Fuse #8

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

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.


At 8:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great report, Fuse! Love the "roving bands" detail.

At 8:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh... ah to live in a place (and have access to) where inspiration abounds.

Thank you for all the details. I enjoyed living vicariously.

At 9:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although LB didn't hand out advance copies of their picture books, I have F&G's of my picture book, MAMA'S SARIS (Little, Brown, Spring 2007) and I'd love to give you a copy. Say the word and I'll stop by and drop one off.

At 9:23 AM , Blogger MotherReader said...

Okay, next time score me an invite and I will come up to NYC just to see this. And get some free books. And see you. And Winnie-the-Pooh.

At 10:05 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh doggone it. Sorry Pooja. I totally meant to make a mention of seeing your book. Nobody presented it, unfortunately, but it was on display on one of the far tables. I was just so pleased to see it too! Boy oh boy did you get a great illustrator. Definitely send me an ARC if you get a chance. I'd love to review that puppy.

At 10:16 AM , Blogger alvinaling said...

Hey Fuse,

It was lovely to finally meet you! Thanks for coming to our Preview and writing such a lovely post about it, too.

At 10:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's on its way.

At 10:41 AM , Blogger alvinaling said...

Oh, and you didn't give the punchline to the joke.

At 11:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, um, well, does this mean that if a small (but well-intentioned) publisher does not have an office in New York and does not have hot food on offer and does not have roving bands of attractive young women (young being the operative word) then our books...won't be as well reviewed? Because we could overnight a tamale or two...

At 1:00 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Did I say I'd actually review LB&C's books? That's totally up in the air. Trust me, pookie, you can feed me cookies galore but unless the books are good, no review for you.

Now about that tamale...

Oh. And which joke was that, Alvina? I've totally lost track.

At 2:39 PM , Blogger Stephanie Ford said...

A new Jerry Spinelli? I'm so excited! Thanks for the news.

This is making wish I have a glamorous New York City life (as exciting as Columbus, Ohio is . . . )

At 3:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who raises her eyebrows at the money these big publishers throw around? Am I the only person who thought that the Lemony Snicket thing was a huge waste of money? Can't a presentation be professional and appealing (and user-friendly) without overt extravagance? Shouldn't a great book or a great list stand on its own? I mean, scones and orange juice are just fine. Now, I don't want to deny anyone as swell as Ms. Fuse hot food and cookies, mind you, but Madonna's new baby's old village could have used some of the cash from both of those events.

At 5:35 PM , Blogger alvinaling said...

The joke: What's Little, Brown and Read all over?

As for the money and extravagence, although I'm not really in a position to say for sure (I'm not in marketing), in my opinion it's money well spent--librarians need these kind of perks and rewards! I love these librarian previews (we only started having them last year), and we only have them twice a year. I don't think it was really "overtly extravagent"--it was in a conference room (although a very lovely one), catered by an in-house company, and it wasn't like there was an open bar or anything! Considering how many books were presented at the event, if you spread the cost out over the marketing budget of all of them, I'm sure it was a relatively low amount. At any rate, publishing is a business, and compared to many other industries, I don't think we're that wasteful.

At 6:13 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh THAT joke. Right. No punchline that is appropriately witty comes to mind.

As for the spending, it's my eloquent choice of words that make the LB&C event sound as lush as all that. Honestly, it was food (in-house as Alvina says), pop, and that was that. I think I'm missing the extravagence here. Or are you saying you'd deny librarians the chance to give their input to editors? And, in turn, deny me chewy chocolatey cookies.

And of COURSE the Lemony Snicket thing was a waste of money. It was a friggin' celebration! How are parties ever anything but money thrown for fun?

Doggone it. Time to get off my butt and show some pictures of the event...

At 8:32 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

I read the first of the Elyon trilogy and it was not as good as I hoped. It was okay, but I felt no need to get #2 when it came out. However, I liked it more th an the Edge Chronicles. (Please do not say wug-wug. Noooooooo.)

Nice point about the obesity book talk coming after dessert. Gulp.

At 6:25 PM , Blogger Bkbuds said...

Go for it, Ms. Fuse. Get all the graft you can. Companies write off such events as the cost of doing business, and you may not always be in a position to partake. Trust me -- these are your salad days, and if you want to go heavy on the dressing, it's your business.

Thanks for letting us peek in. I gotta get my butt to New York one of these years.


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