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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2012)

Fun Fact: Librarian previews done in the presence of small attention seeking babies yield surprisingly drool-soaked notes.  Not so drool-soaked that a person couldn’t decipher them later, but wet with the moisture of someone else’s mouth just the same.

Still and all, the good people of Lerner Publishing Group (Lindsay Matvick and Terri Reden if you want to get specific) weren’t exactly unaware of the effects babies have on one’s output.  Hence the tardiness of this post, I suppose.  They sat down with me at my favorite local chocolate cafe (Lily O’Brien’s, in case you ever want to meet with me too) and showed me what the Spring 2012 season has to offer.  Everything from real world alien investigations to real world stories about never forgotten Harlem bookstores.  2012 is shaping to be a heckuva year.

First up, the Tana Hoban of the 21st century.  At least that’s how I dub British crafty blogger Jane Brocket.  Color photography may date to a certain extent, but Tana Hoban’s books still circulate like nobody’s business.  Like Hoban, Brocket has an eye for concepts and she complements each one with lush photography.  Her newest is Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What Are Patterns? Pretty self-explanatory, except that I wonder if the title is slightly different overseas.  They’ve a rather different view of the term “spotty” if my Harry Potter has taught me anything.

First came joeys.  Then larvae.  Now Bridget Heos is back with Stephane Jorisch (a fellow you may now know best from the Betty Bunny books) for What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings: A Guide for Crocodilian Parents (and Curious Kids).  The book covers facts about crocs and their offspring.  Makes me wonder if Ms. Heos will start covering some of those animals we get requests for all the time like bats or sharks.  Shark Week is every week in the public library.  Note, by the way, that there is (or will be) free material on the Lerner website to accompany this book.

Lerner has some similarities to those publishers that just crank out titles covering subjects that kids are assigned in schools all the time.  The difference is that their series titles tend to be pretty good.  Recently they started putting out a series that covers different breeds of dogs and cats. I sort of assumed that was the end of it and that we wouldn’t hear any more.  Not at all!  Behold the new “My Favorite Horses” series.  Covering American Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Lipizzans (like in The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson!), Morgan Horses, and Shetland Ponies (no Assateagues?), the books discuss everything from breed history to info on riding and owning your own horse.  Consider purchasing for the horsey lovers out there.  We don’t have all that many here in New York, but I suspect the case is different in other parts of the country.

The “On the Radar” series comes out with a bunch of titles that we’ve sort of been waiting for.  How many of you children’s librarians out there have been sitting at your reference desks, minding your own business, when a kid comes up and asks for guns and weapons?  Or stuff on the army, for that matter?  I don’t know about you but my library doesn’t exactly stock up on war machines for the kidlets.  So really the “Defend and Protect” series may be our out.  Covering Armed Services, Police Forensics, Special Forces, and Undercover Operations, I’m sure the books aren’t exactly including any criticisms of these various organizations but it did make a difference to me that they cover global forces and not just Americans.  Hand ’em over.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall when the “On the Radar” series named its newest collection “Street Style”.  I can just imagine the rejected titles.  “Street Style”, to be clear, basically covers all those topics left uncovered (so to speak) by other series.  There’s “Body Decoration” “Graffiti Culture”, “Street Art”, and the mildly perturbing “Cool Brands”, which I’d like to take a closer look at.  The “Street Art” title covers everything from flash mobs to International Pillow Fight Day.  You’ll note that the cover of our “Street Art” sports an image of that huge eyeball sculpture in Chicago (a friend of mine once referred to it as the “eye of Rahm Emanuel, never blinking”).  However, when I did a preliminary search for this cover I stumbled on the British edition of the same book seen here:

Turns out that in Britain there’s a Banksy image on the jacket.  I asked Lerner and they told me that Banksy is indeed mentioned in the American “Street Art” book as well.  Awesome.  Pair it with Exit Through the Gift Shop then.

“Martial Arts Sports Zone” does not include my beloved Mexican Wrestling (a topic I’ve searched in vain for over the years) but it has a nice output.  Amateur Wrestling, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Karate, Mixed Martial Arts, Muay Thai, and Tae Kwon Do all get their due.  The books contain a variety of famous athletes, the gear you need, the steps and moves, and the competitions for each sport named.  Batta bing.

I admit that I did a brief double take when I saw the cover of this upcoming Gateway Biography.  Losing no time whatsoever (and banking on the film’s success) a bio of Jennifer Lawrence, star of the upcoming Hunger Games movie, is up and running.  Here’s a timeline for you librarians out there.  The movie is slated for the end of March.  The book is out in February.  Survey says, be prepared.

Initially one wonders about the audience for the “USA Today Teen Wise Guides” coming out on “Time, Money, and Relationships”.  Then I think back to my own high school days.  Ah yes.  I remember taking classes that taught me how to balance a checkbook or how to avoid propaganda.  In fact the old “how to avoid propaganda” lesson was everywhere when I was young.  I haven’t seen it touted as much recently, which may explain why I was so happy to see that one of the titles in this series is “Shopping Smarts: How to Chose Wisely, Find Bargains, Spot Swindles, and More.”  It’s not exactly anti-propaganda, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Other titles in the series include “Budgeting Smarts”, “Conflict Resolution Smarts”, “Job Smarts”, “Relationship Smarts”, and “Scheduling Smarts”.  That last is particularly timely, though they should make one for the helicopter parents out there as well.  Oh, and each book has a kind of magazine feel on the inside.

You can always count on Kelly Milner Halls to be interesting.  It’s not by accident that her website dubs itself Wonders of Weird.  The woman is good at creating the kinds of books I would have dived into headfirst as a kid.  Whether it’s Tales of the Cryptids, In Search of Sasquatch or her newest, Alien Investigation, she puts the time into her nonfiction titles, no matter how out there they might be.  In this latest she’s interviewed experts and presents a book that contains all the different ways of looking at alien encounters.  The idea is to leave it up to the reader to decide for themselves.  FYI: She apparently does school visits.  Man, can you think of any cooler topic from an author at a school than bigfoot or aliens?  Fingers crossed that she does ghosts next.  Failing that, spontaneous human combustion.

And the award for Best Subtitle of a 2012 Lerner Preview goes to . . . the one for Friend Me! Subtitle: “600 Years of Social Networking in America”.  Boo-yah, people.  Boo.  Yah.  Acting as a perfect companion to that film The Social Network (and written by Francesca Davis DiPiazza), the description of this book is bound to make adults everywhere feel roughly 10 million years old.  That’s right, kids!  People used to meet in placed called “coffee houses” and “church groups”.  The book traces modern social networking venues (I like the inclusion of “corn husking parties”) as well as technological advances (telegraph machine, etc.) that aided in creating communities.  It’s for YA collections primarily, but there’s a lot to chew on here.  Fun inclusion.

Speaking of stuff that makes adults feel old, in 2010 it was the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  I suspect we should be grateful our children’s rooms weren’t flooded with picture books commemorating the event (don’t laugh, worse has been remembered en masse).  So from Alison Marie Behnke we get for the YA sphere, Death of a Dreamer: The Assassination of John Lennon.  The book was originally slated to be part of an assassination series (not a bad idea.. heck, it worked for Sondheim) but the author realized fairly quickly that this was a topic that deserved greater attention.  The title looks at Mark David Chapman as well as Yoko.  Best of all, it seems like Lerner will be creating a whole slew of e-source materials for this book.  Woot!

Books on nuclear power.  Name ’em.  Failing that, books on nuclear disasters.  You could certainly find a couple old ones on Three Mile Island or Chernobyl (if you haven’t weeded your stacks recently) but recent books are few and far between.  So it is that Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future by Fred Bortz may be just what the doctor ordered.  Out in time for the one year anniversary of the disaster of March 2011, this book looks at what went wrong in Japan, how it compared to other disasters, and then there’s a bit that considers the pros and cons of nuclear power vs. other ways of getting electricity.

Okay, let’s switch gears and go from unpleasant radiation to pretty pretty leaves.  One of the most common requests I get in my children’s room is for “tree books”.  Parents, teachers, kids, you name it.  They all want books on trees.  Maybe it’s a New York thing (they’re kind of novel here).  Dunno.  In any case, Laurie Purdie Salas and illustrator Violete Dabija have paired for the upcoming A Leaf Can Be . . . It looks at all the different things leaves are to animals, people, and the world.  It’s a simple little picture book for a very young curriculum, but there’s even backmatter at the end with “additional explanations”.  Cool.

Not long ago author Kate Hosford and illustrator Holly Clifton-Brown came up with the book Big Bouffant that marked, as far as I could tell, one of the first times the word “Bouffant” made it onto a picture book jacket.  The sequel is the far less hair-centric Big Birthday.  In it, Annabelle the heroine is all gung-ho to take her next birthday party to the moon (lord help her parents if she ever wants a destination wedding).  Sounds like it would make a fine companion to Jennifer LaRue Huget and LeUyen Pham’s The Best Birthday Party Ever.

This one took me a second to get.  Not that I didn’t like it from the start, mind you.  After all, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of affection for any picture book that stars a goat and his best friend, a robot.  It brings to mind those great Tony Johnston/Tony DiTerlizzi easy reader books Alien & Possum.  In this case, however, Beep and Bah is by James Burks, the same fellow behind Gabby and Gator.  Once I realized that, all the pieces fell into place (so to speak).  In Beep and Bah (not to be audibly confused with Bee Bim Bop) Bah is a goat that pretty much has just a one word vocabulary.  Beep, in contrast, is loquacious and extroverted.  A book trailer for them is due out come January.  Keep your eyes peeled.

It is the curse of my home life that I cannot hear the title of this next book without conjuring up Dr. Evil.  Zip It! by Jane Lindaman is illustrated by the vastly read and respected Nancy Carlson.  In a kind of picture book graphic novel format a boy attempts, to no avail, to let his father know that he is walking around with his fly unzipped and his red heart boxers out there for everyone to see.  The catalog calls this one a book containing one “minor trouser oversight”.  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Here in New York City I’ll sometimes read a farm book to the kids and quiz them on where animals of that sort tend to live.  NYC kids are interesting that way.  They’re vaguely aware that farms are in the country but this “country” of which I speak is a foreign concept.  They might benefit greatly from a book like A Secret Keeps by Marsha Wilson Chall.  A simple verse story, it’s a grandparent relationship / city-to-farm / kitten tale.  Add in the author (who wrote that awful cute One Pup’s Up) and illustrator Heather M. Solomon (Clever Beatrice and If I Were a Lion, amongst others) and you’ve got yourself a hit pairing.

I’ve been increasing impressed by Lerner graphic novel line-up in the last few years.  Seems to me that they’re a publisher willing to put the work into what is always a huge circulating section of my library.  That every publisher doesn’t have a graphic novel imprint of its own is utterly baffling to me.  Yen Press and Graphix?  Whatever happened to those?  These days it sometimes feels like it’s all up to First Second at Macmillan and Graphic Universe at Lerner (I know that there are others out there, but I don’t see them half as frequently).  One new series coming out is “Miss Annie” by Frank Le Gall, illustrated by Flore Balthazar (an awesome name if ever I heard one).  The first book is Miss Annie: Freedom! The second, Miss Annie: Rooftop Cat.  In them a young housecat yearns for the outdoors and gets more than she expected too.  Look out, Binky.  You have some competition on the horizon.

Another graphic series is the “Summer Camp Science Mysteries”.  Created by Lynda Beauregard the series has a group of kids at a camp that use science concepts to solve mysteries.  Sound familiar?  I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old Bloodhound Gang episodes from the 70s and 8os that used to play at the end of each episode of 3-2-1 Contact (not to be confused with the band of the same name.. *shudder*).  For that matter, when is someone going to turn that old show into a contemporary graphic novel series?  Until that happens we have these books instead.  Good old-fashioned kids solving mysteries.  Awesome.

They say that Lou! is all about a kid who goes from tweendom through teendom but it looks pretty tweeny to me.  Tweeny and probably just exactly the right kind of thing to hand that girl in my bookgroup who’s always asking for stuff like Raina Telgemeier’s adapted The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel series.  These books are by Julien Neel and are just your basic realistic fiction adapted to a graphic format.  There are eight planned altogether, two per season, and each page is its own mini story.  It gets me to thinking.  I wonder if any publisher has ever considered converting other realistic fiction to GNs.  Can you imagine Betsy-Tacy, the comic series?  What about Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice books?  I think I’m on to something here.

Someone else was on to something when they adapted O.T. Nelson’s The Girl Who Owned a City (a book I sometimes refer to as “Ayn Rand for kids”) to a graphic novel format.  In this era of dystopian fervor, there’s never been a better time for this one.  I suspect too that it would work far better as a comic than it did as a novel.  Written by Dan Jolley and illustrated by Joelle Jones, if you’re unfamiliar with the original story, this is the one where all the grown-ups in the world die, leaving only children under the age of thirteen.  I’ll confess to you that when I was a kid this was a fantasy I often would entertain (much to the concern of my mother, who would find the beginnings of a lot of my short stories where mass murderers dispatched all the adults while the kids were at school).  I would have eaten this book all up when I was young.

I could be forgiven for thinking at first that the “Travel Team” series by Rick Jasper, Gene Fehler, Andrew Karre, M.G. Higgins, and Jason Glaser was nonfiction.  The covers imply it at first.  But no, in fact this is a YA series about “an elite high school travel baseball team based in Las Vegas”.  For those sports-inclined reluctant readers the books are written at a 4th grade reading level.  It’s nice to see some boy books for the kids in the upper grades.  Sometimes it feels like the teens get lost in the shuffle when it comes to high interest, low reading levels.

I couldn’t resist.  When I heard that Norah McClintock’s “Robyn Hunter Mysteries” were coming from Canada to the States I had to do some cover comparing.  Here we go then  . . .



Yeah, I think the States win this round.  Again with the high interest, low reading levels, these are mysteries for teens that need something a little easier than your average Agatha Christie.  There are three Robyn Hunter Mysteries so far: Last Chance, You Can Run, and Nothing to Lose.  I kinda love that the heroine is Canadian too.  We’re a bit lacking in Canadian children’s/teen lit protagonists these days.

After all the hype of Ashes by Ilsa Bick and the various jackets out there for it, I saw the cover of The White Zone by Carolyn Marsden and thought: Zombies!

Okay, the idea of Carolyn Marsden writing about zombies probably should have been a tip-off right then and there.  In fact, this book is about two cousins, one Shiite and one half Sunni, in the aftermath of the Iraq war.  It’s a middle grade book of street life in Bagdhad and considering how many contemporary Iraq middle grade novels I’ve been seeing lately (enter cricket sound here) this one is already in my To Be Read queue.

This next book got me incredibly excited.  I don’t even care that it’s YA.  I’m so reading it.  Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is probably best known to some as the author of the Coretta Scott King Book Award winning Bad News for Outlaws, which I remember partly because when she was announced as the winner of that award she was seated directly behind me in the ALA audience some Midwinters ago.  Her latest title is No Crystal Stair: A novel in documents based on the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller.  The book concentrates a bit on the store’s famous patrons.  Malcolm X and W.E.B. DuBois.  Muhammad Ali and Langston Hughes, etc.  R. Gregory Christie does the interior art and the trim size appears to be a bit larger than your usual texts (7″ X 10″).  I’m definitely curious.

As titles go it’s hard to beat Ashley Hope Perez’s The Knife and the Butterfly.  This one’s hardcore YA.  None of that tween confusion going on.  In it a 16-year-old wakes up in a strange location.  He can’t get out, no one comes to see him, and he’s made to observe a white girl in a different cell through a one-way mirror.  The mystery is coupled with Azael’s memories of his upbringing and gang life.  Nice cover too.

Catch and Release sort of looks at first like a creepy fishing book.  Probably not too far off.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) which is basically just a l’il ole flesh-eating bacteria.  In this small town five kids are killed by it.  The only survivors are Polly (who lost an eye and is facially scarred) and Odd (lost a foot and suffers phantom limb pain).  They were the ones caught and released by the disease and they bond over that and their love of trout fishing.   Interesting stuff.

And finally, remember how I mentioned Ilsa J. Bick earlier and her novel Ashes?  That surprise hit of the season has swept libraries nationwide.  So you can imagine how pleased Lerner is to be releasing her next book, Drowning Instinct.  Also on the upper end of upper YA, the book features a protagonist who may be either a victim or a perpetrator.  “Is she telling her story or telling the story?”  It’s one of the more provocative titles on the list.  So there you go.

And we’re done!  As well all my 2012 previews, it’s now time for the Jackalope round-up.

Any Jackalopes?: No

Don’t worry.  There are more on the horizon.

Thanks to Lindsay and Terri for giving me the low-down on the upcoming season!

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. This is terrific-thank you so much. That Friend Me book sounds very cool. And we need that aliens book! I’m smack dab in Virginia horse country, so that horse breed book definitely caught my eye (yes, it would have been nice to have the Assateague/Chincoteague ponies mentioned).

  2. Betsy! Thank you so much for those very kind words. I am so pleased to be working with Lerner again; they are a talented bunch of folks. I do hope people like the book, which is VERY different from ASHES.
    Thanks, again, for the mention!

  3. I loved The Girl Who Owned The City when I discovered it in 8th grade. I read it at least 3 times that year!

  4. Thanks for the great overview, Betsy! And you guessed it. The author of FRIEND ME! is none other than my sister! In fact, the project is a collaborative sister thing, as I was bouncing the idea around some time ago and thought my sister would be a great fit for the project. She agreed, and bingo!