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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Chronicle Books (Spring/Summer 2013)

With all the mergers going on within the publishing world these days, a couple librarians and I were joking the other day about those mergers we’d actually like to see.  And because we are horribly spoiled east-coasters it didn’t take long for us to wish that Chronicle Books could merge with someone like Enchanted Lion Books so that we could have a little of their sweet sweet San Francisco-infused brilliance over on our side of the country.  Fortunately, the Chronicle folks are always good sports about our petulance on the matter and are more than willing to hike themselves across several time zones to let us know about their upcoming fare.  Here then is a taste of what 2013 is going to bring.

A show of hands.  How many of you out there predicted that Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was going to be the massive New York Times bestseller that it was?  I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – I simply cannot predict what picture books become bestseller hits.  Nothing against Sherri Duskey Rinker’s successful creation, mind you.  It’s a lovely little book.  I just wouldn’t have necessarily have slapped the moniker “bestseller” status on it when I first noticed it.  Well now, at long last, there is a follow-up.  Yet again Ms. Rinker has paired up with the incomparable Tom Lichtenheld to bring us the April release Steam Train, Dream Train.  Staying within a transportation theme, the book follows a train worthy of The Little Engine That Could in terms of goodies stocked in its cars.  Ice cream, elephants, race cars, zebra referees (how Z is for Moose of them, eh?), it’s a bedtime book through and through.  We were told too that in preparation for this book Tom went to a library and proceeded to measure the number of truck books vs. the number of train books.  What he found was that there were quite a lot more trucks . . . until he was told that this was only because there were so many more train books checked out.  I’m a children’s librarian, and I approve that fact.

Taro Gomi is probably best known for his international bestseller Everyone Poops.  But really, the man is so much more than that.  A resident of Tokyo, he has two board books coming out with Chronicle that come as a bit of a relief to me.  I mean, have you ever noticed how many French board books we have?  Let another country participate for crying out loud!  So straight from Japan we now have Peekaboo! and Mommy! Mommy! Now Peekaboo! has a lot going for it, since you can read it and wear it as a mask (there are eye holes, making this worthy of testing out in storytimes).  And as the mother of a toddler who harbors a deep and abiding love for The Finger Worms by Herve Tullet, I know she’ll dig this puppy as well.  Mommy! Mommy! isn’t as high concept but you just gotta love how the man draws chicks.  In the story two yellow peepers search for their mother and keep seeing creatures and critters that mildly resemble her but turn out to be someone else.  The discoveries aren’t scary, I should note.  The chicks are goofy enough that you needn’t worry there.

When I heard that the next Amy Krouse Rosenthal picture book was going by the title of I Scream Ice Cream I was baffled.  How have I never seen a picture book with this title before?  A bit of an internet search revealed that while there are adult books ah-plenty with that name (or “I Scream for Ice Cream), there’s been nothing on the kid side of things.  Consider the situation remedied then!  Illustrated by Serge Bloch (smart) we were told that this is “going to do for homonyms what Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation.”  We’ve seen homonym books before, to be fair.  For example I think this year’s Cat Tale by Michael Hall was particularly choice.  But Rosenthal isn’t afraid to push the envelope in terms of what you can get away with.  Hence the jaw-dropping choice to include such mind-benders as “Sorry, no more funnel cakes” alongside “Sorry, no more fun elk aches.”  At this point we then got to talking about the illustrator’s work on The Enemy: A Book About Peace and how the American version removed two pages and softened the message . . . but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, if you get my drift.

Next up, a book that takes full advantage of Chronicle’s willingness to go strong on the die-cuts.  Inside Outside is by Lizi Boyd and if you’re anything like me you are now kicking yourself repeatedly in the shins in an attempt to figure out why her name is so familiar.  I finally caved and checked my library holdings, discovering that she was the one behind those I Love Mommy/Daddy/Grandma/Grandpa books that are so popular here in NYC.  This book is far more artsy with an examination of a house throughout the seasons.  There are lots of details, lots of die-cuts, and the whole shebang reminds me of the work of Robert Crowther on books like Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up Book of Inventions and the like.  I do worry a bit about the brown.  Brown can be a hard sell with the kiddos.  Let’s see how it plays out in the end.

You know what I like?  Unapologetic Europeans.  Author/illustrators that don’t care if a book isn’t the next Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious, they just want to tell a good story with good art for the kids that appreciate that kinda thing.  Hence we get books like Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine.  First Thought: I love that there is a one-namer artist out there named “Albertine”.  Brilliant.  Second Thought: If the names “Zullo” and “Albertine” sounds familiar there’s no need to bruise your shins again.  Their book Little Bird, published by Enchanted Lion Press, was a New York Times Best Illustrated title this year.  I would not have necessarily thought that Albertine was behind both books, though, since Line 135 is far more sparse a tale.  It’s basically a contemplative older version of Freight Train by Donald Crews.  In the story a boy informs his grandmother on a train that he hopes to see the whole world someday.  Grandma in turn commits a crime familiar to many adults when she tries to reign in the boy’s potential disappointment by clipping his dreams’ wings early.  It doesn’t work.  In the meantime, you see the train as it passes by a myriad of landscapes.  They’re selling it as a graduation picture book, which is a wise move.  It is, as I say, so Swiss!

Flora and the Flamingo in contrast is kid-friendly city.  Written by Molly Idle (for half a second there I misheard her name as “Eric Idle” and hosted impossible thoughts in my head) the book is all about the flapping.  Not just on the main characters’ parts, but in terms of the flaps you open up to reveal more of the story as you go.  In the spirit of books by folks like Suzy Lee (also a Chronicle author), Idle is a lapsed animator from DreamWorks who joins the droves of animators-turned-children’s book illustrators in the last few years.  This book struck me as the world’s greatest companion to Peter Brown’s You WILL Be My Friend.  As you’ll recall, that book ended with Lucy the Bear befriending a flamingo.  In this book a mildly pudgy (WOOHOO!) little girl meets a flamingo.  After a rocky start the two become friends, dancing together.  It’s a readaloud dream, one that I can’t wait to try out on some kiddos.  Add in the lovely color palette and the fact that this book could conceivably be tied into a school’s exercise program if you want to sell it that way, and you’ve hot a real solid potential hit on your hands.  I’m in love anyway.

I think I may have mentioned in the past that Chronicle has a nice little working relationship with the Star Wars folks.  I’ve talked about the various Star Wars related recipe books put out by one Ms. Lara Starr, and they’ve all sounded great.  Well, the most interesting of these is about to come out and even though my kid is just 18 months, I’m inclined to get this for her so that someday we’ll be able to use it perfectly.  Behold the wonder that is the latest cookbook: Ice Sabers.  Oh. Yes.  Basically, the book comes with four lightsaber ice pop molds so that you can create your own ice sabers.  This sounds delightful, and it is, but you have NO idea how much work went into this!  For one thing, they had to get an industrial designer to build the lightsaber molds.  Why?  Because they needed a generic hilt.  I mean, what if you had a Sith hilt but the ice saber was Jedi colors (or vice versa)?  Chaos, that’s what!!!  So they came up with these hilts, which turned out be great.  Maybe too great.  There were some rumblings that they were now going to be considered toys and, as I’m sure you can understand, there is an entirely different Star Wars toy division and they didn’t want to tread on any of THEIR toes.  Fortunately it all worked out in the end.  The capper is that these are officially approved of by George Lucas.  Consider using them for your next May 4th Star Wars party (May the fourth be with you).

Blame or credit the Core Curriculum howsoever you like, but I happen to be very excited about the fact that in 2013 we’re going to be seeing an increase in amazing picture book biographies of people who worked in the realm of math.  After all, Deborah Heiligman is coming out with the LeUyen Pham illustrated title The Boy Who Loved Math.  On the Chronicle side of the equation comes a new Einstein pb bio.  The last time I saw one of those it was Don Brown’s Odd Boy Out (Lynn Barasch’s Ask Albert Einstein wasn’t technically a bio, you see).  Now we have On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne who you may remember from hr striking bio of Jacques Cousteau in Manfish.  In this book we follow Einstein from boy to man with a special focus on how his imagination affected his work and growth.  The idea is to show how Einstein thought big questions at the same age as the kids reading this book.  There will be a small bibliography but most of the endmatter consists of paragraphs of facts.  It also marks a more kid-friendly Vladimir Radunsky (he’s the illustrator) than I’ve seen in a long time.  I don’t think we’ve seen a book out of him since he did Chris Raschka’s Hip Hop Dog.  And aside from Mannken Pis (which you may or may not count) he hasn’t done much nonfiction.  Fascinating choice, no?

Now I owe Maria van Lieshout a debt of gratitude that I’m sure I will never be able to repay.  Her Backseat A-B-See did what so few picture books have.  She wrote a book about signs.  Do you know how often children’s librarians are asked for such books (often) and how many are on our shelves in a given year (few)?  Now I feel my gratitude has had to triple, because guess what she’s following it up with?  Flight 1-2-3.  It basically shows all the signs you see when you go to the airport while at the same time going through what it’s like to travel by plane.  And let me tell you how many picture books I have about THAT simple oft-asked for topic (few)!  It’s the first post-9/11 airport book I’ve seen to go through all the scans and basics you crave.  So very very excited over here!

When I read a board book to my kiddo I always make a point of mentioning the author’s name.  So when Lorena Siminovich’s new board books You Are My Baby: Farm and You Are My Baby: Safari came up in conversation I had to dwell in my own little world for a little while. Once I’d remembered that she was the one behind the beautiful touch-and-feel sensation I Love Vegetables I was able to move on.  The design of these particular books is their most outstanding feature from the get-go.  There is a big book involving a big animal and a little book couched inside involving a baby animal.  You match the animals together and the story proceeds accordingly.  Best of all, in spite of their unique construction, they look like they’ll be able to take a pounding.  Sturdiness is non-negotiable when we’re dealing with board books, after all.

Once again we’re nearing the end of the 2012 publishing year and when I count up all my reviews of books by Latino-Americans or featuring Hispanic characters I am shockingly short.  So boy oh boy was I grateful to see Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Pura Belpre winner John Parra.  With beautiful bridging text (and the angels doth sing their praises on high) the story goes through shapes that describe everything from stone metates to quesadillas.  The book looks great, though I admit to being a bit stunned when the conversation turned and it was mentioned that Yuyi Morales moved back to Mexico not that long ago.  Doggone it!  I had her pegged for a Caldecott someday for sure!

It’s not a successful preview unless at least one early chapter book makes its appearance.  In this case we’re talking about the all new Fish Finelli series.  Book #1: Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles.  One could not help but notice that Chronicle has already secured blurbs from four librarians already including the illustrious (and current Newbery committee member) Susannah Richards.  Said Chronicle, it’s “a little more sophisticated than an Alvin Ho, a little more interesting than a Calvin Coconut.”  Set in a Little Rascals-like world the book involves things like lost treasure, library break-ins, stowaways, and far more.  I’ll read it.  You betcha.

For my daughter’s first birthday my husband’s best friend went out and got her a Gund stuffed version of Boo, the world’s cutest dog.  Until that moment I had only the vaguest sense of Boo.  Now the dog remains the kiddo’s favorite stuffed animal, bar none.  That is why I will simply have no choice but to give her Boo ABC: A to Z with the World’s Cutest Dog for some gift giving occasion.  Written by J.H. Lee and photographed by Gretchen LeMaistre it was Mr. Schu who said that the book trailer for Boo’s last creation was (and I quote) “one of the cutest videos I’ve ever posted”.  This book just goes through various things that Boo and his best buddy Buddy love.  We were then told that Boo has “More Facebook friends than Honey Boo Boo.”  Now I live in abject fear that Honey Boo Boo will come out with an ABC book of her own soon.  Hey.  It could totally happen.

Finally, a book that is not exactly children’s book I’d be amiss in not mentioning it.  Heck, I’ll just show you the cover:

If you’re not breaking fingers in your quest to fast track this into your order carts, I stand amazed.

I apologize for not covering any of the YA but there was so much good children’s stuff that I think I can get away with not mentioning a title or two.  In any case, a hearty thank you to the good folks of Chronicle for the sneaky peek.  Now all our To Read Lists are blossoming anew.

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 post (and Chronicle!) is like the snack bar at the pool where you count your pennies and make four trips to make sure you spend each and every one. I’ll take FLORA and LINE 135, please. YUM.

  2. What a great preview, Betsy! The debt of gratitude has been repaid seven-fold.
    The good news is that Yuyi Morales hasn’t quite left us yet! I know because I will see her tomorrow during our writers group meeting. We’re all working very hard on keeping her here for as long as possible!

  3. Hope Crandall says

    “Yuyi Morales moved back to Mexico not that long ago.” WHAT !!!! Can you provide more information? I hope she is just visiting there and will be back with us soon.

  4. Betsy, Hope, Maria, thank you! I am still here, but, indeed, I am moving par-time to Mexico after the New Year–a dream I have had for more than 18 years. The good news for me is that I will be collecting tons of inspiration, and I will be working in my books as much as ever. Then every time I return here (which should be often, since my son stays) I will be stepping on the other half of my heart, since now the USA is my country too, for just recently I became a citizen; thus I am a child of this country forever.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Well, shoot, that makes a lot of sense when you put it like that. I’m just gonna miss you, is all. But I’m so pleased you’ll continue to crank out those gorgeous books. You go, girl!

  5. I’m curious- which two pages were removed from “The Enemy, A Book about Peace” and how was the message softened in the American version? Where is the original version from and how was it different?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      No idea! It’s just something I heard in a discussion. Someone will have to find the original and report back.

  6. Karen Gray Ruelle says

    I’m a big fan of Lizi Boyd’s work. She illustrated my three little board books way back when: The Book of Breakfasts, The Book of Baths and The Book of Bedtimes (Harcourt).The illustrations were so beautiful and charming and colorful and they fit perfectly with my rhyming text–I adored them. I look forward to seeing her new book.