With schools, libraries, and bookstores closed indefinitely, children’s authors have had to cancel their travel plans and appearances during the Covid-19 outbreak. Many publishers are finding creative new ways to spread the word about new releases and connect authors with their readers through digital platforms while maintaining social distancing protocol. PW is continuing to track some of the new and forthcoming books that have taken a hit, and will be featuring these roundups regularly.
If We Were Gone: Imagining the World Without People
John Coy, illus. by Natalie Capannelli. Lerner/Millbrook, $19.99 Mar. 3 ISBN 978-1-5415-2357-9
Due to the pandemic, bookstore and library tours for Coy’s picture book were canceled, yet the story’s premise feels more eerily relevant than ever: what would happen to Earth if humans vanished? Featured in our list of noteworthy books for Earth Day, the book pairs unsettling text with Capannelli’s watercolor illustrations, which further explore how nature might reclaim the planet. Back matter gives additional context and offers suggestions for what all of us can do to protect the environment.
Prance Like No One’s Watching: A Guided Journal for Exploding Unicorns
James Breakwell. Little Bee Books/BuzzPop, $12.99 Mar. 31 ISBN 978-1-4998-1031-8
Comedian and social media superstar James Breakwell, best known for his family Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, brings his brand of comedy to the page in a new guided journal, encouraging kids to develop their own humorous and creative voices by finding the funny in everyday triumphs and tragedies. Breakwell had a Midwest book tour planned with launch events at Barnes & Noble in Indianapolis, Anderson’s Bookshop in Chicago, and Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, as well as local school visits. The events were all canceled before the book’s release. Breakwell was also scheduled to appear at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which has since been rescheduled for October. In response, he is planning to promote the book to his more than one million Twitter followers, while also offering some of the activities from the book online as downloadable content.
The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor: A Life
Amy Alznauer, illus. by Ping Zhu. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 June 16 ISBN 978-1-59270-295-4
This picture book based on the life and work of Flannery O’Connor was five years in the making for the author, and four years in the making for the artist, who marks her children’s book debut with its publication. “The book is about a woman who found hope in the darkness. I’m with her,” said Alznauer, who called O’Connor “a moving figure for troubled times.” An extensive tour was planned, starting with a celebration of O’Connor’s birthday and a parade in Savannah, Ga., with follow-up events planned in New York City (the illustrator’s hometown) and Chicago (the author’s hometown). “Just days before kick-off,” Enchanted Lion publisher Claudia Bedrick told PW, “we had to cancel eight flights, one car, and many, many bookstore, museum, school, art center, and book festival events in Georgia.” The book’s illustrator was disappointed but tried to be philosophical: “The experience of celebrating and debuting years of work has been postponed, and it is hard not to feel a sense of loss,” Ping said. “My goal is that we can still share the fruits of our labor in creative ways to keep people connected, and provide some solace and hope for everyone, as we need it now more than ever.”
When Stars Are Scattered
Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illus. by Jamieson. Dial, $20.99 Apr. 14 ISBN 978-0-525-55390-8
Based on Mohamed’s childhood after fleeing Somalia on foot with his younger brother, this graphic novel, cowritten with the Newbery Honor-winning author of Roller Girl, follows the brothers’ childhood spent waiting in a Kenyan refugee camp. Their two-week tour, which included schools, bookstores, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and the Kids Comics Fest in Boston, had a focus on reaching schools with students who are refugees themselves, as well as Title I schools. But like all other book tours since the coronavirus crisis, it had to be canceled, along with a post-tour appearance at Wordplay and school visits in Minneapolis, which has the country’s highest Somali refugee population. Earlier this week Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., hosted a launch event on Crowdcast with the authors. Toward the end, Mohamed answered an audience question about how the authors were coping during this hiatus. He said, “When these things are happening here I am worried about the refugee camps. Imagine Covid-19 hitting these poor refugees with no medical units and with nothing, no supplies. I pray for them all the time.”
Rob Harrell. Dial, $16.99 Mar. 31 ISBN 978-1-984815-14-9
When cartoonist and author Rob Harrell was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, his was only the 25th case ever identified. Through breakthrough treatment, he was able to keep his eye, despite losing his vision. He says he wrote Wink for people with cancer, but also for those without it, as a reminder that anyone going through a cancer diagnosis is looking for the same things we all are: friendship, empathy, kindness, and acceptance. His two-week school tour was canceled due to school closures and health concerns. He has posted a few videos on his YouTube Channel, and plans to post more; his publisher is looking into virtual event opportunities as well. “Though I was really looking forward to meeting kids and talking with them about Wink in person,” Harrell says, “I’m still so excited to have readers meet Ross. This book is for everyone—both those going through a hard time and those around people who are struggling. Kindness and understanding are so important, no matter what you’re dealing with.”
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
George M. Johnson. FSG, $17.99 Apr. 28 ISBN 978-0-374-31271-8
Featured in our LGBTQ coverage for spring, journalist and activist George M. Johnson’s debut presents a personal account of growing up black and queer in America today. Promotional plans originally entailed multiple pre-publication appearances, including an All Boys Aren’t Blue ball that was to feature a performance by the cast of Pose, followed by a tour in May and events throughout Pride Month in June. Building off of Johnson’s social media following, FSG is shifting to a virtual launch and will look to reschedule canceled events for later in the year.
Gene Luen Yang. First Second, $24.99 Mar. 17 ISBN 978-1-62672-079-4
In his new graphic novel, Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches; PW called it “a triumphant, telescopic graphic memoir” in a starred review. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, his extensive book tour, which included stops in Tucson, Denver, Louisville, Chicago, and Oakland, had to be canceled, and his festival appearances, including the Tucson Book Festival, Wondercon, and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, have either been canceled or postponed. To still be able to engage with his readers, Yang decided to tour as a cartoon on his Instagram page, hosted a Facebook Live event, and led a TalkShopLive session. He’ll also participate in virtual festivals like Everywhere Book Fest, where he’ll give the opening keynote; Wordplay, where he will talk with Minh Lê about superheroes; and Comics Relief: A First Second Festival, where he will be the opening session speaker.
Zoraida Córdova. Little, Brown, $18.99 Apr. 28 ISBN 978-1-368-02380-1
PW said of Córdova’s new series starter, “This Spanish Inquisition–inspired fantasy beguiles with evocative prose, organic worldbuilding, and an ethnically diverse cast.” As a child, Renata was kidnapped and brought to the palace of Andalucia, where she was used by the crown to carry out a siege against her own people. Now, Renata is a rebel spy working to take down the king. Córdova, who is the author of YA fantasy novels including the Brooklyn Brujas series, the Vicious Deep trilogy, and Labyrinth Lost (winner of the 2017 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel), has had to reschedule her five-city tour for October. In the meantime, she will hold virtual events upon the book’s release.