June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Old Friends and New at Random House | Spring 2015 Preview

nightbirdFamiliar names, such as Alice Hoffman, Leonyte Price, and Duck & Goose, took center stage at the recent Random House Preview of Spring 2015 books. Hoffman, the award-winning author of The Dovekeepers (2011), soon to be a television miniseries, and The Museum of Curious Things (2013, both Scribner), currently on the New York Times Bestseller List, came to the preview to talk about her upcoming middle grade Nightbird (March). The story is set in the magical Berkshires town of Sidwell, where fairies are real. To top it off, the book even has its own apple pie recipe.

Famed opera singer Leontyne Price made an appearance in the form of a picture book biography by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Raúl Colón, Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century (Knopf, 2014). Weatherford shows how a girl from small town Mississippi overcame racism to become renowned the world over for her many operatic roles, particularly in her title role in Aida.

EmmanuelsDreamOther biographies took on some famous—and lesser-known—names. Debut picture-book author Laurie Ann Thompson tells the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah in Emmanuel’s Dream (January), illustrated by Sean Quails. Born with a deformed leg, Yeboah overcame his disability to cycle more than 400 miles across Ghana in 2001. Meanwhile, longtime nonfiction author and historian Albert Marrin tackles a legendary president with FDR and the American Crisis (January) aimed at young adults.

Family took center stage in several tiles. With A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Treat (January), author Emily Jenkins and illustrator Sophie Blackall trace several experiences with the dessert, blackberry fool, from an 18th-century family in England to a modern day family in San Diego. Readers will get a rich, tantalizing sense of the importance of food and family, as well as of the changes wrought over the years.

Watch video of author Alice Hoffman speak at the Random House Spring Preview.

Keeping with the family theme, wife and husband team, author Suzanne Lang and illustrator Max Lang, present dozens of animal family combinations in the delightfully cartoonish Families, Families, Families! (March), which gently reminds children that no matter who makes up a family, what unites each one is love. Using paper cutouts, author Ann Trompert and illustrator Robert Parker present the story of a Chinese grandfather who relates to his granddaughter the tale of two fox fairies engaged in a shape-shifting competition in the reissued Grandfather Tang’s Story (1997) this January.

Katherine Coville presents a new spin on “Goldilock and the Three Bears” in The Cottage in the Woods (February), which is a lush, literary retelling of the beloved fairytale from the viewpoint of the bears’ governess. Some may recognize the author’s last name: she’s married to longtime children’s book author Bruce Coville and has illustrated many of his books.

OhthePlacesYoullGoSeveral other familiar tales are marking anniversaries with new editions. Ezra Jack Keats’s John Henry (2014) celebrates  its 50th year of publication, while Dr. Seuss’s inspiring Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (January) turns 25.

The standout title of the preview was The Left Behinds: The iPhone that Saved George Washington (January). It is the first book in a debut series by David Potter, about a group of kids who are thrown back in time to 1776 when an iPhone malfunctions. The book mixes in American history with time travel and plenty of humor: a winning combination for middle grade readers. Another great title? Andy Myer’s Henry Hubble’s Book of Troubles (February), a story of the trials and tribulations of a trouble-seeking middle school boy whose journal transforms him into a media mogul.

A vacuum-cleaner accident, a kind librarian, and a dashing exterminator: all elements guaranteed to please middle grade readers. Debut author Holly Grant gives her reader all that and more in her series opener, The League of Beastly Dreadfuls (March).

monkeywarsOlder readers are in for a treat with Richard Kurti’s Monkey Wars (January), which was described by author Anthony Horowitz as “a dark fable in the vein of Animal Farm, Watership Down, and The Wave.For those seeking a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places (January) is guaranteed to please. Niven tells the poignant story of the friendship that springs up between a boy who’s obsessed with death and a girl mourning the loss of her sister. And don’t miss Kevin Emerson’s Breakout (February), in which an angst-ridden teen boy must decide whether performing a provocative song with his rock group is worth risking school punishment. Free speech and the high school blues are critical parts of this can’t-miss coming-of-age novel.

Last but not least, the New York Times bestselling odd couple Duck & Goose are back in Tad Hills’s Duck & Goose Colors (January). They join another beloved Hill character, Rocket, who stars in Rocket’s 100th Day of School (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.



  1. nice one

  2. The Left Behinds and Nightbird both sound interesting.