Little, Brown Books for Young Readers always offers interesting programs at its semi-annual book previews in New York City, courtesy of Victoria Stapleton, director of school and library marketing, who builds the excitement at each event with the tease of a special guest appearance.
The preview for the publisher’s spring 2014 titles, held last week in New York City, was no exception.
The librarians in attendance began the day wondering if the young Pakistani activist and author Malala Yousafzai—who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her outspoken stance on education for women—would be the guest, as Malala was in town promoting her new book. The guessing commenced as soon as it was announced that a young readers edition, entitled I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, will be released in August, 2014. Or would our guest be Patricia McCormick, who will co-author that edition with Malala?
Some of the attendees thought the special guest may be illustrator Dan Santat, who, after a hiatus of writing his own books, returns in April with The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, which has already been optioned by DreamWorks. And speaking of movies, This is a Moose, due out in May from author Richard T. Morris and illustrator by Tom Lichtenheld, features a duck named Billy Waddler directing a film about a moose who is a wannabe astronaut.
Several upcoming books are set in New York City, which lead the curious librarians at the event to wonder if one of those authors might be our guest. Jennifer E. Smith’s YA romance The Geography of You & Me (April) offers NYC, an elevator, and a blackout as its key elements. Or what about author and screenwriter Chris Weitz? In his debut novel, The Young World, a catastrophe kills everyone except those aged 12–21 in a dystopian NYC. The New York Public Library even makes an appearance in the book. Could Weitz be our guest?
Speculation then turned to the ever-popular Lemony Snicket, when Alvina Ling, Little, Brown’s editorial director, shared his new book: File Under: Suspicious Incident—which debuts in April—and provided an advance glimpse of the book’s art by Seth (no last name).
Or could it be Alecia Whitaker, who lives in New York City, though her new YA novel Wildflower draws upon her southern roots? In Whitaker’s debut, launching in July, she tells the story of a country music singer; it comes with a CD featuring a song created just for the book.
Once handicappers at the preview began hinting that the special guest would be an author of middle-grade fiction, short odds then shifted to Karen Harrington, whose Courage for Beginners, a story about a seventh-grade friendship, launches in August. And long odds were given to Justina Chen, based in the Pacific Northwest. Her new YA book A Blind Spot for Boys, also due out in August, features a fashion blogger who is a “player”—albeit one with a weak spot for “boys with issues.” The other west coast long shot became Blake Nelson; many librarians in the crowd thought he wouldn’t travel all the way to New York when he could stay in the comfort of the locale of his latest book, The Prince of Venice Beach. The novel features a teen runaway and a VW bus.
At long last, the close of the preview drew near, and Stapleton finally announced that our mystery guest star would be none other than the boy from Brooklyn, the award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown.
The charming Brown was there to tell the group about his upcoming book, My Teacher is a Monster: No I’m Not, which debuts in July. “I lived this story,” he confessed. As a child he told his mother, “I don’t think Mrs. Sparkman likes kids.” Later, as an adult and a successful creator of children books, he recounted, he actually met Mrs. Sparkman—that meeting was an inspiration for the book.