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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Penguin Books for Young Readers – Razorbill and Grosset & Dunlap (Summer 2012)

And now the thrilling conclusion!

Just kidding.  I’ve lots more to do.  But if you already read Part One then this should fall along the same lines.


In the past this imprint was best known for its teen fare.  A slow and steady increase in their middle grade offerings, however, has turned it into the kind of place I can report upon.  Undead Ed by Rotterly Ghoulstone (how awesome would it be if that was his real name?), illustrated by Nigel Baines is going to be the kind of thing you hand to the Zombiekins fans of the world.  It’s middle grade zombie fare, which means horror + comedy.  A lot more horror in a way since our hero is a zombie himself.  Now middle grade books that involve zombiefication can do it one of several ways.  The best known book where the protagonist is undead at this point in time may be David Lubar’s Accidental Zombie books.  Yet even those books only turn the hero into half of a zombie.  In Undead Ed a kid named Ed is pursued by his own dismembered arm.  And as all 1950s bad movies have taught us, murderous hands = a good time.  This book also includes a skeleton named Clive.  I feel that’s worth noting.

Next up, a book that makes me just a little bit sad.  Catalogs often contain outdated galley covers of books that have since changed their look for one reason or another.  The problem comes when you prefer the abandoned jackets that will never see the light of day.  I admit to being weirdly excited when I turned the page in the old Penguin catalog and saw, to my delight, the world’s weirdest cover for Nikki Loftin’s The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy.  Unfortunately it is not the final.  The cover that you are seeing to the right here is fine and all, notable because it shows a chubby boy (which is actually pretty rare cover-wise).  But oh . . . if only you could see the original.  Like a claymation version of H&R Pufnstuf, it was.  Admittedly it looked handmade in a really weird way, but that was what I loved about it.  It stood out.  Now it will sort of blend in with the rest of them.  The story is about a girl sent to an academy where the kids run wild and eat whatever they want.  Yet when it becomes clear that the children are getting fattened up for a very specific reason, it’s up to our heroine Lorelei and her friend Andrew to save the day.  This is a book recommended to fans of A Tale Dark & Grimm with just a hint of Coraline for spice.  Tasty.

Grosset & Dunlap

If your library shelves are anything like mine you probably have some longstanding series in there that still, strangely, go out all the time.  Old Babysitters Clubs with horrendous 80s covers and Giff’s Polk Street Kids.  We also have a fair number of Kate McMullan’s Dragonslayer’s Academy, but no shame there.  They were purchased back in the day when the tangential connection to Harry Potter was enough to get them going out.  They then picked up some interest when How To Train Your Dragon appeared in movie theaters nationwide.  The series stopped at #19, however, so I say with certainty that some folks will be cheering when they hear that #20 School’s Out . . . Forever! will finally cap an ending on the series once and for all.

Then we have a new series by Ann Hood.  I’ve mentioned The Treasure Chest books in the past, partly because I like their premise.  We’re all used to Magic Tree House types of stories where kids go back in time and meet famous people.  It’s sort of cool that this series takes the same basic idea but is written for an older crowd and has the kids go back in time to meet famous people who aren’t necessarily known to kids.  #1 was Clara Barton and #2 Alexander Hamilton (I didn’t read it so I’ll just pretend he was the villain in that one).  #3 is the next one out and the famous person is Pearl Buck.  The story also takes place during the Boxer Rebellion, a subject that I have seen in precisely zero books for kids recently.  Well played that.

Periodically I like to complain that chapter book biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. written in the last ten years simply do not exist.  Or, if they do, they’re bloody hard to find.  The exception to the rule is the King bio in the Who Was? series.  Hugely popular in my branches, thanks in no small part to the bobbleheaded covers, the latest subject this August is going to be featured in Who Is J.K. Rowling? In other news, G&D is launching a new offshoot of the series called “What Was?” which will come out with four books in Spring 2013.  I’m now inexplicably chanting “Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion” to myself, which is rather counterproductive.  Oh!  One last note.  They’re putting out a lot of “Who Was?” books in Spanish.  Fantastic.

More soon.  Life is easier when things can be spread out.

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. Excellent wrap ups! I like the Who Was/Is series. We should receive Who Was Steve Jobs? any day now, and I know it’s going to be popular.

  2. I completed our library’s collection of the Who Was/Is books on suggestion from one of my homeschooling moms and we can’t keep them on the shelves! People love them!