May 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Big Anniversaries and Strong Debuts | Random House Children’s Books Spring 2016 Librarian Preview

It’s been 10 years since Random House first introduced readers to “Duck & Goose,” “Babymouse,” and The Book Thief. At the recent Random House Children’s Books Spring Preview at their midtown officesrhkb in New York City,  librarians learned that each of these titles is celebrating its anniversary in a different way. Tad Hills is planning a tour with a dance party based on Duck & Goose, Let’s Dance (Jan. 2016). Lauren Savage, a musician and owner of the Reading Bug Bookstore in San Carlos, CA, composed an original song that is available as a free download at Brother-sister author and illustrator team Jennifer and Matthew Holm are releasing their 20th “Babymouse” book this April, Babymouse Goes for the Gold. Random House is also issuing an anniversary edition of Markus Zusak’s award-winning World War II story,The Book Thief. Teachers and librarians will be encouraged to share this title with a new generation of readers, and it will be part of Random House’s Read to Remember initiative, which pairs books about the Holocaust with teacher guides, discussion starters, and other resources for curriculum integration and book clubs.

2016 is also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrice Potter. Deborah Hopkinson pens Beatrice Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (Feb). Charlotte Voake illustrates this Tree in the Courtyardhistorical fiction picture book about the creator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. There will be several other picture books that featured famous women coming out this spring. The story of Anne Frank can be introduced to young children with The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window (Mar.). Written by Jeff Gottersfeld and illustrated by Peter McCarty, it tells Anne’s story from the perspective of the tree outside her window. The real tree stood until the summer Anne Frank would have turned 81. Hillary Clinton fans will be glad to hear that in January, Schwartz and Wade offer the picture book biography Hillary, by Jonah Winter with luminous illustrations by Raúl Colón.


Famous or infamous women are also the basis for books for older readers.  Sarah Miller investigates the facts behind the gruesome Lizzie Borden trial in a work of narrative nonfiction that reads like a thriller in The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century (Jan.). Mary Shelley and AdaLizze Borden Bryon Lovelace return in book two of “The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency” series by Jordan Stratford and Kelly Murphy. In The Case of the Girl in Grey (Jan.),  Scottish science writer and polymath Mary Sommerville, the original STEM feminist, makes an appearance. It is because of Sommerville that the word “scientist” came into use, rather than “men of science.”

The topic of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) also came up in the discussion of Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating (Jan.) this first installment in “The World of Weird Animals” series. It was described as “Pinkalicious meets Fear Factor meets STEM.” The book rethinks the color by introducing readers to various pink creatures and their interesting physiological features.

While only one book on the Random House spring list features a blob fish, several have a poultry theme. Chickens were well represented in the latest “Louise Trapeze” adventure, Louise Trapeze Did NOT Lose the Juggling Chickens by Micol Ostow and Brigette Barrager (May). In Susan McElroy Montanari’s debut picture book, My Dog’s a Chicken, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf,Lulu Mae has to make do with one of her family’s chickens instead of a dog. Similarly, Quackers is cat who thinks he is a duck in a book by Liz Wong (Mar.).

There are several titles to share this Father’s Day. Dad  School by Rebecca Van Slyke, with Moonhorseillustrations by Pricilla Burris, is the companion to Mom School (2015). It explores the idea that dads learn all the great things they do at a special school just for fathers. Twenty-five years after it was first published, Moonhorse by Mary Pope Osborne will be reissued in March with illustrations by S.M. Saelig. It is a lyrical bedtime story about a young girl’s ride with her father through the constellations. My personal favorite is Bill Cotter’s Beard in a Box (Apr.), which has a dad and son coming together despite swindlers and some odd facial hair.

Teens will be fascinated and amused by Judy Sheehan’s I Woke Up Dead at the Mall (Mar.). The Mall of America is where murdered teens find themselves at risk of becoming “mall walkers.” YA readers may also enjoy Smell of Other People's Housesfollowing five teens on a road trip through Europe to fulfill the dying wish of their friend in The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattemer (Apr.). Locale plays a central role in both The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Mar.) and The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Feb.). Serpent King is set in a small town in Tennessee and has Dill, the son of a Pentecostal minister, facing down bullies. Alaska in the 1970’s is the setting for Hitchcock’s debut that features four different lives entangled on the Alaskan frontier.

The featured speaker of the day was a debut author, Gavriel Savit. His book, Anna and the Swallow Man (Jan.), is a fairy tale set in World War II Poland.  Savit shared with the audience his experience as a “book kid”.

Lastly, a book I cannot wait to read (and one that seemed to have early buzz among the librarians in attendance) is Deborah Hopkinson’s A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket (Apr.). Set in 19th century New York City, it follows the adventures of an 11-year-old Italian immigrant named Rocco.

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. *Beatrix Potter