A Flurry of Fresh Children's and YA Titles Presented at the AAP Book Buzz

Librarian Robbin Friedman attends and reports back on the recent AAP Book Buzz, highlighting new and upcoming titles for children and teens.
The first thing librarians in attendance learned at the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Children and Teen Book Buzz on October 14: given the chance, start every morning with Andrea Davis Pinkney wearing a sequined jacket and gold shoes, singing “Get Ready” by the Temptations. It really brightens your day, as does reading her latest nonfiction title, Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound (Roaring Brook, 2015). Two dozen publishers gathered for this event, sharing highlights of their upcoming lists. As presentations stack up, certain trends become evident, many already in full swing. Owls continue to make a bid for cute picture book domination. Fantasy readers better enjoy time shifts, apothecaries, and magical paintings. Somber subjects such as contemporary race relations, gun violence, and the construction of online identity recur on multiple fiction lists, and military and environmental topics appear in both fiction and nonfiction. Because a number of the major New York–based publishers also present their lists at separate, individual previews, this roundup focuses on houses librarians only get to see at the Buzz.

Nonfiction Alert!

Norse MythologyJust in time for Magnus Chase to kick the growing Norse frenzy into full-on berserk territory, Donna Jo Napoli produces another gorgeous volume of retold tales, Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Spite (National Geographic, 2015)—which has already garnered an SLJ star. Barbara Kerley’s Brave Like Me (Apr. 2016), also from National Geographic, joins the recent wave of titles about military children, using photographs to connect the responsibilities of armed forces members with the emotions of their children. Little Bee’s first nonfiction series, “Blast Back”—chapter books packed with illustrations, charts, diagrams, glossaries, and time lines—launches with ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. And under the category of informative but not exactly nonfiction, Douglas Florian’s latest, The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits (Feb. 2016), charmed the group with its delightful title and Sonia Sanchez’s engaging illustrations. Quirk Books mimics an illustrated fiction format for the nonfiction “Kid Legends”series, with Kid warren-final-cover-webAthletes out this fall and Kid Artists upcoming in spring 2016. Quirk lives up to its eccentric name in fiction, too, as fans of an off-kilter sensibility such as Lemony Snicket’s might enjoy Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio (Nov. 2015), the first in a new series of oversize illustrated novels about an orphan boy working as a bellhop in the hotel he will inherit one day.

New Arrivals and Big Returns

NorthSouth, known for European imports, has begun developing an American stable, and they’re opening strong. Kwame Alexander and Daniel Miyares partner for a wordplay-packed picture book about the joys of reading in Surf’s Up (Feb. 2016). In As Time Went By (Mar. 2016), Colombian creator Jose Sanabria interweaves social issues like conservation, homelessness, and community in a picture book about a ship’s lifespan. lets_play_fc_hiresThe Dot comes back! The vibrant star (that is, circle) of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here returns in Let’s Play! (Mar. 2016), a hotly anticipated companion book from Chronicle that develops the dot’s character. Speaking of eagerly awaited companions, Molly Idle’s bird-partnering dancer juggles two feathered friends in Flora and the Peacocks (May 2016). And in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (Jul. 2016), the low and slow team from Lowriders in Space encounters Aztec gods and searches the underworld for missing Cat. Everyone, please sit down (and maybe grab a tissue?) because Disney’s list proves an emotional roller coaster. Keening and lamenting followed the revelation that Mo Willems’s The Thank You Book (May 2016) will be the 25th and last “Elephant & Piggie” title. Sob. But! Disney announced a new early reader series featuring introductions by Willems, with Caldecott winner Dan Santat leading off. Also! Sara Pennypacker starts a Clementine spin-off series with Waylon! One Awesome Thing (Apr. 2016), about Clementine’s science-loving classmate. Plus! Rick Riordan launches “The Trials of Apollo” series with The Hidden Oracle (May 2016), in which Percy Jackson finds poor Apollo turned into a mortal teenager as a punishment from Zeus.

Young Adult and the (Literal) Identity Crisis

The-Girl-with-a-Wrong-Name-Barnabas-MillerAt lunch, author Barnabas Miller enraptured the audience with the family inspiration behind his debut novel from Soho Teen, The Girl With the Wrong Name (Nov. 2015), a thriller featuring an unreliable narrator, a New York City setting, and a sarcastic tone. Online life, race, and identity combust in Little White Lies (Feb. 2016), a collaboration between Second City comedian Brianna Baker and ghostwriter F. Bowman Hastie III about a 40-year-old white man ghostwriting a black teenager’s blog. David Levithan and Nina LaCour wonder who really understands a person in You Know Me Well (Jun. 2016), told from the alternating perspectives of two teens exploring their identities during Pride Week, from St. Martin’s Griffin. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han may want to check out Jennifer Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever (May 2016), featuring a homeschooled teen attending school for the first time in 12th grade, from Harlequin Teen. Username EvieAt Perseus Books, as in teenagers’ lives, pop cultural cross-pollination abounds. Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel return for The Awakening of Sunshine Girl (Mar. 2016), the second book based on McKenzie’s web series about a girl living in a haunted house. And another YouTube star, Joe Sugg, offers Username: Evie (Sept. 2015), a graphic novel about a girl entering a video game created by her father before his death. YA readers have embraced vampires, angels, clones, and what-have-you as romantic leads; Veronica Rossi puts the soft focus on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse with Tor Teen’s Riders (Feb. 2016), in which War tries to save the planet and his dream girl.  At Albert Whitman, the time travel trend continues in Future Shock (Apr. 2016), Elizabeth Briggs’s thriller about a girl with an eidetic memory struggling with a future she shouldn’t have seen and won’t forget.

There’s More!

the-big-adventure-of-a-little-lineCelebrate art in any format with W.W. Norton and Co. That’s My Hat! by Anouck Boisrobert (Feb. 2016) uses low-profile modernist pop-ups to tell a story of an elusive hat. (Yes, more hat problems.) Illustrator Serge Bloch offers a metaphor for artistic creativity in The Big Adventure of the Little Line (Feb. 2016). Graphic novels promise visual storytelling for any age: Daishu Ma’s Leaf (Aug. 2015), a wordless tale with an environmental message, and Robert Goodin’s The Kurdles (May 2015), a goofy adventure fantasy. Speaking of goofy, behold the best description of the day, for Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sept. 2015) from Sterling: “an edible version of American Ninja Warrior.” Need more laughs? The Internet-and-classics mash-up trend typified by Random House’s “OMG Shakespeare” series moves down to middle grade with Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Apr. 2016), a digital retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac by Kristina Springer. The First StepBloomsbury’s far-ranging list includes Susan E. Goodman’s The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial (Jan. 2016), about four-year-old Sarah Roberts, whose family sued to integrate schools in Boston in 1847. Kate Messner uses a folktale trope—the magical fish that grants wishes in unexpected ways—to frame a story dealing with tough issues such as heroin addiction in The Seventh Wish (Jun. 2016). And Printz winner Nick Lake returns with Whisper to Me (May 2016), the reverse-order chronicle of a summer romance. So the song worked, Andrea. We’re all ready for 2016 now.  
Robbin Friedman is a children’s librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY. 

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