April 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Little, Brown Trots Out Fresh Faces and Themes at Fall 2016 Preview


Taco trucks, an immigrant panda, a visit to our nation’s capital, and several standout debuts were among the offerings that intrigued guests at the Little Brown Fall 2016 Preview.

Stef Soto, Taco Queen is a debut novel by Jennifer Torres about a middle school student whose family owns a taco truck that she despises. Stef is caught among her family’s struggle to stay out of poverty, her fierce pride, and tween-age embarrassment.

Fantasy fans will be happy to hear that a new series, “The Frost Blood Saga,” by Elly Blake, will be released in nine-month intervals. That way, voracious readers will not have to wait an entire year for the next offering. Blake’s debut tells the story of starcrossed lovers, a romance with a mortal enemy, and soldiers on a mission to kill.

After two memoirs, Josh Sundquist’s latest offering, Love and First Sight, is a novel about Will Porter, blind since birth and transferring from a school for the blind to a mainstream high school.

Wade Albert White’s debut novel, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, was described for the preview attendees as Rick Riordian and Lemony Snicket meet The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The story follows the youngsters residing at St. Lupin’s Institute for the Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. With a name like that, no wonder they want to escape!

If you are in need of a book about our nation’s capitol, look no further than Kathy Jakobsen’s My Washington, DC. Full of detailed artwork and fun fold-out maps, Jakobsen’s story follows two young friends traipsing around the District of Columbia.

Sujean Rim’s latest creation is Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. It tells the story of a panda family immigrating to Bearland, and Chee-Kee feeling out of place as he adjusts to his new surroundings.

For a character development option, especially one about what it means to make a promise, David McPhail’s I Promise fits the bill. It is an honest look at making promises, even the difficult ones that we cannot keep.

Todd Parr returns with the effervescent, vivid Be Who You Are! Instead of focusing on differences, Parr instead celebrates the unique things that everyone brings to this world.

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy is a book with fun design elements. It is styled to look like a tablet, and as “users” read the narrative, the battery power goes down. Patrick McDonnell’s unique character is entrenched in technology, which provides an interesting look at how being connected can actually disconnect us from our world.

Middle grade novels with diverse characters and fan favorites were well-represented at the preview. Grace Lin returns with the sequel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon in When the Sea Turned to Silver. This epic journey story finds Pinmei searching for the Luminous Stone in return for her grandmother, who was kidnapped.

Fans of Trenton Lee Stewart’s “Mysterious Benedict Society” series will be happy to hear that Stewart has a new standalone novel. The Secret Keepers is about 12-year-old Rueben, who plays at being invisible until one day, he finds a watch that make him exactly that. Intriguing for sure!

The Sweetest Sound is Sherri Winston’s middle grade novel about an 11-year-old African American, Cadence. She has the most lovely voice, but is too afraid to audition for the local gospel choir. Then an audio of her singing goes viral, and she has to decide if she wants to reveal who is really making those sweet sounds.

YA was in abundance and represented by sequels, historical fiction, horror, and contemporary romance. Fans of the film The Others should be sure to look for And the Trees Crept, Dawn Kurtagich’s creepy tale of sisters sent to live with an aunt and uncle in the woods—woods that seem to be getting closer and closer to the house.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is Eric Lindstrom’s second novel. Lindstrom explores bipolar disorder, the fear of acceptance, and the challenge of examining one’s true self.

If you’re looking for a new book for fans of Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, author Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You might be just the ticket. Set in Tokyo, this contemporary romance about a 17-year-old expat who only has seven days before moving back to the States, will make readers want to take a new look at unlikely friendships and the world around them.

Jennifer Latham, author of Scarlet Undercover, has a new book, Dreamland Burning, which focuses on the 1921 Tulsa, OK race riots. With alternating points of view from present day to the roaring 20s, it’s full of intrigue, that rare breed of historical fiction novel that deals with contemporary issues.

Cloudwish is Fiona Wood’s winner of the Australian Indies award. It is a humorous coming-of-age story with a Vietnamese–Australian protagonist.

Blood for Blood, Ryan Graudin’s sequel to Wolf by Wolf (2015) can best be described as X-Men meets Inglorious Basterds. This novel picks up where Wolf left off and has just as much action. What if the United States had never entered WWII?


Little Brown previews are known for having a guest speaker, and this one was no different. There were murmurs about who it would be as attendees looked at the artwork around the room. There were beautiful lithographs of Lin’s work. McDonnell’s art was hung here and there. Jakobsen’s intricate pieces were on display. But no one could keep their eyes off of Javaka Steptoe’s massive reclaimed blocks of wood, expertly painted with images of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life. We librarians and reviewers would not be distracted by the admittedly lovely offerings of the other artists. Sure enough, as the book presentations came to a close and the room started buzzing with anticipation, Coretta Scott King and Jane Addams award-winning author and illustrator, Steptoe, took the stage.

His new book, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, is a blending of Steptoe’s and Basquiat’s style. Steptoe spoke of trying to meld the two yet still paying tribute to both. Steptoe also said he “tried to create jazz with the words.” Part of his process was listening to Charlie Parker’s Now Is the Time on repeat. Steptoe decided to use materials from places that Basquiat had been to in New York City. The wood that he used is from brownstones and stores in the West Village. After reading selections of his new picture book to us and showing slides of places around New York City that inspired him, Steptoe stayed and signed prints, such as the one above, for all of the attendees.

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