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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Spring 2013)

Since I’ve so many little publisher previews to try and get done before Spring has sprung, I’ve decided to concentrate on the slightly smaller folks.  The big six (soon to be five) have some great stuff too and I’ll be sure to try and talk ’em up, but for now let’s look at some folks not even located in the Big Apple.  More like the Mini Apple, as in Minneapolis.  Yes, Lerner was kind enough to show me its wares and I shall in turn show you all there is to see.

First off, the stuff you’re going to have to know to look for thanks to the Core Curriculum and other nonfiction needs.  Teachers love them some “community helper” assignments.  My librarians are constantly requesting nonfiction titles that examine the everyday jobs of the people in your neighborhood.  Trouble is, while books like that exist they often are difficult to find reviews for.  Now Lerner (which has a lovely tendency to get reviews, tra la) has stepped into the picture book nonfiction ring with their Cloverleaf Books series Community Helpers (apropos, no?).  With titles like Let’s Meet a Construction Worker and Let’s Meet a Librarian (darn right) there are eight of these jobs altogether.  It would be interesting to look at these types of books over the decades and to see if any occupations have fallen out of favor.  Hm.

And now a series that will of the most use to parents who do not have all the answers but want to look like they do.  My kiddo is just 18 months but I’m mentally prepping like an Olympic gymnast for the day she utters those terribly frightening words, “Why is the sky blue?”  I think I’ve an answer for her, but we won’t know until the day at hand.  Compared with other things kids ask, though, that question is a breeze.  Can you imagine what you’d do if your kiddo asked How Do Jets Work? That’s one of the titles in the How Fight Works series from Lighting Bolt Books and other topics cover gliders, helicopters, hot air balloons, parachutes, and space vehicles.  Each book is presented in a Q & A format with diagrams in the backmatter and visual components of each vehicle.  Plus they’re colorful and lively.  Hopefully that’ll distract the little tykes long enough that you’re able to skim through the book ahead of them, reading for the answers.

A show of hands.  Who remembers this segment?

Yes.  Everything you ever saw as a child really is on YouTube.

This old Sesame Street segment was part of PBS’s hope that I would learn where everyday objects came from.  Mr. Rogers, to be fair, also tried to show similar things.  I don’t know that you’d find that many segments like this on your television programming for kids today, but at the very least there are books now that fulfill the same purpose.  The Start to Finish: Everyday Products series seeks to do just that.  Whether it’s From Wax to Crayon or From Oil to Gas, these are written with the struggling reader in mind.  They’re simple enough that you could do them as readalouds and there are teaching guides in the back of each book.

Now you would think that in the great big city known as Manhattan that there would be loads of foodie kids.  As it happens, we do have a couple but they’re mostly located around the Battery Park area (don’t ask me why).  Still, cookbooks are generally popular no matter where you are.  Some of them are ludicrously complex though they pretend to be for kids.  The You’re the Chef series is for beginners and has e-source materials for each of their books.  Better than that, I was happy to see that there are clear illustrated diagrams for every step of the process.  I admit it.  That’s why I like the Pioneer Woman cookbooks.  She does the same thing for adults but with photographs.  This book has photos for the final product.  So there you go.

Every month I attempt to find any YA nonfiction for kids with low reading levels that I can.  It’s hard.  The topics are not exactly easy to locate.  Lerner is now putting out their Extreme Summer Sports Zones series and it sort of fits the bill.  Granted, most of these sports involve fancy bikes that a lot of my kids wouldn’t be able to afford.  But there are also stories like Skateboarding Street (vs. Skateboarding Vert).  Most interesting to me was the fact that they cover how sponsorship works when you get all big and famous.  A good idea, that.

With the same idea (books with a lower reading level that you can pitch to your YA reluctant readers) the Villains series out of Lerner is a very interestingly designed.  It’s sort of a solution to the problem of how you put black and white photos on a book’s cover without it looking booooooring.  For those kids interested in killers and the corrupt (who ain’t?) we’ve books like Assassins, Traitors, and Spies as well as older titles like Lethal Leaders and Military Madmen.  There are freakish fact sheets and short browsable spreads.  Hey, man.  Nonfiction reading has to begin somewhere.

Three words.  Deadly Adorable Animals.  I’ve always been a bit disturbed by the fact that it’s only the cute animals that get saved when they near extinction.  Ugly animals deserve their moment in the sun too!  We’ll have to wait for a book of Ugly Extinction, however, and instead read this book about the ootsy cutesy psycho killers of the animal world.  Part of the Deadly and Dangerous series, these books cover everything from Deadly High-Risk Jobs to Deadly Danger Zones.  Noted and noted.

And then once again Common Core raises its head.  Part of the 4th grade science standards require kids to know their earth science.  In response, Lerner integrated a couple CCS (Common Core Standards – don’t you love it when I fling lingo about willy-nilly?)into their Do You Dig Earth Science? series.  Plus Sally Walker (author of such books as the Sibert Award winning Secrets of a Civil War Submarine) is behind the books with otherwise dull titles like Researching Rocks and Marveling and Minerals.  So you know it’s gotta be pretty okay.

Here in New York City the demand for cheerleading books is a sneeze shy of nonexistent.  But in other parts of the country they’re a bit on the important side.  With that in mind, keep an eye peeled for You’ve Got Spirit! Cheers, Chants, Tips, and Tricks Every Cheerleader Needs to Know by Sara R. Hunt.  It’s a book for kids who are aspiring to cheer, and honestly I can’t name you more than a title or two that does what this book does.  It has the hairdos and the tryout tips and all that stuff.  Consider pairing it with one of those later Amelia Rules books by Jimmy Gownley where she joins the cheerleading squad.

Bio time.  My husband had a bet going with this next series.  They are the celebrity bio books called Action Movie Stars.  See, for a couple years now we’ve been trying to figure out if Twilight actors are the celebrities their P.R. machines say they are, or if they’re just not known at all.  All that debating came to a head when I informed him that Lerner had a bio coming out of a guy called . . . wait for it . . . Booboo Stewart.  Yeah, I had to Google it.  I half expected his name to be a prank on Lerner’s part.  Maybe they slipped him into my packet as a joke and were hoping I’d fall for it.  Turns out there really is a guy named that.  That and other Tiger Beat inspired bios will you find here.  The others are a lot more normal (Jennifer Lawrence, the guy who plays Gale, etc.) but my heart will always be with the guy named after Yogi Bear’s little buddy.

I do not pretend to be hip or with it or in the know.  I consider listening to the radio as I walk to the subway in the morning to be the #1 best way to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening.  So if you were to ask me who created Tumblr my response would probably be, “Somebody created it?”  Apparently I am under the impression that websites just sort of spring from the loamy earth fully formed like Venus in her shell.  That’s why I wasn’t aware of the existence of David Karp: The Mastermind Behind Tumblr.  He’s appearing in a little bio which is particularly interesting since he may be one of those guys your kids know but you don’t.  A 15-year-old dropout, this is the guy who got his company going in 18 months so that it was pulling in millions.  There’s not much on the guy out there, so this bio is certainly the only one for kids and teens you’ll find.

Now in terms of bios of folks that no one has ever heard of, meet Tillie Pierce.  Her new book is Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg.  Author Tanya Anderson’s a history teacher and one day she went to Gettysburg.  While there she went to Tillie’s house and learned her story.  This 15-year-old lived in a house that abutted the Pennsylvania battfield.  While the battle raged she went out with her neighbors and aided the soldiers.  Don’t go looking for other books about her, though.  Aside from her memoir there isn’t really anything on Tillie at this moment in time.  And now with the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg coming up, 2013 is the time to release this book.

Woot!  New Malcolm X book on the horizon!  Woot woot!  It’s A Marked Man: The Assassination of Malcolm X.  Unlike other books on Malcolm, this one takes a very careful look at the circumstances surrounding his death.  The book covers the man’s history, charisma, and has some primary sources for folks making reports.  I recently finished reading Andrea Davis Pinkney’s examination of Malcolm in her book Hand in Hand, so he’s been on my mind as of late.  We definitely need some newer stuff on him.  This book is teen, by the way.

Okey-dokey.  So here we are in the 21st century and the Theory of Evolution is not precisely embraced by every last American we know.  Whole swaths of folks don’t go in for it.  So Sylvia A. Johnson came up with a way to talk about the issues.  In Shaking the Foundation: Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, the book covers Darwin’s life and background.  Then it discusses the issues at hand with supporting and opposing views.  There will be some e-resources to accompany this book, and I will be very interested in watching whether or not schools pick it up.

That was serious.  Let’s scale everything back a bit, then.  Let’s go the picture book route.  Better still, let’s go the Chris Monroe picture book route.  I was pleased as punch to find out that the woman behind old Monkey With a Toolbelt (still one of my all-time favorite books and titles) is coming out with Cookie, the Walker.  In this book Cookie the dog decides to try her hand on walking on two legs rather than four.  The advantages seem to far outweigh the disadvantages, until fame and fortune turn out to not be quite what Cookie needs.  The thing that I particularly love about this book is that Cookie has a friend and confidant in another dog who happens to be her best friend.  That dog’s name?  Kevin.  I have no idea why that name amuses me so much, but it does.  Kevin the dog.  Awesome.  This book may pair well with an upcoming Peter Brown project.  I shall say no more.

Years ago I discovered Mr. Joe Kulka when he created one of the weirdest, wildest, and most enjoyable picture books I’d encountered called simply The Rope.  I think I may have received a rope in the mail in conjunction with the book, which was certainly an original way of going about promotion.  Well, Mr. Kulka’s moved on and for a long time he’s been doing books with Carolrhoda.  His latest is My Crocodile Does Not Bite.  In it, a boy brings Fluffy (a pet of rather large stature) to school.  A bully girl and her poodle insist that the croc has to go, but our hero (Ernest . . . another great male name) explains how well-behaved his reptile really is.  You may see where this is going.

And now for the baseball fans amongst us will be pleased to see Rob Skead’s Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio.  Illustrated by Floyd Cooper the story follows a game when the Yankees wanted to test Joe DiMaggio against the greatest pitcher around.  So they went out of the major leagues and played barnstormer Satchel Paige.  I haven’t seen a good Satch book for kids in a couple years here, so anything new is welcome.  I’m particularly pleased with the way in which Mr. Cooper brought out the craggy qualities in Satchel’s face.  A great topic for a book, that’s for sure.

Now the other day I was at a PEN holiday party here in town.  Lots of authors were milling about (Doris Orgel! Emily Arnold McCully!) including a fellow from Minnesota.  I didn’t know him at first, but the name sure sounded familiar.  John Coy . . . Coy . . . When I thought about it long enough I could picture it.  I remembered shelving his baseball/soccer middle grade fiction in my old children’s room!  Sure!  John Coy!  Well turns out that John’s written a book for his fellow Minnesotan locals at Carolrhoda Books, and boy is it a doozy.  Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Baseball caught my attention first and foremost because there is a man wearing a handlebar mustache on the cover.  So, y’know, right there I’m in love.  Illustrated by Joe Morse (remember his inner city take on Casey at the Bat all those years ago?) the book is a funny and high-spirited take on a guy who desperately tried to keep a group of young (mustached) men occupied.  The solution could only be to invent basketball.  There are primary sources and all kinds of stuff in the back as well.

Okay, back to baseball again.  Now I pay about as much attention to the sport as I do opera.  I know it is there.  I’ve even seen it live.  I just never know all that much about it.  Like, let’s talk about secret mud.  I didn’t know there was secret mud out there.  I thought all the mud in the world was open and honest and in the public domain.  Then I see a book like Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball and there I am learning stuff.  Written by David A. Kelly (his name sounds familiar because he writes The Baseball Mysteries, oh fellow children’s librarians) and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez the book has a VERY simply text, even as it tells the story of the Baseball Rubbing Mud which started selling in 1938.  Mud.  Whodathunkit?

Okay, class, pop quiz.  Here’s the question: What bird flies farther than any other when it migrates?  Pencils down and turn your papers over.  The answer?  The bar-tailed godwit, of course (duh!).  And in Sandra Markle’s The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration you get to see that journey firsthand.  It’s just a little picture book with facts written on a 2nd grade reading level.  The illustrations happen to be by Mia Posada and I can’t help but think it would pair nicely with Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years. Hm.

Anyone else remember the book/musical How To Eat Like a Child?  Man, that was good stuff.  I can still sing one of the best songs in that show, “How to Torture Your Sister”.  Somebody should bring that book back (it was by Delia Ephron, which is awesome right there) because a lot of the elements of that book were timeless, sister torture foremost amongst them.  All this came to mind when I saw the Michel-Yves Schmitt graphic novel Where’s Leopold?: #1 Your Pajamas Are Showing! When a boy finds he can turn invisible he uses his powers for the greatest good of all – making his older sister’s life miserable.  Oh the pranks, the pranks!  This is a young comic containing little mini stories.  Might pair well with any Fox Trots you happen to have in your system.

In other graphic novel news, I’m intrigued by this William and the Lost Spirit by Gwen de Bonneval.  With art by Mattheiu Bonhomme (we’re really loving the French names today) the book is actually being promoted as YA.  The story revolves around a boy who is trying to find his father and his sister (who got lost looking for the father).  As you can tell from the cover it’s one of those epic fantasies, but I was pleased to hear that it was all done in pen.  There’s no digital involved anywhere.  Awesome.

A new British series (or is it Australian?) on a 4th grade reading level is coming to town.  Called S.W.I.T.C.H. the books follow Josh and Danny, twins that have accidentally get sprayed by S.W.I.T.C.H. serum (otherwise known as Serum Which Initiates Total Cellular Hijack).  Now they’ve turned into bugs.  This is a six book series that sounds like Metamorphosis meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids.  Talk about an easy booktalk.

Pity the sports loving girls for they shall have few books between them.  Pity particularly the girls who look for sports series.  Just off the top of my head I can name series starring girls that concern groups who are friends, who start a paper, who have a cupcake club, who ride horses, and so on and such.  But girls on a team together?  Not happening.  The Counterattack series is actually for teens, but they’re hi-lo books.  Short high interest titles on girls who play soccer.  In other words, perfect for jock girls (has ANYONE ever attempted to write jock girl fiction before, by the way?).  They look kind of badass, I have to admit.  None of this girls in gowns running away in slow motion crap.  I’m sold.

And I’m running out of time (I have to get this post up before midnight or I won’t be able to post it until my upgrade has occurred!!) so the only other YA fiction I’ll mention is R.J. Anderson’s Quicksilver.  I mention it partly because I’m a fan of the Stratford, Ontario author and partly because it sounds awesome.  In a smart and twisty YA novel a girl is on the run.  This is the sequel to the book Ultraviolet and our heroine is trying to keep her family safe.  Oh.  And there are aliens.  Nuff said.

Big time thanks to the good folks of Lerner who paid me a visit!  Looking forward to your books when I see ’em, guys.

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.