Shelf Awareness for Thursday, August 6, 2020


Insight Editions: Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua Greene

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Walker Books Us: Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

Scholastic Press: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

News

Binc Expanding Staff, Seeking Communications Coordinator

Because of the dramatic increase in the number of requests for aid and grants distributed this year, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) is expanding its staff. As part of the change, Kate Weiss has been promoted to programs manager from communications manager, and Binc is now seeking a communications coordinator.

Weiss joins program manager Kit Steinaway, who has been helping booksellers at the Borders Group Foundation and now Binc since 2007. Kathy Bartson and Mary Baker will continue in their roles as director of development and office coordinator, respectively.

Kate Weiss

Binc executive director Pam French commented: "Kate brings not only her personal experience of working as a bookseller but also her compassion and dedication to helping people through life's difficult situations. Kate has served as back up program manager since August 2019. With Kate joining Kit Steinaway, the Foundation will be well prepared to help every bookseller and comic retailer in need."

Since the beginning of the year, Binc has seen an increase of more than 400% in requests for emergency household assistance. It has helped 556 families through hardship and emergency circumstances with more than $635,000 in assistance. Also this year, the Foundation distributed more than $2.2 million to more than 1,600 bookstores and comic shops around the country.

"While I hope the pace of need and requests levels off and declines, we have not seen a decrease yet," French said. "In order to maintain our commitment to providing outstanding assistance, a second program manager is needed to help with the volume of requests."

Binc's new communication coordinator position is full-time with the option to work remotely. Key functions and responsibilities include: public relations and general external communications including newsletters and e-blasts, general copywriting and editing, digital and print design, website analytics and content, donor stewardship, member of the Development & Communication Committee, and representing and promoting Binc within the bookselling and comic retailing communities. The ideal candidate will have excellent communication skills and experience in the bookselling or comic retailing community. BIPOC candidates are especially encouraged to apply.

For a complete job description and more information, visit Binc's website.


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto


How Bookstores Are Coping: Continued Caution; New Commitments

At Cellar Door Books in Riverside, Calif., owner Linda Sherman-Nurick and her team are doing online sales, curbside pickup and appointment shopping. While the store technically has not reopened for browsing, Sherman-Nurick has allowed some walk-ins if they are wearing masks properly and use hand sanitizer when they enter.

When California reopened in May, she continued, Cellar Door was allowing up to five people in store at a time for appointments. Now, though, the store is allowing only one family unit at a time. All book clubs and events have of course been moved to Zoom. While most of the store's usual customers are totally on board with wearing masks, Sherman-Nurick added, a few people just seem to "want to push the issue," whether in-person or via e-mail.

"I don't have any difficulty explaining that my booksellers are in the store and I will do everything in my power to safeguard them and my customers," she said. "So no mask appropriately worn, no entrance."

Some of Sherman-Nurick's customers have told her that her store is the only one they've been to since March, because they know "we will keep them as safe as possible. I've also had people say they'll never come back. I'm fine with that."

After protests against systemic racism and police brutality began in late May, Cellar Door featured books related to the Black Lives Matter movement in all of its window displays. In one window, in fact, they've listed the names of Black people murdered by police, which the store also did when Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes came out. This Sunday the store is hosting a Zoom discussion of White Fragility and the most exciting thing, Sherman-Nurick said, has been working with her local school district to try to further diversify their reading lists.

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Paul Swydan, owner of The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass., reported that his store fully reopened to the public on July 25, over a month after they were technically allowed to do so, with slightly limited hours. Swydan and his team removed the store's chairs and covered the bench in the children's section with books to discourage customers from sitting down and extending their visits.

No more than 10 people are allowed in store at a time, including employees. Masks are mandatory and customers must use hand sanitizer when they enter. The store was also professionally cleaned before it was reopened. All plush toys have been put out of reach of children and the bathrooms are closed to the public. Swydan and his team are sanitizing high-touch areas as frequently as possible, and they've covered the buttons on the credit card pinpad with packing tape to make it easier to clean. His booksellers are also instructed to wash their hands after every time they handle cash. Luckily, Swydan added, they have not encountered any resistance to their safety measures from their community.

Swydan said that many of his booksellers took part in local protests and, like many bookstores, Silver Unicorn saw an uptick in sales of antiracist and Black history titles, as well as some fiction by authors like Toni Morrison. The local school district also decided to purchase How to Be an Antiracist from the store in bulk, and Silver Unicorn donated the proceeds from that sale to Frugal Bookstore, the only Black-owned bookstore in Boston, and to the Resilient Sisterhood Project. Swydan also wrote about his need to stock more books by Black authors, and he is keeping that commitment in mind when ordering books for the fall and winter.

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In Ann Arbor, Mich., Literati Bookstore has not yet reopened for browsing, but co-owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson are offering curbside pickup and continue to ship books to customers. While they do not believe that it is safe yet to reopen for browsing, Hilary Gustafson explained, they do plan to launch virtual personal shopping later this month as an additional way to connect with their customers.

The Gustafsons have limited the number of staff members who are in store at any one time, cleaning supplies are plentiful and masks and social distancing are required while everyone is working. The store's coffee shop has been shut down indefinitely, and to minimize close interactions while doing pickup, the store is using a text messaging system to notify customers when orders are ready.

"It is unfortunate that a few can endanger so many," said Gustafson, "but we are doing our best to keep our staff as safe as possible."

On the subject of the protests that began in late May, Gustafson said they've always prided themselves on being a bookstore that amplifies, actively displays and curates a diverse array of books and voices. She added: "We will proudly continue on with that mission." --Alex Mutter


Beaming Books: Inspiring New Nonfiction from Broadleaf Books


IPG, Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia in Joint Distribution Deal

Independent Publishers Group and Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia (PRHI) are collaborating for joint distribution of titles in India and North America. Under the agreement, PRHI will exclusively sell and distribute titles published by more than 100 IPG distributed publishers in the Indian subcontinent, to bookstores, schools, libraries and online booksellers, effective immediately.

At the same time, PRHI will have North American distribution through IPG's Trafalgar Square Publishing (TSP) program. Under this contract, TSP will manage the sale and distribution of all titles of Penguin Random House and Southeast Asia that enjoy world rights in the U.S. and its territories, Canada, the U.K. and the European Union.

PRHI is the largest English-language trade publisher in the subcontinent, publishing more than 250 new titles yearly and with a backlist of more than 3,000 titles. It publishes across every segment, including biography, travel, business, politics, history, religion and philosophy, lifestyle, cookery, health and fitness, sports and leisure, visual books and children's books.

PRHI's list includes Booker Prize-winning novels and winners of many major literary prizes, including the Nobel Prize, the Magsaysay Award, the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Several of PRHI's authors are also recipients of the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan, India's highest civilian honors.

IPG CEO Joe Matthews commented: "This partnership with Penguin Random House India is very exciting for our company and aligns with our continued expansion and global reach."

Brooke O'Donnell, managing director for TSP, said, "TSP is thrilled to be working with Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia to make their books available to readers in North America, the U.K., and Europe. We feel privileged to be adding these two new divisions to our prestigious portfolio of Penguin Random House publishers we already represent, including Penguin Random House UK, Australia, New Zealand, and China."

Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO of Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia, said, "Partnering with one of the largest book distributors in the world will open up the Indian subcontinent market to a wide array of books and writings. Our partnership with IPG ties in well with our aim to ensure our readers have a great range and quality of written work to choose from. Simultaneously, our arrangement with Trafalgar Square Publishing will widen the readership of our titles originating from the India and SEA markets. We have published remarkable books and they will be a valuable addition to any book lovers' reading lists. These partnerships present the opportunity for books to transcend borders, and for us to explore new sales channels, understand new markets and gain valuable insights about consumers."

Scott Hatfill, director of international sales for IPG, added: "The team at PRHI will enable us to provide our publishers access to all channels within India utilizing their market intelligence and knowledge. We are extremely pleased to be working with PRHI and to announce such a key partnership during these unprecedented times."


Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!


Arcadia Children's Books Launching Spooky America Series

The first series from Arcadia Publishing's new Arcadia Children's Books imprint will be Spooky America, with eight local titles for middle graders, to be published on September 7.

The series is adapted from Arcadia's Haunted America series (which has more than 300 titles), and focuses on "the ghoulishly gruesome, fantastically phantasmal stories of our nation's undead souls." Rewritten for the middle-grade audience, these tales bring local history to life. The first titles are set in Charleston, S.C.; Michigan's West Coast; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Long Island; New England; Savannah, Ga.; Connecticut; and aboard the Queen Mary.

Publisher of the Images of America series, Arcadia is the leading publisher of hyper-local books, with a catalogue of 15,000 titles and 500 new titles published annually. While Arcadia has published a few children's titles in the past, this marks its first major step into publishing books for children.

"For many years we have delivered books about every corner of the nation for adult readers," said David Steinberger, CEO of Arcadia Publishing. "Now it's time to get the kids involved."

"Starting this fall, we're publishing titles that celebrate the history and lore of local neighborhoods and communities and will get kids excited to read, learn, and dig deeper," said Nancy Ellwood, publishing director for Arcadia Children's Books. "Spooky America is aimed at middle-grade readers, but it is only the start. There's much, much, much more to come, for ages 0 to 12."

Bookseller Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, R.I., said she's looking forward to selling the new line. "Our customers have always loved Arcadia's local books, and we are sure Spooky America will be a hit too."


Post Hill Press's Bombardier Books Founds Emancipation Books

Post Hill Press's Bombardier Books is launching an imprint called Emancipation Books, which will "give a voice to black and minority authors--including conservatives, libertarians, traditional liberals, and iconoclasts--whose nonconforming views are seldom represented in mainstream media, and find themselves increasingly unwelcome at the larger publishing houses."

David S. Bernstein, founder of Bombardier Books, will lead Emancipation, too. "As one of the very small number of black Americans in the publishing industry, as well as a conservative, I've always been concerned about the lack of diversity reflected within editorial boards across New York," he said. "At Bombardier, we have made a concerted effort to publish a wide range of diverse voices--and have proven that we value not only diversity of skin color, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, but most importantly, diversity of ideas."

Emancipation's lead release is The 1776 Project from the Woodson Center, a collection of essays by writers and scholars that, Emancipation Press says, "counters the deeply flawed and biased 1619 Project from the New York Times." Other upcoming titles include What Do White Americans Owe Black People by Jason D. Hill; The Real Black Lives Matter Agenda by Charles Love; Behind the Black Mask from Gabriel Nadales; and Ghetto Mind by Daren Williams.

Post Hill publisher Anthony Ziccardi commented: "The launch of Emancipation Books gives stronger focus to an already established line within Post Hill, where we have a long history of publishing important books by diverse authors."


Obituary Note: Pete Hamill

photo: David Shankbone

Pete Hamill, the author and newspaper journalist, died yesterday. He was 85.

For more than 40 years, Hamill was a celebrated and award-winning reporter, columnist and the top editor of the New York Post and the Daily News; a foreign correspondent for the Post and the Saturday Evening Post; and a writer for New York Newsday, the Village Voice, Esquire and other publications.

The New York Times, one of the few New York City newspapers Hamill didn't work at, called Hamill "a quintessential New Yorker--savvy about its ways, empathetic with its masses and enthralled with its diversity--and wrote about it in a literature of journalism. Along with Jimmy Breslin, he popularized a spare, blunt style in columns of on-the-scene reporting in the authentic voice of the working classes: blustery, sardonic, often angry."

As an exampmle of his style, the Times quoted from a column Hamill wrote in the Post when riots erupted in Brooklyn in 1971: "If people say nothing can be done about Brownsville, they lie. If this country would stop its irrational nonsense and get to work, every Brownsville would be gone in five years. Get the hell out of Asia. Stop feeding dictators. Forget about airports, SSTs, Albany Malls, highways. This country can do anything. And if Brownsville stays the way it is for another year, someone sleek and fat and comfortable should go to jail."

Hamill also wrote more than 20 novels, more than 100 short stories, biographies, essays and screenplays. Among his works of fiction, the Times cited "The Gift (1973) and Snow in August (1997), both of which drew on his youth; Forever (2003), the story of a man granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan; North River (2007), a Depression-era tale of a man and his grandson; and Tabloid City (2011), a stop-the-presses murder yarn." His story collections were The Invisible City: A New York Sketchbook (1980) and Tokyo Sketches (1992).

His nonfiction included Irrational Ravings (1971), Piecework (1996), Why Sinatra Matters (1998), Diego Rivera (1999) and Downtown, My Manhattan (2004). "His memoir, A Drinking Life (1994), chronicled decades of alcoholism, ending on New Year's Eve 1972, when he took his last, a vodka and tonic," the Times noted.

At the time of his death, Hamill was working on a book about Brooklyn that was to be published by Little, Brown.

Born in Brooklyn, Hamill was a lifelong New Yorker, and the city and its people and stories suffused his work. "There's no one New York," Hamill said in 2007. "There's multiple New Yorks. Anybody who sits and says, 'I know New York' is from out of town."

Little, Brown publisher Bruce Nichols said: "There was no one Pete Hamill, there were multiple Pete Hamills. But every one of them was in love with New York, and the city and the country will never be the same without him."

In a tweet yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote, "Pete was not just an unsurpassed journalist, editor and writer--he was the voice of New York. We say goodbye today to an irreplaceable New Yorker. I know that his legacy and work will live on."


Notes

'Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service'

Faced with myriad challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis, booksellers have relied more than ever on their package delivery partners. Here are two indie votes cast yesterday for the USPS:

Wheatberry Books, Chillicothe, Ohio, expressed its appreciation in a Facebook post, noting: "Thanks to the US Postal Service, we have been able to absorb the shipping costs on all of the books that we have mailed out during the Great Unpleasantness of 2020. We will continue to provide this service in order to keep our at-risk shoppers safe. Many special thanks to our friends at the #usps."

And from Eureka Books, Eureka, Calif.: "Our small business depends on the US Postal Service, and since the pandemic we need them more than ever. But the new unqualified Postmaster General has enacted policies that are slowing down the mail, causing delays to delivery of medicine and other precious packages people need on time. It hurts the people and it hurts independent businesses like us. The health of our economy and our population has been damaged enough without these deliberate actions taken in attempts to gain political advantage in November."


Pennie Picks: Last Orders

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked Last Orders by Graham Swift (Vintage, $16.95, 9780679766629) as her pick for August. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"As much as I like discovering first-time novelists, I also cherish finding a previously published novel that I missed upon its release. This month's book buyer's pick, Graham Swift's Last Orders, falls into the latter category.

"This Booker Prize winner begins with four men meeting in a London pub where they discuss their promise to deliver their friend Jack Dodd's ashes to the sea at Margate.

"More than the tale of a simple errand to make good on their promise, Last Orders shares the past of these friends in what becomes an exploration of sorrow, regret and much more."


Red Wheel/Weiser to Distribute Lantern Publishing & Media

 

Effective September 1, Red Wheel/Weiser will be the exclusive worldwide distributor for the print publications of Lantern Publishing & Media.

Founded in 1999 as Lantern Books, Lantern Publishing & Media, Brooklyn, N.Y., publishes books on animal rights, veganism, religion, social justice, and psychology and family therapy and has a backlist of 130 titles. It also distributes the books of the American Mental Health Foundation, a nonprofit focused on family therapy, PTSD, and violence prevention.

Red Wheel/Weiser president Michael Kerber said that Lantern Publishing & Media's "mission and books fit very well with our own program and with our distribution clients. I'm sure we will be able to help them reach a broader audience."


Personnel Changes at Harper Business; Farcountry Press

Hollis Heimbouch, publisher of the Harper Business imprint, has been promoted to senior v-p. In 2017, she won the third annual Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry.

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Shannon Johnston has joined Farcountry Press as publicist. She was formerly social media manager at Knallhart Marketing, an event and publicity planner at SCORE, a freelance writer and "Jane of all trades" at the Wreck Room. 


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, August 8
1:30 p.m. Jack Fairweather, author of The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz (Custom House, $19.99, 9780062561534). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

2:35 p.m. An interview with Janet Webster Jones and Alyson Jones Turner, mother and daughter owners of Source Booksellers in Detroit, Mich., about the ongoing impacts of Covid-19. (Re-airs Sunday at 11:40 p.m.)

4:10 p.m. Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States (Basic Books, $35, 9780465064267), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

5 p.m. Chris Wallace, co-author of Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World (Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982143343). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

5:50 p.m. Heather Lende, author of Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics (Algonquin, $25.95, 9781616208516). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

6:45 p.m. A.J. Baime, author of Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America's Soul (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328585066). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m.)

Sunday, August 9
1 p.m. Sonia Shah, author of The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635571974), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

2 p.m. An interview with Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books bookstores in southern Florida and the Cayman Islands, about the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.

3:50 p.m. Tiffany Cross, author of Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy (Amistad, $23.99, 9780062976772).

9 p.m. Zerlina Maxwell, author of The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette, $27, 9780306873614). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

10:45 p.m. Gov. Larry Hogan, co-author of Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics that Divide America (BenBella Books, $26.95, 9781950665044).


Stage to Film: Movies: Cyrano

MGM has acquired Cyrano, a musical film adaptation of Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac. Deadline reported that the project "will bring four-time Emmy winning Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage back in the title role he played onstage, and Haley Bennett reprising as Roxanne that she played alongside him at the Goodspeed Opera House's Terris Theatre in 2018." Directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour), the film's cast includes Brian Tyree Henry and Ben Mendelsohn, too.

The musical, which also played Off Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre last year, is written by veteran director, writer and stage actress Erica Schmidt (she and Dinklage are married), who also wrote the libretto. Deadline noted that the music is by the National's Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, with lyrics by Matt Berninger--also from the National--and Carin Besser, who has contributed to many of the band's songs.



Books & Authors

Awards: Laurel Poetry Longlist

A longlist has been released for the inaugural Laurel Prize, honoring "the best published collection of environmental or nature poetry." The award is funded by U.K. poet laureate Simon Armitage out of his honorarium, which he receives annually from the Queen, and is run by the Poetry School. The winner, who will be announced this autumn, receives £5,000 (about $6,265), with £2,000 (about $2,505) going to the second place finisher and £1,000 (about $1,255) for third. In addition, this year's partner, the U.K.'s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is funding a commission for the three winners to write a poem inspired by the area of natural beauty closest to their heart. Check out the complete Laurel Prize longlist here.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, August 11:

A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982151683) is the 23rd thriller with Detective Dave Robicheaux.

Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen (Random House, $30, 9781984801340) explores how the U.S. economy became a tool to serve the rich.

Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America by Michael Hiltzik (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544770317) explores the railroad titans who shaped U.S. history.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (Ballantine, $27, 9780525621676) is a thriller from the author of Black-Eyed Susans.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 9781534448636) features a Mexican American teen who believes her mother has been taken by ICE--until a spacecraft carrying her mom crashes in front of her car.

Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge by Grace Ellis, illus. by Brittney L. Williams (DC Comics, $9.99, 9781401296377), is a new story about a contemporary, 13-year-old Lois Lane.

Paperback:
The Midwife Murders by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo (Grand Central, $17.99, 9781538718872).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
Nine Shiny Objects: A Novel by Brian Castleberry (Custom House, $27.99, 9780062984395). "This debut novel is a puzzle worth working out--don't give up! Castleberry cleverly entwines nine characters over 50 years--a tribute to America as we struggle to 'become enlightened' while at the same time understand those who reject new ideas. This book will make you think, work through the characters, and come out with a complex but beautiful story describing the American movement since 1947. Assume nothing about this book--or even its title. It's beautiful!" --Kappy Kling, HearthFire Books, Evergreen, Colo.

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper (Riverhead, $27, 9780525537380). "This memoir is a fascinating examination of a life dedicated to helping others, and an illuminating, up-close view of what happens in emergency rooms. Moments of profound human connection exist alongside confrontations with dangerous and erratic patients, overzealous police demands, a lack of resources, and bureaucratic barriers. And the author's perspective as one of few African American female ER doctors is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the profession." --Mary Williams, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif.

Paperback
The Editor: A Novel by Steven Rowley (Putnam, $17, 9780525537984). "Steven Rowley's new novel is exactly the balm I needed in today's climate. Focusing on a young writer who discovers that his editor is none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the book explores both romantic and familial relationships in a humorous and touching manner. Although the writing is wickedly barbed and the zingers fly at the speed of a 1940s rom-com, The Editor is so much more. There is real heart in the writing as well as real love between the characters. It's a true delight and the kind of book people who loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine or Less will truly enjoy. Just be prepared with a box of tissues and your favorite cocktail (Jackie would suggest daiquiris)." --William Carl, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

For Ages 4 to 8
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago (Candlewick, $16.99, 9781536211146). "I want to be Gustavo's friend! This shy ghost would like for someone to be his friend, if only he could bring himself to appear and talk to someone! Flavia Z. Drago's beautiful illustrations help tell such a wonderful story." --Clarissa Hadge, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée (Balzer + Bray, $16.99, 9780062836717). "Speaking up about changing a school's name may sound like a dry topic, but under Lisa Moore's Ramée's deft hand, the reader is thrown into the middle of an important topic as seen through the eyes of one of the shyest activists they'll ever confront. I loved this warm book of social justice and heart!" --Jennifer Kraar, City of Asylum Bookstore, Pittsburgh, Pa.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith (HarperTeen, $18.99, 9780062943170). "Pony and Georgia will steal your heart in this gentle gem of an #OwnVoices contemporary young adult novel about a transgender teen who wants his body to match his identity and the girl who slowly but steadily falls for him. Stay Gold is one of those rare novels that reads easily and has comic romantic appeal, but punches hard realism into your gut. Reminiscent of the nuanced storytelling in K.A. Holt's Redwood and Ponytail, the novel is both accessible and humorous, yet deeply moving and emotional as Pony and Georgia balance being true to themselves with the often-destructive expectations of family and friends. Hopeful, heartfelt, and very needed." --Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: His Only Wife

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie (Algonquin Books, $25.95 hardcover, 288p., 9781616209155, September 1, 2020)

Afi lives in a humble home in the Ghanaian city of Ho with her mother. Since Afi's father died, they are beholden to local businesswoman "Aunty" Ganyo for their jobs, their home and basic necessities like flour. So when Afi's marriage is arranged to Aunty's son Eli, she knows it is an honor, although she feels some trepidation at marrying a man she does not really know. "Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding." And so her new life begins inauspiciously in Peace Adzo Medie's arresting first novel, His Only Wife.

Afi's task, according to the powerful Ganyo family, is to win her new husband away from "the woman" with whom he's already had a child, who is perceived to have stolen him away from his family. Afi resents being a pawn, but for her own reasons wishes to build a life of true love and commitment with Eli, whom she finds handsome and kind. She is out of her comfort zone, however, when she is installed in a luxury apartment in Accra, surrounded by food, clothing and modern conveniences she's never known--with Eli still absent.

The young woman's story unfolds in the first person, as Afi deals with an unfamiliar world and competing bids for her loyalty. Her mother and her new mother-in-law Aunty pressure her to appease and obey Eli. She makes a new friend, mistress to Eli's brother, who recommends greater independence. While His Only Wife is on its surface the story of Afi and Eli's marriage, at another level it's more concerned with Afi's development as an individual. Over time, in the big city and with more financial freedom, she will grow and learn more not only about her chosen career in fashion but about herself.

Medie gives Afi a voice that winningly combines insecurity, wisdom and dignity. Fashion and food contribute to a cultural backdrop. Accra is a cosmopolitan city, while Afi's life in Ho was marked by privation and the importance of social and filial hierarchies. The dramas of Afi's marriage and various family conflicts offer an entertaining plot rich with humor, but it is the story of the strong woman in a challenging and changing world that will capture readers' hearts. His Only Wife is a memorable novel of personal growth and choosing one's own destiny. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: In this winning debut, an arranged marriage exposes a young woman to unimagined riches and a tantalizing taste of freedom, with unexpected consequences.


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