I enjoy writing and speaking about picture books, and sometimes I get lucky enough to see them in advance, while they are still in their F&G, or “folded and gathered” stage. Just prior to publication, F&Gs are yet to be bound and the 32 pages of picture book goodness are floppy and at the mercy of a great wind. (Never read F&Gs in a fierce tornado.)
Because I geek out over picture books at my own site, as well as here at Kirkus, fellow picture book fans often e-mail to tell me about new titles. I love these chats. Often it’s picture book authors and illustrators themselves who do this, supporting their peers.
I just spoke to a group of librarians and teachers about my favorite picture books thus far of 2012. It was in compiling that list just the other day that I realized that several of my favorites have yet to be released. They are these yet-to-be-bound galleys, books that will see publication this fall.
I decided it’d be fun today to give readers a heads up about them.
Could there be a 2013 Caldecott winner in this bunch? Time will tell. I won’t tell you so much about them today that I ruin your reading experiences to come. Just imagine me—when seeing these in a few months—waving a lot, pointing enthusiastically, jumping up and down, and perhaps even engaging in razzle-dazzle jazz hands. Unpleasant, I know, but anything to steer you toward outstanding books.
Let’s start with Roaring Brook. That Neal Porter. He’s a very smart man—I’ve never met him in person and he didn’t pay me to say that—with a good eye for talent.
The Steads are the same exceedingly talented duo who brought readers the 2011 Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Here’s one of many great qualities about them as book creators—they let their stories breathe. ’Nough said. For now, anyway.
People use the phrase “child-friendly” a lot when talking about picture books (to which I say, well, it better be). Savage’s book, for very young readers, is more than that. Without wasting any time or a single word, Savage nails the feelings of insecurity in children (in the guise of a little tug boat), yet turns it around with triumph. I have no doubt that a veritable ton of work goes into a book this seemingly simple. It’s not often we see picture books like this anymore. Don’t miss it.
Speaking of gifted duos (as I did with the Steads), this fall FSG will release Sarah Stewart’s The Quiet Place, a moving tale of immigration, with the splendid artwork of David Small, as well as the return of a Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben collaboration in the beautiful The Bear in the Book.
How about the funny ones? Mo Willems entertains with what is surely the first instance of Norwegian dinosaurs in all of picture book history. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (HarperCollins) is dangerous to read while also eating, lest you choke from laughing. You’ve been warned. Put down those crackers.
Jon Klassen returns with This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick), which is not, despite the title, the sequel to the award-winning I Want My Hat Back. Klassen, who knows children delight in being one up on the protagonist, brings readers another open-ended tale of revenge in which deceit and theft simply won’t do, thank you very much.
You want one quick picture book biography recommendation? I can do that. Renée Watson’s Harlem’s Little Blackbird (Random House) tells the story of cabaret singer and dancer Florence Mills. The writing is strong, and the artwork from Christian Robinson simply captivates.
I save my three favorites for last:
Absolutely do not miss Oh, No! (Schwartz & Wade) from Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann, yet another impressive duo. Kirkus has already called the illustrations “sumptuous,” so there you go.
Dial Books will release James and Joseph Bruchac’s Rabbit’s Snow Dance, a traditional Iroquois story, illustrated by Jeff Newman, in November. How I wish you didn’t have to wait so long for this one. Let’s just say I’m happy Jeff Newman devotes his professional life to illustrating picture books, and the Bruchacs tell this story, which begs to be read aloud, with style and rhythm.
And if you don’t read Matthew Cordell’s timely and exhilarating Hello! Hello! (Disney/Hyperion), it won’t be because I didn’t jazz-hands it to death. It’s my favorite book of all this year. Treat yourself to this beautiful story, come October.
Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.