ALA Exhibits: The Ones That Got Away

Cindy and Lynn: We picked up many great upcoming youth books at the recent ALA Exhibits and publisher events, but even so, there were a few that got away either because they went fast or won’t have an arc. The early bird gets the worm, and the hot new books. We try not to be greedy as we receive a bounty of books on our doorsteps throughout the year, but here are a few we are still eager to clutch in our hands.

 

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, by Mildred Taylor (Penguin, Jan. 2020)

The 10th and final book in the wonderful Logan Family Saga that began with Newbery Medal Winner, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. If you haven’t seen the repackaging of this series, with new cover art by Kadir Nelson, check it out.

 

Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters, by Emily Roberson (Farrar, Oct. 2019)

This one sounds like the Minotaur meets Hunger Games! A debut book we really wanted to find!

 

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds (S&S/Atheneum, Oct. 2019)

Reynolds crafts ten tales, one per block, about what happens on the walk home after the dismissal bell rings. We would have been heroes for sure if we’d scored this arc!

 

The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black (Little, Brown, Nov. 2019)

Book 3 of the Folk of the Air series! Need I say more? We’re grateful that this publishing two months earlier than previously scheduled.

 

The Toll, by Neal Shusterman (S&S, Nov. 2019)

This concluding volume was probably the most begged-for galley from the older focus group and our Best Books Book Club.
(We wanted it too!)

 

Conference Exhibit Hall Manners, or, Greed in the Aisles

Cindy and Lynn: Exhibit halls full of new books and publisher events make attendees giddy but they can strain the patience and goodwill of even the most generous publisher marketing rep. We’ve been regularly attending ALA’s Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences and a few Book Expo events since 2000 and we’ve seen some ugly behavior. In Seattle at Midwinter, this exchange was overheard as an attendee tried to take a hardcover book from a publisher’s booth display:

Attendee: Oh, my Grandson will love this book.

Publisher Rep: That is our only display copy, but it’s published now, and available for purchase at bookstores and online.

Attendee: Why would I buy a copy when I can get one here for free?

The reps have heard it all, we’re sure, but we were astonished. So here are a few tips. They probably won’t be seen by the right people, but you can help spread the word if you know someone who needs a dose of Miss Manners for Library Conferences.

  1. Advance Reader Copies (arcs) cost more to produce than a finished hardcover book. It’s a privilege to get one, and if you do, you should commit to reading it and promoting it if you find it worthy.
  2. The one who picks up the most arcs does not win. And taking handfuls of the same arc, not cool at all.
  3. Exhibit Hall guidelines prohibit wheeled carts. Leave them at home. Strollers and scooters are allowed as long as they are in use at all times (we don’t believe that means “in use” to haul your books and conference swag!)
  4. The Publisher booths should not be treated like the Hunger Games Cornucopia, although it would be fair to let the reps pick off the attendees who behave badly.

We’re sure you’ve experienced similar acts of greed and ill manners. Leave us a comment with the worst exhibit hall behavior you’ve seen. If you’re a publisher and want to remain anonymous, feel free to email one of us and we’ll add your story to the post while protecting the innocent. And, tune in after ALA for a follow-up post about what you can and cannot do with those treasured arcs you nabbed.

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

Lynn: I loved Ross Burach’s new picture book, The Very Impatient Caterpillar (Scholastic, 2019) from the moment I saw the cover. Burach is totally tuned into an important aspect of young readers. They can be intensely interested in the factual side of a topic while at the same time loving a goofily ridiculous take on it. This picture book presents the important and almost miraculous biological topic of metamorphosis while also managing to yank on the uniquely silly funny bones so typical of little kids.

A rather clueless green caterpillar notices that all his buddies are going somewhere without him. They tell him they are going to metamorphosize. “Wait,” he yells, “You’re telling me I can become a BUTTERFLY?” The caterpillar has no idea what to do and once he finally manages to become a chrysalis he nearly melts down when he discovers he is going to have to wait 2 weeks! My favorite part of this hilarious book is the section depicting the ways the caterpillar tries to pass the time inside the chrysalis.

I’m happy to report that this delightful book has already received 2 big thumbs up from the five-year-old member of our focus group whose teacher had read this to their class as part of a caterpillar unit. He assured me that it was the funniest book EVER!

Cindy: “Are we there yet?” What parent hasn’t heard that refrain from the backseat. Patience is a virtue but is often in short supply these days. This book pokes fun at that while the science and magic spins away and wraps us in a fun information presentation. Burach’s art is a brightly colored mix of pencil, crayon, acrylic paint, and digital coloring. Who knew caterpillars had such expressive tongues and eyes! The art teacher will want to take a look at this one, too! She’s going to need the full 64-pack of crayons for these wild butterflies!

 

Stump the Librarian! A Student Challenge

Cindy: Each fall I start the school year by challenging my students at orientation to play “Stump the Librarian.” I tell them that I know that not everyone likes to read as much as I do, but that I can help them to find at least one item in the library that they will like. They are encouraged to come to me during the first few weeks of school and say “I dare you to find me a book I will like.” They love hearing that I’ve never been stumped and think that they will be the one. I love that I’ve eliminated a few barriers to getting them to talk to me about books, and, so far, my record stands. I am nothing if not persistent!

One of my 6th grade ELA teachers embraced this challenge fully with her students and a few years ago ordered a stamp that reads “Stump the Librarian.” She got tired of writing the phrase on library passes as she sends them to challenge me all year long. I love when a kid shows up with that stamped note. She is retiring next week and bequeathed the stamp to me. I will remember Mrs. Mac and her passion for building readers among her students, especially those who didn’t think they liked reading. She will be missed.

And then there was the student who showed up years ago asking to play “STOMP the Librarian.” I set him straight pronto! HAHAHAHA!

Gratitude: Thank You For My Dreams

Cindy: In a world that is programmed to focus on discord, disgust, and disappointment, we need daily reminders to focus on the good. To look for the helpers. To be grateful. Prayer books for young children abound, but not everyone prays the same way or wants to pray. Thank You For My Dreams: Bedtime Prayers of Gratitude (Andrews McMeel, 2019) by HSH Prince Alexi Lubomirski and sons is a new book that fills a gap in this category even with the word prayer in the title. In Lubomirski’s introduction, he answers his son’s question about prayer this way: “I explained that saying ‘thank you’ to God or the universe (or whatever he wanted to call it) was very important.”

The book’s format is a single thank you statement on each page, organized in three sections (morning, day, evening), and dictated by one of Lubomirski’s two sons. He said they struggled to name more than five items to begin but quickly warmed up to the bounty of items we can be thankful for each day:

Thank you for our tongues that help us to taste things like vegetables, bananas, and spicy sauces.

Thank you for my feelings, so that I know when I feel happy or sad or angry or silly.

Thank you for electricity so that we can have lights in our house even when it is dark outside, so we can see each other and read books and play.

Tracey Knight’s silhouetted diverse figures grace brightly colored backgrounds and are coupled with a childlike font to create a graphic-art style that is simple, clean, and appealing for its intended young audience. Mentions of meditation practices, healthy eating, and environmentally friendly actions infuse the thank yous, in a child-authentic way, but there are plenty of silly thank yous as well. The author’s profits from the book benefit Concern Worldwide.

Thank You for My Dreams will appeal to families that enjoy Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You (Random House, 2018) with Jonny Sun’s line illustrations. Surely, it will serve as a springboard to start your own family gratitude practice.

I’m thankful for authors, illustrators, marvelous publishing teams, bookstores, and libraries. How ’bout you?

Nine Months: A Picture Book for Siblings While They Wait

Cindy: I’m not drinking the water at my school anymore. We have pregnant teachers everywhere you look. In addition, my daughter-from-another-mother just delivered twins and has been helping her two-year-old understand what is happening. Do I have the book for all of them…and for anyone you know who has a baby on the way! Nine Months (Holiday/Neil Porter 2019), written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin, promises to be a new favorite for young families.

Many books feature stories about helping an only child adjust to a new baby in the family, but this one features the baby’s development in utero with detailed illustrations paired with the older sister’s related activities through the seasons as they await the new baby. While showcasing sizes from a 0.1mm fertilized egg to a double page spread with an actual size fetus ready to enter the world, rhyming text documents each stage of gestation. In Month Six (Weeks 22-26), when hearing develops, the sister sings to her mother’s belly:

Grasp.

Clasp.

Ears that can hear.

Sing as she listens.

Tell her you’re near.

Caldecott Honor artist Jason Chin is a perfect illustrator for this blend of fiction and science. His watercolor and gouache art bring to life the tiny features of the fetus and the big scenes outside of the womb with equal success. The backmatter is informative and provides extra discussion opportunities. More About Babies provides extra information, Humans vs. Animals compares gestation times, and a What If…section answers what happens in various other baby development scenarios including more than one embryo, early births, and miscarriage. Whoa, Baby! adds a list of 9 amazing things most babies can do before they’re born, including suck their thumbs and somersault. Whoa, indeed!

Andrew Norriss serves up a winner with MIKE

Lynn: When book blurbs describe a book as “quirky” I’m a little cautious. Usually that means different and that can be good or bad. That was the case with Mike (Scholastic, 2019) by Andrew Norriss. Not only was “quirky” used but there is that eye-catching but odd cover. What sort of book was I getting? Well, I’m still asking myself that question AND I’m very willing to use the word quirky to describe it. But I’m also here to urge anyone and everyone to read this thoroughly unusual and extremely fascinating book.

The premise is this: teenage tennis prodigy Floyd Beresford’s future is clear: win the Under-18 championship, eventually turn pro, and make lots of money. But in the middle of a pivotal match, an odd boy strolls onto the court disrupting the game. Only it turns out that only Floyd can see him. Dr. Pinner, the kind psychologist, tells Floyd that Mike may be a projection of some unexpressed wish or need and Floyd realizes that he has no interest in tennis and especially no desire to spend his life playing it. Ah ha! But Mike comes back at intervals and sometimes someone else CAN see him and sometimes it involves things Floyd couldn’t possibly know. Who or what is Mike?

Short in length, matter-of-fact in tone, Mike breaks all the rules for a YA book as it jumps into Floyd’s early adult years, keeps kind and caring adults firmly in the story, and expects the reader to come to their own conclusions.

Norriss writes with a light touch creating a story that is easy to read but impossible to forget. He opens doors here that are impossible not to walk through. Charming, satisfying but also open-ended, this is a gem for readers looking for something different…and yes, quirky.