It’s fall! Well, at least in the world of Chronicle Books. The publisher recently shared the anticipation of their next season releases with a gaggle of giddy librarians and booksellers.
Publishing director Ginee Seo began by sharing an animated trailer for the upcoming picture book, They All Saw a Cat (Sept., 2016) by Brendan Wenzel, his debut as both author and illustrator. An unusual yet basic concept is at the heart of this book: how different animals see the same thing. The book illustrates the importance of perspective and how we all see things based on our imagination.
After prevailing in an eight-publisher auction, Seo says she was “thrilled to work on a book in which every word, down to each ‘and’ or ‘the’ is intentional and meaningful.” Because I’m always on the lookout for books reflecting the diversity of the human race, I will report that the people characters in the book are white.
My favorite book of the morning was Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda (Oct., 2016). It’s an interactive book in which readers help Bunny tackle the ski slope, from shaking the book to creating snow to tilting it so that Bunny can gain some traction to get down the hill. As the protagonist gets going a bit too fast, kids need to help by turning the book around.
Designer Amelia Mack reflected that “with so many interactive elements, creating the book often turned into a logic problem. For example, if the book is turned upside down to prevent Bunny from falling, how does Bunny move? Where does he land? Solving these problems often led to contemplating deeper questions, like how a book really works, or what guidance a reader needs in order to move forward.”
Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit (Oct., 2016), by Sue Ganz-Schmitt is the sequel to 2014’s Planet Kindergarten. While the first book shared an individual journey about going to school for the first time, this book’s focus is on working as a team—learning to both lead and follow. Adult readers will enjoy Shane Prigmore’s illustrations, which give a nod to scenes of classic space movies. Once again, the main character is white, with at least one brown face amid the other colors, such as purple, pink and green.
I personally adored Florence Parry Heide’s classic The Shrinking of Treehorn. How to Be a Hero (Oct., 2016) is Heide’s last book (she passed away in 2011). Editor Melissa Manlove recalled, “Florence and I had a month together, sharing this manuscript back and forth, and we were just about done. Florence told her daughter, ‘I will go to bed tonight and think about heroes.’ And she never woke up. She was 92.” There are two brown faces in the crowd of white characters.
Because of an Acorn (Aug., 2016) by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer was my next favorite book on the list, and is one of those picture books that would actually make a great gift for an adult.
Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. In this way, the authors were able to convey in the simplest terms the way each plant or animal becomes the reason that another survives. Detailed back matter explains how and why foundation species, such as oak trees, really are the reason many other plants and animals around it survive.
Editor Naomi Kirsten and Italian author Davide Cali have been close collaborators since 2013, when they began working together on I Didn’t Do My Homework Because…. (The fourth volume in the series, The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer, comes out in July.) I always eagerly anticipate Kirsten’s hysterical stories about working to translate French and Italian sensibilities for Americans. To thank her for their collaboration, the author sent her the French edition of a book he had published as a gift. She fell in love with the story of a shy elephant seeking his soulmate—and wanted to publish it for Chronicle’s list. When an Elephant Falls in Love (Dec., 2016) by Cali is super cute and silly.
The author of Cleared for Takeoff: The Ultimate Book of Flight (Oct., 2016), Rowland White, found his passion as a youngster when he did a school project about jets. He is the author of many books on the subject of flight, including Into the Black, the story of the first space shuttle.
Editor Kelli Chipponeri “was drawn to the vintage, retro look of the interiors. And as a former high school teacher, I’m excited about the book for reluctant readers, as it’s fully illustrated and packed with fascinating stories, sidebars, diagrams, pop culture references, and instructions for how to create paper airplanes and hovercrafts. It’s a wealth of information that is accessible for readers at all levels.”
Associate editor Taylor Norman introduced the novel Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young by discussing the tropes of middle grade fiction. “So many of these novels have a very specific way of presenting school. It’s a heightened sense of reality, from the way people talk and relate to one another, to the moments that authors choose to focus on. The magic of Hundred Percent is that it is brilliantly real, structured around a sixth grade school year, from September to June. The story brings to light the nitty-gritty details of actually being 12 and trying to figure out who you are—all of those moments that feel so huge and important when you’re in them.” This work also features a white girl protagonist.
The most important book on the list is definitely Loving vs. Virginia (Feb., 2017) by Patricia Hruby Powell, author of the award winning Josephine.
In 1955, teens Richard and Mildred fell in love and were at the heart of a landmark Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between the races. In verse, Powell tells the story of the couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.
Editor Melissa Manlove said, “When Patricia sent me the first draft, I was surprised at how little outrage there was in the sections in Richard and Mildred’s voices. The stuff that makes my blood boil is all in the sidebars—the things going on in the world around them, the words of judges and politicians. I was thinking of asking her to change that. But then I realized that what that does is humanize Richard and Mildred in a way I hadn’t even thought to do, to cast their story as not about politics or even civil rights, but about the things that define our humanity—home, family, humility, love.”
Photos of the couple were not easy to find, which led Melissa and designer Jennifer Tolo Pierce to illustrator Shadra Strickland. She has a background in a style of illustrative reporting called visual journalism, which, coincidentally, developed in the 1950s.
One of the best parts of the Chronicle preview, besides the books and schmoozing with other librarians and booksellers, is learning the inside story and meeting authors and illustrators. It was a treat to meet debut illustrator Chris Turnham (The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear; Oct., 2016). The Wish Tree began as a single holiday print Chris sent out to friends and family and is now a richly illustrated picture book.
As if all that wasn’t enough, on the way out, we ate bunny cupcakes and played with adoptable kittens.
This article was featured in our free Extra Helping enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a week.