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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Dial & G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Summer 2012)

It’s baaaack!  Preview season is up and running and to kick it all off we begin with one of the biggies.  Thanks to my new fancy dancy job I am now able to stay for a whole librarian preview without rushing back to cover the reference desk.  So that’s nice.  The downside is that there are now SO MANY great books to mention in a given preview that there’s no way I can get to all of them.  With that in mind I’ll be limiting myself to just the children’s fare, unless there’s a teen title that just begs to be discussed (and they exist).  I’m also going to split this preview into more than one post.  Sure, it’ll eat up some valuable weekly blog time, but compared to working on it day after day with nothing in the interim, this is preferable.

So without further ado . . .

Dial Books for Young Readers

Actually let me talk about my library again for a second.  NYPL recently got this new catalog called Bibliocommons.  I’m kind of hooked on it, truth be told.  Basically it allows your catalog to act like a kind of social networking site like Goodreads.  I can rate and comment and do all kinds of things to my books on that site.  I can also make easy-to-find lists that are useful to my librarians and patrons.  One list I’ve been playing with the idea of making would be a Great Read Aloud Picture Books of 2012.  It’s a little early in the season, sure, but I’ve already seen some great ones.  Great ones like Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter.  There are ducks.  They hop in socks.  Best of all the book scans when it rhymes so reading it to the masses works.  This is the book that introduced me to the idea that the phrase “sock box” is fun to say.  It really is.

Another fun one comes to us via an unexpected source.  K.L. Going is probably best known for her YA novel Fat Kid Rules the World (coming this year to a movie theater near you).  Bit of a gear shift for her then to suddenly be traipsing into picture book territory.  That’s precisely what she did, though, with her upcoming Dog in Charge.  Clever Dial made sure to pair her with the best too.  Dan Santat is behind the illustrations which are, as you might expect, fantastic.  The man does a darn good bulldog.  I look forward to the booktrailer whenever Dan gets around to making it (raises eyebrows significantly in the direction of L.A.).

I have a little difficulty talking about his next book since I don’t want to give away too much.  Which is to say, I’ve already read it, loved it, and I’m saving my good stuff for my review.  Until that actually comes out, though (these things take time) I’ll give you the quick 411.  Three Times Lucky is a debut novel by one Sheila Turnage.  Not that you’d know it without reading her bio since the book is expertly penned.  In it Miss Mo LoBeau finds herself investigating a murder in small town North Carolina.  You know how there are always tons of southern girl novels in a given year?  Well, if you read only one, read this one.  The cover (done by Gilbert Ford, who usually does book jackets for Pseudonymous Bosch) won’t hurt its chances of getting read either.

Next up, one of those rare YA novels I’m going to mention today.  After all, how can a person seriously discuss the 2012 season without tipping a hat to the Graceling trilogy?  Yes, Bitterblue is headed to your bookstore and library shelves this May where it will complete the threesome.  The story takes place eight years after Graceling and stars Ms. Bitterblue, now grown and ruling.  And in the wake of her father’s death she comes to grips with a country suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.  I was interested to hear that Ian Schoenherr’s art with be in the book in some fashion.  You may know his work with picture books, or maybe you saw his art in The Apothecary.  Either way, talented bloke.

Gear shift towards the nonfiction picture book side of things.  We’ve never really had a children’s book (in recent memory anyway) that discusses the carving of Mount Rushmore.  This may be because of the Lakota Sioux connection.  Not sure.  In any case, author Tina Nichols Coury alongside artist Sally Wern Comport, has penned Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose.  The book discusses the man who proposed the project and the son who completed it over the course of fourteen years.

Like holiday books, starting school books are perennial favorites.  Write a good one and you might be lucky enough to see it stay in print for decades on end.  The book in that genre I’m most fond of is Antoinette Portis’s Kindergarten Diary.  Now James Ransome’s My Teacher looks like it would make a nice companion picture book.  Using a different style than we’ve seen from him in the past, Ransome offers a tribute of sorts to elementary school teachers everywhere.  Lord knows they deserve it.  We were assured in the preview that it is “not saccharine” either (a relief for those of us with a low emotional goo tolerance).

After her Ezra Jack Keats Award win for Bunny Days I’ve been eagerly anticipating Tao Nyeu’s next book.  Sure she did a crazy good embroidered piece in Manners Mash-Up, but I wanted more.  More is what I’m getting with Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always.  First off, why has no one else ever done a squid and octopus buddy book before?  This seems like a no-brainer to me.  Second, this book is very cute.  It’s a picture book, but with little chapters ala Frog and Toad.  As we see our heroes deal with various problems and issues there’s a running commentary by the tiny fish that flit about the sides of the images.  If you’ve ever enjoyed the tiny banter in the margins of your average Cricket Magazine, this is very much the same thing.  Looks swell.

One thing I love about the picture book world is the random collaborations that spring seemingly out of nowhere.  Take The Best Bike Ride Ever as today’s example.  I like James Proimos (Todd’s TV).  I like Johanna Wright (The Secret Circus).  Put ’em both together and what do you have?  An endearing and engaging tale of a girl who learns to ride her bike before she learns that there’s such a thing out there as “brakes”.  Awesome.

Peter Linenthal’s on to something.  You know how they always say that books with sharp contrasts are the best for developing babies’ eyes?  Well aside from Ms. Tana Hoban there aren’t that many folks out there who have attempted to make a serious stab at providing the masses with black and white baby fare.  Enter Mr. Linenthal.  Already he’s produced books like Look, Look!, Look at the Animals, and Look at Baby’s House.  Now the fourth in the series Look Look Outside! is making its way out there.  And yes, it’s just as gorgeous as the others.  Like I say, smart man that Mr. Linenthal.

Speaking of topics that aren’t covered nearly as often in picture books as they need to be, let’s talk haircuts (or the lack thereof).  Books on getting a haircut are few and far between.  Enter This Monster Needs a Haircut coming to us via Bethany Barton.  Described as having a kind of slapdash sensibility to her art and design the book follows Stewart (the titular monster) as his way too crazy hair appears to need a serious trimming/butchering.

Peter H. Reynolds: Not Just Sweetsy Stuff.  That’s his new logo. Like it?  I’m slapping it on him now that he’s created a book with Michelle Robinson called What to Do If an Elephant Stands on Your Foot.  Leaving the fourth wall “just a crumble on the ground” (a good line… wish I’d thought of it) the book covers basic safari etiquette.  This is one of those interactive storytime books along the lines of Can You Make a Scary Face? Can’t get enough of those.

I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Victoria Jamieson ever since she included this image in her book Bea Rocks the Flock:

Basically, if you include my library in a book I will remember and be pleased.  Now Ms. Jamieson has a new picture book title out and it’s of the swine variety.  Olympig! follows Boomer the Pig who has been seriously training for the Animal Olympics.  When he enters, however, he keeps losing. Every single event.  The book covers the not common but much needed topic of how to lose gracefully.  Would that more picture books covered this.

Remember Bridget Fidget and the Most Perfect Pet?  It came out with Dial back in 2009 and for years it was the only appearance Bridget made in the States.  Now she’s back in My Special One and Only.  When Bridget loses her favorite stuffed animal Captain Cat to another girl his return leaves her happy but the other child crying.  What’s the best solution for a case like that?

This next book can be slotted into the how-has-Jeannette-Winter-not-done-this-yet? category.  It takes a certain kind of mind to hear a news story and think to translate it into a picture book format.  Remember the Egyptian uprising?  Remember how demonstrators joined hands around the Library of Alexandra to protect it?  Well now Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya bring us Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books.  Abouraya is a journalist and Roth an artist.  Together they tell the tale.  Wouldn’t this make a great companion to Anya’s Books or The Librarian of Basra?  I think so.

This next one’s cool.  P.J. Bracegirdle is best known for his Joy of Spooking series but his macabre sense of humor has found a new outlet.  The Day of the Dead!  In The Dead Family Diaz a little skeleton boy gets separated from his family during celebrations in the living world and to his horror he makes friends with a truly terrifying creature . . . a living boy!  The art is by the Argentinian Poly Bernatene who has a great website and who I know best for his fantastic work on the too little lauded 2011 picture book The Princess and the Pig.  Good pair that.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Before I say anything about Geoff Rodkey’s first book in his The Chronicles of Egg series, allow me to pay homage to the person who wrote the text for the flap of the book.  Perhaps this was written by Mr. Rodkey himself, but I know that often it’s by folks toiling away in publisher offices who go relatively unsung.  Just listen to a bit of this:

“This Book Is For You If:

  • You like pirates.
  • You don’t like pirates. (A couple of them take a real thumping in this story.)
  • You met your best friend when he tried to cave in your skull with a cannonball.”

It has a lot more to it than that, but I liked those three in particular.  The use of the term “thumping” is particularly choice.

The book itself is fun too.  Since the preview I’ve read it in its entirety and I can tell you that it may well be the top piratical children’s chapter book I’ve ever read (eat it, Peter Pan!!).  It’s very funny but with some slambang writing worth noting.  And yes, it’s the first in a series but I think it stands pretty darn well on its own.  My sole objection to it is to its cover.  The book jacket features a scene that I am fairly certain never happens in this book.  A pity that.  It may take some handselling to get the kids interested in this one, but fortunately after the first page they’ll be hooked.

I don’t tend to mention sequels as often in these previews, but it is worth noting that the third Winston Breen book is coming out this May.  If you are unfamiliar with the Winston books these are puzzle-based extravaganzas.  The Puzzler’s Mansion by Eric Berlin combines two great things: puzzles and mansions (I suppose that’s self-evident). A famous musician is giving away prizes to attending guests and when they go missing it’s up to Winston to use his puzzle-solving skills to find the culprit.

Let us name scientists that don’t tend to make it into children’s books.  Tycho Brahe.  Johannes Kepler.  Actually scratch the Kepler.  This may not be a biography of him but he’s certainly name checked in Juliet Bell’s novel with the Chris Sheban cover Kepler’s Dream.  While a girl’s mother undergoes cancer treatment the child is sent to live with a grandmother she’s never met.  When one of her grandmother’s books is stolen, the girl and a new friend set off to recover it.  One person at our table said it really accurately captures the spirit of Albuqueque, which may be the first time in history such a sentence has been uttered.  Kalamazoo next, please!

I have this kids bookgroup I run on Fridays and I sometimes refer to them as my guinea pigs.  That was certainly the case when I saw the new covers on the Lucy B. Parker series by Robin Palmer.  I wasn’t sure if the girl model they chose was accessible to the kids.  See what I mean:

Old Cover

New Covers

So after the preview I asked them and was nearly blown down by the response.  Yep, they like these covers a heckuva lot more.  Yep yep yep.  Funny kids.

It was with great pleasure that I saw that Leeza Hernandez has a brand new picture book out with Penguin this year.  I’ve been following the career of Leeza for a while and was particularly pleased when she won a recent SCBWI award for her debut.  Dog Gone! follows a dog determined to run away from home . . . until he doesn’t.  Dog lovers, you’re on notice.

Few picture book sequels feel quite as much as a “Part Two” to their predecessors as Fiona Robertson’s The Perfect Present.  You may recall her previous book Wanted: The Perfect Pet in which a boy longed for a dog and then discovered that the duck who applied for the job was just the animal he needed.  Now in this next book the book gets a present and it’s . . . a dog!  You can probably guess how the duck feels about that.  A very good take on feeling left out or replaced.  Worth sharing.

You may not know this but the Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney are HUGE in England.  Not entirely certain why (perhaps if he were a hedgehog he’d be too common?) but in any case that popularity has slowly grown here in the states as well.  Now in his newest title Mysteries According to Humphrey you get a mysterious title in the series and something even better: A cover featuring a tiny tiny hat and tiny tiny apples.  I’m sold.  In an interesting twist check out the two competing covers.

American Version

British Version

Truth be told there is nothing like the Dyamonde Daniel books out there.  Nothing at all.  Tackling subjects that no one else touches (or touches poorly) Nikki Grimes has made this early chapter book series soar (and the illustrations by R. Gregory Christie don’t hurt much either).  The third book in the series Halfway to Perfect focuses on body image.  We’ll see where it goes from there.

I think we have plenty of mismatched friend picture books out there but I’ll admit that I sometimes have a problem with titles where a predator is best friends with their food source.  It always makes me think of that Fashion Kitty moment where FK mentions that her cat family has a pet mouse, which would be the human equivalent of have a chocolate cake as a pet. “I love you, but I wish I could eat you.”  That’s part of the reason why I was so pleased to see Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway.  It’s a mismatched friend tale, sure, but not in a predator/prey way . . . or is it?  The story concentrates on Mac (smart name) an apple who befriends Will, the worm in his head.  Unfortunately apples with worms don’t make for the most popular fruits, and Mac is quickly shunned as “rotten”.  It’s cute.  Sort of a metaphor, I suppose.  Worth checking out.

When we talk about time zones and teaching them to kids we have very few books to rely on.  I’m personally fond of When It’s Six o’ Clock in San Francisco but beyond that they don’t tend to contain much in a way of narratives.  The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf is illustrated by The Brothers Hilt (Ben and Sean) would actually tie in quite nicely into a time zone unit.  A family moves twelve time zones away from their original home which, naturally, means that the kids find it impossible to sleep at night.  That’s when they discover all the stuff that happens when the lights go out.  With its Tim Burton-esque art it’s an original take on a little discussed theme.

Good news on the reprint front.  Iron Horses by Verla Kay, illustrated by Michael McCordy isn’t just getting reprinted.  They’re bringing it out in hardcover!  Normally with that kind of subject matter you’d expect a board book, but nope.  The title is just a bit too old for that I think.  Doesn’t really matter.  By hook or by crook we’ll pretty much buy any train title you can mention.

And that’s it for today! Tune in next time when I’ll answer the burning question: Which books had the most ballsy “meets”?

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. Is it just me or does the Lucy Parker girl look like a young Betsy Bird? Anyone else see a resemblance?

  2. Anne, yes, I see that too.

  3. I cannot find My Kindergarten anywhere! Is that the correct name and author?

    Our favorite haircut book is an oldie – Mop Top by Don Freeman.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      That’s probably because it’s actually called “Kindergarten Diary”. *sigh* Corrected.

  4. It is rare to see oil paintings in children’s books as beautiful as Edward Hemingway’s.

  5. The one by Antoinette Portis? We’ve read that one but I didn’t figure it out! Thanks for the correction.

  6. Thankyou Sergio! Your check is in the mail….

  7. Genevieve says:

    Tycho Brahe gets name-checked in Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters, when Sandy and Dennys are talking about human beings who make the world worth saving. Sandy said he liked a story Meg had told him, about Tycho Brahe being so in awe of the maker of the heavens that he put on his court robes before going to his telescope.

  8. LJ singleton says:

    So glad Verla Kay’s IRON HORSES is coming back in print! And I’m looking forward to her 2012 book too: Civil War Drummer Boy [Hardcover] Larry Day (Illustrator)

  9. Just have to mention that Tycho Brahe is one of my many times great-grandfathers.

  10. Genevieve says:

    Kate, that is way way cool.


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