Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Arthur A. Levine Books Fall 2009 List

Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat. Coedited by Arthur and me. When Lisa first came to us with the idea for a younger middle-grade series, she said she wanted it to be like the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary—books with humor, heart, a strong central family, and, in her son’s words, “not a lot of commotion.” We’re glad to say that she’s succeeded in all but the last. Because Bobby is the first book in a series about Bobby Ellis-Chan, a sweet, sincere, well-meaning fourth-grader who somehow stumbles into one embarrassing situation after another; and the “commotion” he causes is both totally believable and laugh-out-loud funny. The amusing events are anchored in Lisa’s marvelous characters, from Bobby, to his retired-pro-football-player dad (who is struggling to adjust to his new status as Mr. Mom); to his goldfish Rover; to his best friends, sensible Holly and energetic Chess; to his nemesis, the annoying (and very tall) Jillian Zarr. Indeed, the relationship between lifelong friends Holly and Bobby forms the heart of the novel here, as they’ve reached that tricky moment in time where boys and girls must never be seen to be friends with each other (a rule strongly enforced by Jillian Zarr), and they have to figure out both the politics (literally) and the emotions of that. It’s a rare writer who can take everyday events and real-life situations like this and shape them into something special and new; and a rare illustrator, too, who can inject the images of those events with humor and verve. Already the recipient of a starred review from the Horn Book.

The Circle of Gold (The Book of Time III), by Guillaume Prevost, translated by William Rodarmor. Edited by moi. The time-travel adventure begun in The Book of Time and continued in The Gate of Days reaches its fiery conclusion as Sam leaps from Egypt to China and Renaissance Rome to the future. This is a great series for middle-graders looking for a fun and fast-paced read, and for parents who wouldn't mind slipping a little history and mystery into the action.

Lips Touch, Three Times, by Laini Taylor, with illustrations by Jim DiBartolo (who also now have a gorgeous baby!!!). Edited by Arthur. The best way to introduce this book is just to excerpt it:

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends' laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends' laps? Yes.
The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.
Like Kizzy.
Yeah. That’s from the first story, a modern-day companion tale to the Christina Rossetti poem “Goblin Market”; the second story, “Spicy Little Curses Such As These,” set in colonial India, carries the scent of “Orpheus and Eurydice”; and the third, a novella called “Hatchling,” follows Esme and her mother Mab, who live a secret, enchanted life in London, on the run from a terror that Esme will discover. All three stories turn on the kisses of a lifetime; feature beautiful illustrative material from Jim DiBartolo; and are perfect for fans of Holly Black, Melissa Marr, or luscious writing.

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes. Edited by moi. I’ve talked about this book before, in this blog post about flap copy, so you might already be familiar with its content (new teacher energizes her class on an Air Force base with improvisational theatre). And unusual as that content is (because when was the last time you read a middle-grade novel focused solely on military kids? That’s right—never), its form is just as fascinating, as Sara uses multiple points of view, a structure that reflects the interests of her characters, and some marvelous narrative cross-cutting to create a portrait of the whole community on base. Sara is herself the wife of an Air Force career officer, so she knows whereof she writes (see the wonderful picture on the book's site here), and the book reflects all her love for and knowledge of the military, theatre, and the transformative power of a good teacher.

Peaceful Heroes, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Addy. Edited by Arthur. This beautiful and important book describes the lives of people from around the world who changed it by nonviolent, even anti-conflict means: Jesus; Clara Barton; Mohandas Gandhi; Martin Luther King Jr.; Corrie Ten Boom; Paul Rusesabagina, and several others. Jonah is the author of many highly praised picture-book biographies, including AALB's Frida, Dizzy, The Secret World of Hildegard, and The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan (which was featured on NPR this morning). Arthur found Sean Addy at a showcase here in New York City several years ago -- I was with Arthur at the time, and witnessed his excitement at finding such a bold new young illustrator. We're thrilled to be publishing Sean's first book as a solo artist.

Stick Man, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Edited by Alison Green of Scholastic UK, with Arthur as its American midwife (midhusband?). The creators of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and AALB’s own The Fish Who Cried Wolf spin a jouncy Christmas tale—the story of a stick separated from his family who tries to get home for the holiday. This is how rhyming text is done, people. Decked out with foil and out in time for the holidays.

Thank you for keeping an eye out for all these terrific books this autumn!


  1. Well, I <3 Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson, so yay!

    And you're right--not many books about military kids out there. I can think of some I knew in Germany who would love to know that they aren't forgotten.

  2. Actually, it is midwife, because the "mid" means "with". My sister went to a midwifery practice with a man midwife, and they got that question all the time.

    These look exciting!

  3. Thanks, SAC -- learn something new every day!

  4. Cheryl, has Lanie had her baby yet? She was very pregnant at BEA! I have Lips Touch and can't wait to read it!

  5. Oh, you edited Book of Time. My son's school librarian recommended that book for him at the school booksale. He really likes the librarian-they chat a lot, but for some reason, he just hasn't picked the book up off his desk.

    I'm going to push it once again!

    And Lips Touch sounds so good. Do you think it's appropriate for a 13year old? She's a huge Twilighter and I'm always looking for a new read for her. But Marr's book seem a little old for my daughter.

  6. I'm excited to read Lisa Yee's new book for a couple of reasons. I've been looking for more Beverly Cleary-type stories these days. I teach kindergarten and find the early years of Ramona to be great read-alouds for this age-group and just posted it on the class page of my website ( dedicated to books. Lisa's new book, however, looks like a great one for my fourth-grade daughter's book club. I'll post it on my webpage as well with a purchase link. Thanks!!

  7. I'm very interested in some of the books. Will there be more, or is this the whole list for fall?

  8. This is the whole AALB list for fall.

    Yup, Laini's had her baby!

    SusieJ, there is strongly implied (though not overly graphic, if I'm remembering correctly) sexual activity in the third story in LIPS TOUCH, so its appropriateness depends on whether your daughter is ready for that. The first two stories are perfectly fine.

  9. Sounds like a great list! My son is already interested in the Lisa Yee book =)

  10. BTW, my son asked why the girls always "win" in books like this? He's on the lookout for a book where the boy wins!

  11. Can't wait to read the new Lisa Yee. The cover looks perfect...lots of appeal. And of course the Laini and Jim team. The cover alone would make me buy this!

  12. Six books? *faint*

    Well, regardless, I'm buying them all in an upper-butt-munch-writer move to secure my status as a blog snoot and ten-years-from-now hopeful.

    So there.

  13. Have been looking for a book like Peaceful Heroes. And saw that Operation Yes was on the Kids' Indie Next list - hooray!

  14. OMG. Lips Touch, Three Times and Operation Yes sound amazing!

  15. We've ordered Bobby vs. Girls from our Scholastic Books order form (I still love those things as much as I did when I was a kid!) -- my son and I are looking forward to it.

  16. Just pre-ordered Bobby vs. Girls - I think my fourth-grade son will love it.

    Will get Book of Time for him, as he just finished the latest book in a series and was bemoaning that he didn't have a new one (we've just started When You Reach Me and he likes it very much, but also said that he really likes series).