac is his ability to stretch himself.  There’s the usual Geronimo and Wabi fare, of which I am very fond.  Then he might turn around and write a story for Pick-Up Game: A Full Day of Full Court or even write a full out fantasy novel like Dragon Castle.  Inspired by the Slovakian side of his family, the cover may not show it but this is one of those funny fantasy novels.  I’ll certainly be looking for it.

This is why I’ll never be a children’s book editor.  See, when I look at the awesome pumpkin carvings of someone like Hugh McMahon, I don’t think to myself, “That would really make a swell picture book.”  Rather, I think “Wow!”  Just “Wow!”  But Dial got him and paired with Michael J. Rosen for Night of the Pumpkinheads, so you know the fall season is already on some folks’ minds.

That ties in nicely to the latest Kevin Sherry outing too.  If I’ve a storytime staple, it must be I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean.  For preschoolers, nothing else will do.  It’s this book or nothing.  And sure, I tried its follow-up I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean and the one with the squirrel, but the first book was my favorite by far.  The fact that Sherry has now created a Halloween-themed I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle makes me very pleased indeed.  I’m miffed that it’s only in board book form, of course (that’ll make storytime a lot harder) but whatever works, man.  I’ll just have to make up for its size by projecting louder.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Middle grade books set in artist colonies . . . and GO!  Name ’em!  Here I’ll get out my stopwatch and time you.  Actually, I won’t quite bother since I’m pretty sure they’re an almost nonexistent species.  Fair play to Sheila O’Connor and her Sparrow Road, then, for coming up with a setting I’ve never seen before in a book for kids.  The one-liner they’re using on this one is “A young girl spends her summer at a mysterious estate and discovers a secret about her past.”  Add in the Gary Schmidt AND Karen Cushman blurbs (coo!) and I’m afraid we may have to label this one a must-read.  Awesome.

We talked about survival tales in conjunction with this season’s Flutter.  Another book to place children in the great outdoors is the British import Desperate Measures by Laura Summers.  It actually sounds a bit like Watt Key’s Alabama Moon to me.  In this story three foster kids take off when the system looks like it’s going to split them up.  They’re trying to make it to their aunt’s home, but when they get there only strangers greet them.  This calls for Plan B, a problem when you don’t have a Plan B.  It’s a little Boxcar Children and a little Homecoming.  Could be interesting.

Things I Like About Bear with Me by Max Kornell – The bear is wearing a belt on the cover.  Bears with belts are instantaneous awesome.  We’ve lots of allegorical picture books for kids out there, but this may indeed be the first time I’ve seen one that’s an allegory for having an older relative come to live with you.  In the book a boy disapproves of his parents’ choice to bring home a bear named Gary.  Fortunately the two work it out.  Like I say, cool belt.

Apparently this is a school thing that I have missed.  In some systems it is customary to use gingerbread men to help kids find their way around large school layouts.  How the gingerbread men do this exactly was not explained to me.  In any case, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray (illustrated by Mike Lowery) sort of starts off with this premise.  Only rather than your customary Gingerbread Man chase-ee, now he’s become the chase-er.

Recently I heard that Britain would be turning Betty G. Birney’s Humphrey books into a film (or at least one of them).  Humphrey has yet to hit it huge here in the States (apparently he’s enormous overseas) but I can attest that our copies circulate quite nicely in my collection.  If you don’t know them, just think of Humphrey as a small, furry Mrs. Piggle-WiggleSchool Days According to Humphrey is his latest title and I can’t stop staring at that cover.  It makes me remember the days when McDonalds used to run commercials starring Chicken McNugget puppets and I kept wondering who sewed all their teeny tiny costumes.  I ask the same thing here  . . . who made that adorable gerbil-sized backpack?


Never heard of this imprint?  Nor I.  Apparently it’s the all-celebrity-picture-book imprint of Penguin (now why has no one thought of that before?).  Whatever the case, if you were wondering if Perez Hilton and Mario Lopez would ever pen picture books . . . um.  Well, let’s just say the forecast looks good.

Puffin Books

Before we go any further I want to draw your attention to this:

Meet, Sexy Poe!  He’s tortured but brilliant.  I should explain that Puffin has been putting kinda badass covers on public domain classics in the hopes of getting kids to pick them up.  I’m fond of a lot of them too, like this version of Dracula:

But if I’m going to be honest, Sexy Poe is my favorite.  So brooding.  Such lanky hair.

And speaking of covers, have you seen the new ones they came up with for Gennifer Choldenko?  I cannot tell a lie . . . I kinda like these.  Check ’em out.

Cool, huh?  Puffin realized that what kids like about these books is the whole Alcatraz element.  As a result they’ve kind of branded them with a big old “ALCATRAZ” on the covers.  I don’t think it distracts either.  And man, that second cover is 500% better than its British equivalent.  What’s wrong with this picture?:

Remember how I said they’d be putting number on the Brian Jacques books soon?  Well Puffin’s doing something similar with T.A. Barron’s Merlin books.  Thank heavens for that.  I’ve never been able to keep track of them in my mind.  With a whole new look (and tweaked titles) one through twelve will be more accessible than ever before.

I’ve not read the Lucy B. Parker books myself, so the fact that there’s a new one (Yours Truly, Lucy B. Parker #3: Vote for Me!) will interest my child patrons more than anyone.  I’d just like to take some time to thank Ms. Robin Palmer for strategically placing herself alphabetically next to Colleen Paratore in our fiction section.  Fans of The Wedding Planner’s Daughter (and similar books) also gravitate to Lucy B.  Two birds.  One stone.

Lots of Puffin Classics are coming out to add to your collection.  The inclusion of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster was particularly interesting to me since (A) the Introduction was written by Ms. Eva Ibbotson and (B) my library recently published a different company’s reprinting of this book with an introduction by Ann Martin.  One of these days I’m just going to have to read that book.

Just one thing I’d like to say about Anthony Horowitz’s new book.  It is called Bloody Horowitz.  I think that’s hilarious.  That is all.

The Dahlians are all ah-twitter over the fact that it’s now the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach.  Sort of reminds me of the discussion on ShelfTalker the other day where Elizabeth speculated over whether or not they’ll ever re-release the book with the original Nancy Eckholm Burkert illustrations (now would be the time, don’t you think?)  You know, I suspect that someday Dahl will join the ranks of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum and end up with his own societies.  There will be the American Roald Dahl Society and the Roald Dahl Society of England.  Heck, maybe there are already!  In any case, I like that in conjunction with this book they’re having a contest where a kid in England can take a trip to New York City, just like James in the book.  And I’m happier still to learn that they’ll be releasing a version of this book with full color illustrations.  We’ve a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book like that, and it couldn’t be more popular.

Grosset & Dunlap

Okay, this is fascinating.  So I’ve been wondering why a major publisher like Penguin or someone hasn’t started releasing graphic novels of Archie comics.  I suspect it’s a rights issue.  Someone, somewhere is sitting pretty on them, content with mere comics, not seeing the potential market in libraries.  So I was a little excited when I heard about this Betty and Veronica series coming out.  As a staunch Team Betty fan, I thought these might be comics.  Instead, they’re actually novels that take place at Riverdale.  No comics inside, which sort of confirms my suspicions about the rights.

Note: I need to bug my library to start buying the WWE books coming out right now.  I’ve been waiting for wrestler books for my branch for years!  Now with titles like Wrestlemaniac, the time is nigh.  By the way, if any of you ever want to do a kind of WWE Summer Reading Program, talk to YALSA.  Apparently WWE is very generous with that kind of thing.

Price Stern Sloan

(Price Stern Sloan?)  I don’t usually talk about this imprint, if indeed an imprint it is.  But man, you have just GOT to get your sticky mitts on Spin by Igor Vaginsky.  Seriously.  First off, look at this image:

If you saw it and then said “that’s an upside down fish” then maybe you won’t be overly enthused by this book.  The rest of you that are like me, however, will have a hard time getting over it.  I’ve seen books where you have to flip the images, and nothing compares to what this Vaginsky guy came up with.

By the way, when I first saw that cover, I thought that this was going to be an Angry Birds book for kids.  It’s not, but I now say, where the heck is the Angry Birds book for kids?  Surely someone’s working on that somewhere, right?

Oh.  And I loved this Mad Libs cover:

If it’s a parody, you can’t get sued, right?

That just leaves the special guest of the day.  AJ Stern is the lass behind the Frankly Frannie series a.k.a. the one about the girl who desperately wants to be grown up and have a job.  Stern’s probably familiar to some of you in the YA realm as Fiona Rosenbloom, the author of You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! and the like.  We’ll just call her “Ms. Stern” for the purposes of this piece, though.

Ms. Stern told many an amusing anecdote about how the series came to be.  Apparently as a child she was obsessed with the notion of becoming a businesswoman.  Not surprising.  When we were kids businesswomen had a weird shoulder-padded caché to them (exemplified brilliantly here).

For her school visits, Ms. Stern will ask the kids to suggest a job for Frannie (the newest book is Principal for the Day) and then they’ll “write” a book together from what they suggest.  Most of the jobs are fairly standard but once in a while she’ll get a good suggestion like furrier.  I had to look that one up myself.

I actually got some good ideas for library programs from Ms. Stern at this time.  One thing she’ll do with kids is to take their “resumes”.  The kids write up their qualifications and she helps them to tweak them for their jobs.

In the end, I was just pleased that the Frankly Frannie books have been catching on.  It’s nice to see a non-girly girl in an early chapter book series once in a while.  And the sheer range of jobs is inspiring.  Frannie’s like Babymouse in that way.  It’s all open.  Plus boys and girls read her books as a result.

Then it was time to go and I had to chug a container of bright orange liquid.  Fun fun!  In any case, thanks to all the kind folks at Penguin for inviting me over.  Thanks too to Christina for some of the images.  It looks to be a fun little season.

Coolest Cover: Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

Because I’m also having a really hard time believing that I can’t come up with any other middle grade or teen books set in Coney Island aside from a brief mention made in Karen Hesse’s Brooklyn Bridge.  Love the faux mermaid holding the sign that reads “A Novel” too.  If you’re gonna go with a photograph on a jacket, this is the way to go.

Runner-Up Cool Covers: Luminous by Dawn Metcalf.

(A) Hispanic heroine on the cover. (B) Heroine can remove her skin.  What’s not to love?

Best Meets:

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford

My Side of the Mountain meets The Penderwicks – Flutter by Erin E. Moulton

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. Thank you, thank you for the preview, Betsy!
    And OMG READ DADDY LONG LEGS! Judy Abbot is one of my best literary friends!

  2. I’d recognize Elena Kalis’s underwater photography, and her beautiful redheaded model anywhere! Of course, I’m a little obsessed with underwater covers right now…

  3. Man, that LUMINOUS cover is awesome – talk about standing out on the shelves! Kudos to the designer for that one.

  4. I don’t know what’s up with the flattop either but still very excited about Ellray Jakes. I thought the most dramatic postion in soccer was Striker.

    I loved Griff Carver Hallway Patrol. It was so good.

  5. Hmm… I’m intrigued by a lot but what really makes my gears turn is the idea of numbering Redwall. I assume it will be publishing order because that is what Jacques always encouraged but I have known some who preferred chronological and so it seems almost odd to make them stationary.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Wow. That is an excellent point. Will they pull a C.S. Lewis on him or not is the question, right? That hadn’t even occurred to me. Here’s hoping for the publishing order, I think.

  6. Betsy, you MUST read “Daddy Long Legs”! I read it for the first time last year and it instantly became an all time favorite, up there with Oz tales and “Little Women”. Judy is the best!

  7. Wow, is that British version of Al Capone for real? That is just wrong……

  8. Thanks for the shout out about A Good Knight’s Rest. I am so excited that it is finally coming out.

    And yes, I totally agree with you! We need more easy readers! Believe me, I am working on it.

    I did hear that Dutton is going to start re-releasing the first three Good Knights in the Fall (paperback, I think) Yay!


  9. Betsy, it looks like Ellray Jakes will be a series (or at least, have a sequel). Baker and Taylor is showing a second book to be released in September (Ellray Jakes is a Rock Star). Thanks, as always, for writing up the previews.

  10. Duncan McLachlan says:

    About Archie Comics’ graphic novels– Archie actually signed a deal with Random House last year to sell our graphic novels (full disclosure: I’m an Archie employee); they started distributing them at the end of October 2010. They should be available at bookstores nationwide and online.

  11. Genevieve says:

    Fuse, I think you will really like Daddy-Long-Legs!! It’s definitely middle-grade-appropriate (I think of it as more middle-grade than YA, for sure), and Judy is a terrific character. Can’t wait to read Eva Ibbotson’s introduction.

  12. Betsy, you need to discover my friend’s novel: Defending Irene, by Kristin Wolden Nitz. An American girl in Italy for the school year wants to play soccer, but that means she has to play on the boys’ team. It’s a lovely middle-grade girl’s soccer novel.

  13. i LOVE that dreamland social club cover. SO enticing.

  14. From a first glance, the artwork on the Lauren Myracle book reminded me of the artwork on the Keeker series…

  15. Thanks for the shout out! I love my cover, too. 🙂


  1. […] love Betsy Bird’s blog Fuse #8, ESPECIALLY when she gives us the dirt and squeaky on a librarian preview she’s attended. And when I stumble upon one of my very own books tucked in there somewhere, […]