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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring/Summer 2012)

What publisher created the first librarian preview, inviting local carriers of MLIS degrees to their places of work to show off the upcoming season?  I don’t have an answer to that, I’m just asking.  With my NYC preferences and tunnel vision my inclination is to believe that it was one of The Big Six based out of Manhattan.  Still it’s not as if other publishers in other cities don’t do the same thing.  Take Chronicle, for example.  They’re a San Francisco publisher and as recently as November 8th they created a blog post about a recent Librarian Preview that showed off their upcoming Spring/Summer season.

As much as I wish that I’d had a chance to fly out to San Fran and back, my post today is based on something a little smaller.  A couple Chronicle reps came out to New York and hosted a dinner preview for some of the folks in town, highlighting their awfully pretty list.  I was present.  I took notes (which I promptly spilled large amounts of food upon).  I report dutifully back to you.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a mystery to me.  Not her success, mind.  The sheer swath of clever titles she produces from such a wide range of publishers causes one to tip a hat and bow down low before her.  No, my confusion is based more on her rabid fan-base and “The Beckoning of Lovely” projects she has going on.  Sometimes I feel like I need a crash course in Rosenthal 101.  Chronicle has done well by the Rosenthal, of course.  Her Duck! Rabbit! hit the top of the charts, helped in no small part by artist Tom Lichtenheld.  Now the duo returns with Wumbers.  And no, I’m sorry, but it is not a counting book narrated by Elmer Fudd (as awesome as that might be…).  Wumbers are words plus numbers.  The catalog says that the book pays tribute to William Steig’s CDB! (note to self: Make sure library system has enough copies of said title).  Then, by way of explanation it goes on to say, “…cre8ors Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have wri10 and illustr8ed this s2pendous book that is 1derful 4 readers in kindergar10 and up.” Get it?  Got it?  Gr8.

You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of call for road trip related books in the NYPL system, but you would be underestimating the average New Yorker’s overwhelming desire to get as far from this little island as possible.  So I know we’ll have plenty of requests for Maria van Lieshout’s Backseat A-B-See when it comes out.  A combination alphabet and street sign book, this will be the perfect thing to hand to those parents who, until now, have only had Tana Hoban to turn to when the wanted street sign fare.  Consider this an elegant companion to Christoph Niemann’s Subway.

And now, an exercise in elegant insanity.  This is the book that makes How Much Is A Million? look lazy.  How Many Jelly Beans? is by husband and wife team author Andrea Menotti and illustrator by Yancy Labat, a Marvel comics artist.  This brings up, yet again, my fascination with Chronicle’s ability to conjure up new artists.  I don’t know how they do it, but do it they do.  Using the conceit of two kids trying to decide how many jelly beans are ever enough the book aims to give kids a sense of large numbers.  Only it doesn’t cheat or speak of the number one million in a vague or abstract sense.  No, when the book mentions 5,000 it will then actually show 5,000 of them.  10,000 jellybeans?  There are actually 10,000 on that page.  100,000?!?  As crazy as it sounds it shows that many too.  And then, in an amazing foldout at the end (that the librarian in me prays will be rip-proof), you will see on a page an honest-to-goodness ONE MILLION jellybeans.  Seriously, this is to be seen to be believed.  The book, by the way, is a bit on the large side.  11″ X 18″ to be precise.  Shelve it next to your Lincoln Shot! if you must, but shelve it just the same.

Next up, a sister-based picture book that may be the best companion to Big Red Lollipop I’ve yet to see.  Chloe, Instead by Micah Player takes the perspective of Molly, an older sibling who had a certain set of expectations.  When she heard she was going to get a little sister she was actually quite excited, expecting someone like herself.  What she got instead was Chloe.  At first Molly is put out over Chloe’s entirely original personality, but with a little understanding she comes to see that her younger sis has a lot to offer.  I rather like books for kids that deal with botched expectations since that’s the kind of thing a child can understand (and that’s yet another similarity to Big Red Lollipop).  Micah Player, for the record, is a debut picture book author/illustrator, having previously only created books of puzzles and games.

Next up, hellooooooo potential 2013 Caldecott contender.  Or rather, 2013 Caldecott contender were it not for the small problem that the illustrator lives in the Shetland Islands.  Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems is written but the illustrious Kate Coombs and illustrated by one Meilo So.  In it we get some truly lovely works of poetry with lots of fun sounds (Gobble Gobble Slip Slap) and the occasional Gulper Eel.  I’m looking forward to this one.

When folks come into my library looking for picture books for kids about Muslim characters sometimes it feels like we have a holiday-related book or nuthin’.  There are exceptions to this, of course (I keep mentioning Big Red Lollipop but doggone it that book had EVERYTHING!), and one of those exceptions is the upcoming Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  Written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Iranian-born Mehrdokht Amini this book does indeed cover colors, just as the subtitle suggests.  But along the way it also discusses religion, food, clothing, and other elements of Islamic culture.  Which kinda makes this a necessary purchase for those libraries in dire need of that sort of thing.  Consider pairing it alongside Mirror by Jeannie Baker.

UK import time!  Let’s play a little compare and contrast with this next one.  German author/illustrator Britta Teckentrup wrote these fun lift-the-flap books and they’ve gotten a new look here in the States.

British editions:

American editions:

Chronicle publishes the continually bestselling Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden (a big hit with Baby Bird, that one) so it makes sense that they’d have a couple other titles on their lists along the same lines.  These books show counting on the one hand and animals on the other.  In the Spots and Stripes book I particularly enjoyed the way one animal leads to another.  A spotted dog, for example, then leads to a striped cat up a tree.  Neat.

Remember when I mentioned that Chronicle is based out of San Francisco?  Normally you wouldn’t remember this fact for any particular reason . . . until you get to the next book pairing on the list.  Ward Jenkins (a hugely talented illustrator on the cusp of being noticed by the masses, I am convinced) has illustrated a new series.  Now to my Manhattan-centric mind New York, Baby! makes perfect sense.  Dunno about the rest of you around the country but I’m all over any book that sets its scenes in the Big Apple (making this the second book this season to catch my eye in this way, right alongside When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward).  However, that is not the only book in this series thus far.  You might assume that the other book would be something like Washington D.C., Baby! or Los Angeles, Baby! or even Vegas, Baby, Vegas! (Ward, I will pay you cold hard cash if you write that one).  Instead of all of these, however . . . .

Well played, Chronicle.  Deserved.

So let’s say you have a The Strange Case of Origami Yoda or Darth Paper Strikes Back party you want to throw, either at home or in your library/classroom.  Parties need food, right?  Good food.  Thematic food.  Well, what better book to turn to for advice than the Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Pies, Clone Scones and Other Galactic Goodies?  And the puns just keep on coming.  You can serve Landonuts, Obi-Wan Tons, and far more.  Lara Starr was, as it happens, one of the women running this preview so if any of you out there ever wanted to interview her or something, she’s open to it.  Now this particular version of the cookbook is awesome but because it includes three cookie cutters it is not library-friendly.  If you want something you can circulate then you’ll want this book instead:

Though, I’m not sure that this other version contains the following photo.  This may be the best thing I’ve seen in a long time:

The tentacle around Luke is a particularly nice touch.

When I was a kid one of my favorite series was the Choose Your Own Adventure books.  Their appeal?  The sheer number of ways you could die in the course of a single book.  Naturally I didn’t necessarily want to die when I read/played the books, but knowing it was a danger made the playing all the more interesting.  Honestly, I never really trusted a book until it could turn me into a mangled corpse of some sort.  I suspect that may be the allure of the current crop of Choose Your Own Adventure stories.  They have different names, but the format is pretty much the same and they’re really gaining steam amongst 21st century kids, I’ve noticed.  Chronicle’s version is The Worst-Case Scenario series.  They already covered Everest and Mars.  This newest title is Amazon and it’s illustrated by the aforementioned Yancey Labat.

Part of what I loved about working the Children’s Center of my library system was seeing firsthand the books kids actually loved to read.  I don’t know that I would have predicted their overwhelming adoration for the Sardine in Space books by Emmanuel Guilbert and Joann Sfar.  Howsoever it’s happened, though, my kids are nutty about that series.  Is this the case in the rest of the country?  Well, if so fear not.  For those kids who have read all the Sardines and are looking for something similar you might want to check out Mark Fearing’s newest series Earthling.  A story about a kid who takes the wrong bus and ends up in a school in space, this might also work alongside Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy.

All RIGHT!  Jackalope time!  I’ve been waiting for this for a while now.  Years ago (three to be precise) I read a fine little piece of science fiction horror for the middle grade set called Boots and Pieces.  It was written by one young Emily Ecton, a name that will ring familiar to those of you who listen to the NPR news quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Emily is the senior producer there and at long last she has written some new children’s books.  Project Jackalope has had a couple different covers before they singled out this one.  I liked the description that appeared on one of the early prototypes, though.  “A secret government agency.  A boy on the run.  And one ruthless killer – with a fuzzy cotton tail.”  Very nice.  Very Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Its Gremlin-like premise begins when a boy is left a very strange creature by a neighbor.  And when the government wants the creature (spoiler alert: it’s a jackalope) for themselves the boy joins with his genius neighbor Agatha to save the critter for a fate worse than death.  Think of this as the middle grade equivalent of those killer unicorn teen books we’ve been seeing recently.  Note: Is it just me or is this cover making a sly reference to Rosenthal’s Duck! Rabbit! ?

The cover confused me on this next one for a second there.  Tua and the Elephant is written by R.P. Harris but it’s illustrated by the remarkable Taeeun Yoo.  Naturally when I saw that Yoo was involved (if you’ve seen her Only a Witch Can Fly then you know what she’s capable of) I assumed that we were talking about a picture book here.  Nope.  With 204 pages and a recommended reading age of 8 to 12 this is a chapter book with illustrations.  In it Tua (“Peanut” in Thai) wants a sibling.  When she makes the acquaintance of an abused elephant she decides to rescue it.  Consider this a road trip novel with elephant.  Might make a nice companion to Michael Morpurgo’s An Elephant in the Garden.

This next book marks the second time I’ve mentioned Kelly Milner Halls in a 2012 preview.  The first time was when I spoke of my mounting excitement re: her upcoming Lerner Books title Alien Investigation.  That book is straight nonfiction whereas this next one, Girl Meets Boy, is a kind of anthology.  Edited by Ms. Halls, it features twelve authors telling “he said/she said” stories.  One author takes the boy’s p.o.v.  The other takes the girl’s (though the girl is not always the romantic interest).  The authors in question pair off as Ms. Halls & Chris Crutcher, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Joseph Bruchac (now that’s a pairing I’d like to see!), Ellen Wittlinger and James Howe, Rita Williams-Garcia and Terry Trueman, Rebecca Fjelland Davis and Terry Davis, and Sarah Ryan with Randy Powell.

And finally, a book that wasn’t officially mentioned in the preview but when it came up in conversation I just knew I had to talk about it.  Imagine a series of one-panel comics that follow Darth Vader and Son.  Yeah, I know.  I’m kind of adoring the idea myself.  If newspapers carried comics like this we’d never have to worry about them failing.

And that’s all there was to it!  Gotta love these smaller publishers.  Writing them up is so much easier than the huge guys.  A big thank you to Lara Starr and her fabulous colleagues for the great food, company, and books.

Finally . . .

Jackalope Count: One!  More to come.  I swear.

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. I am a veteran teacher but a newish reader of your blog and I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found you! (My budget however will be hit hard!) My mind is swimming with all the activities that I can create to go with books mentioned in this review. I teach k-6 gifted education and this post is chock full of great reads for my students. Having long used CDB! I am excited to add Wumbers to my arsenal for non-verbal thinkers. How Many Jelly-beans? will be an excellent addition to my second grade “really BIG numbers” unit. Golden Domes and Silver Mirrors will be an excellent addition to my cultures library.

    And personally, my Star Wars loving husband will absolutely flip over Darth Vader and Son.

    Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you!

  2. What a creative lineup! I’ve added quite a few titles to my 2012 carts. Thank you!

  3. As a blogger, parent and just plain reader and children’s book lover with no advance access to books not yet released, I can’t believe I have to wait til JUNE for some of these books to come out!! But it’s nice to have books to look forward to.

  4. Thank you thank you thank you for the kind words, Ms. Bird. 🙂 (Incidentally, I didn’t write the City, Baby! books, just illustrated them….but hey, I’m willing to write up a draft of the Vegas one, for sure!)

  5. Thanks for the shout-out! Yes, when some galleys for Water Sings Blue were sent to me by mistake, I was rather astonished to be shipping them on to the Shetland Islands. The time required for an express delivery was a week! Almost as mysterious a spot as M.T. Anderson’s Delaware…

    And I REALLY want that jellybeans book.

  6. Micah Player is my brother, and I have to say that anyone who reads “Chloe, Instead” will have a ball! It is full of the infectious spirit that permeates his entire house, family, mind, and body.

  7. I didn’t know, but am delighted, that Peek-a-Who is bestselling. There must be many other people besides me who buy at least a dozen copies every year (new baby gifts for everyone I know who has a new baby). I’m buying two copies this week alone.