What's Little, Brown, and Read All Over?*
I have been a librarian with the Central Children's Room since January 2006. Less than a year. What I have accomplished in my time alongside such luminaries as the perpetually kvetching Winnie-the-Pooh? Well, I seem to have acquired an odd form of snobbery. A girl goes to 3 publisher presentations and suddenly she's under the distinct impression that at 28 she's seen it all and bought the t-shirt. She has not, for the record, seen it all. That much was proven yesterday when I attended the Little, Brown & Company Spring 2007 preview.
Joining me was none other than the illustrious Liz B from A Chair, A Fireplace, And a Tea Cozy, my co-worker Warren of Children's Music That Rocks, Monica Edinger of Educating Alice, and many more. Warren, Liz, and I arrived just a touch early at the Time-Warner building, directly across the street from Radio City Music Hall. The Time-Warner building is apparently under the distinct impression that they are a very important location in dire danger of horrible happenings. As such, they are the only building housing a publisher that requires that you have your bag x-rayed on the way in. I almost took off my shoes, it was so airport security-ish. Odd doesn't quite describe the experience.
Once you are inside, however, you proceed past incredibly famous photographic prints and goldfish bowl-like rooms containing board meetings towards the fan-freakin'-tastic Victoria Stapleton who is walking towards you in red shiny heels that would make Dorothy of Oz's tootsies seem drab in comparison. Some publishers will hand you a plate of cheese at their previews. Others satisfy you with a scone and a glass of orange juice. You wanna know what Little, Brown & Co. do? They give you hot foods, cold foods, tiny sandwiches, deviled eggs, spicy chicken, cheesy sticks, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies that are crunchy on the outside and chewy at their center. They give you real honest-to-goodness coke in a glass with ICE. Then you sit down at a table to indulge and perhaps kick yourself for eating lunch that day.
The real joy though is that this house's previews are one of those sit at a table affairs. You eat food and the editors come to you to tell you about their books. The rotate from table to table and all you have to do is munch on your fourth cookie as they describe why this book will be popular or that book a hit. There is, of course, art along the sides of the room for the viewing pleasure of the audience, and a wall of free ARCs with cute little red bags to put them in.
Unlike Random House, LB&C doesn't give you a powerpoint spreadsheet for glancing at afterwards. Therefore, I will only be able to tell you of the books I took home that looked especially promising. Lemme see here...
Atherton: The House of Power by Patrick Carman - I was disappointed with Carman's Elyon trilogy, but was persuaded to give this new series a go for the following highly scientific reasons:
1. It is a 2-parter rather than a trilogy with less than 400 pages, so that's nice.
2. It has a pretty cover and involves a world shaped like a dreidel.
3. I like the premise. It seems to bear some strong similarities to The Edge Chronicles at times, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.
Eggs by Jerry Spinelli - If you happen to be at a party with Alvina Ling, have her tell you the background to how this book came about. Little, Brown seems to have a pretty good cover season coming up (which is a relief when you consider the fate of poor All of the Above), and this one is perhaps the prettiest of them all. No title on the cover, of course, but then neither did Stargirl.
Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft - I don't read or review YA much, but when I heard that this was the same author as those early chapter books starring Lenny and Mel, I liked the idea of an writer skipping middle readers entirely and creating something older. That and it looks like a quick read.
The God of Mischief by Paul Bajoria - I reviewed the first book in this series The Printer's Devil for SLJ a year or so ago. In my review I pointed out that Bajoria got super sloppy with his ending and NOTHING was resolved. It's a testament to his otherwise engaging writing that I'm willing to give this puppy a chance. But if there isn't an explanation for that mysterious snake behind the wall in this book I am going to be seriously pissed off.
Celeste's Harlem Renaissance by Eleanora E. Tate - A relation of our own dearly beloved Don Tate, I hear. This looks good. I like the premise, I like the author, and I think it might be worthy reading. We shall see.
A mysterious picture book about the history of country music that is SO COOL that I couldn't help but mention it - It's illustrated by the up-and-coming Bret Bertholf (ironically enough, also the illustrator of The God of Mischief) and it was by far the most impressive piece on display. Unfortunately I didn't write down the title and LB&C wasn't handing out any ARCs of picture books. *growl* Amazon doesn't even have the book up yet, so memorize this name instead - Bret Bertholf. Bret Bertholf. When the book comes out you'll know what I'm talking about. It's Frankenstein Eats a Sandwich meets Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels.
There had been a mention of a "surprise guest" for the evening in my invite, but I hadn't given it much thought beforehand. Turns out that Marc Brown was stopping by for a howdy. He's recently illustrated a book with Rosemary Wells about obesity (delivered, I might point out, after my second brownie and third chocolate chip cookie) and he signed posters for one and all. I had him sign one for my new little niece born this past September, though hopefully her parents won't think I meant it as a hint or anything.
Maybe this will amuse only me, but at first I was especially amazed that the LB&C presentation didn't feature roving bands of attractive young women. Young editorial females of incredible chic are usually prowling around their own publisher parties, usually in large groups. For most of the day, however, I didn't see any except for the people talking with us and I wondered if this would be an event free of under 30-year-olds by the dozens. That curiousity was well-satisfied when Mr. Brown took to the podium. Suddenly these attractive young women popped right out of the woodwork, clustering around the doorways to hear what the creator of Arthur had to say. *snicker*
All in all, a fine fine showing. Classy white tablecloths, great guests (kudos for getting someone who could call Mr. Rodgers a "good friend"), fabulous food, books galore, and even some mentions of the Class of 2k7. So if you happen to get an invite to one of these shindigs, do yourself a favor and go. My 2007 galley pile is now reaching immense proportions and I couldn't be happier.
*With apologies to Alvina.