November 17, 2017

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Candlewick Press Fall Preview Full of Drama, Dark Fairy Tales—and Octopi

Oliver Jeffers strikes a pose at the Candlewick Press fall preview.

Oliver Jeffers strikes a pose at the Candlewick Press fall preview.

Here’s the thing, everyone. Oliver Jeffers has collaborated with fine artist and typographic wizard Sam Winston on a jointly written and illustrated picture book celebrating classic children’s literature. It is gorgeous. It is stirring. It’s also embargoed, so I wasn’t allowed to take photos at Candlewick’s Fall 2016 preview and share them with you. We must all wait until A Child of Books publishes in September, though, as a consolation, Jeffers posed as a superhero and let us snap (or whatever noise a smartphone makes) away.

Jeffers isn’t alone up on his pedestal—Candlewick provided sneak peeks for several hotly anticipated picture books. Jon Klassen offers a splendid counterpoint to his woodland and ocean hat titles with We Found a Hat, in which two tortoises plod through a dusky desert. Aaron Becker completes his Journey trilogy with Return, another wordless adventure featuring the girl with the red crayon. This time, her father follows her through the door leading to her richly illustrated fantasy land. Carson Ellis, author/illustrator of last year’s Home, scales down to bug’s-eye-view for a quirky tale told entirely in pictures and an invented language. The chattering insects ponder a plant sprouting in a Mr. Wuffles-meets-Wes Anderson style story.

You like whimsy? A recent mini-wave of octopus books crests with Also an Octopus, written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrated by Benji Davies (The Storm Whale). A ukelele-playing cephalopod seeks out a spaceship and models for readers how to tell a story, using words like despondent. But the best eccentrics on the list may be the most historically accurate. Author Mara Rockliff (Mesmerized) and illustrator Hadley Hooper (The Iridescence of Birds) celebrate the election year with Around America To Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles. Armed with a typewriter, a toolbox, a sewing machine and the aforementioned feline, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke traveled the country by car exactly 100 years ago in support of women’s suffrage.

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Randy Cecil balances between formats in Lucy, a 144-page book full of illustrations, white space and cinematic framing. A juggler with stage fright and a small homeless dog are two of the quirky creatures found within the early chapter/picture book hybrid. The editor of Judy Moody ushers in a new talent with Juana Medina’s Juana and Lucas, a colorful illustrated chapter book set in Colombia. Diagrams, labels, and other playful text design further enliven the story of an opinionated girl and her lovable dog. Cece Bell returns in alliterative style with Rabbit and Robot and Ribbit, an early graphic novel brimming with humor and charm, tackling the perennial challenge of adding a third friend into an established twosome.

Matt Phelan brings a film noir flair to Snow White, a fairy tale retelling set in 1920s New York, with a Ziegfeld diva in the stepmother role and street urchins as Snow’s protective posse. My vote for best cover goes to Anne Nesbet’s Cloud and Wallfish, a departure from her previous fantasies. Mysteries and secrets—none of the magical variety—lurk around every corner in 1980s East Berlin, where 11-year-old American Noah Keller learns his name is Jonah Brown and he is only 10. Though the menacing setting might pair well with last year’s A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen, the jaunty cover promises some fun along the way.

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For young adult readers, two debut authors provide drama and complicated relationships. Rafi Mittlefehldt’s It Looks Like This follows the early stages of a romance challenged by the disapproval of one boy’s father. The gushing editor compared Mittlefehldt’s writing to Raymond Carver and Sonya Hartnett, as well as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner sounds like a twisty tale of tragedy and alienation; best friends Meg and Otis grow apart after Otis’s younger brother dies in a mysterious accident that may have more to do with Meg than anyone admits. Sarah Combs’s The Light Fantastic follows six high school students over the course of a day wracked by school violence and threatened by a shadowy group called the Assassins. On a lighter note, aspiring writers and artists may want to check out a new anthology edited by Leonard Marcus, Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box, featuring National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang, among other comics luminaries. Fortunately, the book is a little less confidential than Oliver Jeffers’s—you can at least see the cover!

 

 

 

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