The Snow Day by Komako Sakai. As I write this, it's cold and gray outside, with a snowflake occasionally drifting its way past my windowpane. And I have never read a book that captures so beautifully and accurately the experience of watching the snow fall as The Snow Day, about a little rabbit who gets the day off from kindergarten and the quiet day that follows, waiting for the snow to stop and Daddy to come home. Already the recipient of three starred reviews, including this one from SLJ.
Heartsinger by Karlijn Stoffels, translated by Laura Watkinson. During the editing process, I referred to this fondly as "my weird little Dutch book," because it's one of those books that challenges our traditional American expectations of what a novel should be, and so requires the reader to adapt to it rather than judging it by those traditional expectations. (See also: The Legend of the Wandering King; I'll write more about this when I do a "Behind the Book" post.) And not all readers will adapt to it, and not all readers will like it. But those that do read it will discover beautiful, lyrical, magical-realist writing; a wonderful fairy-tale-like atmosphere and story; and a deep understanding of love and the problems of love between man and woman, and parent and child. And indeed, challenging those traditional American expectations of what a novel should be is partly why we do translations, so I hope readers will be willing to meet Heartsinger halfway. The beautiful cover was designed by Elizabeth Parisi (who also created the cover for Maybe below). Starred review from Kirkus.
Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan. The followup to Shaun's amazing The Arrival has more text (much more, as The Arrival was wordless, and this is a collection of short illustrated stories), but just as much wonder, terror, humor, wisdom, sympathy for the human condition, and astonishing art. Two starred reviews.
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee. Every time I go to Los Angeles, including my recent holiday trip, I think about this book, because -- besides being Lisa's first YA novel, a terrific portrait of a girl figuring out who she is and what she wants, and funny as heck, especially thanks to the wonderful supporting characters -- it is a love letter to L.A., in all its gritty, glamorous, car-dependent, movie-besotted, great-Mexican-food-containing glory. And as I do not generally love L.A., I am grateful to Lisa for writing a book that makes me appreciate it, especially the Mexican food . . . Seriously, it's probably not wise to read this book unless you have a good taco place within a five-minute walk or drive. (This book was called Definitely Maybe until we learned about the movie last spring -- damn you, Ryan Reynolds!) Out in February; see advance reviews here.
Celestine, Drama Queen, by Penny Ives. A little duckling diva just knows she'll be the star of the kindergarten drama . . . and indeed she is, if not in quite the way she expects! A perfect book for all fans of Fancy Nancy or darling ducks.
Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash. Sometimes, when I'm in need of a break at work, I will go over to my friend/our editorial assistant Emily's cubicle, hang over the side, and stare at her thoughtfully. "Emily?" I ask. "Are you a horse?" This never ceases to amuse me (though I imagine Emily might be tiring of it), and it also reproduces the process of inquiry that our hero Roy the Cowboy goes through: He has a saddle, but no horse to ride -- in fact, he doesn't even know what a horse is. So he asks a cactus, a wagon, a crab, a lion, and various other animals whether they are a horse, using their answers to come to an eventual definition of a horse. A great book for all budding scientists, and hilarious to boot, thanks to Andy's brightly colored pictures, the witty text, and the twist ending. Out in March. You never know . . . you might be a horse too.