November 17, 2017

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Animal Idioms, an Anna Pavlova Picture Book, and Benjamin Chaud’s Latest | Chronicle Fall 2015 Preview

Christian Robinson signs posters of Leo. Photo by Sally Kim.

Christian Robinson signs Leo posters. Photo by Sally Kim.

Chronicle Books is known for their innovative and beautiful board and picture books, but librarians and booksellers at the publisher’s recent fall preview in San Francisco were excited to see A History of Glitter and Blood (August), a teen novel by Hannah Moskowitz, getting the Chronicle treatment as well. The story is about 16-year-old Beckan and her fairy friends, who are forced to form unlikely friendships with the subterranean gnomes and the mysterious Tightropers in order to survive when war breaks out. The fairies’ glitter, which they shed like dead skin, is represented by foil on the cover, and the book is illustrated throughout. Called a “gothic urban fantasy” by assistant editor Taylor Norman, it includes prostitution, wars, inter-species romance, and sexual fluidity.

“It’s one of the most honest, searing portrayals of love, family, and friendship that we’ve ever seen,” said Norman. “It truly is a brilliant piece of fiction.” She also noted that the book isn’t for everyone but that patient readers will be rewarded 20 times over.

Fans will be also excited that the third novel in the “Stoker & Holmes series” on Chronicle’s YA list:  The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason, will be out in October. As with the previous books in the series, the object on the front cover always has an interesting backstory. This one, a chess piece, was designed using a 3-D printer. Librarians got to see the many objects that were candidates for the cover, as well as the evolution to finished product.

On Chronicle’s middle school list, House Arrest (Oct.), by K.A. Holt, is a novel in verse. Timothy is on probation; he has to check in weekly with a probation officer and therapist, as well as keep a journal. Mostly, he must stay out of trouble—which proves difficult when he also has to take drastic measures to help his struggling family. One by one, Chronicle employees stood up to praise this book, saying that they were won over by the novel’s emotional punch despite their best defenses. Anna-Lisa Sandstrum, Chronicle’s northern Californian sales rep, confessed that she is nosy, and so loved the chance to peek into the mind of a seventh grader through his fictional diary.

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Travis Nichols’s picture book Fowl Play (Aug.) is a blast. With full-color spreads, it’s an introduction to familiar animal idioms and graphic novels for emerging readers. Mr. Hound hires a team of plucky detectives to investigate a broken window in his shop storefront. Once they get sleuthing, wild horses couldn’t drag them away from the scent of a clue. But is it all just a dog and pony show to distract them from the truth?

Cleverly designed, with suspense on every page, this title will delight young mystery hounds—er, fans!

Presenting board books, associate editor Ariel Richardson and designer Tara Creehan demonstrated how, with Betsy Snyder’s I Can Dance and I Can Play (Sept.), they essentially invented a new type of board book—part finger puppet book, part touch-and-feel, and thoroughly interactive. Readers poke their fingers into the characters’ legs to act out various dance moves and sports activities. The books also provide examples of racial and gender diversity as boys dance and girls play sports.

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Image from SFPL’s Summer Stride Campaign. Courtesy A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to School. Illustration © 2015 Benjamin Chaud.

Art alert: librarians were excited to learn that the San Francisco Public Library teamed up with Chronicle Books’ picture book illustrator Benjamin Chaud to visually represent the library’s summer learning program. Art from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School (2014) will be featured in the library branches and around San Francisco on posters, summer learning guides, and transit shelters. Chaud’s picture book The Bears Surprise (Oct.) is the newest adventure for fans of The Bears Song (2013) and The Bears Sea Escape (2014).

Tree of Wonder (Aug.), by Kate Messner and illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, a picture book about the ecosystem that thrives in the Central American Almendro tree, is a beautiful way to learn about math and science—particularly multiplication—along with biodiversity and the interconnectedness of life.

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans (Aug.), by Phil Bildner and illustrated by John Parra, starts out with an inspiring quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about the merits of doing your job to the best of your ability. The book highlights the story (lightly fictionalized) of Cornelius Washington, a street sweeper and garbage man in New Orleans, in time for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Big Bear, Little Chair (Oct.), by Lizi Boyd, started out as a concept book about opposites but evolved to encompass narratives about Big and Little Bear, replete with charming black, white, grey—and always a spot of red—paintings. The original art was on display: pictures of big zebra and little broom, big rock and little butterfly. Boyd’s Flashlight (2014) won the Bologna-Ragazzi Award for Fiction, the highest and most prestigious international prize awarded annually at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

As a grand finale, the delightful Christian Robinson, illustrator of Patrica Hruby Powell’s Josephine (Chronicle, 2014), let us in on his method of researching, storyboarding, and illustrating Leo: A Ghost Story (Aug.), Mac Barnett’s newest picture book. Robinson felt the color blue was especially right for this work, so the entire book is composed of white, black, and myriad different blues to capture the emotion and story.

Upcoming picture book biography of Anna Pavlova with dessert Pavlovas. Photo by Irene Kim.

Upcoming picture book biography of Anna Pavlova with dessert Pavlovas. Photo by Irene Kim.

Before leaving, librarians were treated to a spread of Pavlovas, the meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, set out to highlight Laurel Snyder’s exquisite picture book about the the dancer, Swan (Aug), and illustrated by Julie Morstad.

Librarians across the country have the opportunity to experience some of the magic for themselves. Enter for a chance to win a full set of Chronicle Children’s fall 2015 books by emailing kids@chroniclebooks.com with your name, email address, and name of your school/library.

Amy Cheney About Amy Cheney

Amy Cheney is a librarian and advocate, serving the underserved for over 25 years including preschoolers, middle schoolers, adults in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color. She began YALSA-Lockdown, a list serve for librarians serving youth in custody, which led to the formation of Library Services for Youth in Custody (LYSC). She founded In the Margins book award and committee, which brings national attention to self published books by, for and about people of color living in the margins. Her theme song is "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by Cake. Learn more at Write2Read.

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