February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Four NYC Publishers, One Epic Season: Rocco Staino’s Peek at Upcoming Fall Titles

This past spring, SLJ contributing editor Rocco Staino attended several previews for major publishing houses based in the New York City area. From a get-together at the funky triangular-shaped offices of Macmillan in the Flatiron Building to the posh conference space at the Random House tower on Broadway, Staino offers an insider’s view into hot and buzz-worthy titles coming out this fall.

Deer, dogs, and library Olympics from Random House

Ask any children’s librarian what’s the most popular animal in children’s stories and you’re likely to get Only Childa variety of answers ranging from dogs and cats to bears and monkeys. But surely deer would not be at the top of the list (beside, perhaps, Bambi). Surprisingly, there are two books featuring deer coming out this fall from Random House. Both Guojing’s The Only Child (December) and Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen’s The Reindeer Wish (October) feature girls discovering a magical deer in the woods—but that is where the similarity ends. The Reindeer Wish is illustrated with stunning full-color photography featuring the couple’s daughter, Anja. The young girl, impeccably styled to look like a cherubic folktale character brought to life, helps her baby reindeer become part of Santa’s team. In the wordless picture book The Only Child, Guojing captures loneliness and beauty through a strong visual narrative utilizing softly shaded black and white charcoal drawings.

Happily for canine fans, there are several soon-to-be popular dog titles coming out in the upcoming months, including Space Dog (October) by Mini Grey and two titles in the “Puppy Pirates” series by Erin Soderberg—featuring cover art that had even jaded librarians producing a few “awwwws” of appreciation. But it was A Dog Wearing Shoes (September) by Sangmi Ko, a doggy adoption tale about a pooch who wears bright yellow booties, that received the most notable “Oos and aahs”.

It appears that this holiday season publishers will have a few cross-cultural titles that combine Hanukkah and Christmas as plotlines. In Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer’s Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein (October), which is illustrated by Christine Davenier, readers meet a Jewish girl who is determined to celebrate Christmas—even going so far as to leave latkes for Santa’s reindeer (Oh, here’s another deer!).

BalloonVeteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has decided to illustrate the old adage of “always look at the bright side,” in his latest book It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon (September). Another veteran illustrator, Paul O. Zelinsky, has taken Emily Jenkins’s Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic from her “Toy” chapter books and portrays them in glorious full-color for their picture book debut, Toys Meet Snow (September).

Illustrators help bring real people to life for young readers in two new picture book biographies. Illustrator Vanessa Newton’s subject is folk artist Harriet Powers in Barbara Herkert’s Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist (October). Raúl Colon joins with author Jonah Winter to create Hillary (January, 2016), just in time for the upcoming presidential race.

Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder will surely welcome Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories (August). The three stories are a peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep. Middle grade readers who prefer fiction that focuses on current events and social issues will find Patricia Rielly Griff’s Until I Find Julian (September) of interest. It is set along the Mexican border and Arkansas and centers on the story of a young boy journeying to the United States to find his brother. Middle graders will also be happy to see Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics (January, 2016) which is the follow-up to Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Random, 2013).

For teens well versed in the art of texting and emoji-vocabulary, Courtney Carbone and Brett Wright , two children’s book editors, have teamed up with the Bard of Avon to retell Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet via texts and emojis. The first two titles in this new series are srsly Hamlet (May) and YOLO Juliet (May).

Young adults who enjoy something a bit more along the lines of John Green will want to check out
debut author Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything (September) about a girl who is allergic to the outside world. Readers who lean more toward bad boy angels and supernatural adventure/romance may want to pick up Lauren Kate’s Unforgiven (November).

Librarians and young readers looking for a reason to celebrate have two this year. Dr. Seuss’s Horton GravesHatches the Egg will be turning 75 this year and Random House is offering a free Bullying Prevention and Friendship Educator’s Kit. Also, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Golden Compass, Random House is planning a lavishly designed slipcase anniversary edition that will include a conversation between Philip Pullman and Lev Grossman, author of the “Magicians” trilogy (Viking).

The highlight of the Random House event was hearing author Jennifer Donnelly talk about her upcoming book, These Shallow Graves (October). The story is set in 1890 Gilded Age New York City where the rich and beautiful Jo Montfort enlists the help of a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter to help find the truth about her father’s death. See this clip from her talk:

A Musical Ode to School Libraries at the Candlewick Preview

Each season presents new books and with them, new opportunities to learn and expand one’s knowledge. Candlewick’s fall season offers titles about little known historical personages, transgender issues, and the immigrant experience. And that’s just to start.

FannieUnless they are members of the Mayflower Society, most readers have probably never heard of John Howland. He, as the title of the upcoming picture book by P.J. Lynch states, was The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune (September). In this book for readers in grades two to five, Lynch tells the Pilgrim story from the young man’s point of view. In Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer (August), author Carole Boston Weatherford uses poetry to tell the story of a woman who was a champion of the civil rights movement. The book is illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Teens will learn about the Siege of Leningrad and the role composer Demitri Shostakovich played during that event in M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (September).

Two new Candlewick works center on the LGBTQ experience: Maggie Thrash makes her debut with the graphic memoir Honor Girl (September), in which she recalls her first love with her counselor at a girl’s Christian summer camp.  Pat Schmatz tackles the issue of gender nonconformity in Lizard Radio (September). Based in a futuristic society, Kavili has to struggle with defining what she is: a girl or boy, human or lizard.

Several new titles explore Latino culture, including Mango, Abuela, and Me (August) a picture book by MangoMeg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez, which blends two cultures as grandmother and granddaughter overcome a language barrier with the help of feathered pet. In the debut novel by Judith Robin Rose, Look Both Ways in the Barrio (September), middle grade readers are introduced to Jacinta who crosses the line from the barrio to affluent society.

Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz has written about the complexities of crossing societal lines in her new YA novel set in 1911 Baltimore. A Pennsylvania farm girl moves into the home of an affluent Jewish family in The Hired Girl (September).

Fans of Charlotte Zolotow will be happy to know that Candlewick is reissuing Zolotow’s Say It! , a picture book featuring a mother and child taking a crisp, autumn walk. This edition is illustrated by another Charlotte, Charlotte Voake.

Librarians who attend previews and author events are, like me, likely quite familiar with authors telling them how important librarians are to them and to their work. However, I’ve never witnessed an author compose and perform an ode to the blight of school libraries. Yet that is just what happened at the Candlewick Librarian Preview in New York City this past spring. Todd Strasser, the well-known author, was there to talk about The Beast of Cretacea (October). The book is a science fiction retelling of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. In addition to describing his new book, Strasser picked up his guitar and serenaded the group with an Ode to School Libraries. Check out this clip:


Sequels, Famous Names, and Debuts Galore for Penguin

Have you been wondering what Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s crayons have been up to since The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) or asking whether David Lubar’s Scott of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (2005) ever moved on? Readers will be pleased to see some favorite characters return in sequels this fall.

thedaythecrayonscamehomeDuncan is again entangled with another group of crayons, but this time these colors are in need of an understanding friend. Who likes pea green or a maroon crayon broken in two? Duncan handles these and other colorful situations in The Day Crayons Came Home (August). After 10 years, readers will find out how Scott is coping with a baby brother and his sophomore year in high school in the long-awaited sequel to Sleeping Freshmen, Sophomores and Other Oxymorons (August).

Young people will have the opportunity to delve into adult best sellers with editions specifically tailored for them. Daniel James Brown has adapted his New York Times best seller The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (September) for middle grade readers. At the age of 10, many children are beginning to make their own food choices so Michael Pollan’s young reader’s adaption of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (August) will give those readers the inside scoop on the personal and global health implications of their nutritional choices.

Chelsea Clinton, a recognizable name, is also encouraging young people to get informed and take action with her book It’s Your World (September). Clinton introduces such topics as poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, access to education, gender equality, epidemics, non-communicable diseases, climate change, and endangered species.

In addition to celebrity authors and anticipated sequels, Penguin also has some notable debuts coming out this season. Writer, comedian, and entertainer Justin Sayre pens Husky (September), an LGBTQ-themed middle grade story. Historic preservation, crooked politicians, and the Underground Railroad each finds its way into Lisa Lewis Tyre’s debut novel Last in a Long Line of Rebels (September). Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut YA novel The Accident Season was described by editor Kathy Dawson as having the “Best Kiss Ever.” That said, its protagonist Cara and her family mysteriously suffer from accidents every October. Why? Sonja and Charlotte also suffer accidents in Juman Maulouf’s debut middle grade novel The Trilogy of Two (November). These twins who were adopted by the tattoo lady in the circus accidently levitate the audience in this Wes Anderson-esque story. Meanwhile, a fundamental Christian group and the summer before college play a major part in Pratima Cranse’s  All the Major Constellations (November). Famed fashion illustrator Donald Robertson joins the ranks of debut authors. He is bringing Mitford, the fashionista giraffe that he made famous on Instagram (@Drawbertson), to the children’s picture book world with Mitford at the Fashion Zoo (August). One of Robertson’s frequent subjects is the hat-wearing musician Pharrell Williams. Williams also has his own picture book based on his song Happy (October). The book will feature photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy.

Speaking of cross cultures, there are a number of titles will give readers insights into other cultures. Crossing social economic lines is the subject of Kaul Hart Hemming’s Gilmore Girls-like novel, Juniors (September). Set in Hawaii, some may find it reminiscent of the film Sabrina. The picture book Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub tackles the subject of a girl whose mother is in an immigration detention center. Meanwhile, Haifaa Al Mansour’s middle grade novel The Green Bicycle (September) features a fierce Saudi Arabian girl who wants to ride a bike despite its cultural taboo.

Librarians may want to take note of Loren Long’s Little Tree (September), which is a tender exploration Littleof a late bloomer. Also of note is C. Alexander London’s The Wild Ones (September). London, a former librarian, was inspired by Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series (Philomel).

The preview ended with author Adam Rubin and illustrator Daniel Salmieri entertaining the librarian crowd with their wacky new book, Robo-Sauce, which actually turns into Robo-Book. The duo used book technology and foil to accomplish the trick. Readers will just have to wait until October to get their hands on the book to see the clever book engineering in action.


Macmillan: New Titles by Gantos, Applegate, and More Award Winners

Wondering what Newbery winners Jack Gantos and Katherine Applegate have been up to? How about Arbuthnot lecturer Michael Morpurgo and The Horn Book-Boston Globe winner Steve Sheinkin?

Gantos explores the dangerous side of conformity and loss-of-self in his upcoming autobiographical novel, The Trouble in Me (September). Crenshaw (September) is Katherine Applegate’s latest middle grade title. It centers on Jackson, a boy living in poverty and his imaginary giant cat named Crenshaw.  “This is his masterpiece” is how editor Liz Szabla described Listen to the Moon (October) by Michael Morpurgo. The author of War Horse (Kaye & Ward, 1982) has again set his latest book during World War I. Sheinkin examines the Vietnam War era in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (September) that editor Simon Boughton called a “primer in that period of history”.

CCq6J6kUgAAB2iSOther pop culture names from the era also appear this publishing season. There’s Susan Reich and Adam Gustavson’s picture book biography of the Beatles, Fab Four Friends (August); Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound (September), and Sondheim: The Man Who Changed Musical Theater (March) by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Editor Neal Porter introduced one of his stars, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as the “queen of the die cuts” as he presented her I Used to be Afraid (September) and he compared his husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin Stead’s new book Lenny & Lucy (October) to the Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman. Nerdy Book Club members take note: Nerdy Birdy (September) by Aaron Reynolds & Matt Davies is a picture book featuring an adorkable, book-loving bird who has trouble fitting into the cool crowd.

There were titles presented that helped shed light on some social issues. Phil Bildner presents a character with autism in A Whole New Ball Game (August), a middle grade story illustrated by Tim Probert. Mixed Me! (October) by celebrity Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is a picture book about a young biracial boy. The topic of home schooling is featured in Jonathan Bean’s new picture book, This is My Home, This is My School (October). And in the YA space, Hellraisers, the first book in “The Devil’s Engine,” a new horror trilogy by Alexander Gordon Smith, features Marlow Green, a kid with asthma.

For kids interested in computer programming there is Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding (October) by Linda Liukas that features a female main character.

Macmillan previews are noted for their tempting food treats; indeed some of the titles alone caused Baconmouths to water. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s Rachel Bright’s Love Monster and the Last Chocolate (December). We know that Everyone Loves Bacon (September) and that is the title of Kelly DiPucchio and Eric Wright’s book about the price of fame.

Can you believe that famous canine of both book and screen, Lassie, is turning 75 this year? She looks great. In October, Henry Holt will release the anniversary edition of Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home with the original Marguerite Kirmse illustrations. This year also marks some other notable anniversaries: Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron turns 50. The anniversary edition (September) has a foreword by Rebecca Stead.

Librarians looking for December holiday books that work for more than one type of celebration will embrace Oskar and the Eight Blessings (September) by Richard and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. The story is about an immigrant boy searching for his aunt in 1938 New York City. Eleanor Roosevelt, Count Basie, and Macmillan’s headquarters, the Flatiron Building, all make cameo appearances in this holiday tale.

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.

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