April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Penguin Kind of Circus | Summer Preview

circusmirandusThe Penguin Young Readers Group has become known for hosting thematic book previews, and their most recent event did not disappoint. The circus-themed preview was complete with balloons, animal crackers, and popcorn. Attendees soon found out that the reason for the circus motif was the setting of the featured book of the afternoon, Circus Mirandus (Jun.) by Cassie Beasley, who was there in person. The debut author was delighted that her first time speaking about the book involved an audience of librarians, whom she called “superheroes” for their work in giving books to kids. Beasley shared that she was delighted to be in New York City; it was her only second trip to New York, her first being a quick 24-hour visit to sign her book contract. The Georgia native said that Circus Mirandus was the type of story she enjoyed reading as a child—one filled with magic.

Watch Cassie Beasley speak at the preview.

The animals featured in these books were not the circus kind, however. The prize for the most-featured animal goes to the opossum. A charming young female possum stars in Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Appleblossom the Possum (Aug.), while a possum who’s afraid of the dark makes an appearance in the slapstick Night Animals (July) by Gianna Marino. Meanwhile Wendell Minor pairs these animals up with a family of rabbits in Daylight Starlight Wildlife (Jul.).

appleblossomThere were plenty of other animals with a lot of character, including a flying squirrel in My Cousin Momo (Jun.) by Zachariah OHora, who has been described as the “Wes Anderson of picture books.” Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda have brought back the character Cat in Here Comes Tooth Fairy Cat (May). Previous books have placed Cat in the role of Easter Cat and Santa Cat. Who knows what’s next for the intrepid feline?

The title of Rodent of the Day went to a seventh grader-turned-rat in Ratscalibur (May), a reinvention of the Excalibur legend by Josh Lieb. “It’s funny, it’s scary, and it’s sweet, like life. But it has talking rats and magic, so it’s better than life,” says Jimmy Fallon in a book jacket blurb.

What’s a summer preview without a few books about the beach? In Erin Eitter Kono’s Caterina and the Best Beach Day (May), well-organized Caterina and her brother Leo go to the seaside, where they encounter a whale. And what could be more appealing than a dinosaur at the beach? That’s the premise for Molly Idle’s Sea Rex (May), which will make an excellent choice for a summer read aloud.

tendernessofthievesTeen readers will enjoy Donna Freitas’s suspenseful The Tenderness of Thieves (May), which features a Rhode Island beach town setting, a sexy bad boy, and a summer romance. And it’s not summer without a contribution from YA author Sarah Dessen. Her latest, Saint Anything (May), focuses on Sydney, who meets the charismatic Chatham family and goes through a voyage of self-discovery. The theme of finding oneself continues in Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble Is a Friend of Mine (Aug), which editor Kathy Dawson described as in the vein of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Veronica Mars.

Editor Jill Santopolo gushed, “This book is art,” when discussing Patrick Downes’s Fell of Dark (May), a book about two troubled boys on the road to disaster. She went on to compare Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun (May), a story about pain and redemption, to Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee.

The award for Best Book Tweet of the Preview would have to go to librarian Clair Segal (aka @awesomebrarian), who tweeted, “NYC in the 90s. Open marriages, HIV, and a teenage girl. It’s a Law and Order episode waiting to happen” to describe Cordelia Jensen’s Skyscraping (Jun.).

A couple of books give readers a rich sense of New York City’s history. Set in 1984 SoHo, Julia Chibbaro’s Into the Dangerous World (Aug.) explores the world of graffiti art and features art by by Chibbaro’s husband, J.M. Superville Sovak. Ann Bausum goes back to 1969 New York City with Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights (May). Bausum examines the Stonewall Riots, which were the catalyst that triggered the gay rights movement.

On the nonfiction front, we learned that Penguin has entered into a partnership with the Smithsonian. Their first title is Simon Winchester’s When the Earth Shakes (Jun.), which looks at earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and more. Kathleen V. Kudlinski’s Boy Were We Wrong About the Weather (Jul.), illustrated by Sebastià Serra, explains that mistakes are prevalent in science, debunks some weather myths, and offers a list of online global warming resources. Finally, everyone loves Lucy, so the latest installment in Brad Meltzer’s “Ordinary People Changed the World” series, I Am Lucille Ball, will welcome none other than the flame-haired comedienne and former sitcom star.

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.