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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Library Preview: Little Bee Books (Fall 2020/Spring 2021)

Perhaps there are advantages to spending a goodly portion of my days sitting on my tochus at home. If the librarian will not go to the publisher preview, the preview shall come to the librarian. I already had the pleasure of summing up the books produced by a wide range of small publishers back in May of this year. Now it is time to add to my list with someone I missed: Little Bee.

In January of 2019 Publisher’s Weekly ran the following article: Little Bee Acquired by Founding Execs. It was a funny thing to say in light of the fact that such a thing rarely happens. Prior to the purchase (by the LBB executive team of CEO Shimul Tolia and CFO Thomas Morgan that founded the startup in 2014), Little Bee had been the U.S. children’s publishing unit of the Bonnier Swedish publishing conglomerate. Now they were free to pursue their own path, and it’s been interesting to watch. They’ve published such works as Roots of Rap by Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison, and the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor title Freedom in Congo Square by Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie (to say nothing of their partnership with GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization).

Shimul and publicity and marketing guru Paul Crichton presented to me a flurry of offerings Little Bee has coming up. Here then is a quickie smattering of some of the titles they had on offer to show:

Fall 2020

The Messy Life of Blue by Shawna Railey

By all accounts, author Shawna Railey grew up homeless and that experience informs her writing. Already PW, Kirkus, SLJ have been giving her middle grade novel, which is a story of loss, absolutely stellar reviews. A book for our times.

The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore, ill. Zoe Persico

Pity the debut picture book authors and illustrators. You can’t do bookstore appearances or school talks. You could do virtual versions, of course, but there isn’t the same feel of connecting to fans. This book might have a slight leg up, however, since its writer is a former bookseller at The Red Balloon in Minneapolis. And heck, TALK about a book that’s dealing with our current uncertain times! I know my kids suffer from the more than the occasional “whatif” these days.

Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, ill. Corey Rosen Schwartz.

Ever since that movie Barnyard came out I feel a great deal of gratitude to any book that makes its cows female. Let’s see . . . the first book in this preview was about the housing crisis. The second one was about anxiety. And this one’s about bad moods? Could you sum up 2020 any more succinctly? Folks that read it may be reminded of the Betsy Lewin/Doreen Cronin farm books. Its book launch will take place at Jeff Kinney’s bookstore in some capacity, so watch for that. And Kirsti also has a new podcast where she interviews children’s authors called Picture Book Look.

The Christmas Barn by John and Jennifer Churchman

You know how on occasion a self-published book will become this huge massive hit? A couple of years ago that happened to the book The Sheepover, a cute little title that has spurred some real legit fandom. That book was picked up by Little, Brown. Now its sequel The Christmas Barn is coming to Little Bee instead. Bonus points for the llama.

Selena: Queen of Tejano Music by Silvia Lopez, ill. Paola Escobar

Originally slated to come out in February, the on sale end of this one was pushed back to August. Is it just me or is it crazy that I can’t conjure up a bunch of Selena picture book biographies off the top of my head? Apparently, this is the first American picture book bio of the singer to date (just chew on that for a while). In the case of this particular book, SLJ just did just a big piece on Latinx biographies and this was prominently featured. And, naturally, this book will be simultaneously published in English and Spanish. Phew!

People of Pride: RuPaul Charles by Vincent Chen

Oh, the homophobes are gonna be SOOOOO angry when they see this! An inspiring board book series, I can’t tear my eyes away from the cover. Just the perfect thing to bring to a baby shower or your next Drag Queen Story Hour.

The Riverdale Diaries: Hello Betty by Sarah Kuhn, ill. J. Bone.

When I was a kid I read my mom’s old Pep comics about the Riverdale gang. Now it’s 2020 and thanks to its imaginative publishing (did you ever see the horror graphic novels?) and television programming, Archie Comics have never been stronger. Even so, it was a shock to me to see the traditional illustration technique re-imagined for MG readers. We’ll just have to read it if we want to find out if Archie sports his traditional crosshatching or not.

Spring 2021

Graduation Groove by Katherine Heling and Deborah Hembrook. Ill. Addy Rivera Sodda

Here’s a niche market that’s been missing out. Graduation books for elementary school! Specifically, this book is about graduating from Kindergarten. How strange that I’ve never seen a book dedicated to this before. After all, teachers are always desperate for books to read during such events. Step aside, Oh, the Places You Go. You have competition.

Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

You can just tick off the reasons why people need this book based on the cover alone. Camping with your grandfather? Check. A kid of color camping? Check. Grandpa’s gay? Check and check out that flag on the cover. Older LGBT characters aren’t unheard of in picture books but they’re still fairly rare. Apparently there are lots of retro images spotted throughout the story. Not sure how much camping there is, of course.

Prince and Knight: Tale of the Shadow King by Daniel Haack, ill. Stevie Kewis

Remember Prince and Knight? Remember how it showed up at #5 on the ALA Top 10 banned books list one year? In my experience, obscure books are not banned so widely, so this can stand as a testament to the book’s ubiquitousness. Expect this latest sequel to be out in April 2021. Or, put another way, just in time for June!

Murder on the Baltimore Express by Suzanne Jurmain

How strange that though we’ve seen countless picture books on this topic (including Marissa Moss’s magnificent The Eye That Never Sleeps) I cannot think of many middle grade nonfiction titles that discuss the assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln before he became president. Consider pairing this with Steve Sheinkin’s Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. That would be a historical twofer worth remembering!

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books by Adam Perry

Aww. No cover for this one, but isn’t that a killer title? They’re calling it Story Thieves meets Ready Player One. Do you really need more than that? I’m sold!

Thank you so much to Shimul Tolia and Paul Crichton for taking time out of their schedules to show me these titles. You can follow their company at @LittleBeeBooks and #BeeAReader.

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.