Amid the glitter in Los Angeles, it was the novels that shone most brightly for children's booksellers at this year's BEA. An oft-mentioned favorite: Inkheart (Scholastic/Chicken House, 250,000 first printing) by Cornelia Funke. At Thursday's Evening with Children's Booksellers, Funke read from the book in fluent English, having flown in for the event from her native Germany. She was perhaps as heralded as the dinner itself, which was back after a two-year hiatus.
Funke also captured the Book Sense Children's Literature Award in the fiction category for last year's The Thief Lord (Scholastic/Chicken House); in the picture book category, the winner was Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague (Scholastic). L.M. Boston's 1954 novel The Children of Green Knowe (Harcourt/Odyssey) was named the winner in the Rediscovery category.
Ellen Davis, owner of Dragonwings Bookstore in Waupaca, Wisc., was drawn to this year's plethora of offerings for the upper age ranges. "I'm more excited about novels than picture books this year," she said. Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, Ill., felt that the reason children's booksellers were buzzing about fiction was "there are fewer kids in the picture book age range. We're seeing a drop in the sales of picture books overall."
The first fall title Anderson mentioned was British author Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand (Hyperion/Miramax), the launch title of the Bartimaeus trilogy, which will have a first printing of 200,000 copies. Other retailers who had received galleys of the book before the show echoed Anderson's enthusiasm. "There was lots of buzz on this book prior to BEA," said Jennifer Levine, publicity director for Hyperion Books for Children. "We had booksellers coming up and asking about it. Jonathan signed advance reading copies and drew a great crowd."
Fiction provided much of the buzz at the Penguin Young Readers Group booth as well. (As previously noted, the publisher was making its first BEA appearance in several years, cause for bookseller excitement in itself.) Though it won't be published until January 2004, LionBoy by Zizou Corder (Dial), the first book in a fantasy trilogy starring a 10-year-old boy who can speak the language of cats, had booksellers excited. Candace Moreno from San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe said she'd read the book in galleys: "I love it. The ending left me shrieking. I won't tell you what kind of shriek—I don't want to give it away." Corder is a pen name for British author Louisa Young and her 10-year-old daughter, Isabel. Rights to the book have been sold in 20 countries, as well as to DreamWorks SKG for development as a feature film.
LionBoy is far from the only fantasy making waves, however. Publishers continue to ride the seemingly here-to-stay otherworldly trend. Eragon (Knopf) launches the Inheritance trilogy from teenage author Christopher Paolini, with a first print run of 100,000 copies. "This is an amazing behind-the-book story; he wrote this when he was 15," noted Judith Haut, executive publicity director for Random House Children's Books. The publisher will be sending Paolini on a 13-city tour this fall. The Knopf imprint is also home to Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman (Oct., 100,000 first printing), a companion to the author's landmark His Dark Materials trilogy.
Davis of Dragonwings said that she is very much looking forward to The Tale of Despereaux, a fairy tale by Kate DiCamillo starring a mouse (Candlewick, 175,000 first printing). Cammie Mannino, owner of Halfway Down the Stairs in Rochester, Mich., got hold of an early copy: "I was so excited. It's as if each [of Kate's novels] is a new genre." Jonatha Foli, children's book buyer at Copperfield's in Sebastopol, Calif., read Despereaux on the recommendation of local author Megan MacDonald. "I went straight to the Candlewick booth to pick up a galley and couldn't stop reading it," said Foli, who finished the book before she left BEA. "I laughed and I cried and I didn't want it to end."
MacDonald herself has much to celebrate, as her new Judy Moody Predicts the Future and companion Judy Moody Journal, both illustrated by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick) will each have a 50,000-copy first printing this fall. Reynolds has also written and illustrated an October picture book called The Dot (Candlewick, 35,000 copies).
Other sought-after galleys included Janet Tashjian's new novel, Fault Line (Holt), and two books with historical settings: Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse (S&S/McElderry), about the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands in WW II; and The River Between Us by Richard Peck (Dial), set during the Civil War.
The Conch Bearer, a fantasy informed by legends from India, written by bestselling adult author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, ranked high on many booksellers' "gotta have it" lists, too. "[The author] read from the book at a breakfast I attended, and everyone in the whole place was enthralled," Davis commented. Roaring Brook/Porter will publish the novel this September.
Other booksellers seemed similarly impressed by the many author and illustrator events at BEA this year, particularly the chance to encounter the writers at various publisher gatherings. "The small dinners really helped," said Alison Bailey of Adventures for Kids in Ventura, Calif. "You get to meet the authors, hear them read. It gives a whole different feel to the book. For me, it makes it a little bit more personal."
There's no disputing that hot fiction series keep getting hotter. Of course, Harry Potter was a BEA star, with booksellers expecting to sell Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Scholastic) well past its first-day-of-summer laydown date. However, there's some question if even the first 8.5 million copies will be enough to sate eager fans. Alexandra Uhl from A Whale of a Tale in Irvine, Calif., said, "We've expanded our Harry Potter party. We took 200 reservations, which means 500 by the time the kids bring a parent or two. But we expanded to the outdoors so we could include kids coming in from the schools."
HarperCollins ups the fiction ante with a one-million-copy first printing this November of The Slippery Slope, 10th in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. The house rings in with the same first printing for Project Princess by Meg Cabot. Nicknamed in-house as "Princess Diaries 4.5," the book is a companion title to Cabot's popular line about an unlikely teenage royal.
Two early reader series from Random House, Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park (who gave a rib-tickling speech at Friday's Children's Book & Author Breakfast) and Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne, continue to thrive in hardcover, with 300,000-copy first printings planned for their fall entries: Junie B. First Grader: One Man Band and Magic Tree House #30: Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve. At Simon & Schuster, publicity director Tracy van Straaten noted, "People can't wait for the third Spiderwick; we had a great signing here with [co-author] Tony [DiTerlizzi], and our Spiderwick T-shirts went very quickly." Lucinda's Secret, next in the planned five-title series by DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, reveals more about the faerie world, with an initial print run of 100,000 copies.
Apart from other previously mentioned titles, Bailey of Adventures for Kids singled out as one of her most anticipated fall picks The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illus. by Brian Selznick (Hyperion, 150,000-copy first printing). At a dinner thrown by the publisher, Selznick held up the titular Mean Mimi doll clutching a tiny ransom note, which declared that she was holding Annabelle and Tiffany—stars of the collaborators' previous The Doll People—hostage.
Picture Books a Strong Second
Though the spotlight shines brighter on novels this year, picture books are still making a solid showing on fall lists. Much of the picture book hype surrounded the hush-hush project The English Roses by pop star Madonna. The book, the first of five planned picture books by the singer, pubs in more than 100 countries and 42 languages on September 15. The English Roses' illustrator and its print runs were not disclosed.
At the Penguin booth, packager Nicholas Callaway had in-hand what appeared to be color photocopies of passages from the book, for privileged viewing only (not for PW's eyes). "I'm not sure what to make of this Madonna thing," said Kathleen Little, children's buyer for Kepler's in Menlo Park, Calif. "The publisher had this secret thing to show everybody. It looked really wonderful. But there was not enough to really read the whole thing through. The illustrator might be Stella McCartney, but that's not confirmed. I didn't expect much from Madonna, but after seeing it, I think it's worth supporting."
Major bookseller support is propelling a certain piglet with personality—Olivia. Author-illustrator Ian Falconer's third outing, Olivia and the Missing Toy (S&S/ Schwartz), will have a laydown date of October 7 and a 400,000-copy first printing. "I love the new Olivia," said Uhl from A Whale of a Tale. "I like it even better than the first two, if that's possible." At Olivia's home booth, van Straaten confirmed, "There was a virtual stampede for the giveaways. Everyone is so excited."
Other S&S highlights generating some heat include Alice in Wonderland, the latest pop-up by breakfast speaker Robert Sabuda (Little Simon, 300,000 copies). "It looks fabulous," commented Davis of Dragonwings. The trip down the rabbit hole doesn't stop there; J.otto Seibold has illustrated a pop-up adaptation of the same Lewis Carroll classic, for Scholastic, and Kepler's Kathleen Little discovered a third version at Simply Read (housed in the Words Distributing booth), illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev. "He did [last year's] Pinocchio book, too," she said. "It's gorgeous. When Alice drinks and eats to become small and tall, there's an illustration of her sitting at the table where she's both small and tall—all in the same picture."
X marks the spot for another popular picture-book topic this season. Moreno of San Marino said, "The theme I kept seeing was pirate books, more now than ever before. How I Became a Pirate is probably the best of the group." This Harcourt title, written by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon, will be taking to the high seas this fall in conjunction with National Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19, a humorous celebration dreamed up by two friends (and self-professed pirate freaks) who want to encourage people to toss around phrases like "shiver me timbers" and "ahoy, matey." Booksellers seemed inspired by the campaign, and Harcourt got into the spirit of things as well. Senior editor Jeannette Larson and marketing director Steve Kasdin gave a spirited presentation, wearing a bandanna with a skull and crossbones as part of the Thursday afternoon Children's Book Buzz Workshop (see News, June 9).
Harcourt is also offering Tails, the latest animal picture book from Matthew Van Fleet (100,000-copy first printing). A famous family of civilized elephants are the animal stars of Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Museum of Art (Abrams, 150,000-copy first printing), on the heels of last year's successful Babar's Yoga. Candlewick joins the creature fray, too, as two noted illustrators breathe life into previously published works: P.J. Lynch takes a fresh look at Frank Stockton's The Bee-Man of Orn (35,000 copies); and Bagram Ibatoulline revisits Paul Fleischman's The Animal Hedge (35,000 copies).
Indie booksellers who sparked the success of 1992's spiritual nature title Old Turtle will welcome a long-in-the-making sequel, Old Turtle and the Broken Dream by Doug Wood, illus. by Jon J Muth (Scholastic, 50,000 first printing). And creatures of another sort altogether cavort in The Day the Babies Crawled Away, the latest from bookseller favorite Peggy Rathmann. This title definitely piqued bookseller interest, with its black-silhouette art (featured on the side of giveaway bags). Little at Kepler's commented, "I thought it was adorable. It's unusual for Rathmann to do a book from that perspective."
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook) also caught Little's eye. Last year's BEA attendees may recall Philippe Petit's high-wire act in the Javits Center (to publicize his To Reach the Clouds); Gerstein's picture book recounts Petit's high-wire walk between the twin towers. "It's an incredible act," said Little, "but with the loss of the World Trade Center, it takes on another whole feel. It's a way to look at the towers in remembrance, but in a way that's not associated with September 11."
Elsewhere in the Roaring Brook booth, booksellers were happy to see a new book from Ross MacDonald, who debuted last year with Another Perfect Day, this time an abecedary featuring superhero-like characters, Achoo! Bang! Crash: A Noisy Alphabet Book.
Another A to Z book that had BEA attendees abuzz could be found at Bloomsbury: The Alphabet Room by Sara Pinto, a board book with a flap on each spread that reveals a visual cumulative narrative. And, continuing the aforementioned pirate theme, Celia Rees's novel Pirates! was a hot ticket. Bloomsbury's Kate Kubert said that booksellers snapped up a pile of galleys.
In other picture book news this fall, Peter Sís turns in The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (FSG/Foster, 100,000 first printing,), which follows the great thinker from childhood through his voyage on the Beagle and beyond; and Clyde and Wendy Watson deck the cast of Father Fox's Pennyrhymes in Yuletide colors for Father Fox's Christmas Rhymes (also FSG).
At the Little, Brown booth, booksellers welcomed a title that's also likely to find room in Santa's sack: Joan Steiner's Look-Alikes Christmas (125,000-copy first printing). Holly Hobbie introduces a new character to join her beloved porcine duo in Toot & Puddle: Charming Opal (75,000 copies). On the party front, LB hosted a bash for Carl Reiner, whose Tell Me a Scary Story will have an initial printing of 75,000 copies, and is illustrated by James Bennett of Jerry Seinfeld's Halloween fame. And Todd Parr adds to his oeuvre of neon-bright characters with The Family Book (50,000 first printing).
Award-winning author-illustrator David Macaulay expands his acclaimed series (Cathedral, Castle, etc.) with Mosque (Houghton, 35,000 first printing). Tim Egan was signing posters of Serious Farm (due out this October) in the Houghton booth, where booksellers could pin on "Get Serious" buttons featuring the starring farmer in an American Gothic pose. They were also picking up galleys to The Fattening Hut, a first novel by Pat Lowery Collins (sister to Joan Lowery Nixon).
In the patriotic corner, Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion) will help retailers gear up for an election year. The book traces the history of the vote, including the rights of black voters and the women's suffrage movement. And, following the bestselling America: A Patriotic Primer, Lynne Cheney's A Is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women, illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser, coming from S&S, has a September 16 laydown and a 250,000-copy first printing. S&S is reaching south of the border, too, kicking off its new Spanish-language imprint, Libros para Niños, which got a good response from BEA attendees.
Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle's third collaboration, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? caught the eye of many a bookseller at Thursday's Book Buzz, where Holt's Laura Godwin and Sharon Hancock showed photographs of the duo's long history and unusual collaboration. Those who sought the book at the Holt booth also discovered a new Denise Fleming title, Buster, about a dog who is reluctantly won over by his household's new pet cat; and a gentle adoption tale (a rabbit with two four-legged parents), Our Twitchy by Kes Gray, illus. by Mary McQuillan.
At the Chronicle booth, Uhl of Whale of a Tale was excited about the Grimm story The Elves and the Shoemaker, illus. by Jim LaMarche ("It's incredibly pretty"), and Chronicle's Chris Boral said that booksellers were interested to hear about the company's new licensing co-venture with Nickelodeon. "The general spirit has been jovial," said Boral of BEA traffic. "People have been responding because we're balancing some newer things with the kinds of titles that Chronicle is known for."
Next door, Handprint's Christopher Franceschelli brought out a portfolio of Caldecott Honor artist Christopher Bing's paintings for Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Black Sambo, which will have a first printing of 50,000 copies.
Booksellers were also buzzing about the launch of Julie Andrews's new imprint, The Julie Andrews Collection, and especially the actress's own book, Simeon's Gift, co-written by Emma Walton Hamilton and illustrated by Gennady Spirin (HarperCollins). Uhl made an observation regarding the book that could be applied to its author, "Sophisticated but lovely. The music on the CD [that accompanies the book] is beautiful, too. I listened to it on the way to BEA."
Becky Anderson is looking forward to Wolves in the Walls (HarperCollins), a picture book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean, Gaiman's longtime collaborator on the Sandman series of graphic novels for adults. "Wolves is fantastic," she said. "I see such a niche for that—absolutely a crossover." Harper hangs high hopes on seasonal titles as well, with The Berenstain Bears Save Christmas by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain (250,000 first printing), signaling the ursine family's move to a new publishing house; and The Queen of Christmas by Mary Engelbreit (200,000 copies). And Harper will release Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss, with an initial run of 200,000 copies. Foli of Copperfield's said, "It's really cute and very clever. It has a wonderful sense of humor."
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe's Betty Takeuchi named My Pony (Hyperion, 50,000-copy printing)—the first title that Susan Jeffers has both written and illustrated—as her top choice. Also causing a stir at the Hyperion booth was the long-awaited Brundibar by last year's breakfast speakers, author Tony Kushner and illustrator Maurice Sendak. The book has a 250,000-copy first printing and found favor not only among booksellers but with BEA speaker, Miramax author and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who previewed the title while at the booth, according to Hyperion's Levine.
Holiday House was far from blue after getting a warm reception for Blues Journey, a spring title by Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Christopher Myers, that saw renewed interest due to the father-and-son breakfast presentation on Friday morning. Myers the elder said of the blues, "I can't explain it, it comes from the soul"; while Myers the younger asserted, "I can explain it. I read about it. It's a simple form through which complex ideas are communicated. My pop is interested in it because he's old." Father: "And you hope to one day be old?" The house also generated bookseller enthusiasm for Up, Up, Up! It's Apple Picking Time by Jody Fickes Shapiro (owner of Adventures for Kids), illus. by Kitty Harvill.
It's a fall of pulling out the stops for Pleasant Company. The publisher introduces a line of paper dolls for the American Girls Collection and three new Girls of Many Lands titles (from 1720 Turkey, 1937 Ireland and 1846 Ethiopia). In addition, Pleasant Company announced the launch of its Hopscotch Hill early readers series by bestselling author Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Joy Allen. And those familiar with the company's plush Coconut will welcome a line of books starring the Westie, including a Coconut Book-and-Dog Package with a copy of Coconut's Guide to Life.
Elsewhere on the Floor
In other news, DK is launching the E-Encyclopedia (75,000 first printing), for which director of sales Tom Korman said, "The [448-page] book is the front end, the Web is the back end." DK is partnering with Google for the project; the collaboration means that readers will be circumscribed to sites affiliated with the project (which should please parents wary of the Internet).
Green Tiger was also showing its first independent children's list in many years; the company began publishing books for kids in the 1970s and later moved to Simon & Schuster. Benjamin Darling, head of sales and marketing, said they will be reissuing previous Green Tiger titles (including Cooper Edens's The Starcleaner Reunion), reprinting vintage children's books (such as The Black Cat Book by Walter Copeland, illus. by Charles Robinson) as well as publishing original projects.
ABC executive director Anne Irish said of the show, "It felt reserved on the convention floor. People are all saying, 'We need to wait and see what's going to happen.' So much depends on the economic and political environment." Still, Irish felt that "for the most part, I'm hearing that people have turned a corner."
As if to underscore Irish's assessment, Pannell award winner Mannino said, "My first quarter this year was better than the first quarter of last year; huge school orders this month will save the second quarter. I'm cautiously optimistic, but mostly cautious."
As a sure sign of that cautious optimism, a couple of publishers reported meeting with three independent booksellers who were either opening new stores or expanding existing operations. Buckhill Book Shop, a general bookstore in Lititz, Pa., with a "nice emphasis on children's books," according to events coordinator Jen Richard, opened its doors on June 9. General bookstore Square Books in Oxford, Miss., plans to open a children's branch across the square from the flagship venue. General manager Lyn Roberts says they will have a "stealth" opening (work at the new location has been going on behind blocked windows) to surprise the store's customers on June 21.
And for Maryanne Eichorn, owner of Munchkin's Bookshelf, a children's-only store in Wexford, Pa., that is also scheduled to open on June 21, BEA proved a real shot in the arm. "I had a great time," Eichorn said. "There was lots of excitement and a willingness to help when people heard about my store. I didn't get the cold shoulder from anyone because we're so small." She found that the author events were her favorite part of the show. "Sometimes you get so tied up with all the money matters that you can lose sight of why you're going into this business," she said. "Those events were really inspirational, and I hope that good feeling lasts a long time."