Cute Cats, Funny Diaries, and Some Tough Topics |Sourcebooks Fall 2015/Spring 2016 Preview

Librarian Robbin Friedman shares some of the top picks from Sourcebooks' recent publishing preview.

A spread from Ed Vere's picture book, Max the Brave.

To celebrate 10 years of publishing for young readers, Sourcebooks treated librarians in New York City to an afternoon of tea and scones, multicultural middle grade, teenage trauma, and an adorable read-aloud by author and illustrator Ed Vere on October 7. A room full of children’s librarians can be counted upon to reliably coo over a kitten as cute as the star of Vere’s most recent picture book, Max the Brave (Sept.). But would they answer the author’s questions as he read his story? With a little prompting from the charming creator, they even squeaked and chirped, getting into the spirit with the headstrong kitten questing for a mouse (or maybe a monster). Leaving the toddler behavior and dialogic reading behind, we jumped into the publisher’s upcoming novels. Responding, consciously or not, to the We Need Diverse Books movement, Sourcebooks DreamOnAmber-202x300Jabberwocky presented a flurry of middle grade novels featuring main characters in cross-cultural circumstances. Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Hello Kitty on the cover of Emma Shevah’s Dream On, Amber (Oct.), an illustrated novel about a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl longing to learn more about her missing father and his Japanese heritage—which recently earned an SLJ star. Nancy Cavanaugh employs the engaging mixed-format style from This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Sourcebooks Jaberwocky, 2013) in Just Like Me (Apr. 2016), a camp story with a twist. In this case, it’s not the bunk beds or the sloppy dinners that make Julia dread a week away from home--it’s seven days in the company of two other girls adopted from the same orphanage in China. For readers who seek a splash of fantasy and menace, Kathyrn Tanquary’s The Night Parade (Jan. 2016) combines Saki Yamamoto’s summer vacation at her grandmother’s house in Japan with a journey through a perilous spirit world. But where are the grandiose, self-deluding boys, you ask? A glance at A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius (Nov.) starring Arthur Bean—spiritual descendant of Adrian Mole and kin to Timmy Total GeniusFailure—promises laughs and poor decision-making as Arthur plots to become a famous writer and win over his crush with the power of his storytelling. Told through journal entries, emails, and school assignments, Stacey Matson’s debut may grab readers of other, more famous diarists, as well as fans of Jamie Thomson’s Dark Lord (Orchard, 2011). Apparently, Arthur isn’t the only one banking on his artistic prowess; he has company on the YA list. In The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (Mar. 2016), Jeff Strand joins the growing ironic-zombie trend with the story of Justin’s attempt to create an epic horror film and secure the affection of his lovely lead actress. After a brief comic interlude, things take the usual dark turn over on the teen side. Award-winner Allan Stratton’s thriller The Dogs (Sept.) offers ghostly scares and emotional scars; Stratton’s previous books suggest ample psychological heft to balance the spooky stuff. Do you prefer your tears familial or romantic? Readers of Jandy Nelson, Jay Asher, and Matt de la Pena may want to check out You Were Here (Mar. 2016) by Cori McCarthy. After her brother’s death, You Were HereJaycee decides to complete his thrill-seeking bucket list with the support of her friends. Readers who would rather cry from lovesickness might consider Renee Collins’s Until We Meet Again (Nov.), a time-traveling romance à la The Time Traveler’s Wife or the Keanu Reeves movie The Lake House. The editor promised a major library shout-out (yay, research!), but a comparison to Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe elicited the most chatter in the room. The most buzzed about book on the list is also the most heartbreakingly timely. Following recent titles Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (Little, Brown, 2013) and Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes (Philomel, 2015), both of which consider the viewpoint of a potentially violent teen, Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends (Jan. 2016) takes on the perThisIsWhereItEnds1spective of those on the other end of the gun. [Two multi-authored titles out this fall, Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns (HarperTeen) and Violent Ends (S. & S., both 2015) also tackle this same topic.] Featuring a knockout cover and four narrators, Nijikamp's book unfolds over the course of 54 minutes as an armed student holds a school hostage. Readers who immerse themselves in this sure-to-be challenging novel might want to look for a cozy story to follow. Perhaps one with an adorable kitten?   Robbin Friedman is a children's librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY. 

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