February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Time Travel, QR Codes, and a Victoria Stapleton Look-alike Highlight Little, Brown Spring Preview

Sherman Alexie wrote a picture book? Peter Brown’s coming out with a middle grade novel? Dan SantatLBYR_logo includes QR Codes in his next book?

These were just a few of the surprises recently announced at the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Spring Preview held in the Hachette Book Group offices in midtown Manhattan on October 5.

Editor Alvina Ling revealed that Sherman Alexie’s first picture book is due out in May. Entitled Thunder Boy Jr., with pictures by award-winning illustrator Yuyi Morales, the book centers on a young Native American boy and his family—and his strong dislike for his given name. When Peter Brown had ideas that were bigger than could be contained in a picture book, he decided to delve into a middle grade novel. According to Ling, after two years of “working his butt off,” in April, Brown’s The Wild Robot will hit middle grade shelves. Ling, who shared several sketches of the artwork that will appear throughout the novel, described it as WALL-E meets Hatchet.

Alvina Ling

Editor Alvina Ling discussing Peter Brown’s upcoming middle grade debut, The Wild Robot.

A new picture book by illustrator Bryan Collier, written by Diana Murray, is due out in June. Assistant editor Allison Moore explained that this is “a different book for him.” City Shapes features a child exploring the shapes in the vibrant urban environment that surrounds her. Collier used his daughter as the model for his delightful protagonist.

After winning the Caldecott Medal, many illustrators are faced with the challenge of “The Next Book.” Thankfully, Dan Santat avoided that worry, since Are We There Yet? (April) was completed before he won the 2015 Caldecott. In this interactive, high-concept road trip adventure, Santat answers the age-old back-seat question, “Are we there yet?”. He does it with only 300 words and illustrations that allow readers to travel through time. Santat has even included a robot talking in QR codes.



Other authors travel back in time, but in different ways. For the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Jewell Parker Rhodes explores the far-reaching after-effects of that day’s events in Towers Falling (July). The middle grade story is told through the eyes of Deja, a homeless girl who was not yet born when the towers came down. She is a student at Brooklyn Collaborative, a school where the towers were once visible from the classroom windows.

Monica Hesse sets her teen mystery, Girl in the Blue Coat (April), in World War II Amsterdam against the backdrop of a secret black market and a missing Jewish girl. Also set during World War II is Robert Weintraub’s adaptation of his New York Times best-selling adult nonfiction book, No Better Friend (May). It tells the true story of Judy, the only official canine prisoner of war.

Book Display

A display of some of the upcoming Spring and Summer 2016 titles from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The Sound of Silence (August) is a picture book that crosses cultural borders. Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo introduce young readers to the Japanese concept of spatial expression, called Ma. Educators will also be happy to see Todd Parr’s latest book that helps young children celebrate teachers, called Teachers Rock! (April).

Teens may be tempted by Carrie Firestone’s The Loose Ends List (June), described by executive editor Lisa Yoskowitz as a “hilarious novel about death”. Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill-Levine’s socialite grandmother books the family on a “death-with-dignity” cruise. Then there’s Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick, author of the acclaimed adult novel-turned-Oscar-winning film, Silver Linings Playbook and the YA hit, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (Little, Brown, 2013). Coming out in May, Quick’s latest was described as a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it has already been optioned for a film by Harvey Weinstein.

OHora Signing

Illustrator Zachariah OHora signs posters for his upcoming picture book.

As always, the culmination of the Little, Brown preview was the secret guest speaker. This time, it was illustrator Zachariah OHora. He is again teaming up with Ame Dyckman on a second picture book, Horrible Bear (April). This follows their first collaboration, Wolfie the Bunny (Little, Brown, 2015), which was released earlier this year. As Ohora showed illustrations and early sketches from the book about a girl and a bear, both he and audience members quickly realized there was an uncanny resemblance between the girl and our host for the day, Victoria Stapleton, executive director of school and library marketing for Little, Brown. There a very few photos of the elusive Stapleton online but take a look and decide for yourself.

Watch the video clip below of OHora discussing the art in Horrible Bear.

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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  1. i love RORY………very nice article, thanks for sharing