April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

HarperCollins Spring Kids 2014 | Preview Peek

You know the smell of autumn is in the air when librarians gather again at publishers’ preview events, gearing up for insider peeks at what’s in store for 2014. This year’s season kicked off with HarperCollins this week, where the retelling of familiar stories seemed to be the hot theme.

Jennifer Thompson from Brooklyn Public Library poses with Michael Halls new picture book.

For example, husband and wife H. Chuka Lee and Pat Cummings have teamed up for Beauty and the Beast (February, 2014), Lee’s first picture book. It’s a lushly illustrated version of the traditional tale set in West Africa and featuring black characters. (And, according to HarperCollins, Cummings used her husband as her model for the beast.)

The oft-told “Beauty and the Beast” fable is also used as a basis for the new teen novel Cruel Beauty (February, 2014) by Rosamund Hodge, while Sudipata Bardhan-Quallen and Jane Manning set their sights on another traditional story, that of Sleeping Beauty, in their upcoming picture book Snoring Beauty (March, 2014). Claire LaZebnik is also inspired by the classics, using Jane Austen as the inspiration for her latest book, The Last Best Kiss (May, 2014).

Yet another famous story, The Wizard of Oz, is the backdrop for Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die (April, 2014), the first of a triology. In this dark tale, present-day Amy Gumm (based on Judy Garland’s birth name Frances Gumm) is transported from her Kansas trailer park to Oz, only to find that Dorothy has gone bad. Prior to its release, an original digital novella, No Place Like Oz (November 2013), will set the stage, chronicling the rise and fall of the once-sweet Dorothy.

Think that is sacrilegious? Prepare yourself for Sara Benincara’s retelling of the The Great Gatsby in Great. Set in the Hamptons, the green lights of  East Egg have been replaced by the light of a laptop—and Jay is now Jacinta, in a lesbian relationship.

Another LGBT-themed book, Fan Art by Sarah Tregay, was presented during the preview. In an unusual feature, it incorporates a subplot that includes a manga short story into its story of two teen boys who realize that there is more to their friendship.

Teen girls gearing up for beach reads may enjoy The Promise of Amazing (January, 2014), Robin Constantine’s debut novel set in New Jersey; Catherine Clark’s How to Meet Boys (May, 2014); and Laureen Miller’s Free to Fall  (May,  2014). The latter title is what I like to call “LuxLit” aka boarding school fiction; it features the mention of many brand-name products throughout.

It turns out that librarians are authors, too, and Harper is featuring a couple of them among its spring offerings. Anne Blankman based her World War II historical fiction, Prisoner of Night and Fog (May, 2014), around the story of a real girl who was Hitler’s niece, while Julie Murphy’s debut novel, Side Effects May Vary (March, 2014), is a story of  love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Those looking for sad stories will be eying Maybe One Day (March, 2014) by Melissa Kantor, in which the main character deals with her best-friend’s leukemia, or 17 First Kisses (June, 2014), Rachel Allen’s novel involving a depressed mother.

Harper’s additional YA offerings run the gamut. Two stand-out books that examine other cultures: Vivian Divine is Dead (June, 2014) by Lauren Sabel—which peeks into the world of the Mexican Mafia and the Day of the Dead—and Sea of Shadows (April, 2014) by Kelley Armstrong, set in medieval Japan.

In the quirky The Secrets of Lilly Graves (May, 2014), Sarah Strohmeyer has her character working in a funeral home; the book even describes embalming. One of the most intriguing descriptions of the day is that for Salvage (April, 2014) by Alexandra Duncan, which Harper calls “literary, feminist sci-fi.”

And for Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will (June, 2014), Harper editors couldn’t decide which cover to use—so they used both, one on the front and the other on the back. In this novel from the sister of actress Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), the main character has cerebral palsy.

In somewhat lighter fare, middle schoolers also will have a lot to choose from next spring, with books tailoring to many niche interests. Those in search of fantastical stories will love Merrie Haskell’s The Castle Behind the Thorns (June 2014), while animal lovers might try A Hundred Horses (January, 2014) by Sarah Lean. Sports fans can look forward to New Kid  (March, 2014) by Tim Green.

For elementary librarians selecting titles that help implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a number of upcoming Harper titles will fit the bill.

Byron Burton’s My Bus (April, 2014) incorporates cats, dogs, transportation, and math sets in 33 colorful pages, while famous and not-so-famous women are featured in Founding Mothers (February, 2014) by Cokie Roberts. Through the use of vignettes, Roberts informs young children about women of the revolutionary period, accompanied by charming illustrations by Diane Goode.  This book would be perfect for daily sharing during Women’s History Month in March.

Teachers may also want to use Flip & Fin: We Rule the School (May, 2014) by Timothy Gill and Neil Numberman to introduce fish facts in a fun way.

In It’s an Orange Aardvark! (May, 2014), artist Michael Hall uses dye cuts in fun and unusual ways. And in a departure from his usual work highlighting human subjects, author/illustrator Kadir Nelson takes on animals in his new book Baby Bear (January, 2014).

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.