JLG Love

I am feeling the love from the wonderful Junior Library Guild! So far, four books on my 2016 list have been picked for this honor: Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach, Ada's Violin by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport, El Violin de Ada, and Rise of the Robot Army by Robert Venditti. Thank you, JLG! 

Add It to the List: THE ANCHOR & SOPHIA

Picture it: Bologna. Dusk. A crowded plaza of happy tourists and locals in light coats and sweaters, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. The pigeons stay close in hopes of enjoying some of the food the city is so famous for. An Aperol Spritz rests in front of me and across from it sits the legendary John Cusick. "I have something I'd like to pitch to you," he says. And so it begins...

Nearly four months later, I'm so HAPPY that I can finally talk about this deal. I'm also ecstatic that I have three more manuscripts to look forward to from the truly gifted Tommy Wallach. I was first introduced to Tommy's work in July 2013 (two years ago!) when John submitted the manuscript for We All Looked Up. I instantly fell in love with the writing and was overjoyed to add the novel, plus an untitled second novel, to my list. That second novel became Thanks for the Trouble, which is so different from We All Looked Up. For one thing, it's written in first person from a single point-of-view. Still, as my boss mentioned in his recent presentation of the novel at our Spring 2016 Sales Conference, the beauty of the writing is unmistakably Tommy Wallach. And so is the case with Tommy's next project, a plot-driven tale of two brothers who will play key--and opposing--roles in a growing conflict in their young civilization. 

Book One in the Anchor & Sophia trilogy comes out in Spring 2017.

John and I dined here after he was done pitching. Photo (C) John Cusick

John and I dined here after he was done pitching. Photo (C) John Cusick

It's My Spring 2016 List!

As I did with my Fall 2015 list, I wanted to gather for you, dear reader, all of my gorgeous Spring 2016 covers in one place. And what a difference a list makes! For Fall 2015, I edited four fantastic young adult novels, which will start to hit bookshelves right before Labor Day. This season, I have just one YA book--Tommy Wallach's sophomore effort, Thanks for the Trouble. (In a post reminiscent of his cover reveal for We All Looked Up, Tommy took us step by step through the design process, sharing all of the cover concepts that didn't get selected.) My other three titles in Spring 2016 are picture books. For her cover reveal, Ashlyn Anstee sent a tweet that included the cover of her No, No, Gnome! Matt Roeser and Brad Woodard took to Facebook to show off the cover of their Oh No, Astro!, as did Terry Fan and Eric Fan with their The Night Gardener

Let's take a look at how these four covers came together. 

First up, we have No, No, Gnome! (2/9/16) by Ashlyn Anstee. Ashlyn's first book, Are We There, Yeti?, is on-sale 7/21/15, and I bought that title and an untitled picture book at auction from the wonderful Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary. For her second book, Ashlyn pitched me a few stories, and I immediately fell for No, No, Gnome! I loved how the book's title and refrain were, yeti again, a play on words. (See what I did there?) I found Gnome ridiculously cute. And I really liked the school garden setting. So, Ashlyn got to work crafting the story of an energetic Gnome who wants nothing more than to help but whose eagerness sometimes gets the better of him. 

Ashlyn is filled with ideas, and she delivered a bunch of options for the front cover. Like these... 

And these...

Chloe Foglia, the book's designer, and I discussed these options with "the group" (which includes the other editors and the other designers, along with my publisher). We really liked the composition of Number 3 (top right) and the title treatment of Number 6 (bottom right), which is reminiscent of what she did on Are We There, Yeti? Chloe asked Ashlyn to bring Gnome through the plants a bit more so that we could see his cute outfit (and not mistake him for someone else with a white beard and red hat). We also wanted a slightly more mischievous expression on Gnome's face. With those notes, Ashlyn went to final art and delivered...

Like Are We There, Yeti?, the cover of No, No, Gnome! will be printed on uncoated stock with a spot gloss on the title and the author/illustrator's name.

The Night Gardener (on sale 2/23/16) began with this image (and two sample spreads).

My gracious and thoughtful boss showed me the piece of art and asked if I saw any potential. If memory serves, I screamed, "Yes!" I felt like I was getting pulled into the Night Gardener's world, and I wanted to go to there. Terry Fan had just finished working on the gorgeous Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell with designer Lizzy Bromley. He had enjoyed the experience so much that he reached out to her with this image of a topiary-loving gentleman to let her know that he and his brother, Eric, were eager to turn it into a picture book. Lizzy, the Brothers, and I got on the phone to talk about the character, the world he lived in, and the motivation for his clippings. We ended up with a truly magical story about a gray little town in need of some creative inspiration.  

When it came time to talk about the cover, I think we all kind of knew that it would be a version of the Brothers' original idea. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy, so we brought him to the cover image. His wonder is ours. 

Front Cover 060415 - Night Gardener.jpg

Lizzy is bringing so much magic to this jacket. It will be printed on a textured, uncoated stock, and the title will be a silver foil.

I half-expected designer Lucy Cummins to suggest a cover similar to We All Looked Up's for Tommy Wallach's second novel, Thanks for the Trouble. You know, another group of teens in a cool environment shot with some eye-catching technique. But while Lucy wanted to go photographic, she had a wildly different concept in mind--no people, just stuff. She was inspired by a scene relatively early in the book that takes place in a mall food court, and she had the perfect photographer in mind to capture the energy and tone of the novel: Keirnan Monaghan

On the day of the shoot, I headed to Dumbo, where Keirnan has his studio. While he and his partner, Theo Vamvounakis, a brilliant props and sets designer, prepared, I took in the environment. 

The props table

The props table

The set

The set

I'll admit I was a little nervous. Everything looked kind of drab. I was having a hard time imagining how the title and byline were going to work with the image. But why do I ever doubt Lucy?

The magic of lighting changes everything.

The magic of lighting changes everything.

(You'll notice that the above image does not have pizza. We needed pizza. Lucy rushed out to get some.)

Lucy considered having the title on loose scraps of paper (the protagonist communicates by writing on slips of paper) or scratched into the table. But neither approach was having the impact she wanted, so she went big and bold.

The finished jacket will be printed over metaltone with embossing and spot gloss on the title and byline.

Finally, I'm incredibly excited to be publishing Matt Roeser's first picture book. Matt is one of the most talented book designers in children's publishing. His manuscript for Oh No, Astro! (on sale 4/19/16) came to me via the ever-charming and gifted Tim Federle, and I jumped at the chance to edit it. "Manuscript" is a misnomer; what Matt delivered was a fully formed sketch dummy--and Matt's not even an illustrator. Utilizing art from this poster, Matt crafted his tale of a grumpy asteroid who takes an unexpected (and unwanted) journey through space. (Matt, of course, asked the poster artist, Brad Woodard, for permission to use the art. And we, of course, hired Brad to illustrate the book, because his artwork is awesome.)

This is the cover that Matt included with his submission:

And this is the final cover:

Matt's concept was genius, so we stuck with it. We decided to take Earth off the cover 1) to keep the ending more of a surprise and 2) to give us more room to make the title and Astro larger. The book's designer, Lizzy Bromley, selected a font that perfectly suits the retro-vibe of Brad's art. The jacket will be printed with a matte lamination. "Astro!" and Astro and part of his tail will have a spot gloss. 

Check out the "Coming Soon" tab soon to learn more about these books!  

A Third Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

Publishers Weekly has graced Tommy Wallach's debut novel with a starred review, its third one to date.

"An asteroid named Ardor is on course to destroy the world. As four Seattle teenagers count down the weeks until impact, they wrestle with the meaning of their lives and their possible deaths. Peter, a basketball golden boy, must decide if he should save his sister from her nihilistic boyfriend and whether true love is worth ignoring the status quo. Eliza, a photographer with an unseemly reputation, negotiates her father’s cancer diagnosis, her mother’s abandonment, and the need to chronicle the chaos erupting around her, while finding herself drawn to Peter. Rounding out the story’s rotating voices are Anita, a straight-A student who just wants to sing, and Andy, a slacker who must decide where his loyalties lie and how to handle his dangerous friends.Debut novelist Wallach increases the tension among characters throughout, ending in a shocking climax that resonates with religious symbolism. Stark scenes alternating between anarchy and police states are counterbalanced by deepening emotional ties and ethical dilemmas, creating a novel that asks far bigger questions than it answers."

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.

A Second Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

VOYA loved We All Looked Up, giving it a perfect score. The review appears in their February issue. 

"Four Seattle high school students whose lives have not intersected much are brought together by the disturbing news that an asteroid is headed for Earth with a 66.6% chance of collision that will obliterate human life. With impact expected in two months, life becomes drastically different. Food is rationed, gas prices skyrocket, satellite and cell service grind to a halt, and looting and lawlessness make the streets unsafe. Through the alternating perspectives of popular jock Peter, promiscuous Eliza, slacker Andy, and overachiever Anita, the reader sees each character grapple with the prospect of a shortened life, challenged to make the last days meaningful in a doomed world where human nature has bared its teeth.

With the terrifying possibility of an apocalyptic ending for humankind and the philosophical and ethical challenges that this brings, We All Looked Up offers much food for thought: What would you do if you were given a limited number of days on Earth?  Each of the major characters, having lived life for others, examines past choices and recognizes the need to change course. Readers, in turn, will be challenged to question what matters in their own lives. This compelling, well-written narrative, which offers sometimes raw insight into human motivation and behavior, will have readers racing to the final pages and pondering its ideas long after."

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.

A Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

The first review of Tommy Wallach's brilliant debut novel, We All Looked Up, just hit my inbox. Very excitingly, it's a starred review. Here's what Kirkus Reviews thought about the book:

"The end of the world turns into a life-changing opportunity for four high school seniors. High school is all about labels. In this stunning debut set in present-day Seattle, there's Peter the athlete, Andy the slacker, Anita the overachiever and Eliza the slut. Just as each notices a strange blue star in the sky one night, the president announces that the star is actually an asteroid with a path that is 66.6 percent likely to hit and destroy the Earth in two months. Told from the teens' alternating viewpoints, sometimes with cleverly overlapping details, this edgy story follows how each copes with impending doom with brilliant imagery and astounding depth. Knowing that all life will probably end in just weeks, the four teens abandon their labels and search for meaning in the time they have left. Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, they forge a "karass"—an unbreakable, and indeed life-changing, bond—as they explore purpose, evil, faith, independence, friendship, sex and love together. In the background there is also social commentary to be gleaned as the world becomes a dangerous place and martial law becomes a farce. But just like the asteroid that dots the night sky, Wallach pierces his darkness with tenderness and humor. A thought-provoking story that will bring out readers' inner philosophers." 

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.