In the past two weeks I blazed through more than a dozen fall catalogs taking notes, plotting future columns and emailing requests. This is the most concentrated I have been about a season's catalogs and organizing columns in a long long time. Partly it is an experiment - I want to see if I really can pull this off as effectively as I'm planning - and partly I just wanted to immerse myself in the joy of the fall's offerings. I ended up requesting more than three dozen books from a rash of publishers (I still have about a half dozen more catalogs I'm waiting to see). Here are the ones that caught my eye from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Children's catalog:
Noah Webster and His Words by Jerri Chase Ferris. A picture book on Webster (yes, how I will fit this into a YA column means some serious creativity but it's more of a MG picture book then a wee child one). I am a sucker for Webster and the whole notion of creating a dictionary. I just love the idea of someone deciding to do this and accomplishing it. (I hope Catherine Reef one day writes a bio of him!)
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey by Gary Golio. JOHN COLTRANE!! Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, for MG readers. They had me at John Coltrane.
The Bronte Sisters by Catherine Reef. Has Reef written a bad biography? She does such an excellent job with these books, walking the fine line between informative and compelling, that I've bought more than one for adults. I very much look forward to seeing how she deals with all the Bronte dramarama.
Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg. I have yet to be disappointed by the "Scientists in the Field" series and this looks like another stellar offering. Wonderful illustrations, great information - another series that I have found adults to enjoy as much as younger readers. These have potential for anyone over the age of 8.
Delusion by Laura Sullivan. Not a huge fan of the cover (It's a photo) but the description is so different, I couldn't resist. It's WWII, two teenage stage magicians (from a long line of performers) are sent to the country for safety and meet a secret society of real magicians and illusionists. There's a rush to save England from the Nazis which all sounds very Bedknobs and Broomsticks to me (in the best possible way). Love the setting and the idea; very excited to give it a shot.
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. I think this is an unfortunate title because it makes me think of the Dragonslayers of Pern and a zillion other high fantasies when the description is very different. From the creator of the quirky Thursday Next series, this book one in a new YA series. Here's the skinny:
In the good old days, magic was powerful and unregulated by government, and sorcerers were highly respected. Then the magic started to fade away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, a magic employment agency. Work is hard to come by, and unexciting: These days, sorcerers find work unblocking drains, and even magic carpets have been reduced to pizza delivery. So it's a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the last dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer. Something is coming. Something known as Big Magic
It promises the same amount of wit as the Thursday series and should be so different from everything else out there; I'm hopeful of this one.
Broken Lands by Kate Milford. I loved the rural fantasy The Boneshaker very much and this is Kate's follow-up, a companion to the first title (not a sequel) set in NYC (and Brooklyn & Coney Island) in 1877. She had me at this line:
Few crossroads compare to the one being formed by the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River, and as the bridge's construction progresses, forces of unimaginable evil seek to bend that power to their advantage.
The ultimate crossroads!!! (And don't forget Kate's kickstarter novella.)
Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki. I've been hoping to get a column of school-based novels for some time. This one is a blend of school drama and horror where Celia attends Suburban High and meets a group of outsiders named "The Rosary". My inner Catholic swooned at that one, the addition of near fatal accidents and a battle between good and evil were just icing on the cake!
I also wanted to note that Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan is due out in paperback. I missed it the first time around but I'm determined to read it now. (Circus space opera!!)