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10 to Note: Spring Preview 2011

Hang-wringing complete. It’s time for the quarterly look at upcoming releases I’m calling 10 to Note.

What follows are the 10 titles set to hit shelves in March, April, and May that had me most saying “Yeah, boiiiii!” (or something along those lines). Not a guarantee of quality, but a subjective list of books that struck my fancy as a K-6th grade school librarian.

Middle Grade Fiction

The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Mar. 1, 2011 | Balzer + Bray | Grades 2-5

Diary of a Worm and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type have made Doreen Cronin a well known figure in children’s lit. With The Trouble with Chickens, Cronin tries something she has never done – a middle grade novel. A mystery about a search-and-rescue dog (J.J. Tully) pulled out of retirement to crack a case of missing chicks, laughs are likely. And the “A J.J. Tully Mystery” tag on the front ensures more adventures to come. I’m anxious to see how this one turns out.

Check out the book trailer:

(Thanks to @MrSchuReads for the link)

Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Harry Bliss

Apr. 26, 2011 | Balzer + Bray | Grades 2-4

And hey, speaking of Diary of a Worm, the illustrator of that book, Harry Bliss, is handling the artwork for Invisible Inkling, written by Emily Jenkins. I love the premise of a boy with an invisible (I repeat: invisible – not imaginary) friend. When I hear the phrase “in the vein of Clementine”, my ears perk up, and that is how the publisher is touting this middle grade title.

Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider

May 2, 2011 | Clarion | Grades 2-4

No matter how many funny books come out, there will always be a clamoring mass of young readers ready for one more. This story about the lengths a father goes to get his son to try new foods looks promising on the comedy front. A book that may speak to the scores of, ahem, selective eaters out there.

Nonfiction Picture Books

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss; illustrated by John Hendrix

Mar. 1, 2011 | Abrams | Grades 2-4

Have you heard of Sarah Edmonds? This woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the civil war isn’t a household name, especially with kids. This picture book biography by Marissa Moss and John Hendrix should help bring Edmonds’ story to younger readers. Is it okay for me to have favorites? I’m not sure how that works since I review books and all. Alright, I’m just gonna say it – I’m a big John Hendrix fan. Big. Fan. If you know his work from Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek or the more recent John Brown then I’m guessing you’ll agree with me. His vivid artwork bursts with a creativity that is quite agreeable to my eyeballs.

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg

Apr. 4, 2011 | Houghton Mifflin | Grades K-4

Early reviews are coming in (Booklist, PW, A Fuse #8 Production), and they’re positive. One of the living legends of children’s lit returns with a nonfiction ode to Annie Edson Taylor, a 62 year old woman determined to become the first person to go over the world famous Niagara Falls in a barrel. That’s guts. I’m interested to see Van Allsburg’s illustrations (of course) but just as curious about how his nonfiction writing comes across.

Picture Books

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Mar. 16, 2011 | Chronicle | Grades PreK-1

Herve Tullet has been making inventive children’s books for 15 years, and his latest looks like another winner. An amazingly simple feat of interactivity on the printed page – the reader follows instructions to “control” what happens next. Thankfully, they went and made an awesome book trailer to show this book in action:

(Thanks to @MrSchuReads for the link)

That’s How! by Christoph Niemann

May 10, 2011 | Greenwillow | Grades PreK-1

When I was a kid, I thought there were little men inside the television cueing up the next installment of Loony Toons. That’s How! looks to tap into this sort of magical childhood thinking. Look at the cover – a cutaway showing the “inner workings” of a fire truck – an elephant and a bird. Kids love ridiculous, and I’m willing to bet that this book will bring it.

Small Saul by Ashley Spires

Mar. 1, 2011 | Kids Can Press | Grades K-2

The creator of the hugely enjoyable graphic novel Binky the Space Cat serves up a story of a pirate who just doesn’t fit in. Saul would rather sing than plunder, bake than pillage. His attempts to convert his crewmates should have young readers flippin’ pages.


Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka; illustrated by Nancy Doniger

Mar. 15, 2011 | Roaring Brook | Grades 2-5

April is National Poetry Month, and Lemonade looks like a great new title to help celebrate. Raczka creates poems using just the letters from an individual word. For example:






Awesome. Lemonade has already received a starred review from Booklist to boot, so this one looks to be a winner.

Graphic Novels

Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

May 10, 2011 | Random House | Grades 2-5

I think the typical reaction upon seeing this book is something like “Oh, hey – the creators of Babymouse are coming out with a new graphic novel series. Nice!” Allow me to join in that refrain. Nice, indeed.

Look for Summer Preview 2011 coming in May

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.


  1. Thanks, Travis!! This is terrific! My coworkers and I have been compiling a list of great new books for our annual booktalking trip every May to all the schools in town. We have a few of your suggestions on our list (Squish! YES!) but I somehow missed Invisible Inkling. It’s perfect for the age group we were missing on our list. I’m going to preorder right now.

  2. Thanks! You just busted my budget in one fell swoop, but these look amazing! Watching the Press Here vid made me miss my days with the littlies in a K – 8 school. I will still share it with my middlers though, cuz, one is never too old for picture books.


  3. Thanks for the heads-up on these great looking books! Binky the Space Cat is a big favorite at our house so I’m especially eager to find Small Saul!

  4. Somehow I had gotten the impression that Trouble with Chickens was going to be a graphic novel. I was disappointed to see it had faux-noir overtones (like Chet Gecko) so I put my ARC away, but I might give it another chance. Invisible Inkling didn’t really work for me…it was a kind of odd combination of realism and fantasy and…it just didn’t work for me.

    Press Here is MAJORLY COOL and I liked Squish, although I don’t know if he’ll be as popular as Babymouse. And I can’t wait to see how Binky’s author does a picture book!


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