Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 30, 2017

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


ALA: Notes from the Floor

The We Need Diverse Books group (l.-r.): Ellen Oh, WNDB president & CEO; Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies (Algonquin); Thien-Kim Lam, WNDB program director; Dhonielle Clayton, COO of WNDB; Thien-Kieu Lam, OurStory program manager; Bryce Leung, OurStory team; and Kristy Shen, OurStory team.

Thousands of librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators and industry professionals gathered at Chicago's McCormick Place last weekend to talk books, awards and libraries at the American Library Association's 2017 Annual Conference. Committees met behind closed doors to begin debates for 2018's ALSC Book and Media Awards; dinners and presentations were held honoring winners of this year's awards; and people gathered to celebrate book anniversaries and the launching of new tools and products.

On Saturday, We Need Diverse Books--a grassroots organization working to produce and promote diversity in children's books--held an event at the Harold Washington Library Center to launch its new app, OurStory. Designed with the needs of librarians and teachers in mind, the app searches for and sorts books for children and young adults that include "diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, Native, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities." The app will have different levels of paid membership that will include materials for the classroom (such as reading lists) as well as extra features (like author interviews and videos) for young adults. Also on Saturday evening, Albert Whitman hosted a party at the newly opened American Writers Museum celebrating the 75th anniversary of the beloved Boxcar Children, created by Gertrude Chandler Warner; the publisher is releasing a new, five-book miniseries.

Jean Feiwel (senior v-p and publisher, Feiwel and Friends) poses at the Caldecott/Newbery awards with author Matthew Cordell (Dream, Disney-Hyperion).

The 48th Annual Coretta Scott King Awards were held the next morning in the Hilton Grand Ballroom, and were followed that evening by a banquet to honor the Caldecott, Newbery and Wilder Award winners. Javaka Steptoe (Caldecott Winner for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; Little, Brown) noted that numerous African Americans had received Caldecott honors, but he is only the fourth ever to win the medal: "The silver medals that were received by African Americans? In my heart, they are gold medals." Kelly Barnhill (Newbery Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Algonquin Young Readers) commented that "politics is storytelling" and it is through books that we learn to transgress. Nikki Grimes (Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony; Scholastic), winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for a substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature, gave the final speech of the evening, telling the remarkable story of her life in literature and her move from writing adult works to writing for children. She finished, "God has blessed me richly, and I hope he will, in turn, bless you." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


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Bookstore in the Grove May Have Found New Owner

Felice Dubin, owner of the Bookstore in the Grove, Coconut Grove, Fla., who announced in May that the business was for sale and would close in June if a buyer couldn't be found, told the Sun Sentinel that she has been in discussions with a potential new owner to take over the store. Dubin said she would stay until June 30, with the potential new owner taking the reins July 1.

"To me, the bookstore means a place of community. It's for the kids. It's for the parents. It's for the students. It's for everyone," said Dubin. "It's a great place, but I have to retire. I need to take care of me."

In Columbus, Ohio, Publisher Opening Bookstore

In September, Two Dollar Radio, the Columbus, Ohio, independent publisher, is opening a bookstore, café and bar, to be called Two Dollar Radio Headquarters. The store will sell Two Dollar Radio titles as well as selected titles from other indie publishers, Columbus Business First reported.

The store will have 3,700 square feet of space and serve coffee, tea, sandwiches, salads, cocktails, beer and wine. Two Dollar Radio Headquarters is also offering store memberships at 25% off through September.

"The storefront will provide a physical gathering space for us to engage directly with readers, writers and thinkers, which is something we typically only get to do at fairs and events," said Eric Obenauf, who owns the business with his wife, Eliza Wood-Obenauf, and Brett Gregory.

Antonia Byatt Named English PEN Interim Director

English PEN has appointed Antonia Byatt, who was the director of 2016's Cheltenham Literature Festival, to serve as interim director, effective July 3, the Bookseller reported. She will be working closely initially with English PEN's outgoing director Jo Glanville "for the better part of a month" to ensure a 'smooth and productive" transition.

"We cannot think of anyone better placed to continue the fine work of our outgoing director, thus ensuring the good health of our charity as we move towards our centenary," said Maureen Freely, president of English PEN. 

Obituary Note: Paul Voertman

Paul Voertman, former owner of "the iconic Fry Street area bookstore" Voertman's in Denton, Tex., died June 21, the Record-Chronicle reported. He was 88. In 1925, his father opened a general store near what is now the University of North Texas, and in 1952, after his father's death, Voertman returned to Denton "to take over the store and help his mother sell it. Over time, however, he proved to be a gifted businessman and transformed the college bookstore into the iconic Denton landmark it would become," the Record-Chronicle wrote. Voertman retired from running the store in 1990 and sold it to Nebraska Book Co.

"He was very generous to arts groups, but there were also social causes," said longtime Denton resident Herbert Holl. "There was a strong personality there, but he was kind to people. He helped in ways beyond money."


Image of the Day: Fight Club

Christopher Lassen (l.) from the New York Public Library and Rodale Kids marketing and publicity guru Jason Wells show off their moves at ALA for the new Team Taekwondo graphic novel series, coming this fall.

Store Window Display of the Day: Phoenix Books-Misty Valley

Posted yesterday on Facebook by Phoenix Books-Misty Valley in Chester, Vt.: "It's always sunny in Phoenix-Misty Valley! Phoenix Bookseller Kim put together a burst of yellow to beat all the gray skies we've been having. Aahhh..."

Drag Queen Story Time in Denver

Last Saturday, Second Star to the Right Children's Books in Denver, Colo., hosted "their first (but definitely not last!) Drag Queen story time." More than 200 people from all over Colorado filled the bookstore's backyard for the special presentation by the cast of DragOn, a local production at the Garner Galleria Theatre, and "the cast showed off their passion and love for all things inclusive to the excited audience."

"We were thrilled to be able to bring Drag Queen story time and events promoting inclusion and and acceptance to the community," said owner Dea Lavoie. "I have a personal connection as my next door neighbor is a trans child who attended this story time. It was so powerful to be able to show her that being who you want to be is okay.... The overwhelmingly positive response from the community reminds us all that there's still an abundance of kindness to be found in our world, and that there's indeed room for everyone."

Among the books chosen by Second Star for the reading were Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, Be Who You Are by Todd Parr and My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. The bookstore said it hopes to host more Drag Queen story times and educational inclusive programming in the future. 

Cool Idea of the Day: Specs the Book Bike

Chronicle recently introduced Specs the Book Bike. According to the publisher's blog, this was the genesis of the idea: "We knew we wanted to do something special for our 50th anniversary--in our early brainstorming, we had a vast list of 'big ideas,' and one of them was to create some sort of bookmobile. And now we have Specs.... The rich history of bookmobiles is our favorite kind of book lover fodder, and we are so excited to have a bike of our own. We'll be riding Specs around the Bay Area this summer, and you can follow along on Twitter and Instagram at @specsbookbike--you'll never know where it'll turn up next."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alexandra Silber on All Things Considered

NPR's All Things Considered: Alexandra Silber, author of After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by 'Fiddler on the Roof' (Pegasus Books, $25.95, 9781681774343).

CBS Sunday Morning: Ben Mezrich, author of Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures (Atria, $26, 9781501135552).

On Stage: A Clockwork Orange

British actor Jonno Davies "will make his New York debut this fall in a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange," based on the novel by Anthony Burgess that also inspired Stanley Kubrick's film, Playbill reported. Davies will reprise his role in the acclaimed London run of the Alexandra Spencer-Jones production. Performances, which begin September 2 at New World Stages and open officially September 25, are scheduled to run through January 6, 2018. Additional casting and creative team will be announced at a later date.

Movie: Letters from Baghdad

English archaeologist and explorer Gertrude Bell became one of the most powerful women in the British Empire after World War I. Her extensive travels in Mesopotamia and contacts across the Arab world made her vital to the war effort, and those same skills gave her a central role in the division of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of Iraq. The documentary Letters from Baghdad, directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, uses archival footage, reenactments and journal entries (as read by Tilda Swinton, who is also an executive producer) to tell the story of a woman whose achievements have often been overshadowed by T.E. Lawrence. Though not officially connected to Janet Wallach's biography of Bell, Desert Queen (Anchor, $17, 9781400096190), Penguin Random House has responded to the film's unexpectedly successful opening with tie-in cover stickers and 200 mini posters sent to booksellers across the country.

Books & Authors

Awards: Bread & Roses, Little Rebels Winners

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers announced that Alex Nunns has won the £500 (about $650) Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, which "seeks to recognize and celebrate excellence in the field of radical political nonfiction," for The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn's Improbable Path to Power.

The judges "greatly appreciated this exploration of the deep roots of the Corbyn phenomenon.... Cogent, optimistic, well-written and thoroughly researched, this hugely topical book records with great intimacy and insight an historical moment whose lessons mustn't be forgotten, while also exposing the persistent forces which continue to work against social change."

This year's winner of the Little Rebels Children's Book Award, which recognizes children's fiction that "promotes social justice or social equality, challenges stereotypes or is informed by anti-discriminatory concerns," was Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. Judge Catherine Johnson said of the winning title: "This is a story where words and pictures work brilliantly together. Its subject matter shouldn't be radical but sadly given the nature of the world (of books and in general) it meets all the criteria for this award."

Reading with... Peter Hellman

photo: Dan Sagarin

Peter Hellman's last regular paycheck came almost 50 years ago when he completed his service as a young naval officer. He has been a freelance writer ever since, alternating between journalism for major magazines and newspapers and writing books. His seventh book, In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Counterfeiter Extraordinaire, will be published by The Experiment on July 11.

On your nightstand now:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. I'm glad I waited to read these mighty novels. You need experience, some of it difficult, to really feel what Tolstoy and Steinbeck have gifted us with. Also dipping into Little Failure--a hilarious coming-of-age memoir by Russian-born Gary Shteyngart.

Favorite book when you were a child:

As an eight-year-old living for a year with my parents in France, I found Dracula by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the library of our house rented from a French professor of English. Creepy then, still creepy when I think about them. My new book ends by invoking Frankenstein.

Your top five authors:

Certainly Tolstoy and Steinbeck. Then the word magician Nabokov, the poet of suburbia John Cheever, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. (Too overwhelming!)

Book you're an evangelist for:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought Little Failure because I was charmed by the photo of the author as a child in a tacky little Russian play car.

Book you hid from your parents:

Never felt I had to do that.

Book that changed your life:

When I was about 10, my father put me on to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes--The Hound of the Baskervilles, in particular. I was entranced, and I think that was when I began to think about trying to enter the writing life.

Favorite line from a book:

It's not from a book, but something my mother once said: "If each person would just be a good person in his or her own little space, that would take care of all the nastiness in the world."

Five books you'll never part with:

The Most of S.J. Perelman; Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney; The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham; The Stories of John Cheever; Shosha by Isaac Bashevis Singer; and Ada by Vladimir Nabokov.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, of course!

Book Review

Review: Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press, $16 paperback, 208p., 9781555977801, August 1, 2017)

Paul Kingsnorth (The Wake; Beast), co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project writers' network, has published impassioned essays, poetry and literature with an environmentalist perspective for decades. That perspective is changing, however, as environmental degradation continues and the green movement tends toward high-tech strategies and "sustainability" that Kingsnorth finds uninspired. Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays is his answer to a changing world. These collected works are nearly all previously published, but together they offer a new outlook. Kingsnorth is grieving, angry and disillusioned, and his essays are by turns reflective and resolute.

"The story winding itself through this book is the breaking of the link between people and places, between the past and the present, between instinct and reason, and all the consequences that have ensued and will ensue." As a writer, Kingsnorth is concerned with the ability of stories to change how we live, and with the ability to change our stories. "We imagine what it would be like to be this character, to live in this time, to be in this situation, and if we can't do that well, our books won't work. If we can do that well, why can't we make the same imaginative leap and take ourselves out of our humanity?" One theme is a need for humans to see themselves as a single part of a larger system, rather than the controlling or most important factor. "The very fact that we have a word for 'nature' is evidence that we do not regard ourselves as part of it," but, Kingsnorth argues, we should.

His writing can be fanciful and joyous as well as tormented. Kingsnorth writes with undeniable love: for the planet, for locations and histories, and for people. Confessions is centered in his native England but voices global concerns. Essays handle the role of technology in culture; the importance of people's ties to place; the difficulty of embracing immigration and immigrants without losing local cultures; and the reasons for the decline of the environmental movement. While Kingsnorth writes with persuasive logic and authority on a variety of topics, he is perhaps most lyrically impressive when rooted in the local, physical world, for example when scything his hayfields in rural Ireland, or searching for carved green men in ancient Norman churches. Given his passion for place, this is unsurprising.

Neatly organized into three sections--Collapse, Withdrawal and Connection--and with an informing introduction and call-to-action epilogue, this collection serves well as an introduction to Kingsnorth's philosophy and writing style. It also allows his more seasoned readers to chart his changing views. The overall effect is necessarily grim, but often remarkably uplifting as well. In a world on the brink of collapse, Kingsnorth offers humor, compassion, humility and wisdom. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This disillusioned environmentalist's thoughtful, poetic call to a different approach to action and way of thinking is both sobering and refreshing.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: UNESCO Names Sharjah World Book Capital 2019

Earlier this week, UNESCO named Sharjah (UAE) the World Book Capital for 2019 "because of the very innovative, comprehensive and inclusive nature of the application, with a community-focused activity program containing creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population."

In her declaration, UNESCO director general Irina Bokova said, "I applaud the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital as well as the efforts undertaken by the city in order to make reading available to as many people as possible, in particular the marginalized populations, as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and dialogue."

Under the slogan "Read--you are in Sharjah," the program focuses on themes of inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children. The objective is to "foster a culture of reading in the United Arab Emirates and birth new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area and in the rest of the Arab world."

UNESCO also noted that Sharjah, under the leadership of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, is launching Sharjah Publishing City, an ambitious initiative to develop "a space entirely dedicated to publishing and printing. It will be the first place of the kind in the region, specifically developed to meet the needs of companies and institutions operating in the publishing field. Its objective is to reinforce the book industry by encouraging the widespread production and dissemination of publications in the Arab world."

Sharjah International Book Fair, 2016

"The new title underscores Sharjah's deep cultural experience, its achievements, projects and vision at world level," said Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority and former director of the Sharjah International Book Fair.

During BookExpo, I had the opportunity to hear Al Ameri speak at a session called Reaching the Arab World: The New Gateway & Hub--The Sharjah Publishing City Initiative. Moderated by Simon and Schuster v-p Seth Russo, the panel also featured John Ingram, chairman of Ingram Content Group; and Steve Potash, CEO and founder of OverDrive. 

Describing SBC as "365 days of book fairs in one spot" as well as "a United Nations of publishing," Al Ameri noted that the location, on the main road between Sharjah and Dubai, places SPC in close proximity to both airports and seaports, offering the international book trade a central, focused location to provide a complete range of publishing services tax free. He also stressed the freedom to do business with "no interference from the government or any authority over what you can publish. It's a very healthy environment for a publisher, editor, translator, for printing, for distributing books to the region and outside the region."

A soft opening of SPC is planned for September, with the official launch in November. "It is the first publishing city in the world that is a free zone area," Al Ameri added. "It's been established now. It's ready.... It's going to change the whole publishing industry around the world."

In his opening remarks at the BookExpo session, Russo said he had participated in the last three Sharjah International Book Fairs "as part of their professional development program and [I] have had a chance to learn firsthand the rising prospects the region holds for publishers seeking new markets." This evolving dynamic, he continued, "is vividly found in the culturally progressive emirate of Sharjah, where the government has been in the vanguard of a number of highly successful public and private initiatives... to promote the strong publishing sector and the culture of reading. The Sharjah Publishing City is a natural next step in this commitment and will be of keen interest to the global publishing community eager to stake a claim in the development of the region whether it be for distribution, translation, licensing, sales or printing."

Sharjah International Book Fair, 2016

Al Ameri said that with SPC, "we are establishing a new market.... What we are doing is not only reaching the Arab world. We are reaching the African market, the Asian market and the rest of the world through Sharjah, which is becoming a hub for reading."

Ingram observed that "the attractiveness of the marketplace is the focus by the governments over there on literacy, on moving to a post-natural resource society, and putting a lot of money and effort behind education in particular.... The most attractive thing to me is the partnership and the relationship that I feel very fortunate to have started to develop with his highness, Sultan Al-Qasimi, as well as Ahmed and the Sharjah Book Authority. And quite frankly, to go into a new and different region I can't think of a better partner than I have in the ruler and his key people."

Potash expressed excitement "that now, for all the publishers we represent--almost every English language or Western publisher--the Sharjah Book Authority has created a channel.... thanks to Ahmed and the Book Authority, and his highness. They planted a flag and said if you want to reach hundreds of millions of readers, customers and those who want to learn from everything you're publishing... they have provided us a platform and a network, and this is what's so exciting about the Sharjah Publishing City. It's bringing together the resources to reach the whole region and dozens of countries."

Al Ameri agreed, noting that Sultan Al Qasimi "supports the industry.... He's passionate about books, passionate about reading. He established the Sharjah Book Fair. And Sharjah is considered in the UAE to be the hub for culture. When you come to Abu Dhabi, it's the political capital of the UAE. When you come to Dubai, it's the economic capital. But when you come to Sharjah, you see it as the cultural capital.... What we see in ourselves is that our growth is through knowledge, and we believe knowledge is the way to get through life... to improve humanity through reading."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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