Hot ARCs and Cool Desserts

Elizabeth Bluemle - January 20, 2010

What were the highlights of ALA Midwinter for this children’s bookseller? And what were the show’s most hotly anticipated ARCs? (At right, Maggie Stiefvater’s Linger (Scholastic), sequel to Shiver and one of the conference’s most coveted galleys.)

ALA Midwinter is like a small BookExpo—with a lot more information technology and furnishings booths and seemingly hundreds of committee meetings. The scale was smaller, the attendees calmer and less grabby of giveaways than people can be at BEA. I was only there on Sunday and Monday, so I can’t fill in all the blanks, but I had a great time! Here were some highlights:

Hot ARCs and Recent Releases: Librarians were eager to get their hands on Francisco X. Stork’s The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Susan Beth Pfeffer’s This World We Live In, Rachel Ward’s Numbers, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Cosmic, Bree DeSpain’s The Dark Divine, Pam Muñoz Ryan’s The Dreamer, Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb, M.T. Anderson’s The Suburb Beyond the Stars, Carrie Jones’s Captivate (which just debuted on the New York Times bestseller list along with Need). These and several other ARCs were mostly gone long before I arrived on Sunday. I’d love to hear from attending librarians and authors about other ARCs flying off the tables! My favorite future sneak-peeks: Tad Hills’ criminally adorable How Rocket Learned to Read (Schwartz & Wade, July) and Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee’s gonna-be-huge young chapter book, Bink and Gollie, charmingly illustrated by animator Tony Fucile (Candlewick, September), as well as Gareth Hinds’ stunner of an Odyssey retelling in graphic novel form (Candlewick, October).

One thing I loved about ALA was that all the publishers had bookmarks representing starred reviews and awards sticking out of titles in their booths. I can’t recall seeing those at BEA, but it was a very nice touch. In this photo, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Henry Holt) and Charles & Emma:The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (Henry Holt) are absolutely stuffed with acclaim! Ditto for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (FSG), along with Django by Bonnie Christensen (Flash Point), and Eidi by Bodil Bredsdorff (FSG), sequel to the wonderful The Crow-Girl from a few years back.

The ALA Youth Media Awards Announcements! For more than 20 years, I’ve followed these awards from afar, with as much excitement as my family and I follow the Oscars, and with a lot more emotional investment. This was my first opportunity to walk into the huge auditorium at 7:30 am along with throngs of librarians, editors, publishers, authors, agents, and other book folk. If it’s dorky to be this utterly thrilled by children’s book awards, then I’m in terrific company. Hundreds of us listened and held our breath and whooped with joy when our favorites were announced (and had private sad moments when other favorites weren’t chosen). One of the highlights of the awards was a clip from the award-winning video of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! As the crowd dispersed after the last of the awards was announced, people seemed very satisfied with the choices. The Printz selections elicited the most gasps of surprise, not because of what made the list, but because of what didn’t. (Most often mentioned and lamented: Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World—which did, happily, win the Schneider Family Teen Book Award.) The photo at left shows the William C. Morris Committee before they announced their winning book, Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan.

I also had a chance on Sunday to hear teens from all over the country address the BBYA committee with their responses to books on the list of finalists. That was really fun! There was a LOT of love for Don Calame’s Swim the Fly (Candlewick), which got raves from boys and girls alike; they loved the story and appreciated the humor. One girl said, about another book under discussion, "Sometimes I think that all adult authors think all teenagers have issues." The room erupted in laughs and applause. So, YA writers out there, take note: make ’em laugh

The GLBTRT (that’s Gay – Lesbian – Bisexual – Transgender Round Table) Social and Award Presentation. When the group’s original venue flooded shortly before this event, Harvard’s Countway Library kindly came forward as a substitute host. I hopped into a cab with YA author and prior Printz Honoree Ellen Wittlinger and her friend, award-winning author (and one of the evening’s guests of honor) Leslea Newman. Our taxi driver eventually found this medical library tucked onto a small side street amid a complex of medical buildings, and we ascended to the fifth floor, where tasty hors d’hoeuvres and wine awaited. The highlight here was a conversation with authors Leslea Newman and Michael Willhoite, whose books (Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate, respectively), had been the subject of a landmark Wichita Falls library censorship lawsuit 20 years ago. The attorney who had successfully defended the books, John Horany, led the discussion. All three speakers were exceptionally lively, charming, and dynamic. It was a terrific evening, ending with the Stonewall Book Awards, which can be found in Thursday’s Expanded Awards blog post.

Fascinating, too, were the oddly cheerful medical specimens in cases behind the authors as they sat autographing books after the program: tiny skeletons of conjoined twins, an "acephalous" infant, archaic instruments and ether sponges, even the actual metal tamping rod that flew through Phineas Gage‘s head but left him miraculously alive. Oh, heck, I think I need to post photos for you. Avert your eyes if needed.

The library also had a handy-dandy (and book-saving) little device at its entrance: a rack offering free umbrella bags in two sizes. That beats the clear plastic tub I set out on rainy days. Google "umbrella bags" for a surprising number of options.

And now for something completely different, and with no specimens or skeletons whatsoever: the Simon & Schuster / FableVision party at Paul and Peter Reynolds’ FableVision Studios at the Boston Children’s Museum! This was one of the most fun publishing parties I’ve ever been to, in part because of the Reynolds brothers’ infectious enthusiasm, creativity, and optimism—they gave a wonderful introductory welcome that had the whole room feeling great about children’s books and even the publishing industry, no small feat these days. The party was also delightful because of the band Yellowcake, there to kick off a teen Battle of the Bands-type national contest FableVision is sponsoring with S&S in celebration of the new title, Zebrafish, and in part because of the enchanting miniature desserts: tiny creme brulees in little porcelain pots, chocolate-espresso mousse in tea-party-sized cups, and happy little cookies and tarts of all varieties. I am all about teensy desserts. Finally, Fablevision’s "creative hub" was an oval workspace so bright and appealing that we all wanted to switch jobs immediately.

The FableVision Studio was so full of revelers that getting any kind of decent picture with my phone camera was out of the question, but here’s one of Alison Morris and me pretending to be diligent PW ShelfTalker bloggers.

Now, if someone will only send me to the ALA annual show in June!!

Midwinter attendees, what were your highlights??

7 thoughts on “Hot ARCs and Cool Desserts

  1. Loree Griffin Burns

    I came home with only one ARC for myself, and that was Jeannine Atkins’ BORROWED NAMES (Henry Holt, 2010). It’s an absolutely lovely look at the relationships between Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie–all three born in 1867–and their daughters. This group biography in verse is unique and unforgettable and I expect big things for it!

  2. Jeanette Larson

    One of the highlights was the Scholastic “Here’s Johnny…” program featuring their great authors talking about upcoming books. It was first of all hilarious but also informative. John Mason has another career on late night television if he wants it.


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