100 Scope Notes
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2015 Preview Interview: Groundwood Books

If you’re interested in diverse children’s books that take chances, take a look at what Canadian publisher Groundwood puts out. I shot the email breeze with Groundwood publisher Sheila Berry about their upcoming books.

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Travis Jonker: Alright. 2014: surprises? Good News? Things you were especially happy about at Groundwood?

We were very pleasantly surprised by the reaction to two books in particular last fall: Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay,

and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, written by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant.

We knew that we had fallen in love in-house with the sweetness and dignity displayed by Morris as he insists on his right to wear a dress and also ride in a rocket ship, but we were truly thrilled with the way readers responded to his story.

As for Any Questions?–Marie-Louise Gay is so well known for her Stella and Sam series that we were very happy to see readers respond just as enthusiastically to this very different book, which is a completely immersive exploration of how books get made, and really, the whole creative process.

I agree! Great to see both those excellent books get positive notices.

Let’s dive right in to 2015. What do you have for very young readers (age 0-4)?

Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka is a brilliantly stylish and witty concept book, a companion to last year’s Work: An Occupational ABC.

This new offering is a book for every child who’s ever spent time staring out the car window. It’s funny, and surprising, and informative as well.

How about lower elementary (ages 5-7)?

We have several gorgeous picture books for this age range:

In Rosario’s Fig Tree, written by Charis Wahl and illustrated by Luc Melanson, a little girl discovers the magic of gardening by observing her neighbor.

Swimming, Swimming, by acclaimed illustrator Gary Clement, brings the words of the classic camp song to life.

With The Tweedles Go Online, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Marie Lafrance, the eccentric Tweedle family returns in a story that pokes fun at our modern addiction to technology.

We also have a wordless picture book that just shouldn’t be missed: Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith.

The book depicts a little girl collecting wild flowers (weeds, really) while walking with her distracted father. Through a series of small but profound gestures, each flower then becomes a secret gift. Sidewalk Flowers has already received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, and I can’t wait to see how readers react once the book is published in March.

I have this one marked on my calendar.

Upper elementary? Middle grade (ages 8 and up)?

2015 marks the fifteenth anniversary of The Breadwinner, the first book in Deborah Ellis’s award-winning series.

To mark the anniversary, we are reissuing the whole series–including a Spanish edition of The Breadwinner–with gorgeous new covers and updated maps and introductions. Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai described The Breadwinner to the New York Times as the one book all girls should read, and I expect that girls and boys alike will enjoy reading these new editions.

2015 is also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, and we are excited to be publishing Avis Dolphin, written by Frieda Wishinsky, and including a 32-page graphic novel story-within-a-story by Willow Dawson.

This unforgettable novel was inspired by the true account of a young girl travelling on the the Lusitania, and it’s a thrilling, frightening, magical novel.

What’s new in nonfiction?

I don’t know if it has ever been more important to translate books from other cultures for children. And that’s why I am particularly happy to have The Amazing Discoveries of Ibn Sina, written by Fatima Sharafeddine and illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali, on our list.

Ibn Sina was one of the greatest thinkers of his time, and besides his discoveries in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry and astronomy, he also promoted progressive theories about educating children–both boys and girls.

What’s the most unusual or unexpected book on the horizon?

Cybèle Young’s Some Things I’ve Lost is a breathtaking book and unlike anything I’ve seen.

Through a series of exquisite paper sculptures, everyday household objects–a wallet, a set of keys, and so on–are misplaced and then reconstituted as fantastical creatures. It’s a book for all ages about the magic of a world where even inanimate objects are constantly undergoing a process of growth, transformation and change.

Young’s work is always so unique. I love A Few Blocks and A Few Bites.

Is there a book that you think will work particularly well as a read-aloud?

Griffin Ondaatje’s chapter book The Mosquito Brothers is a particularly funny and unusual book about a city mosquito who wants to be cool.

Dinnn Needles is an endearing little mosquito who lives under a drive-in theatre screen and goes to school in an abandoned air-conditioner. What he really wants, though, is to explore The Wild. There is a laugh on every page of this book, and lots of fascinating information about mosquitoes too.

The world can always use a go-to chapter book read aloud, so I’m looking forward to this.

Thank you for taking my questions, Sheila!

Thank you for the chance to talk about our books, Travis!

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.