Saturday, July 13, 2013

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review 

By Suzanne Collins
Illustrated by James Proimos

In her first picture book, Collins sensitively examines the impact of war on the very young, using her own family history as a template. Suzy is the youngest of four children—Proimos draws her with impossibly big, questioning blue eyes and a mass of frizzy red hair—and she is struggling to understand the changes in her family. My dad has to go to something called a war, she explains. It’s in a place called Viet Nam. Where is Viet Nam? He will be gone a year. How long is a year? I don’t know what anybody’s talking about. When Suzy learns that her father is in the jungle, she imagines something akin to the setting of her favorite cartoon (Collins suggests it’s George of the Jungle). As the months wear on, though, Suzy begins to piece together the danger her father is in, whether it’s through the increasingly unnerving postcards he sends (one reads, Pray for me, in closing) or by catching a snippet of wartime violence on the news. Explosions. Helicopters. Guns. Soldiers lie on the ground. Some of them aren’t moving. In four wordless spreads, Proimos makes Suzy’s awakening powerfully clear, as the gray jungle she initially pictured (populated by four smiling, brightly colored animals) gives way to a more violent vision, as the animals morph into weapons of war. Just when Suzy’s confusion and fear reach an apex: Then suddenly my dad’s home. As in Collins’s Hunger Games books, the fuzzy relationship between fear and bravery, and the reality of combat versus an imagined (or, in the case of those books, manufactured) version of it is at the forefront of this story. By the final pages, Suzy has come to understand that some things have changed but some things will always be the same. It’s a deceptively simple message of reassurance that readers who may currently be in Suzy’s situation can take to heart, whether their loved ones return changed, as hers did, or don’t return at all.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

AP Newsbreak: Suzanne Collins/James Proimos Picture Book Coming Out In 2013.

“The Hunger Games” novelist Suzanne Collins has a new book coming out next year.
The multimillion-selling children’s author has completed an autobiographical picture story scheduled for Sept. 10, 2013, Scholastic Inc. announced Thursday. The 40-page book will be called “Year of the Jungle,” based on the time in Vietnam served by Collins’ father, a career Air Force officer.

“Year of the Jungle” is her first book since 2010’s “Mockingjay,” the last of “The Hunger Games” trilogy that made Collins an international sensation. More than 50 million copies of the “Hunger Games” books are in print and the first of four planned movies has grossed more than $600 million worldwide since being released out in March.

Collins’ next project will be intended for ages 4 and up, a younger audience than those who have read, and re-read, her dystopian stories about young people forced to hunt and kill each other. But “Year of the Jungle” will continue, in a gentler way, the author’s exploration of war. James Proimos, an old friend from her days as a television writer who helped persuade Collins to become a children’s author, illustrated the book.

“For several years I had this little wicker basket next to my writing chair with the postcards my dad had sent me from Vietnam and photos of that year. But I could never quite find a way into the story. It has elements that can be scary for the audience and it would be easy for the art to reinforce those. It could be really beautiful art but still be off-putting to a kid, which would defeat the point of doing the book,” Collins, 50, said in a statement released by Scholastic.

“Then one day I was having lunch with Jim and telling him about the idea and he said, ‘That sounds fantastic.’ I looked at him and I had this flash of the story through his eyes, with his art. It was like being handed a key to a locked door. So, I just blurted out, ‘Do you want to do it?’ Fortunately he said ‘Yes.’”

“How could I refuse?” Proimos said in a statement. “The idea she laid out over burritos and ice tea during our lunch was brilliant and not quite like any picture book I had ever come across. The writing is moving and personal. What Suzanne does so well here is convey complicated emotions through the eyes of a child.”

According to Scholastic, “Year of the Jungle” will tell of a little girl named Suzy and her fears after her father leaves for war. She wonders when he’ll come back and “feels more and more distant” as he misses family gatherings. He does return, but he has changed and his daughter must learn that “he still loves her just the same.”

Collins has said before that she wanted to write a book about her father. In a 2010 interview with The Associated Press, she explained that her father was a trained historian who made a point of discussing war with his family.

“I believe he felt a great responsibility and urgency about educating his children about war,” she said. “He would take us frequently to places like battlefields and war monuments. It would start back with whatever had precipitated the war and moved up through the battlefield you were standing in and through that and after that. It was a very comprehensive tour guide experience. So throughout our lives we basically heard about war.”

Scholastic also announced Thursday that “Catching Fire,” the second “Hunger Games” book and originally released in 2009, is coming out in June as a paperback. The paperback edition usually comes within a year of the hardcover, but “Catching Fire” had been selling so well that Scholastic waited. “Mockingjay” has yet to be released as a paperback.

Next summer, Collins’ five-volume “The Underland Chronicles,” published before “The Hunger Games,” will be reissued with new covers.

“’The Underland Chronicles,’ with its fantasy world and 11-year old protagonist, Gregor, was designed for middle readers,” Collins said in a statement. “The ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy features a teen narrator, Katniss Everdeen, and a stark dystopian backdrop for the YA (young adult) audience. ‘Year of the Jungle’ attempts to reach the picture book readers by delving into my own experience as a first grader with a father deployed in Vietnam.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From Elizabeth Bird's School Library Journal blog:

by James Proimos
Illustrated by Johanna Wright

Review of the Day: One thing I love about the picture book world is the random collaborations that spring seemingly out of nowhere.  Take The Best Bike Ride Ever as today’s example.  I like James Proimos (Todd’s TV).  I like Johanna Wright (The Secret Circus).  Put ‘em both together and what do you have?  An endearing and engaging tale of a girl who learns to ride her bike before she learns that there’s such a thing out there as “brakes”.  Awesome.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

From Suzanne Collins' website:

At present, Suzanne is at work on a picture book with James Proimos.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

From Kirkus Review:

by James Proimos

Two cutesy-poo picture-book characters seek (and find) a way to toughen up their images.

Chafing at the roles forced on them in previous bestsellers with titles like Tiger and Bear Are Cute and Tiger and Bear Are Wholesome, Knuckle Tiggerelli and Potty Polarberg seek help to escape their upcoming outing, Tiger and Bear Go to Happy World. Appeals to their author (who turns out to be not the TV celebrity named on their title pages, but a ghost writer named Gregory) and illustrator get only hostile responses. Knuckle and Potty (respectively, small pink and green outline figures with oversized eyes and lashes) arm themselves with erasers and mount a direct assault on Happy World’s trees and flowers. Alas, these turn out to be less defenseless than their sappy smiles imply. Proimos cranks up the general air of chaos by mixing narrative text with loosely drawn framed and unframed cartoon scenes and trots in other stars of page and screen. Such lights as Winkie the Pug and the rhyme-spouting Chicken in the Beret lend aid and advice.

A knee-slapper for recent early-reader grads who like their metafiction on the droll side.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Colleen Mondor, a Bookslut columnist and reviewer for Booklist and Eclectica Magazine:


Proimos manages to make the most of every word in the 128 pages of 12 Things to Do. In the opening, we learn that sixteen-year-old Hercules has lost his self-help guru father in a plane crash and is being sent for two weeks to his uncle's home so his mother can deal with the aftermath. ("Herc" is a bit of a mouthy handful and she would like a break in the post-funeral period.) As it turns out, while Dad was very good at telling the world how they should live their lives (and making a pretty penny at it), he was not good at being a father. Herc makes his opinion clear at the funeral when he uses his moment in front of the congregation to say, "He was an ass. My father was a complete and total ass." It makes sense why his mother would need a break.

Uncle Anthony is a hard worker who has a decent relationship with his nephew and decides to challenge him in an unorthodox manner. Rather than allow him to wallow around the house during his visit, he gives Herc a list of twelve tasks (cue the Greek gods reference) that must be completed before he leaves. They include "Choose a mission," "Muck the stalls at Riverbend Farm," "Go on seven job interviews," and "Find the best pizza joint in town." Herc's knee-jerk reaction is to rebel, but Uncle Anthony is undaunted; the boy will do what he needs to do. So, because he really has no choice, Herc sets out (in a huff) and finds himself accomplishing the pizza joint task. From there many other things fall into place and suddenly the list becomes a lifeline not only to filling his days but also facing his long held frustrations with his father and, most importantly of all, figuring out just what kind of man he wants to be. The list gives Herc perspective, it gives him goals, it gives him hope. It turns out Uncle Anthony is a bit of a genius, or at the very least knows a lot more about manhood than you expect. His honest advice, Herc's believable adventures, and Proimos's outstanding style make 12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn one of the quickest and best reads I've had in ages. I highly recommend giving it to any teenager. It's outstanding.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From School Library Journal:


Hercules Martino, 16, sits in a room full of his famous father’s admirers listening to mourners shower the closed coffin with gushing eulogies. Hercules, however, can’t quite make himself say anything nice about the man. After the funeral, his mother sends him to finish out the summer with his bachelor uncle. On the train ride to Baltimore, the teen sits next to a “Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman” and thinks he must have her. When she gets off, she leaves her book behind. From that point on, she becomes a much-needed distraction for Hercules, as well as part of the 12 tasks his uncle assigns him to complete during his two-week stay. His first task is to choose a mission. He opts to find the Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman and return her book. As Hercules halfheartedly completes the tasks, he finds small moments of everyday magic and discovers new aspects of himself, his family, and life. In a minimum of pages, Hercules charms readers with humor and honesty, often in raw language, and his story will appeal to those who have admired the passing Strange Beautiful Unattainable person, including reluctant readers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review


Time and again, picture-book creator Proimos has demonstrated a rock-solid sense of humor and outside-the-box thinking. His first book for teens is no different, opening a promising new chapter in his career. Sixteen-year-old James Martino, nicknamed Hercules, is spending the summer in Baltimore with his Uncle Anthony, who has given him a list of 12 tasks to accomplish (one even involves cleaning a stable). It’s meant to stave off boredom and maybe help Hercules deal with the recent death of his father, a beloved self-help author and talk-show host. Beloved by all but Hercules, that is, who eulogizes his father thusly: “He was an ass.” In chapters lasting just a page or so, Hercules gives a blunt and blisteringly funny account of his misadventures (“Horses are running everywhere. We are in the jeep. Chasing them. Through streets. Through other people’s farms. Through hell and high water, really”), which revolve around his efforts to reconnect with a “Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman” from the train to Baltimore. Proimos fully inhabits the mind and voice of his hero, whose almost mythic journey offers moments hilarious, heartbreaking, and triumphant. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)