Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Harper Perennial: Barely Functional Adult: It'll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng

Berkley Books: In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

Candlewick Press (MA): Stink and the Hairy, Scary Spider by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Scholastic Press:  The Captive Kingdom (the Ascendance Series, Book 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Big Picture Press: Maps: Deluxe Edition by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska

Candlewick Press: Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Quotation of the Day

'What It's Like to Be a Bookseller Right Now'

"It's a very strange time to be a bookseller. We've lost the ability to interact with the community the way we love best--face to face. We are, of course, grateful to still be able to serve Bexley and the central Ohio area while still maintaining safe social distance. But in lieu of in-person bookish conversations, we've been finding other ways to keep in touch. This week, we're here to offer a peek behind the curtain to see what it's like to be a bookseller right now....

"Through it all, I can't stop thinking about how much I miss having people in the store. And so do all of my fellow booksellers. One of my favorite parts of working in a bookstore is working with people to find a book they didn't know they were looking for. I love it when someone paints a picture of their reading taste and I can flip through my mental Rolodex of books to find what I hope will be their next great read. With most of our orders being online or over the phone, I haven't had as many chances to strike up the bookish conversations I so enjoy. It's very different than the way we normally interact with people. But then, everything is different right now. We very much appreciate your patience, your lovely notes, your bookish questions, and your overwhelming support in this difficult time."

--From "A Day in the Life of a Gramercy Bookseller during Covid-19," featured in the latest e-newsletter from Gramercy Books, Bexley, Ohio

University of California Press:  Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels by Tony Keddie


News

Montana Bookstores Decide Whether to Reopen

As part of a three-phase reopening plan implemented by Montana governor Steve Bullock, independent bookstores throughout the state can decide whether or not to reopen after being closed for five weeks. 

Shawn Wathen and Mara Luther, owners of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Mont., decided to reopen their store on Monday. Prior to reopening, they prepped the store with a thorough cleaning and disinfection, placed tape on the floors to illustrate staying six feet apart, and marked Xs on the floor by the cash wrap to show customers where to stand.

Wathen and Luther aren't requiring customers to wear face masks in store, but they have signs posted suggesting customers to do so, and are allowing no more than 10 people in the store at a time. The store has a used book exchange program, which they're limiting for the time being, and they're putting all newly acquired used books into "quarantine." Beyond that, they're disinfecting "all the time." And despite reopening, Wathen and Luther are still offering curbside pickup and local deliveries via bicycle.

"We're trying to make people aware that it's not over, and it's not going to be over for a long time," explained Wathen. "But we're trying to get people in the mindset that they can come in and feel safe."

When Chapter One reopened on Monday, Wathen and Luther were pleasantly surprised by the turnout. Hamilton is usually a ghost town from January through May, but there was a decent amount of people who were keeping tabs on their local bookstore and wanted to be there when it reopened. Several of the customers who showed up on Monday had actually been some of the final in-store customers in late March.

"That felt like a wake at the time," remarked Wathen. "When you close your doors, you're never certain you'll reopen. [Monday] was more celebratory but pretty much everyone had masks on. They were thrilled we survived those five weeks."

On the subject of events, Wathen said they are taking May off at the very least, and will make a decision in the summer based on how things stand in the state. Wathen added that "this is going to go up and down," and he and Luther are not holding their breath that the store won't be ordered to close again.

Ariana Paliobagis, owner of Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., has decided to not reopen her doors to customers, although she is once again doing contactless pickup. Paliobagis explained that after discussions with her staff members, conversations with other local business owners, a virtual meeting with the county health department and business owners, along with her own research, she felt that it was still too soon to reopen fully. While Montana has been one of the least hard-hit states so far, she continued, "all of our combined actions and choices are required to keep it that way."

Paliobagis added that whenever she does decide to reopen fully, she and her team will have to do a lot of work to reconfigure the store. When Country Bookshelf closed to the public, she set up order fulfillment stations that are literally in the middle of the sales floor. Much of the store will have to be rearranged to accomodate not only those fulfillment stations but also socially distant browsing. She's working on getting clear acrylic barriers for the store's cashwrap, and thinking of other ways they can set up displays for safer browsing. There will be hand sanitizer stations, along with new signage regarding things like wearing face coverings, touching fewer items while browsing, maintaining distance while browsing.

A likely next step, Paliobagis said, would be shopping by appointment, and when the store is open for browsing it will be for limited hours, in order to give her staff more time not only to clean and sanitize but also work on web orders. For the immediate future, though, she and her staff "really want our customers to stay home as much as possible."

The new contactless pickup that she and her team are doing is not curbside pickup but front door pick-up. Customers have to schedule their pick-up ahead of time, generally 12-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, using a service called Schedulicity. While the service was designed for businesses like hair salons and yoga studios, Paliobagis noted, it's worked very well for this.

Once a customer schedules a pickup, the orders are placed on a table that is literally blocking the open front door. Most of the store's lights are being kept off so the place doesn't look too inviting, but there is always a staffer nearby to say "thank you" as customers grab their orders. So far, Paliobagis reported, it has been going very well. The appointment system allows her and her team to plan their day more, rather than react to lots of last-minute phone calls, while making it easier to operate with fewer staff in store.


GLOW: Erewhon: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk


Cassiopeia Books, Great Falls, Mont., Moving

Cassiopeia Books 2.0 in progress.

Cassiopeia Books in Great Falls, Mont., is moving to a new location,KRTV reported. The bookstore will remain in the city's downtown, going from 721 Central Avenue to 606 Central Avenue.

The new space is significantly larger, with more space for events, and is actually closer to the center of downtown. Manager Andrew Guschausky told KRTV that the move was prompted by the sale of their previous building.

Guschausky anticipates that the store will reopen in early May. In the meantime, the store is offering curbside pickup and book deliveries.

"I am so excited to eventually open the doors to all the customers and friends that have kept Cassiopeia Books a thriving, local bookstore," Guschausky said.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Little Threats by Emily Schultz


International Update: U.K.'s Micro-Loan Initiative; Prescription for India's Book Trade

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new micro-loan initiative for small businesses in the U.K. to help alleviate the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Bookseller reported that "firms will be able to get loans of a value up to 25% of turnover, with a maximum of £50,000 [about $62,180], with the government paying the interest on the loan for the first 12 months." The "bounceback" loans will be 100% guaranteed by the Treasury and available beginning May 4. Sunak said the loans would be a "simple, quick and easy" solution, without complex eligibility criteria, and that for most firms loans should arrive within 24 hours of being approved.

"This is a very welcome scheme that will provide a much-needed injection for the many publishers facing cashflow challenges at the moment," said Bridget Shine, CEO of the Independent Publishers Guild. "Removing fees, interest and payments for a year will give businesses the time they need to get back to normal trading on the other side of the pandemic lockdown. But it is vital that lenders now deliver on the government's promises that applications will be simple and that money will flow out to businesses fast, because every day of delay is critical for some borrowers."

Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls commented: "The announcement of the micro-loan scheme is a welcome step towards helping bookshops at this immensely challenging time. Booksellers have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, and will continue to be affected when lockdown restrictions are eased. It is therefore vital that the Government steps in to do all it can to support the sector, and we hope that they will go further by introducing rent relief, tax breaks and beyond."

Noting that this was this "is a really important step by the government in ensuring access to crucial finance for small and micro businesses," Publishers Association CEO Stephen Lotinga said: "I would also urge those SME publishers who are in need of support to look to the emergency funding available from the Arts Council and to get in touch if they need any help. However, U.K. publishing does need more support to get back on its feet and we continue to call on the government to extend business rates relief to publishers and to allow bookshops the option to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so."

--- 

"What can publishers, booksellers (and readers) do for the books business to recover after Covid-19?" Thomas Abraham, managing director of Hachette India, offered a prescription, noting: "Life during and after Covid has been the focus of most media stories, and sectoral analyses abound. Publishing (and bookselling) has been getting its fair share and a lot of activity has been detailed. So let's take stock (another unintended pun that will send a shiver down all publishers) of the situation where the business of books have ground to a halt, and publishers and booksellers watch a scenario unfold that many would think came straight off the dystopian fiction books they sell." Abraham's prescription points:

  • First, break the myth that e-books can make up for printed books (pbooks).
  • Big versus small--whether publisher or bookseller--doesn't really matter.
  • Cash conversion is going to be key for everybody.
  • Getting sales back up is top priority.
  • Liaison with the government and regulatory authorities is going to be key.
  • Paradoxically, it's also time books were taxed.
  • Fight piracy/counterfeiting.
  • Prevent territorial infringements, which are on the rise.
  • Brick and mortar booksellers should petition for a level playing field.
  • And finally, grow readership.

"There are a lot of questions, and answers are not yet blowin' in the wind, but it's obvious it's a cold wind that threatens to blow," Abraham concluded. "But in the words of the greatest fictional series character ever created: 'It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's god's own wind none the less and a cleaner, better stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.' Let's hope that's how it turns out."

---

When Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency on March 22, "it didn't take long for independent Halifax store Bookmark to notice a surge in sales," the Journal Pioneer reported. The shop moved directly to online orders and customer pickup at the door.

"It was customer service from when we opened and we did not stop till we closed down at five; it was really overwhelming," said manager and buyer Mike Hamm. "We thought it's just natural that it would start to taper off but it really hasn't. The people who always shop with us were more driven to make sure that we were okay. They started buying gift certificates, and they would repeat order. Then we were dealing with a lot of people whose other book sources had dried up."

Bookmark's loyal customer base, cultivated over 30 years, keeps things going. "We've always been supported so strongly and so profoundly by our reading neighborhood," Hamm said. "There's not an invincibility about us but we just know that people value us so much that in some way, in some form, we would be okay."

The Journal Pioneer noted that while "the convenience and discounts offered by online giants Amazon and Chapters can be tempting, the stories of independent bookstores like Bookmark are shaped by a clientele who want to support a local merchant and who don't mind paying list price."

"Of course, if we were operating as we usually would, we would be making more money, but the level of support we've been getting since this has happened has been tremendous," said Hamm. "A person can get a book in many different places. It's what is attached with the sale of that book that makes a difference."

---

For every challenge there's a solution department, New Zealand division: "Manager Jenna Todd passes books through the barricaded front door of Auckland's Time Out Bookstore using a long-handled pizza paddle," Stuff NZ noted. "The independent bookstore is one of nearly 200 bookshops enjoying the end of lockdown, and the start of Level 3, in which contactless retail is allowed. Time Out has a loyal local customer base, and during lockdown many bought books online to pick up once the store could open again."

Todd said: "The door is all blocked off. People pop their head in and we just hand them over to them."


Peachtree Publishing Company: The Candy Mafia by Lavie Tidhar, illustrated by Daniel Duncan


How Bookstores Are Coping: Social Media Outreach, Neighborhood Support

In Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Book Store is currently closed to both staff members and the public, with all booksellers working remotely and all orders being fulfilled through the store's Bookshop.org affiliate page. General manager Alex Meriwether reported that he and his team are recommending books and book lists via social media and on the store's website, running virtual events from home and making new lists for the store's Bookshop page daily, such as "light books for heavy times," and "Best of Lines, First of Lines." Meriwether is also mailing out store gift cards from home.

Over the past several weeks, Meriwether noted, Harvard Book Store has adjusted its operations frequently. At one stage, the store was closed to the public but booksellers were coming in to do phone orders, curbside pickup and web processing, and during another period HBS was doing curbside pickup in addition to local and national delivery. Like everyone else, Meriwether said, "we're taking things a day at a time and paying close attention to local advisories."

On the subject of his staff, Meriwether said it's been tough for everyone, with the nature and responsibility of every single person's job shifting every week or two.

Meriwether noted that the PPP application process has not been straightforward or seamless, but the store has applied and is awaiting the results.

Harvard Book Store has been running virtual events since April 2, and the team has been "delighted and encouraged" by the community's response. For some digital events, HBS has had more than 600 digital attendees, and the feedback the store has received via e-mail and social media has been wonderful. Several of the booksellers on the store's events team said the "conversation and energy around a book talk" brought about the first sense of normaly they'd felt in weeks.

Despite the popularity of these events, the number of books sold and revenue generated doesn't compare to in-person events, and Meriwether and his team "miss all the things that make live events special." But in the meantime, virtual events have helped them continue what they do, and has still been a "meaningful and effective way to sell books."

---

At Phinney Books in Seattle, Wash., doors are closed to the public but staff members are coming in most days, largely alone, to deal with inventory, orders and receiving. Store owner Tom Nissley reported that his staff is faring about "as well as can be hoped." In part because the staff is small and most of his employees are part-time, he's been able to keep everyone on payroll. Cabin fever, however, is, unfortunately, "rampant."

To Nissley's surprise, his PPP application was approved just in time for his store to receive funds as part of the first batch. He gives  credit for that to his neighborhood bank, which was helpful and efficient. He added that despite having little difficulty with the application process, it was still frustrating. "The fact that we, largely by chance, received ours and so many of our fellow businesses have not shows that the program is not working as it should," Nissley explained.

On the subject of virtual events, Nissley said Phinney Books doesn't do many actual in-store events even in normal times, but he has partnered with Phinney's sister store Madison Books to do some virtual storytimes and book clubs. With no end in sight to social distancing, however, Nissley and his team would like to plan and run more of them.

One silver lining, Nissley continued, was the quick improvement of some of the store's shipping and customer-billing processes in ways that will be helpful in the long term. And while he said it wasn't really a surprise, given the community, Phinney Books has had "wonderful support from our neighborhood, both with direct orders through our store and through Bookshop, although we miss seeing them in person." And, while he and his staff have the place to themselves, they are taking the opportunity to do some thorough inventory work.

He and his team, Nissley added, are very glad that Bookshop launched in February and that they got on board quickly. The volume of sales the store has seen through its Bookshop page has been "pretty astounding," and it's made it possible for them to "imagine coming out of this in decent shape, whatever conditions we come out to."

---

The Well~Read Moose Bookstore, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, shared photos of two creative new sidewalk chalkboard messages. The bookshop's marketing assistant, Anna Rose Carleton, noted: "We are still open, but fulfilling online, and phone orders only. We are working hard every day to get books in the hands of our customers and community members because books are important and connect us--they truly are magical! We are also using this time, while our store is closed to the public, to redesign our store, adding more shelves and titles to expand our collection. The store had a flood on New Year's Eve and ever since then, we have been working towards expanding and making our store better. We miss our customers dearly and are excited to reopen with all the improvements made to the store. We are so thankful to everyone who has supported us during this time."


University of California Press: A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, Volume 3 by Rachel Brahinsky, Alexander Tarr, Bruce Rinehart


Obituary Note: Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland, one of Ireland's most distinguished poets, died April 27, the Irish Times reported. She was 75. President Michael D. Higgins said the country "has lost not only an internationally acclaimed poet, distinguished academic and author, but one of the most insightful inner sources of Irish life, not only in life as expressed but as sensed and experienced. It was her particular gift to reveal the beauty in the ordinary. Over the years, through her poetry, critical work and teaching she displayed an extraordinary ability to invoke Irish landscapes, myth and everyday experience. She became one of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature, noted for the high standard she sought and achieved."

Boland's first two collections, 23 Poems and Autumn Essay, were published before she was 20 years old. Her collection In a Time of Violence (1994) received a Lannan Award and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her books include A Woman Without a Country; Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990; An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1957-1987; and In Her Own Image. Her poem "Eviction," from her upcoming collection The Historians (Norton), appears in the May 4 issue of the New Yorker.

Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole wrote that Boland "has occupied the Irish public poetic tradition that stems from W.B. Yeats, taking on its concerns with myth, history and the Irish landscape while forcing it to make room for female experience.... In part this was a struggle to make room for the body. She made female sexuality and motherhood into poetic subjects. She evoked domestic violence, anorexia, infanticide, mastectomy, bodily functions from menstruation to masturbation."

In Object Lessons, Boland wrote: "I knew... that I was a half-named poet. My mind, my language, my love for freedom: these were named. My body, my instincts: these were named only as passive parts of the poem. Two parts of the poem awaited me. Two choices. Power or powerlessness."

From her poem "Quarantine":

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.


Notes

Kidlit Coronavirus-fighting Ideas

Dear readers, there is an egregious hole in my previous columns (here, here, here, here, here or here) where a massive kidlit undertaking should have been found: the Harry Potter at Home hub. During the month of April, the first Harry Potter audiobook was available for free listening for library patrons via OverDrive. But don't worriy if you missed out on the listening opportunity, there are plenty of other Harry Potter resources to enjoy, "including special contributions from Bloomsbury and Scholastic, nifty magical craft videos... fun articles, quizzes, puzzles and plenty more for first-time readers, as well as those already familiar with the wizarding world."

Random House has also launched virtual programming based on a book series. Magic Tree House Home Adventures invites children to read and explore with Jack and Annie every week. The Gotham Group, a Hollywood management and production firm, launched a YouTube reading series that features celebrities and public figures reading popular children's books. Roost Books has posted online resources for adults and their children, offering "nourishing recipes, calming creative explorations, children's activities and wellness offerings." The children's publisher Mims is offering its entire backlist of e-books and audiobooks for free (as are Amicus and Black Rabbit Books); the Quarto Group has pulled together a webpage of downloadable resources for children; and Lerner Books has a new site that "includes author videos, free downloads, and resources to help with virtual learning." Seven Stories Press is "hosting live story times for kids, author readings, and live online events to discuss topical issues," as is West Margin Press (celebrating Golden Gate Park, on May 5 and May 9). Barefoot Books, Lonely Planet, Schiffer Kids, Peachtree and Sleeping Bear Press have all created free activity kits.

The Everywhere Book Fest, a "virtual gathering of kidlit authors, illustrators, and books," created by Christina Soontornvat, Ellen Oh and Melanie Conklin, will take place May 1-2, and the Bologna Children's Book Fair is launching the BCBF Online Special Edition to be held May 4-7, inviting people in the children's literature world to come together "for business meetings and exchange [they] hope will be stimulating and rewarding." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor


#IndieBookstoreBoost Launches in N.Y.'s Capital Region

The New York State Writers Institute and WAMC Northeast Public Radio are joining forces to assist the Capital Region's independent bookstores with a new initiative called #IndieBookstoreBoost, with a goal "to encourage book sales and to increase revenue during this do-or-die moment for these vital community centers."

Each week, Joe Donahue, host of WAMC's The Book Show, and Writers Institute director Paul Grondahl will conduct an online interview with notable authors talking about their newly published books. Each recorded interview will be geared to a local indie bookstore, with a link for listeners to purchase the author's book directly from that store. There also will be options to buy gift cards or make a donation toward the purchase of children's books to be distributed to under-served children in their community.

To kick off the project, Donahue and Grondahl interviewed four indie booksellers about the desperate situation they are facing due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Featured guests were Chris Morrow of the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs and Manchester Center, Vt.; Susan Novotny of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany; Stanley Hadsell of Market Block Books in Troy; and Lily Bartels of the Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady.


Prank of the Day: The Wild Detectives' Travel Agency

When the Wild Detectives, Dallas, Tex., announced last Sunday on Facebook that, "under the current circumstances," it was "no longer" a bookstore and was "shifting our business model to a travel agency," customers reacted immediately. D magazine reported that "comments from devastated customers came rolling in. The post elicited hundreds of cry-face reactions. However, that emotional turmoil could've all been avoided by a quick trip to the 'travel agency's' new website."

In fact, the Wild Detectives had "relaunched gobookatrip.com, a website that allows you to travel the world in literary vehicles, which it first launched last fall. That site is linked to the Wild Detectives' new e-shop on bookshop.org, the only way to purchase books through WD while the physical store is closed," D noted.

"We thought it would make sense to do a little prank, a little joke," said co-owner Javier Garcia del Moral. "Basically what we're trying to say yesterday, which was a pretty bizarre joke, was, no we don't want to be a bookstore, we want to be a travel agency--which is probably, I guess, even worse than having a bookstore nowadays.... This has been devastating. Aside from the fun of this prank, this has been horrible for us. We launched two things: this prank, and also a new membership program, which is very helpful to us."

Although he said 90% of the people got the joke, Garcia clarified the shop's intentions in a post yesterday: "First and foremost, we can't express how grateful we are to be in this city and surrounded by such an amazing community, we are beyond words with some of your reactions. You can't imagine how encouraging this is after the extremely rough few weeks we all went through. THANK YOU, DALLAS, this will be hard to forget, and we'll fight as hard to be the space you want us to be. We also want to apologize to those of you that thought we were closing. The way you shared how much our spot means to you and how much you'll miss it, certainly gave us pause. We just wanted to put some humor on these difficult times, hope we didn't take it too far.

"And just to be clear, we are not really going anywhere. We'll open back to the public as soon as we feel we can provide a safe and comfortable environment for employees and patrons, considering how challenging our space is for social distancing and other safety practices, this could still take a few weeks, we hope soon though. Thank you so much for your support these days, your response has been overwhelming and we'll do our best to be there for you as soon as possible. Stay strong and support the businesses you love, even with words, they need it. A little love from you means the world, we know that firsthand now. We'll see you soon in our little house. Promised."


Ingram's Two Rivers to Distribute Welbeck Publishing Group

Ingram's Two Rivers Distribution will provide sales and distribution services in the U.S. for Welbeck Publishing Group, beginning in July.

With headquarters in London, Welbeck Publishing Group publishes fiction, nonfiction and stationery and gift items. Founded last year, the company is headed by publishing veterans Marcus Leaver and Mark Smith.



Media and Movies

New Partnership Envisions 'Truly Authentic' Discworld Adaptations

Narrativia, the production company launched by the late Terry Pratchett in 2012, "is looking to expand the Discworld universe after striking a development deal with Endeavor Content and U.K.-based producer Motive Pictures," Deadline reported, adding that the partners "have made it clear that they will have an 'exclusive' relationship going forward to create 'truly authentic' Discworld screen adaptations."

The deal was struck by Rob Wilkins of Narrativia and Simon Maxwell of Motive Pictures, with Endeavor Content. Executive producers for Motive Pictures will be Maxwell and Sam Lavender, and Endeavor Content will handle worldwide sales.

Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia, said, "Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realized on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It's wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality."

Motive Pictures CEO Maxwell commented: "Discworld is a national treasure and we are thrilled to be forging this new partnership with Narrativia and Endeavor Content. Together we will produce shows that will be loved by millions of Discworld fans worldwide, whilst also opening up Sir Terry Pratchett's epic creations and legacy to new audiences."


Books & Authors

Awards: Arthur Ellis Crime Shortlist

Crime Writers of Canada announced the shortlists in eight categories for this year's Arthur Ellis Awards, which recognize the best in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction and crime nonfiction by Canadian authors. The Grand Master Award, presented biennially to a Canadian crime writer "with a substantial body of work who has garnered national and international recognition," goes to Peter Robinson. Winners will be announced in late May, though the awards gala has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Reading with... Jenny Zhang

Jenny Zhang is the author of the poetry collection Dear Jenny, We Are All Find and the story collection Sour Heart. Sour Heart was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and was a finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. Her new book of poetry, My Baby First Birthday, will be published by Tin House on May 12, 2020.

On your nightstand now:

Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings. Danez Smith's Homie. Morgan Parker's Magical Negro. Mary HK Choi's Permanent Record. T Kira Madden's Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. Ntozake Shange's Liliane. The Wilhelm/Baynes edition of The I Ching. A notebook where I've mashed together dreams and unfinished to-do lists. Dambudzo Marechera's The House of Hunger. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Elfriede Jelinek's Women as Lovers. Lots and lots of self-help books that I won't be sharing here. Can Xue's Love in the New Millennium. Gilbert Hernandez's Heartbreak Soup: A Love and Rockets Book. bell hooks's communion. Witold Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke. Ariana Reines's The Sand Book. Djuna Barnes's Nightwood. Roberto Bolaño's 2666.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The 100th book in the Sweet Valley series where this girl who was abandoned by her parents and just barely survived a traumatic childhood saw a newspaper photo of the Wakefield twins and realized she looked a lot like them and thought her ticket out of this horrific existence was to murder one of the twins and take her place.

Your top five authors:

I've never been able to answer this.

Book you've faked reading:

At least half of the books I was assigned in my college English classes. Reading should be pleasurable, not forced.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Qiu Miaojin Last Words from Montmartre. It is so delicious and extreme and hot and cold and desperate and unhinged and yet also controlled in the way it depicts desire and rejection. I love it so much.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Can Xue's Love in the New Millennium.

Book you hid from your parents:

Didn't have to hide anything. I was a '90s immigrant latchkey kid, baby! I read dirty books in the stacks of the public library instead of doing my homework and no one ever stopped me.

Book that changed your life:

Probably the first ever Babysitter's Club book narrated by Claudia Kishi. She wore clashing prints. I wore clashing prints. She loved Cheez Doodles. I loved Cheez Doodles. She just wanted to be an artist and hated school. I just wanted to be an artist and hated school. And she was Asian! So little fourth-grade me was like, Cool, I'm gonna write a novel where the main character is Chinese like me.

Recently, as an adult, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It was physically and spiritually affecting.

Five books you'll never part with:

To be honest, I can part with any book as long as it goes to a home that wants it.

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

Probably all those Little Golden picture books that provided such solace from a completely chaotic world.


Book Review

Children's Review: Little Bear's Treasure

Little Bear's Treasures by Stella Dreis (Greystone Kids, $17.95 hardcover, 36p., ages 3-8, 9781771646536, June 2, 2020)

There are little bears and Little Bears. The Little Bear starring in Stella Dreis's Little Bear's Treasure? He wouldn’t be out of place in the company of Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak's famous like-named charmer.

The Little Bear created by Dreis (Happiness Is a Watermelon on Your Head) isn't a treasure seeker but a "treasure finder. That's right, a treasure finder, because he didn't look for his treasures--he found them. Everywhere." Among his discoveries: a button, feathers, a clothespin, "a cozy hiding place" and "a shy piece of fluff." (While Dreis isn't so preachy as to spell out her book's underlying environmental and anti-materialist messages--treasures needn't be made in a factory or procured with cash!--mature-enough readers will hear her plea.) Little Bear couldn't be more proud of his haul, but when he talks it up to the other forest denizens, they're dismissive: "Those aren't treasures. They're just junk." This does a number on the bear's self-esteem: "Eventually, Little Bear stopped sharing. He became quiet and his little nose drooped down low."

When a tiny bird asks him why his nose is so low to the ground, Little Bear says, "I like to find treasure, like... this stick." Incredibly, Little Bird gets it ("Ooo, a magic stick!"), which is to say that Little Bird gets Little Bear. Together, the two become treasure-finding partners who spend the day rhapsodizing about "a tree-bark boat" and "a mysterious fog," among other valuables. That night, while they are watching the night sky together ("This was a true bear-bird treasure!"), Little Bird falls asleep, and Little Bear thinks about "how you can find treasure. How treasure can find you. How the best treasures are the kind that snore."

Unlike Minarik and Sendak's anthropomorphized bear, Dreis's Little Bear lives in what is tempting to call a natural habitat: he coexists with other animals, his treasures culled from the forest floor. And yet how likely is one to encounter a donkey among forest creatures? And even if one were to meet what looks like a white goose in the woods, what are the odds that it would be wearing slip-on shoes? Although these pleasingly incongruous visuals appear in illustrations created with careful lines and an earthy palette, the art of Little Bear's Treasure manages to have an ebullient quality that captures the bear's euphoria at the knowledge that he has stumbled upon something more priceless than treasure: someone who understands him. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: This high-minded, big-hearted picture book sends the message that, while one may delight in having possessions, a good friend has more value.


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