May 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

S. & S.’s Preview Yields a Bountiful Crop of Summer 2016 Books


I will start with the best, instead of saving it for last. My three favorites of this publishers preview were, in no particular order: the picture book Sleepyheads (Aug.) by Sandra J. Howatt. It has lovely illustrations by Joyce Wan [I’m confused by this one. Amazon says it was published in 2014]. With the 15th anniversary of 9-11 coming up this September, the historical novel Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (June) by Nora Raleigh Baskin will stir emotions. A combination of superhero and LGBTQ themes will make Draw the Line (May), written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, a book that will have real sticking power with teens.

While those three are standouts, I found plenty more worth a look.

The stuff of life

The accoutrements of daily existence are being celebrated in some of the more original works that Simon & Schuster showed off at their summer preview. First among them was The Museum of Heartbreak (June), a debut YA novel by Meg Leder. The author, who personally addressed attendees, explained, “I’m very much into physical objects.” Her character, Penelope, creates a personal museum to cope with heartbreak, betrayal, and the bittersweet aspects of growing up. “Heartbreak makes you a stronger person. It helps you write a book,” concluded Leder.

Susan Hood tells the true story of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay in Ada’s Violin (May), illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. It features a girl in an impoverished village and her music teacher who puts an orchestra together with instruments they make from all manner of trash.


Even the humble potty seat is elevated in The Saddest Toilet in the World (June) by Sam Apple and Sam Ricks. After being rejected by a boy reluctant to give up diapers, the diminutive toilet hits the road. Will boy and potty be reunited so that they can take care of business, together?

Middle grade madness

When you put a group of middle schoolers together, there is no telling what will unfold, as the S. & S. summer list proves. Music is the muse in an award-winning novel from Norway, The Ballad of a Broken Nose (June) by Arne Svingen. It features a junior high school boy who loves opera to the consternation of the bullies who dog him.

Jason Reynolds, who has gained popularity in the YA arena, is venturing into the realm of middle grade with As Brave as You (May). It is a coming-of-age story that features family relationships.

Meanwhile, The Sleepover (May) by Jen Malone is lighthearted look at a rite of passage, the first sleepover. Tween girls will eat it up. Gary Paulsen’s latest, Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat (May), about six “misfits” stuck in a school restroom, is described as “The Breakfast Club for middle school.”

Truth or Teen

Oh, what a tangled web this bunch of teen titles weave. Brent Hartinger has four teens in a Washington State cabin playing Three Truths and a Lie (Aug.)—and it doesn’t end well. In Secrets, Lies, and Scandals (July), Amanda K. Morgan has five teens committing a crime and having to decide if they should trust each other. Laura Stampler is following in her mother’s, Ann Redisch Stampler, footsteps as a YA author. Her debut novel, Little Black Dresses Little White Lies (July), was displayed alongside of her mother’s How To Disappear (June). The junior Stampler’s deceitful hybrid of a tale is a cross between The Devil Wears Prada and Sex in the City.

Two debut YA novels play the numbers game. Anna Michels’s 26 Kisses (May) has to do with a challenge to kiss 26 guys, each with a name corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. In 100 Days of Cake (May), author Shari Goldhagen weaves a quirky but relatable story about a mom who thinks a new homemade cake, each one better than the last, will snap her 17-year-old daughter, Molly, out of her melancholy.

Kids will devour these books

That would be my segue into baked goods, which make a respectable showing in their own right. The new installment in Martha Freeman’s “Secret Cookie Club” series is entitled Campfire Cookies (May). Alexis Cupcake Crush (May) by Coco Simon and illustrated by Abigail Halpin joins the list of “Cupcake Diaries” titles. Younger readers can learn the history of cookies in the History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled (July) by Jody Jensen Shaffer and illustrated by Kelly Kennedy.

Last, but certainly not least: the beloved Angela DiTerlizzi has two titles on the summer list. They are Seeking a Witch (July) illustrated by Allie Smith and Some Pets (Aug.), illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.





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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.