January 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Macmillan Spring Kids 2014 | Preview Peek

It is always special to be invited to a Macmillan book preview because it gives me an opportunity to visit the Flatiron Building, an iconic New York City structure. In 1902 it was one of the city’s first skyscrapers and its 22 stories towered over the neighborhood.  Today, it is home to Macmillan’s seven children’s imprints: Farrar Strauss Giroux, Feiwel and Friends, First Second Books, Henry Holt, Priddy Books, Roaring Brook Press, and Square Fish.


One must give credit to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for the flourish of picture book biographies on Macmillan’s spring list. The Pilot and the Little Prince (FSG), the picture book biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by award-winning illustrator Peter Sis, received the most oohs and aahs from those in attendance. His well-researched book and numerous illustrations will shed new light on the creator of The Little Prince and the history of aviation when it debuts in May.

Another daring adventurer gets her own beautiful picture book in 2014: Eleanor Prentiss, who broke the speed record for a sailing ship. Author Tracey Fern and picture book artist Emily Arnold McCully join forces to tell Prentiss’s story in Dare the Wind (FSG, February). Also out in February is Florence Nightingale (Holt) from children’s book author and illustrator Demi, who uses her unique style to tell the story of the “the lady with the lamp.”  Both titles are great choices for introducing fresh tales of brave women to young readers during Women’s History Month or anytime.


Also out from Holt in 2014 is the next project from Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor, who have teamed up to tell the story of a 20th century artist in Edward Hopper Paints His World (August).

First Second Books, Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, will also get in on the biography action next year with Andre The Giant, Life and Legend by Box Brown, which is due out in May. It’s filled with fun details about Andre’s life—including the fact that Samuel Beckett was Andre’s childhood neighbor.

Not every biography presented was about a famous person; illustrator Harry Bliss enlisted his mother-in-law, Elaine Snyder, to tell the story of her immigrant grandparents in Anna & Solomon (FSG, May).


Brian Collier’s original artwork for Claire Rudolf Murphy’s My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.

The Common Core also inspired quite a bit of additional nonfiction debuting next year. The book that caused the most interest at the preview was Steve Sheinkin’s The Port Chicago 50: Disaster; Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook, January), which tells the story of the largest court martial in history. My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights (Holt, June) written by Claire Rudolf Murphy and illustrated by Bryan Collier, also caused a stir.

I, personally, was captivated by Fighting Fight! Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them (Holt, March), which will surely be of interest to those students who like to read about historical disasters and our response to them.

Storybooks will also abound next spring. Toni Yuly, a librarian at the Kings County Library in Washington, becomes an author with her debut Early Bird (Feiwel, January), a wake-up picture book that parents can share with children in the morning.


And librarians will be featured characters in some titles, too: Amy Gibson and Maria van Lieshout feature a library prominently in Catching Kisses (Feiwel, December), while The Midnight Library (Roaring Brook, June) by Kazuno Kohara features a librarian as its heroine.

Switching gears, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Amelia Earhart are a few of the people who are featured in Love Letters to the Dead (FSG, April) by Ava Dellaira. Teachers may be inspired to ask their teens to read the book and then write their own letters. Teens may also be interested by My Last Kiss (FSG, June) by Beth Neal, in which a dead girl solves the mystery of her death through her last kiss. And Hungry (Feiwel, June) by H.A. Swain, offers a new twist on a dystopian genre. Set in a future where food is not necessary, it spawns an underworld food culture.


Macmillan’s spring list does not shy aware from difficult topics for young children. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust (First Second, April), written by Loic Dauvillier and illustrated by Marc Lizano, was first published in France and is an age-appropriate graphic novel on this difficult subject.  Meanwhile, Monday, Wednesday and Every Other Weekend (Feiwel, February), by Karen Stanton, and Emily’s Blue Period (Roaring Brook, June) by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Lisa Brown, are two picture books dealing with the subject of divorce from the child’s point of view.

The “don’t miss” title on the list is by a familiar name: What’s Your Favorite Animal (Holt, January). It’s a new work from Eric Carle and 13 of his illustrator friends, including Steven Kellogg, Chris Raschka and Rosemary Wells. The proceeds of the book will go to the Eric Carle Museum.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.