The heat of summer may be upon us but children’s book publishers are now looking toward the glorious days of fall, and the Penguin Young Readers Group is no exception. Forty titles from Penguin’s varied kid imprints were highlighted recently at the publisher’s recent school and library preview, which included surprise guest appearances from authors John Bemelmans Marciano and Julie Berry.
Though Marciano is best known for carrying on the Madeline legacy created his grandfather, Ludwig Bemelmans, he puts his brush aside to write a middle school novel about a “truly horrible boy” in The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield (October). Says editor Sharyn November, “The evil text and art by Sophie Blackall play off each other. It has a bit of Charles Addams.”
Humorous for entirely different reasons, the title of the day had to be Why Dogs Eat Poop (October), by Francesca Gould and David Haviland, a nonfiction tome all about the gross-but-true things you never knew about animals. Believe it or not, the book will help meet Common Core State Standards.
In the same vein, Penguin has created a comprehensive Nonfiction Guide [PDF], a guide to its popular nonfiction titles grouped into overlapping grade bands: K–4, 4–8, and 7 and up. The books are organized thematically by science, history, and social studies, and each grade band has an associated text set, with nonfiction and historical fiction titles surrounding one specific topic: Art & Artists (K–4), Heroes (4–8), and the Civil Rights Movement (7 and up). There is also an author study on Jean Fritz.
Also in October—just in time for National Bullying Prevention Month—is the debut of Until It Hurts to Stop, Jennifer R. Hubbard’s (@JennRHubbard) novel that examines the lasting effects of bullying. Penguin has also created materials on this important topic: the Pledge to Play Nice kit.
The program, which is geared for grades PreK–3, contains a poster with activities aligned to Common Core State Standards, along with a pledge (created by Llama Llama author and illustrator Anna Dewdney), and stickers and certificates for pledge takers.
On a lighter note, food will take center stage this fall in two celebrity books. Haylie Duff’s (@HaylieK) The Real Girls Kitchen (October) aims to help young girls become foodies, while the first book in the “Recipe for Adventure” series by Giada De Laurentis, Naples, is a story centered around a Pizzafest.
Raccoons also like pizza, and in the Secret Pizza Party (September) by Adam Rubin, illustrated Daniel Salmieri (@rubinsalmieri), readers can follow a raccoon on his quest for his favorite food. And perhaps the most famous raccoon of all kidlit, Rascal, is turning 50 this year; in celebration of the event, a special anniversary edition of the Sterling North book will be released.
New titles are also on the horizon from even more familiar names, like Eric Carle’s Friends (November) and QB1 from Mike Lupica, which drops in September just in time for football season.
QB1, which has been described as “Friday Night Lights meets the Manning brothers,” also marks the launch of Penguin’s “Read to the End Zone” sweepstakes. Kids at schools and libraries will be encouraged to read as many Lupica books that they can, with each book counting as 10 yards. Once kids “reach the end zone,” they can enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a Penguin-sponsored Superbowl party for their classroom or library, and a Skype visit with Mike Lupica the week before the big game in January. The contest will run from September to December.
Fall also marks the end of some best-selling series, such as Anthony Horowitz’s final Alex Rider book, Russian Roulette: Story of an Assassin, and Adam Gidwitz’s finale to his fairy tale series, The Grimm Conclusion. Both books will be available in October. Meanwhile, fans of Marie Lu’s (@Marie_Lu) “Legend” series will get closure to her trilogy with Champion, set for November.
In September, we also see the start of a new series: T.A. Barron—known as the “Merlin Man” because of his best-selling Merlin series—will debut his take on a new myth with Atlantis Rising.
Penguin also has the holidays covered. Beginning with Ten Orange Pumpkins (September), a new counting book by Stephen Savage (@savageartist) for Halloween, followed up in October with Loren Long’s An Otis Christmas and Jon Agee’s Little Santa, the story of Santa as a youth.
Groundhog Weather School and the reissue of the updated The Buck Stops Here: The Presidents of the United States will both be popular in February and year round. The updates for The Buck Stops Here were done by the 94-year-old Alice Provensen.
The reissue of Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy will also be a welcome addition in 2014 for marking the fiftieth anniversary of the president’s assassination.
And on a personal note, as a resident of the Hudson Valley, I am always attuned to books set in upstate New York. Ones to watch for this fall include Printz Award winner Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone (October), which features a girl and her father traveling from London to New York State to find a missing friend, while Carol Goodman’s Blythewood is set against historical events at a 1911 Hudson Valley boarding school, where mysterious happenings are afoot.
I also plan to add these titles to my nightstand:
The Creature Department (November) by Robert Paul Weston. Razorbill has teamed up with Framestore, an animation company, to create the creatures from the book so that they, as well as the author, will be available for classroom Skype visits. See the animated book cover here.
The Girl Who Heard Colors (September) by Mary Harris, illustrated by Brantley-Newton, is a picture book that introduces the five senses and synesthesia, an ability to perceive one sense with another. Lady Gaga, Duke Ellington, and Jimi Hendrix all have been synesthetes.
The Fantastic Family Whipple (August) by Matthew Ward. This debut middle grade story is about a boy who has to deal with menacing clowns while trying to find a world record to break.
Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick (@ABWestrick) is a middle grade story set during the reconstruction era that has two brothers involved with the KKK during its formation.
Closing the event, Julie Berry (@JulieBerryBooks), gave an emotional reading—due to the love she has for the character, she told the crowd—of a passage from her new book, All the Truth That’s in Me (September). The YA novel tells the story of Judith, a young girl in colonial times who becomes speechless after a horrifying trauma.