Welcome to our spring 2017 children’s announcements issue! Along with our comprehensive listings of children’s and YA titles to be published between February 1 and July 31, author Sara Zarr talks about her widely anticipated YA novel, Gem & Dixie; authors and illustrators share stories and pictures they wrote and drew when they were children; and we explore the burgeoning category of nonfiction in bookstores.
About Our Cover Artist
As a child, Antoinette Portis recalls, “we had a gazillion books in our house.” She remembers reading Where the Wild Things Are and Little Bear to her younger brother: “The illustrations were so expressive, so deep. I was seeing the ineffable for the first time. I remember thinking, I want to go there someday.”
Portis wrote poetry in high school and college, but her poetry professor told her “no one can make a living as a poet.” Her painting teacher, however, was much more encouraging, telling her “you have a talent, you should nurture it.” After college she worked as a video performance artist and graphic designer, then went into advertising and TV commercials. “It was really fun and eventually became repellent,” she says. A short freelance gig at Disney Consumer Products turned into nine years, but “the whole time I was there I felt my true secret self was safely hidden,” she says. She seized the opportunity when voluntary layoffs were offered, and joined a class taught by picture book author Barbara Bottner. “I had an idea of writing about imagination, about sitting in a cardboard box,” Portis says—“the tension between what a kid sees and what a grownup sees.”
That idea became her first book, Not a Box. “Barbara said, ‘Send it to Margaret Anastas at HarperCollins, I think she’ll like it.’ I got a two-book deal and it was a bestseller and then I had a career.” She did six books at Harper, then moved to Neal Porter’s imprint at Roaring Brook, where she’s on her third two-book deal.
“I feel like this is the greatest job I’ve ever had,” Portis says. “I’ve found my calling. I get to be alone and make stuff up. I get to share it, I get to read it to kids and hopefully inspire one of them to make books some day, too. I feel like everything I ever loved doing shows up in some way in writing and illustrating picture books.”
And Portis delights in being able to tell kids: “This is a job; you can make a living doing this amazing thing.”—D.R.
How children's booksellers are creating successful nonfiction sections.
While many works of nonfiction are resonating with children these days, the bookseller jury is still out on young readers’ adaptations of bestselling adult books.
In a book due out from Atheneum this July, a number of children’s book creators recall their youthful creative efforts. Their entries were collected and edited by author Elissa Brent Weissman, and we present a selection of them here.
Young adult author Sara Zarr mines her childhood for a novel about sisters tested by poverty.