With schools, libraries, and bookstores shuttered and several book festivals and author tours canceled, both new and established children’s authors are navigating difficult terrain amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Many publishers are working with booksellers and educators to facilitate virtual visits, bringing authors and artists into the homes of kids and their families through appearances on bookstore websites, social media, and in digital classrooms. PW is tracking some of the new and forthcoming books that have taken a hit, and will be featuring these roundups regularly. For our list of adult releases affected by the pandemic, click here.
Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Carme Lemniscates. Philomel, $18.99 Mar. 31 ISBN 978-0-593-11535-0
The former First Lady and her daughter teamed up for one of the higher-profile picture books of the season, which PW called “a deeply affectionate tribute to the bounty of nature and the love of gardening,” and a celebration of Hillary’s mother, Grandma Dorothy. Nine ticketed in-person events with the Clintons had to be canceled; Penguin sent a number of signed books to the bookstores that had been set to host them, and hopes to reschedule a few of the events later this year. This isn’t the mother-daughter team’s first joint literary effort; they also co-wrote last year’s The Book of Gutsy Women.
Hello, Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers
Matthew Cordell. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 May 5 ISBN 978-0-8234-4618-6
Named to PW’s list of Most-Anticipated Children’s and YA Books of Spring 2020, Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell’s picture book biography of the beloved children’s television host was poised to be a major book of the season. Cordell had a six-city tour scheduled for Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and New York City but, in the interest of safety, on March 23 Holiday House decided to cancel these appearances. Holiday House decided to change the scheduled appearances to virtual ones; a physical tour will take place in the fall, and senior publicist Cheryl Lew says the publisher intends to get the word out about the book in those markets and across the country, “as kindness and caring are subjects that are more important than ever right now.” In other hopeful news, Tom Hanks, who played Mister Rogers in the 2019 biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and his wife Rita Wilson are “feeling better” after contracting the coronavirus.
Roy Digs Dirt
David Shannon. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $17.99 Apr. 7 ISBN 978-1-338-25101-2
PW’s review describes canine hero Roy as “an outsize personality whose happiness is pure, all encompassing, and seemingly without end—so long as the dirt holds out.” Shannon, best known for his Caldecott Honor-winning No David!, was set to embark on a six-city tour for the upcoming picture book, with stops in Los Angeles; Alexandria, Va.; Washington, D.C.; Sykesville, Md.; Chicago; and Bowling Green, Ky. The list of cancellations is long: eight public events at stores and libraries, 11 school visits, three public library events (one with a pre-registration of 250 people), and an event in honor of Month of the Military Child held for military families at Fort Knox, Ky. Shannon’s appearance at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has also been postponed until the fall.
When You Look Up (Cuando levantas la mirada)
Decur, trans. by Chloe Garcia Roberts. Enchanted Lion, $29.95 May 21 ISBN: 978-1-59270-309-8
Decur’s book marks the first original graphic novel for Enchanted Lion, releasing simultaneously as a Spanish-language edition. The author, who lives in Argentina, was meant to debut the book pre-publication at the Tucson Festival of Books. Afterwards, the publisher planned to have him stay for a month in an Airbnb in New York, where he had a full slate of events lined up, including appearances—along with a translator—at schools, bookstores, and community centers, for both Spanish-language and English-language audiences. Decur was en route to the airport in Buenos Aires when he was notified of the cancellations. Decur said of his book, “It is the story of a boy who faces a new world. It is my first graphic novel; it took me three years to make it and I could not attend any event in the U.S.A. I deeply love N.Y. and if I have had a dream for a long time, it was to present my novel there. I feel very sad but I am transforming all of this into a second book. The coronavirus is not going to stop my hand.”
Between Burning Worlds
Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell. Simon Pulse, $19.99 March 24 ISBN 978-1-5344-1066-4
“Les Mis in space” was the pitch for the System Divine series, which launched in 2019 with Sky Without Stars. For the arrival of this month’s sequel, the co-authors were scheduled for an extensive tour, with stops in southern California; Portland, Ore.; Denver; and New York City. In wake of the cancellations they have created a Virtual Book Tour, conducted via Zoom, which began on Tuesday, March 24, and will run through Saturday, March 28. “We’ve structured the events to feel as close as possible to a real-live bookstore event,” Brody explained on her web site. The events are limited to 20 people each, so that fans can connect directly with the authors. One event is being held per day. Brody recently described the origin on the series on Twitter: “I was sitting in a retelling workshop and was asked to make a list of classics you love and settings you would want to write in. I wrote Les Mis and Space, drew a line between them and the rest was history!”
Tahereh Mafi. HarperCollins, $18.99 March 31 ISBN 978-0-06-267642-9
Since its launch in 2011, Mafi’s Shatter Me series has sold more than 1.5 million copies. For the sixth and final book in the YA fantasy saga, the bestselling author and National Book Award nominee was slated for a six-city tour, along with two festival appearances—which have all been postponed. HarperCollins’s Epic Reads community is continuing to drum up excitement online via an Imagine Me Sweepstakes—offering fans a chance to win one of three book-themed prize packs—and recaps for all of the preceding books in the series.
Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death
Thomas Lennon, illus. by John Hendrix. Abrams, $17.99 Mar. 17 ISBN 978-1-4197-4113-5
Actor and author Thomas Lennon is going the extra mile for fans after the cancellation of his two-week tour for the sequel to his bestselling middle grade novel Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles. Since the new book’s pub date last week, he’s been chatting with readers on numerous social media platforms, and last Sunday he offered to create personalized videos, or schedule video calls with fans who post photos of themselves with his book.
What Stars Are Made Of
Sarah Allen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 Mar. 31 ISBN 978-0-374-31319-7
Having all of your launch events canceled is particularly hard on a debut author, as Sarah Allen recently found out. She was scheduled for two bookstore appearances, at University Bookstore in Seattle and The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City; both were scrapped, along with all of the book festivals she was going to attend, including Gateway Book Festival and Children’s Festival of Stories. In a middle-grade novel that PW called “witty” and “assured,” 12-year-old Libby, who has Turner Syndrome, is determined to win the Smithsonian Women in STEM contest, and give the prize money to her older sister, who is having financial difficulties. Not to be deterred, Allen is developing a virtual launch event with University Bookstore, as well as partnering with the Middle Grade at Heart blog and fellow debut author Sonja K. Solter.
Ways to Make Sunshine
Renée Watson, illus. by Nina Mata. Bloomsbury, $16.99 Apr. 28 ISBN 978-1-5476-0056-4
The star of Watson’s new chapter book series is Ryan Hart, a black girl from a middle class family in Portland, Ore., who possesses all the moxie of Ramona Quimby. PW deemed the book a Most-Anticipated read for spring, saying in a starred review, “Watson warmly weaves together slice-of-life moments that capture youthful doubt alongside moments of loss and joy, showing a tight-knit family navigating difficulties with plenty of courage and plenty of love.” Ways to Make Sunshine was to be spotlighted on Independent Bookstore Day with a special edition signed by Watson and featuring a letter from the author. The week-long tour, including a launch event in her hometown of Portland, is now postponed. Other markets included Seattle and the Bay Area, where the core of the events would have been school visits, partnering directly with districts that are passionate about equity and reaching the communities that see themselves reflected in Watson’s work.
On the Horizon
Lois Lowry, illus. by Kenard Pak. HMH, $16.99 Apr. 7 ISBN 978-0-358-12940-0
Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry traveled to Oxford, England at the beginning of March to give a talk at the Oxford Union, but by the time she got back to the U.S., her national tour for On the Horizon, her first new book in five years, had to be canceled. On the Horizon, based on her memories of Hawaii and Japan as a child, looks back at the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. “Part memoir, part history, this is a powerful reminder that damage done will be remembered for many decades to come,” PW’s review said. HMH is exploring possible digital events for the author, and may reschedule some of her appearances this fall, when she tours for her sequel to The Willoughbys, called The Willoughbys Return. An animated feature film of The Willoughbys debuts on Netflix next month.