Fuse #8

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random House Summer 2007 Preview

I think that last Wednesday I attended my third or fourth Random House presentation for librarians and reviewers. I'm beginning to get a real feel for these things now. I know to expect bagels, so when RH throws in a muffin or two I coo with pleasure. I know that there will be lots of gorgeous books, but that I may have to pluck out the Middle Grade from the Teen. I know that the goodie bags are forever o'erflowing. And I know that I should try to corner my favorite editors when I get a chance (though I always forget to... sorry, Jim).

But best of all, I'm starting to remember the names of some of these people. Schwartz & Wade are relatively easy when you consider that one is named Schwartz and one is named Wade (though they pulled a third person onto the stage with them this season, so I guess I'll have to refer to that person as "ampersand").

Anywho, I'm working off my notes taken during the Powerpoint sessions. We'll see how well I remember what occurred.

First of all, they're reprinting an old Golden Book title by Hilary Knight called The Circus Is Coming. Its Editor, Schuyler Hooke, was looking particularly dashing this day in a snazzy tie that displayed that old ultra-weird Milton Bradley board game Operation. Remember that game? Where the only thing you could ever get without setting off the buzzer was the Charley Horse, because it was easy to grab its little leg? And if you tilted the board then all the tiny pieces suddenly would get shifted about and you'd have to shake the game until they were set right again. Man, that was a weird creation.

Okay. Lost my train of thought.. uh... right! The Circus Is Coming! Well, Mr. Knight (who is STILL alive as it happens) had the original art from the 1979 book just sitting about somewhere, and they're going to reprint it all beautiful and colorful and with an additional spread that couldn't make it into the original publication. The spread is a tribute to South America and it was when I was looking at a large slide of it that I realized something. Scrotums be damned, people, have you ever seen Hilary Knight draw sexy ladies before? I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if Mr. Knight ever wanted a second career as a pin-up artiste, he already has a leg up. These women are literally draped all over the place from scene to scene. Actually, the guys aren't too shabby either. There was one well-muscled fellow in a one-piece leopard skin outfit that was all kinds of cute. Hot men of children's literature indeed.

The editors, I should mention, were very amused by the whole scrotum debate. The introduction to Isobelle Carmody's Magic Night began with the statement, "This is the haunting and compelling story of a cat and its scrotum." Not true, but a good line nonetheless.

They're re-illustrating The Ear Book by Al Perkins with pictures by cartoonist Henry Payne. Not entirely certain how I feel about that. And we learned that the son of P.D. Eastman is Peter Anthony Eastman who's coming out with Fred and Ted Like To Fly. Huh. Camp Babymouse is coming in May and a source at Comic Con this week-end told me that the one after that may involve ice skating.

Then Schwartz & Wade came on and got very matter-of-fact due to a Chris Raschka book written for seriously ill children. I know, I know. A skeptical eye is needed regarding such things, but I daresay this is a Raschka book I actually like quite a lot. His style, as with the 2006 Caldecott, was a bit loosey-goosey for my tastes. With The Purple Balloon, however, he's limited himself and gone all subtle. I liked it, and I'm not usually a fan of "message" books. This one deserves a gander.

The number one book this imprint is putting out that I want to see, however, is Clara and Senor Frog by Campbell Geeslin. I don't know who illustrator Ryan Sanchez is but I love love love the art in this book. With oodles of references to Diego Rivera, it's got a cool magical realism feel to it that's just sublime. I was less excited by Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little initially because I view Stuart with the same eye as the first children's librarian of New York Public Library, Miss Anne Carroll Moore. She didn't like it. Nor do I. Moxy, as it happens, ends up liking the book by the end which made me a little sad. When I was in third grade my teacher read Stuart Little aloud to us in class and when she got to the end I was furious. What kind of an ending was THAT? Anyway, Schwartz and Wade kind of turned me around on this book. First of all, it's a novel but it's illustrated with photos. Cool, huh? The images of Moxy? That's Lee Wade's daughter. The dog in the book? Schwartz's dog. And the mean mom? Anne Schwartz herself, in the flesh.

By the way, is there a connection between Random House and Hyperion that I don't know about? Both houses are putting out Ratatouille books in tandem with the upcoming Pixar movie. Then at one point they were presenting How Many Seeds In a Pumpkin? which is written by Margaret McNamara who is actually Hyperion editor Brenda Bowen. And finally they compared Moxy Maxwell to Sara Pennypacker's Clementine, which another Hyperion title. Me so confused.

Next we had Beverly Horowitz and Her Fabulous Seven. Seven beautiful editors all came up to present Bantam Delacorte Dell Young Reader books. I was sad to learn that the new series Indie Kidd by Karen McCombie is not a reference to Indie Rock. More's the pity. The Scary States of America by Michael Teitelbaum just looked like so much fun. They're not even putting it out in hardcover, but I don't care. It is, in the words of Stephanie Lane, a "legend-based road trip of terror." In it you learn "Fifty weird and terrifying stories based on true events." When I was a kid, this totally would have been the book for me.

In an odd twist, they're re-releasing Patricia MacLachlan's novels Baby and Journey in a single package and they're keeping the original Baby cover. I'm not entirely certain why this is. It's a nice cover image, but it doesn't really appeal to kids.

Then came a bunch of teen lit. We'll skip that. Not my bag, baby. Oh. Except for maybe Barbara Hall's The Noah Confessions. Hall is the former writer/director of Northern Exposure. Suh-weet! Plus I liked the by-line, "The crimes of the past need not ruin the future."

My loyalty, however, lies with fantasy. We got free copies of Michael Scott's The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Every year a publisher banks everything on a fantasy title and this, apparently, is Random House's. They've already bought all six books in the series (bearing names like Magician, Sorceress, and Necromancer). It's a big old gamble and it sounds as if the books are pushing the old "eternal life = a good thing" idea. I was particularly proud of the attendee who was able to point out that the name Michael Scott must be a pseudonym since Michael Scot was once a great alchemist of the past. Nice catch fellow librarian/reviewer.

Listening Library got to speak for a while about their upcoming audio titles. And oddly, they started telling us about books from other publishers. Check out this cool cover coming from Laurie Halse Anderson:

What's so neat about this is that this is a Viking title. So Random House didn't seem to mind someone pitching other publishers at THEIR Summer Preview! Extra points to RH then. I've never seen another publisher do anything similar. In addition to Twisted we heard about Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks via Harcourt (this books seems to be going through several covers), Dragonsdale by Salamanda Drake (Eragon meets Stable Club, so help us God), and Marvelous World - Vol. 1 Marvelous Effect by Troy Cle. A fantasy with black characters in it? We haven't seen one of those in 20 years or so, I'd wager. In spite of the fact that the nice Listening Library lady actually said that people were calling this the "black Harry Potter" and used the term "urban" twice, I want to give this a read. The author self-published it originally, and then Simon & Schuster picked it up. The great surprise of the evening was a new Deborah Wiles book entitled Aurora County All-Stars. It involves a pug named Eudora Welty. What more do you need to know?

Best of all are these enhanced CDs they're going to start creating to accompany non-fiction audio books. In a pack of audio CDs, the last one with be a CD-ROM. You pop it in and suddenly you see all the photos from the book with annotations. You can even zoom in on the pics to catch little details you might miss in the book itself. So so cool. They showed some images from Secrets of a Civil War Submarine that really popped off the page.

Then Wendy Lamb stepped up to the plate. She talked up author Karen Day's Tall Tales so well that I actually got excited about a title that might not normally appeal to me. Lamb's smart too. She used phrases like, "small subtle turns that are earned," to lure librarians in. Rebecca Stead's First Light looks pretty good too. Unfortunately, I think Ms. Stead has tried to send me her book (she's a Class of 2K7er) about three times and I STILL have never received it. The only thing I can think is that the mailman has been pilfering them to read on his own instead. Lucky mailman.

The David Fickling Books/ Knopf/ Crown Books imprint people came up and we got a glimpse at the very fun Uneversaurus (pronounced you-never-saurus) by Aidan Potts. It's a whole new kinda dinosaur book with eye-popping illustrations (and a flashy pop-eyed cover) to wow the best of them. I'm excited about it. It's a new dino approach, which I appreciate. Then they showed us Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner which may have been up for a Cybil this year, considering it came out in Britain in '06. This book wraps up a mighty odd trend I've been noticing. Has anyone else spotted the huge numbers of Rapunzel books out this year? Into the Woods is about a daughter of Rapunzel. In the Wild (different book) is about a daughter of Rapunzel. And then there's Letters From Rapunzel, which is on my To Be Read shelf right now. Weird, huh?

Kat Got Your Tongue by Lee Weatherly is YA but I love the premise. 13-year-old Kat wakes up without her memory and finds that she's been a total jerk in the past. High concept? You betcha. I love me my high concept books.

Moving on, the queen of the inner lives of inanimate objects has a new book out. Ginger Bear by Mini Grey shows how one gingerbread bear manages to avoid the fate of being eaten. And there is a moment of post-doggy gingerbread carnage the likes of which have never been seen in a picture book before. Fantastic stuff. Equally fantastic is Kevin Hawkes' The Wicked Big Toddlah. This is the first book Mr. Hawkes has written AND illustrated in years and it shows. Set in Maine the idea is not too dissimilar from Ross MacDonald's Bad Baby, but I'd totally buy this one to complement the other.

Scribble by Deborah Freedman goes all fourth wall on us with realistic drawings interacting with their creations in ways Harold and his purple crayon could only have hoped for. Whale by David Lucas is cool simply because I'm luvin' me my Lucas. And they even managed to sell me on the idea of reprinting Nicolas, Where Have You Been? by Leo Lionni. When Janet Schulman (The Reissue Queen) explained the plot, I understood why she said this book has a message more important today than ever. Plus you can never go wrong by reprinting Lionni.

The Story of Charles Atlas: Strong Man by Meghan McCarthy marked the second appearance of a guy wearing a leopard-print one-piece bathing suit in one day. Awesome. The book looks fabulous, humorous, and other "ous"es as well. RH paired it will Michael Townsend's Billy Tartle In Say Cheese!. I liked the alternative comix look of the book, but the story remains to be seen. I do give the author points, though, for having a website called www.mikeisgreathelikeschocolatecake.com.

And look what's coming out on December 7th, just in time for the movie!

It's an omnibus. Three in one. We are going to give the cover artist the benefit of the doubt and pretend that the woman featured here is Mrs. Coulter or a witch and not a 31-year-old Lyra.

Finally, the best was saved for last. For who should be the guest speaker at this event but a first time novelist of unassailable pedigree. Yes indeedy it was


You may remember Robin from her website. She's prone to sending out delicious chocolates at a moment's notice and now she has her very first YA novel out. Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature (I can't find a cover online anywhere, so you're going to have to trust me when I say that it's cute) sounds delicious. Ms. Brande, looking elegant in her extremely cool glasses and suit, explained how she researched the topic, putting her lawyer background to good use. We were then treated to a rip-roaring story of how Ms. Brande was once kicked out of her evangelical high school church group. It's a magnificent tale. It involves hypnosis and possession. You simply must ask her to tell it sometime. All in all, it was a great way to cap off the day. I need to read her book.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for. The first... the foremost... the finest...


Why not have some fun with it? Especially when they put on QUITE a good show.

I don't pay much attention to YA titles by and large, but editor Cecile Goyette of the Knopf Books for Young Readers imprint really knows how to sell a book. Take, for example, Last Dance At the Frosty Queen by Richard Uhlig. In spite of its deathly dull cover featuring a frosted ice cream cone made out of neon lights and the non-descript byline, "Small town, big entanglements, one life-changing girl," Ms. Goyette took her mike and said to the gathered crowd, "I have two novels to tell you about. Here's the one with all the sex." By the time she was done I suddenly found myself wanting to read a YA novel (something I try not to do, under normal circumstances). The fact that she used the term, "Our time of scrotal consternation," and then moved on to The Confessional by J.L. Powers with a slick, "Okay, and now one that only has a lot of violence and profanity, and that's it!" tipped her over the top for me. Ms. Goyette, you may present YA novels to me any old day of the week.

MOST INTERESTING POWERPOINT VS. BOOK DESCREPANCY: I don't wish to be snarky (at least, not right now) but I was a little fascinated by this mix-up between the Powerpoint and the book being discussed. The Secret of the Painted House by Marion Dane Bauer is a new Stepping Stone Book that looks pretty darn swell. No doubt this is helped in part by illustrator Leonid Gore. Classy roots, no? But oddly enough the listed illustrator on the Powerpoint was Tristan Elwell, which was cool cause I like Mr. Elwell (he once stopped by my library to chat). But I couldn't figure out how his name got in there. A mystery.

BEST COVER - MIDDLE GRADE: I almost caved and gave it to Moxy Maxwell for sentimental reasons, but the real winner this season goes to N.D. Wilson's upcoming Leepike Ridge. This title could go any which way, but after a glance at the cover all you're gonna want to do is read it. The sense of vertigo you get from the image is intense and will draw all kinds of readers in, boys and girls. Well chosen. Unfortunately, I can't find an image of it to place here. You'll have to take my word on this one.

BEST COVER - YA: I said it before (Spring 2007 Round-Up) and I'll say it again. Marissa Walsh's cover for A Field Guide To High School is magnificent. Whatta cover. Maybe it won't appeal to teens the way it appeals to me, but this puppy has everything, to my eyes. It's fun, and silly, with a the mix of archaic high school images from the 50s combined with creepy crawlies. And again, I can't find an image to put here.

BEST DISEMBODIED FEMALE AWARD: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Yes, the good news is that they're rereleasing Lois Lowry's old classic text. The bad news? Somebody got a good strong wiff of Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too cover and thought, "Hey! Why not do the same, only show the torso of someone carrying flowers rather than bread?" Check 'em out:

Off with their heads!

MOST INTERESTING COVER CHOICE: That would have to go to Sonia Levitin's Strange Relations. Here's the cover:

... and here's the description of the book:
A summer in paradise. That's all Marne wants. That's all she can think of when she asks her parents permission to spend the summer in Hawaii with Aunt Carole and her family.

But Marne quickly realizes her visit isn't going to be just about learning to surf and morning runs along the beach, despite the cute surfer boy she keeps bumping into. For one thing, Aunt Carole isn't even Aunt Carole anymore—she's Aunt Chaya, married to a Chasidic rabbi and deeply rooted in her religious community. Nothing could be more foreign to Marne, and fitting into this new culture—and house full of kids—is a challenge. But as she settles into her newfound family's daily routine, she begins to think about spirituality, identity, and finding a place in the world in a way she never has before.

This rich novel is a window into a different life and gets to the very heart of faith, identity, and family ties.
Looks like they didn't get much farther than the first sentence when they designed this puppy. The book sounds cool, though.

BEST [BLANK] MEETS [BLANK] DESCRIPTION: We have a three-way tie on this one. Delacorte had to present its chick lit, so they got all creative on us and began tossing things together. The Celebutantes: On the Avenue by Anthony Pagliarulo is basically Paris Hilton meets Nancy Drew (they didn't describe it this way, obviously) but only if you turned Paris into triplets named (and I am not making this up) Madison, Park, and Lexington. This book also chops off the cover girl's head, which I didn't actually mind. Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore was more Veronica Mars meets Buffy meets Nancy Drew. The only problem is that the premise (demons attack prom) was EXACTLY from a Buffy episode, so I'm afraid it loses points on originality. No, the best of the three really had to be fellow chop-the-head-off-on-the-cover title What If ... You Broke All the Rules by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James. It's Choose Your Own Adventure meets chick lit. I'm SOLD! No, seriously. I am. I love Choose Your Own Adventure books. I doubt, however, that the kids in this book are going to die with the same frequency of the original series. More's the pity.

BEST IMPRINT: This isn't very fair, but it's how I feel. David Fickling Books gets two big big thumbs up from me. Granted, they only presented three books, but each one wanted to own immediately, if not sooner.

But really, isn't everyone a winner? If Sunday night's Oscars taught us anything, they taught us that.



At 7:17 AM , Blogger Matt Holm said...

Your comic-con source is close ... Babymouse #7 has to do with ice skating.

At 7:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, this is war! I'm walking one over to you.

Rebecca Stead
FIRST LIGHT (Wendy Lamb 2007)

At 9:57 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

D'oh! Ice skating! I totally meant that. Look. I'm changing it right now.

And don't you fret it, Rebecca. You can hold off until the next kidlit drink night. Very weird though. I've never had this problem with a title before.

At 10:08 AM , Blogger Mordena said...

Stuart Little was a major formative book for me. I got to the ending and said, "Wow, it's not a happy ending, it's just the lure of travel and possibility," and I LOVED it. It was a revelation. Some 8-year-olds are up for that.

At 10:34 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Granted. I can't say it's a bad book, because it's not. E.B. White don't write no junk. But 3rd grader me was all about tying up loose ends. And "Stuart Little" left all kinds of plot threads ah-dangling. Felt to me like the author was cheating. The ending's not even sad. It's just.... missing. As you can see, 3rd grader me is still pissed about this.

At 11:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I noticed that you gave Leepike Ridge "best cover" and I wanted to let you know that the cover can be viewed at the Random House website. Here's a long link: www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375938733

I'm the agent for the book in case you were wondering. And yes, the inside of the book is terrific, too.


At 3:27 PM , Blogger Laura said...

I was at the preview as well and concur with your Moxie opinions. I don't have any strong feelings about Stuart...I would just like to encounter a brave author/editor/agent who says, "You know what? How about Moxie finishes the book at midnight before it's due...and she HATES it! Then she goes on reading the books SHE likes to read! End of story!" THAT would be a good book...and more true to life.

At 4:45 PM , Blogger alvinaling said...

I think Fuse and I have already talked about this, but my child self had the exact same reaction to the ending of Stuart Little. I might feel differently about it now (haven't reread it since I was a kid), but I distinctly remember being very disappointed at the end and thinking, "Huh? There must be pages missing, that can't be the end!" I found it extremely irritating. I find some open-ended endings satisfying in their open-endedness, but not this one.

At 6:54 PM , Blogger web said...

My people! Hated Stuart Little. Hate hate hated it!

Love the Trumpet of the Swan, though. That book got shafted.

At 10:26 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

SUMMER is such a sad, sad book. As per the cover: Why is she pink?

The WHAT IF . . . series has the perfect format for a reluctant reader or a distracted teen, but the books are surprisingly long and scare off some kids.

At 8:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can the fact that Beverly Horowitz maintains a coterie of seven beautiful editors (locked in a tower?) be buried in paragraph twelve (or whatever) of this posting? Don't you know a lead when you see one?

At 11:05 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Personally I would have led with The Beautiful Boy, but couldn't quite figure out how to work that in. You should see the Seven anyway. Each more beautiful than the last. All with straight long hair. Kind of odd when you think about it.

At 12:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Seven." This only grows more intriguing. It is going to affect where I submit my portfolio. Maybe next time we can have some photos of editors in exchange for less, you know, actual information about children's literature.

At 3:24 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Well, they might start to get suspicious if I sit in the audience snapping pictures of them while they present their books. A mite bit peculiar, that. Wish I could.

At 2:42 AM , Blogger Jessica Somewhere in the States said...

Well, I for one would like to say that my novel has a great deal more to it than violence and profanity....It's told in the individual voices of young men, 16 or 17 years old, all of them dealing in one way or another with the recent murder of one of their school buddies. To some, he was a best friend, and to others an adversary. Some of them are violent, some of them profound, and one of them is a pacifist. But all of them transcend the purely visceral level of their speech and every day interactions with each other to seek some inner truth and peace. I hope you'll read it.

J.L. Powers (www.jlpowers.net)


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