Monthly Archives: October 2022

‘In Every Life’

Kenny Brechner - October 21, 2022

There is an excitement peculiar to beginning the assessment of a picture book frontlist from a major house. Will there be a great book to discover? Will there be a fantastic new voice to encounter? Will a favorite author/illustrator deliver the goods again? Will there be a book so ill-considered and executed that it will stun and defy belief?

After 32 years of frontlist picture book buying, I don’t expect to encounter something  wholly new. I expect wonder and unexpected twists and turns, but not a previously unimagined structure executed with sublime force. The first F&G in Simon & Schuster’s Winter 2023 list was In Every Life by Marla Frazee. She is a personal favorite as both an illustrator and an author illustrator, so my expectations were high. Meg read it first, and clutched the F&G after she was finished, looking teary eyed. “I don’t know what to say,” she said handing it to me.

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An Interview with Autumn

Kenny Brechner - October 5, 2022

When I arrived at the glade for my annual interview with Autumn, she marched right up to me and spoke before I could even greet her.

Autumn: I’m enjoying them!

Kenny: Them?

Autumn: The fruits!

Kenny: Fruits?

Autumn: The fruits of my command!

Kenny: Your command?

Autumn: Have you noticed anything odd about this year’s Fall books for young people, Kenny?

Kenny: Well I must say that it is a crazy strong season for picture books.

Autumn: Ah. I see that you are not entirely bereft of wits and sense.

Kenny: Are you saying that you commanded a great season of picture books?

Autumn: I am indeed. In my estimation the world stands in need of the particular comfort provided by a great picture book and I commanded a bountiful harvest of them.

Kenny: I agree. But how could you command publishers to produce particularly excellent picture books?

Autumn: That I will not reveal.

Kenny: Hmmn. How about revealing the fruits of your command themselves?

Autumn: Gladly. Let’s start out with Sophie Blackall’s Farmhouse. Nothing surprising in a great picture book from her but this one is particularly good. The quiet, enduring power of Farmhouse is accentuated in all its complementary elements. The resonant palette that heightens the beauty of its illustrations is mirrored in the unexpected ending which infuses the fine writing before it with fresh poignancy. Farmhouse is an all ages tour de force for the heart and mind.

Kenny: Totally agree!

Autumn: Next I’d like to mention A Bear Far from Home.

Kenny: Oh what an unusual book that is! I loved it.

Autumn: As you should. Picture books recounting bits of medieval history are often a little flat but this one is filled with immediacy and resonance. Such an immersive narrative perspective. I think we can all relate to the bear’s rope, the odd constricted freedom of getting back in the water.

Kenny: Absolutely and what other picks can you share?

Autumn: Is a more darling, more magical friendship book imaginable than Briony May Smith’s The Mermaid Moon?

Kenny: No!

Autumn: No indeed. What a delight it is to be immersed in simple warmth, wonder and a bit of adventure. Speaking of delightful, what a pleasure it is to find a familiar theme made unexpectedly exceptional as we find in That’s Not My Sweater.

Kenny: Well spotted! Usually sibling books are a highway to tired tropes but That’s Not My Sweater is so original and unexpected.

Autumn: It is a treat, to be sure. Speaking of unexpected, the high-concept high wire traversed by The Little Toymaker is remarkable for being a big success.

Kenny: I see what you mean. The theme of a child who makes magically renewed toys for adults could have so easily gone wrong.

Autumn: Yes; it is particularly rewarding to see a difficult narrative carried off as though it were simplicity itself. Talk about aiming at and then hitting the mark. So genuine and heartwarming.

Kenny: It is! Do you have any more picks for us?

Autumn: I’ll share one more with you, after all we should close with a bedtime book, and Mushroom Lullaby is an exceptional one. Pure wonder to wander through. The perfect precursor to the wanderings on pleasant dreams.

Kenny: Thanks so much, Autumn. I’m so glad your command bore such splendid fruit.

Autumn: Happy to help.