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August 2013
Parched

Parched
Melanie Crowder

Congrats, Melanie, on this star from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books!

Three narrators—Sarel, a white girl; Musa, a black boy; and Nandi, one of the lion-hunting dogs that Sarel's father breeds—share this gripping story that begins during a serious drought in an unspecified African setting. The Tandie, a militant gang, murder Sarel's parents, whose farm had access to a secret spring, and kidnap young Musa, forcing the boy, a natural dowser, to search for underground water. With only Nandi and the other dogs to help her, Sarel must somehow find water, food, and a shady place to survive. When Musa manages to escape his captors, he joins forces with Sarel, but can they find the hidden water before the ruthless Tandie hunt Musa down or the drought kills them? Crowder's spare storytelling and third-person narration provide young readers some safe distance for witnessing the tragic events, while well-chosen details and taut descriptions effectively convey the intensity of the situation. The lack of identifying specifics about the setting, the area's history, and even Sarel (who is not revealed as being white until midway through the book) and Musa means that readers will need to read carefully to piece together what is going on, but the immediacy that results from being thrust into the middle of things makes the story immensely engaging. The ending may leave some readers wanting to know what will happen next, but overall this is a poetic and powerful survival story; readers will want to tackle it with a full water bottle on hand.

—Joan

Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo

Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo
Ammi-Joan (A.J.) Paquette

Gosh, it's happy news when a book gets a starred review--and perhaps extra-happy when it's from KIRKUS, which is often the first review we see. Huge congratulations to Ammi-Joan Paquette for this gushy, lively, wonderful starred review for her October picture book release, PETEY AND PRU AND THE HULLABALOO, illustrated by Joy Ang and published by Clarion!

Quiet Petey and his devil spawn of a best friend indulge in a little chaos propelled by gleefully sesquipedalian writing.

Pru, a ginger-haired kid in a gray knit cap, carefully collects kitties on her way to her best friend Petey's greenhouse. Inside, the serene chap is potting a little plant, happy in his tranquility. That bliss is upended when Pru, "feeling tricksy," pierces the quiet with a caterwauling chorus of cats. Petey retaliates by inviting in a dog, but the inevitable anarchy is far more to Pru's liking than Petey's: "It's a BROUHAHA!" They erupt into fisticuffs and find themselves falling to certain doom. Fortunately, they are saved at the last minute and make up with each other...until Pru feels another bout of mischief coming on. At every opportunity, Paquette works in a word or phrase that might be unfamiliar to her readership; these are helpfully set in bold type. Highlighted words include everything from "higgledy-piggledy" and "peeved" to "mayhem" and the fabulous "defenestration." Rather than come off as jarring, these words blend seamlessly with the plot, aided in no small part by Ang's pitch-perfect digital art. Even the endpapers do double duty as a glossary of the aforementioned terms.

Here's hoping that there are more kerfuffles and shenanigans in the future for this undeniably delightful duo.

—Erin

As announced in today's PW Children's Bookshelf, Austin power rules again!

Yolanda Scott at Charlesbridge has teamed our own Chris Barton and illustrator extraordinaire Don Tate, both of the vibrant Austin children's book community, for the picture book biography WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON'S SUPER STREAM OF IDEAS, for spring 2016. The wonderful Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary represented Don in this deal.

Chris's contract for this one was signed some time ago (back in 2010, in fact), but was delayed when the subject of the original project turned out to be less suitable to the format than originally realized. Chris searched anew for the perfect scientist to profile after the success of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS, his publishing debut, which was also a Sibert Honor Book and named a best book of the year by PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, KIRKUS REVIEWS, THE WASHINGTON POST, and the Bank Street College of Education--and he happened upon Lonnie Johnson, a Tuskegee-educated scientist, engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who not only worked for NASA, but also invented, of all things, the Super Soaker. What could possibly be a more kid-friendly window into science than that, I ask you?

We're so pleased that Don Tate has joined this project. Chris and Don are also working together on THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH, another picture book biography, with Eerdmans. Go, Team Austin!

—Erin

The Dirt Diary

The Dirt Diary
Anna Staniszewski

There's a certain something in the air, people of the internet, and that something is PICTURE BOOKS! Yes siree, I'm here to share yet another amazing picture book deal, this time for busy and prolific author Anna Staniszewski. Most recently known for her hilarious tween series that began with MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, Anna also has a new tween series debuting in winter 2014 with THE DIRT DIARY.

If all of that isn't enough, Anna is also a picture book author, and I'm here today to announce a very exciting new book deal. POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT is a story that's just as adorable as it sounds, starring an inquisitive young robot who is not tired, does not want to brush his cogs, and is determined to stay out of bed at any cost. Charming and warm in all the best ways, LITTLE ROBOT was bought as a two-book deal, by Sally Doherty at Holt, and will begin publication in Fall 2015.

Huge congratulations, Anna!

As anyone who's ever been involved with publishing knows all too well, one of the everlasting maxims of the industry is often "Hurry up and wait." So you hurry up and send out your submissions, then you wait, and then... sometimes, everything starts happening all at once. Nobody knows this feeling better than our own Maria Gianferrari, who signed on with the agency in August 2012, and who this week accepted not one but TWO separate publishing offers (for a total of 6 picture books sold this year!).

First up is the hilariously punny KATZ & HOUNDINI, in which a bitter longtime rivalry between Dogtown and Kitty City comes to a head when Officer Katz matches wits with professional escape artist Houndini—but who will prevail in the end? This hilarious, witty romp begs to be read aloud, and is sure to garner some vibrant, kid-friendly illustrations. KATZ & HOUNDINI was signed on by Alyson Heller at Aladdin Books for Young Readers, for publication in summer 2015!

Second, and on the other side of the spectrum, we have HIGHWAY HAWKS, a lyrical celebration of these majestic winged creatures, seen through the eyes of a child as the two go about their separate evening routines. This story is rich and evocative and beautifully written—a classic in the making! (Not only that, but shhhh! Word is that a stellar illustrator is in the process of being signed on for the project, so wait for more news on this soon.)  HIGHWAY HAWKS was acquired by Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook Press, who also signed another non-fiction picture book of Maria's this spring.

So how's that for a double-header? Huge congratulations to Maria on these great books-to-be!

—Joan

Those of us who attended this year's EMLA client retreat won't soon forget eleven-year-old Gladys Gatsby's disastrous attempt to finish off a tray of crème brulées using the family blowtorch, as read from the opening chapter of Tara Dairman's ALL FOUR STARS. The book itself is headed to a reading pile near you in summer 2014, and this is a hilarious debut that you will not want to miss!

But today I'm here to share some more good news for Tara Dairman—and for Gladys Gatsby! Yes, folks, everyone's favorite pint-sized food critic and gourmet chef in-the-making is officially coming back for more adventures: This week, Shauna Rossano at Putnam Children's has signed on to publish the (still-untitled) sequel, in which Gladys gets sent away to summer camp, finds a nemesis, and launches the mother of all cook-offs.

Hooray for Tara—and for Gladys: long may she cook!

—Joan

As we here at EMLA are so fond of saying—and you know what? it never gets old!—there is nothing in the world like celebrating a debut author's flying start out of the publishing gate. Jenn Bertman first came on my radar when I read a pitch of her novel-in-progress, which she described as "The Westing Game meets Goonies at a slumber party thrown by Edgar Allan Poe." How could I not be intrigued?

Fast forward a few years, when the finished manuscript landed on my desk. It was every bit as awesome as I'd hoped. A match made in literary heaven!

Today, I'm thrilled to announce that BOOK SCAVENGER has found a publishing home, in a pre-empt offer from Christy Ottaviano for her eponymous imprint at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. This fast-paced middle-grade mystery involves cipher cracking, book hunting, and a madcap search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Need I say more?

Well, there is more! BOOK SCAVENGER was bought as the first in a series, with an untitled Book #2 thrown into the deal and another stand-alone MG adventure story as well. Three books you will want to keep a sharp eye out for, beginning in Fall 2015.

Congratulations, Jenn!

—Joan

Hello August. Continued lazy days of reading will turn into frenzied school-preparation for many.

Let's talk about books instead, shall we?

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, published by Schartz & Wade Books/Random House, introduces Sophie and Bernice, a lovely friend, who turns out to be more of a blessing than even Sophie realizes. Multiple starred reviews and one of this month's Amazon picture book picks.

Radio Girl by Carol Brendler, published by Holiday House, is about a young girl who goes to work for CBS in 1938 and must uncover the truth about a radio show hoax that terrifies a nation.

We wish these books into readers' hearts!

—Joan