Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Overlook Press: Bad Men by Julie Mae Cohen

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time Kaliane Bradley

Akaschic Books, Ltd: Go the Fuck to Sleep Series by Adam Mansbach, Illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta


GLIBA Annual Meeting: Rising to the Challenges of 2020

Despite "everything that 2020 has thrown at us," the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association has "grown as a region," executive director Larry Law said at yesterday's annual meeting and town hall. The association has added 11 members and now has a total of 154 member bookstores.

GLIBA executive director Larry Law

The year started with the spring retreat becoming a virtual event and the cancellation of the owners' retreat, which, ironically, had the theme "avoiding burnout." (The retreat, whose theme "couldn't be more appropriate this year," Law said, likely won't be held until 2022.)

After the pandemic started, GLIBA added weekly bookseller chats, biweekly rep chats and presentations by spring forum authors all spring. The association then reconsidered the Heartland Fall Forum, done with the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. Instead of putting all efforts into a "traditional, end-of-year, big fall three- or four-day event," the associations decided "to get into programming right away that would be beneficial to our stores." Thus, they created the Heartland Summer, with events held from June through October. The biweekly events included author appearances, rep picks and education, and the organization kept the programming open and adaptable, to reflect the pace of change during the year, particularly because of the pandemic and the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Heartland Summer included 23 events and drew more than 780 attendees; there were more than 2,100 views of the videos. "It was difficult but worthwhile," Law said, a judgment seconded by several board members, who also thanked Law profusely for "turning on a dime" and doing a great job.


With the meeting, four board members are leaving the board: president Susan Thomas of Coffeetree Books, Morehead, Ky.; past president Kate Schlademan of the Learned Owl, Hudson, Ohio; Nathan Montoya of Village Lights, Madison, Ind.; and Jeff Deutsch of Seminary Co-op Bookstore and 57th St. Books, Chicago, Ill.

New board members voted in were: Alison Turner of Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich.; Kathy Burnette of the Brain Lair Bookstore, South Bend, Ind.; Melia Wolf of Cover to Cover Children's Books, Columbus, Ohio; and Jenny Clines of Seminary Co-op Bookstore and 57th St. Books, Chicago, Ill.

The GLIBA board had changed the way the association handles board nominations in an effort to make it more open and easier: this year, online members were able to nominate themselves or others. --John Mutter

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

ABA's #BoxedOut: Ad Agency's 'Humor, Visuals, Boldness'; Allison Hill on the Rollout Strategy

At Cafe con Libros, Brooklyn, N.Y.

For a story called "How an Agency Cut Through 'Purpose Clutter' with Its Bookstore Campaign Trolling Amazon," Adweek did a q&a with Doug Cameron, chief strategy and creative officer, and Tommy Noonan, executive creative director, of DCX Growth Accelerator, the ad agency behind the American Booksellers Association's striking #BoxedOut campaign, launched last week. Some of our favorite parts of the q&a:

How did you approach the program with the ABA?
Cameron: "We thought about how omnipresent those Amazon boxes are--they're in the lobbies of your buildings, on your neighbor's porch. We wanted to say, 'Here's what's going on with small businesses and indie bookstores as a result of that box showing up on the doorstep.' We hope no one will ever look at those boxes the same way again."

There was a lightning-quick turnaround and a lot of multitasking?
Noonan: "We presented the final idea on Sept. 23 and got into production within a week and a half. We tried to get production companies on board, but the timeline was too fast. So we pulled it in-house and worked with some printers around the country."

Tommy, since your boots were on the ground for the stunt’s installation in New York, tell us what was happening.
Noonan: "I was at Greenlight Bookstore and Community Bookstore first thing this morning. [Then I was] filling up sand bags to hold down displays in front of Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn. And just in the time we'd been here, we must've seen at least 12 or 14 push carts full of Amazon boxes go past us. It's part of the landscape, so we're making note of that."

On the creative side, how did you find the right tone and decide where to draw the line?
Cameron: "Fans of bookstores are a savvy, intellectual group, and the client pushed us to go for it, with a bit of a wink and a tongue-in-cheek approach. What we've learned from things like Jesse's Deli [another DCX Growth Accelerator campaign] is that you need to speak from a populist voice within the subculture you're representing. And pay close attention to the humor and the visuals. Being bold was extremely important to the success of the project."
Noonan: "A few of our writers were reining themselves in, thinking the client would never buy into it. And that's what happens in advertising--the instinct is to edit yourself. But we kept telling them to tap into that Comic Book Guy [from The Simpsons] and use that voice."


Allison Hill at Winter Institute in January.

Yesterday, during the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association annual meeting (more on the meeting above), ABA CEO Allison Hill spoke at length about how the #BoxedOut campaign was rolled out. She called the campaign "so different from what we normally do," such as the "October Is the New November" campaign, when all ABA members learned about the campaign at the same time. (She was responding to comments that some Midwestern booksellers were unhappy about not being part of the first rollout and not knowing about it beforehand.)

With #BoxedOut, Hill continued, the ABA's intent was "to get national attention." The ABA's ad agency DCX Growth Accelerator and the partner PR person advised that to create "a national conversation," the rollout had to be done "in a very strategic way." Part of the strategy was "not to push out ahead of time with everyone having notice"--if some stores put up the material early and the media saw it, the media would consider it something that had already happened and would be less likely to report on it. "They needed it to be 'this just happened--overnight something happened.' "

Thus, the campaign began with six bookstores--in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Southern California--which "effectively became billboards," Hill continued. "From there, we could use that leverage to get the national media and subsequently get more local media to take interest.... Media likes media, and we've definitely seen that in action in the last week or so." The secondary tier consisted of 14 stores that could quickly put out the material.

After the AP story that was the first media mention of the campaign, the New York Times ran an article that had been largely written beforehand; it had not been planned to run because it was deemed more "background" than anything new. But the #BoxedOut campaign offered a hook and became the lead for the Times article.

The ad agency selected the six "seed" and secondary bookstores using many factors, including whether reporters lived in the stores' neighborhoods (all the more important during the pandemic), the market in general, and which media and reporters would be receptive to the topics, which "they considered to be Amazon, retail and a little bit of a covid-small business story."

Hill also emphasized that #BoxedOut is "a rolling campaign" and wasn't intended to be an Amazon Prime Day hit. "Amazon just happened to announce" that its postponed Prime Day would take place around the time of the #BoxedOut campaign launch, "so we hurried to put these two things together because it will make it more meaningful to the media," she noted.

#BoxedOut was also intended to be a social media campaign that would be easy for any store to participate in. "We found there's huge opportunity even if you just print the sign and have your booksellers hold it," she said.

Reporters are still calling to follow up on the story, Hill added, and the campaign is expected to continue into November.

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

Moon Palace Owners Win Midwest Bookseller of the Year Award

Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl, owners of Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, Minn., have won the Midwest Bookseller of the Year award, given by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association.

In a long citation that includes the store's history, MIBA wrote, in part: "Thanks to Angela and Jamie's dedication over the past eight years, Moon Palace is known for its expansive footprint--within its physical space and the hearts of the community. Moon Palace is radically welcoming, with a generosity of spirit that radiates throughout the community and the book industry at large. In a year no one could have predicted, Angela and Jamie responded to both the pandemic and the civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their community before their bottom line."

Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl with their daughter Roxie

Jessica Peterson White, owner of Content Books in Northfield, Minn., said, "Jamie and Angela have adapted their business to the pandemic and the heartbreaking destruction of the neighborhood with agility and care, setting a brilliant example of resilience and allyship for booksellers across the Midwest and the country."

Jason Gobble, Moon Palace's sales rep for Penguin Random House, said, "They promote the power of books to make the world a better place, and the world's a better place because of them."

During the unrest following the murder of George Floyd by local police, Moon Palace, which includes the restaurant Geek Love Café, was in the center of the tumult, only a few buildings from the police precinct that was burned.

"Jamie emerged as a staunch supporter of the demonstrators and a national voice for putting people before property," MIBA said. "He scrambled to stop the police from setting up a staging area next to the store and Geek Love Cafe turned out pizza for people in the streets. When customers offered to help pay, Jamie said to send donations to George Floyd's family.

"As quoted in the New York Times, Jamie shared a post to their social media asking people 'not to put themselves "at risk" to protect our store. Things that may be lost or damaged in our building are just things, but your life is priceless, just like George Floyd's life was priceless. Be safe.' "

MIBA concluded, "Moon Palace's story is ultimately one of perseverance, through three locations, a global pandemic, and civil unrest. The bright colors on their storefront, the adorable sloth mascot sitting on books and eating pizza--they tell you to keep calm and keep on reading. Their storefront untouched by fire or vandalism suggests there's hope to be had, that we will come together to embrace a new day free from racism."

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Amazon to Open Kan. Facilities; Indie Bookseller Responds

Amazon plans to open two fulfillment centers in Kansas next year. The million-square-foot facilties will be located at 9700 Leavenworth Road in Kansas City and 7130 North Broadway Avenue in Park City. A delivery station in Wichita is expected to launch later in 2020.

Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon's v-p of global customer fulfillment, said: "We're excited to continue our growth and investment across Kansas so we can better serve our customers throughout the state. We are grateful for the strong support we've received from local and state leaders, and we look forward to ingraining ourselves in the communities in which we serve."

Governor Laura Kelly noted that the state "has proven itself to be a first-rate destination for Amazon as they continue to expand operations and bring more than 1,000 new jobs to our great state. From Day One, my administration has prioritized rebuilding Kansas' foundation, and significant economic announcements like these prove that our state is on the right track. I want to thank our city partners, staff members and Amazon for making this possible."

In a Kansas Reflector op-ed headlined "27,000-plus reasons not to celebrate Amazon's new centers in Kansas," Danny Caine, owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence and author of How to Resist Amazon and Why, wrote: "Recently I saw news that Gov. Laura Kelly is 'celebrating' Amazon's plan to build two gigantic fulfillment centers in Kansas. As the owner of a Kansas retail small business... I do not join in the celebration.

"Kelly says Amazon's announcement 'sends a clear message to prospective companies--Kansas is open for business.' But Amazon represents a threat to the 27,000-plus retail small businesses already in Kansas (as of 2015, the most recent data I could find) and the 150,000-plus people who depend on them for their livelihood.... So before you celebrate Amazon bringing 1,000 jobs to Kansas, consider what those 1,000 jobs actually look like, and remember their effect on the 150,000 people who already have jobs at Kansas retail small businesses."

International Update: Wales, Ireland Under New Lockdowns

Bookshops are included among the "non-essential shops" in Wales and Ireland that must close temporarily under new Covid-19 lockdown orders announced earlier this week. The Bookseller reported that in Wales, the "firebreak" lockdown will be from October 23 until November 9, with people "advised to stay at home. Gatherings of more than one household both inside and outside will also be banned."

In Ireland, restrictions asking people to stay at home and non-essential shops to close go into effect at midnight tonight for six weeks, but will be reviewed after four. Northern Ireland imposed tighter restrictions last week, with hospitality venues closing but most shops allowed to remain open.

Tim Batcup of Welsh bookshop Cover to Cover in Swansea said: "Obviously this lockdown I saw coming a mile off but as it's only two weeks I'm not too stressed about it really. I think it's the right thing to do. I'll do what I did in lockdown which is basically hammer social media, hand deliver books, have a bit of fun online--I've almost got my stock online anyway--and then of course is coming on. So all the channels are open as it were. How the customers respond we'll see, but it is just two weeks. A lot of my business is customer orders for the next day but if I've got say it's going to be another week people will understand I think."

Chair of Bookselling Ireland Heidi Murphy observed: "The news, by the time it broke, was expected and has ended weeks of speculation and uncertainty. Our message to the book-lovers of Ireland is bookshops are open. We know how important book-reading was to people during the initial lockdown. We know that customers want to shop early and we know that people are shopping earlier than ever for Christmas. Bookshops will rise to the challenge and via phone, e-mail, website and social media will be taking orders for delivery or click and collect for their immediate area to continue to supply Ireland's book lovers."


"The rules, as we understand them," British bookseller Storysmith in Bristol tweeted, sharing a photo of the bookshop's coronavirus lockdown regulations sidewalk chalkboard message:

Tier 1: No more than 6 books can be read at one time.
Tier 2: Keep all books indoors and do not share.
Tier 3: Lock all doors. Surround yourself with books.


In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic's challenge to their businesses, independent bookstores in Malaysia "are holding on to their customers, thanks to loyal bibliophiles who prefer old school print on paper," new products and online sales, CNA reported.

Wong Ho Wa of Gerakbudaya in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, said that while the Movement Control Order affected the viability of many businesses, he had seen increased sales: "Through MCO, we are doing online methods of selling and our website has been doing a lot better than before."

Increased demand during MCO prompted Kedai Buku Jilid Melayu in Rawang, which had sold only Malay titles for more than 25 years, to begin offering English-language titles. "The bulk of our sales are usually during the release of new titles by our regular publishers and also of course before schools open," said manager Azlinda Ahmad Fauzi. "So we had to find something that works to ensure we are able to sustain at other times. We do not do English novels though. Only academic titles and self-help books and that kind of category in general.... To our pleasant surprise, those titles did really well too. As well as our Malay titles would during peak season."


The Wuguan Bookstore in Kaohsiung, Taiwan is "immersed in the darkness where lights only illuminate books, tables and other merchandise, leaving many foreigners bewildered," AsiaOne reported, noting that "the reasoning behind the pitch-black bookstore lies in the owner's goal of letting readers focus on the books and forget about their surroundings... the concept behind the store is for customers to remember their childhood, when there was a book that they just couldn't put down. If parents turned off the lights, most kids would duck under their bedsheets and shine a flashlight to continue reading. With this observation in mind, a similar 'ambiance' was replicated in the Wuguan Bookstore." --Robert Gray

How Bookstore Are Coping: Normalizing Online Sales; Get Through the Holidays

Brein Lopez, manager of Children's Book World in Los Angeles, Calif., reported that when California shut down at the end of March, the store had an IndieCommerce site in place and was in a good position to transition to shipping directly to customers through Ingram. After California began to allow some businesses to reopen in May, the store shifted to parking lot pick-up for both website and phone orders, with limited pick-up hours. At the same time, Lopez added, he and the team took over all shipping and distribution from Ingram.

By September the store started offering private in-store browsing appointments. One family unit is allowed in per 30-minute appointment slot (children under five are not permitted in-store), and the team takes 15-minute clean-up breaks between each appointment. There are acrylic screens installed at the registers, hand sanitizer stations throughout the store and things have been moved around to allow for maximum social distancing. Lopez noted that resuming operations gradually has been successful, and the team believes it has "kept us safe while we continue growing the business."

When asked about any bright spots during the last several months, Lopez answered that the biggest positive has been the successful expansion of CBW's online business. The store added those capabilities only in December 2019, and the team was still very much in the process of getting customers used to the idea when the pandemic hit. Now they've been selling books online to local customers as well as across the country, and they've handled sales with educators, librarians and various nonprofits. Selling signed books in conjunction with virtual school visits has been a particular success, and the store plans to "normalize" online sales going forward.

On the subject of ordering for the holiday season, Lopez said the team is continuing to promote pre-orders of the most popular titles and they feel confident they'll have the books customers want for the holidays. Another big focus of holiday promotions will be things like custom book bundles and book baskets, which come with a Folkmanis puppet and are perennial favorites. They've been letting customers know that shopping early will be beneficial, and people "seem to be responding to that idea." The team is also looking into expanding hours and visiting opportunities during the holidays, provided they can guarantee customer and staff safety.


In Brockport, N.Y., operations at Lift Bridge Book Shop are roughly "70% back to normal," said owner Sarah Bonczyk. Masks and hand sanitizer are required for browsing, and Bonczyk and her husband, co-owner John Bonczyk, are still offering curbside pick-up, free local delivery and shipping. Occupancy has not been a big issue, as the store "doesn't get crowds of people," and there have been only occasional instances of having to remind people to wear masks.

Bonczyk reported that in the last month or so, it seems as though people have "started to want to get back in the store." There is a core group of loyal customers who are still sticking with delivery, pick-up or shipping, but in general online sales are not as strong as they were during the shut-down. Bonczyk noted that prior to the pandemic, they'd never done free local delivery. They've enjoyed doing that and plan to keep that option. She and her husband have also enjoyed the convenience and flexibility of being able to text, e-mail or FaceTime customers for virtual handselling.

When it comes to preparing for the holidays, Bonczyk said that the store's buying budget this year is "abysmal." Customers and community members are making a point of supporting the store, but there haven't been any school orders, event sales or book festivals. In past years, she continued, the store has tried to have something for everyone. This year, however, they will "really try to work with what we have" by focusing on a narrower range of titles that they know will sell. In particular, the store has had a lot of success with the NAIBA holiday catalogue in the past and will focus on catalogue titles.

In February, prior to the pandemic, Bonczyk and her husband wrote a letter to customers describing the store's financial state and explaining that in a year's time, they may have to decide to close the store. That state has remained dire, though Bonczyk emphasized that it is not from a lack of support, as customers have really stepped up, especially in recent months. The store, however, is facing a variety of large-scale issues "out of our customers' control," including things like the narrow margins on book sales. "The goal is to get through the holidays and then really evaluate everything," Bonczyk said. --Alex Mutter


Bookshop Dog: Julius at Firestorm Books & Coffee

Firestorm Books & Coffee, Asheville, N.C., shared its "Collective Member Spotlight: Julius Caesar Salad! When they aren't inspecting packages or greeting customers at the door, Julius can be found brainstorming creative strategies for indie bookstores in the era of amazon prime. It's exhausting work, but this busy bean knows that if they want to avoid burnout, they have to take their rest seriously!--Esmé."

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins

Stefanie Lindner has joined HarperCollins as v-p of sales, general books, for the adult mass merch channel. She was formerly national account director at Abrams for the mass merch channel, adult and children's sales. Lindner started her publishing career with HarperCollins as a senior sales associate, working with the mass merch channel. During her time with HarperCollins, she also was national account manager for both Barnes & Noble and Borders. 

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sigrid Nunez on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Sigrid Nunez, author of What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead, $26, 9780593191415).

Dr. Oz: Matthew McConaughey, author of Greenlights (Crown, $30, 9780593139134).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Andrew Cuomo, author of American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic (Crown, $30, 9780593239261).

TV: The Flight Attendant

A trailer has been released for The Flight Attendant, based on Chris Bohjalian's novel. HBO Max will premiere the eight-episode limited series, starring and produced by Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory), November 26. Deadline reported that the project "is among shows whose production was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It resumed production in New York this fall after shutting down in March." The cast also includes Michiel Huisman, Rosie Perez, Zosia Mamet, Michelle Gomez, T.R. Knight, Colin Woodell, Merle Dandridge, Griffin Matthews and Nolan Gerard Funk.

Books & Authors

Awards: Cundill History, Irish Book Finalists

Finalists for the 2020 Cundill History Prize, which is administered by McGill University and "awarded annually to the book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal," are: Vincent Brown for Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), William Dalrymple for The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company (Bloomsbury) and Camilla Townsend for Fifth Sun: A History of the Aztecs (Oxford University Press USA).

The three historians will be awarded $10,000 each. The grand prize, which raises the reward to $75,000 for the winning author, will be announced December 3 during an online event.


Finalists have been named in 16 categories for the An Post Irish Book Awards, which "celebrate and promote Irish writing to the widest range of readers possible" and "recognize the very best of Irish writing talent." Given the constraints of Covid-19, two key events will be staged virtually. The awards ceremony will take place November 25, followed by a TV program December 10 on RTÉ One, focusing on the top overall category winners and culminating in one of the titles being named An Post Irish Book of the Year 2020.

Shortlisted for the Eason Novel of the Year are Actress by Anne Enright, The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes, Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan, As You Were by Elaine Feeney, The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. Check out the complete Irish Book Awards shortlists here.

Reading with... Lecrae

photo: Alex Harper

Christian hip hop recording artist Lecrae is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, thought leader, philanthropist and co-owner/president of Reach Records. Lecrae's albums have sold more than three million copies and been nominated for five Grammy Awards, including a win for Best Gospel Album for Gravity. In addition to his new book, I Am Restored: How I Lost My Religion but Found My Faith (Zondervan, October 13, 2020), Lecrae released a new album, Restoration, which features John Legend, Kirk Franklin, YK Osiris, Jozzy, Dani Leigh, Marc E. Bassy, BJ The Chicago Kid and more. Lecrae lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and three children.

On your nightstand now: 

The Peebles Principles: Tales and Tactics from an Entrepreneur's Life of Winning Deals, Succeeding in Business, and Creating a Fortune by R. Donahue Peebles is on my nightstand right now. Peebles is a Black real estate investor and I'm just starting to build my real estate portfolio. As I learn more about being a Black investor and entrepreneur, there are lessons to learn from his success and even from his failed investments.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite book when I was a child is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I think what captured me about that book was all its simple imagery and vivid pictures. 

Your top five authors:

My top 5 authors are Tom Skinner, Malcolm Gladwell, Carter G. Woodson, Curt Thompson, M.D., and Timothy J. Keller.

Book you've faked reading:

The book I've faked reading is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I've never really read the book entirely, but I've watched all the videos, read the CliffsNotes on it. I still haven't gotten around to reading the series of books, but I feel like I've read them.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson is a book that I feel is important for all people, especially for Black people, to read. I feel like it helps Black people understand who they are in society and gives white people a greater understanding of the perils that Black people have to navigate through. 

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald has such a striking cover, but I think what really interested me was the title. I bought it during a time when I was disenfranchised by the evangelicals and was curious about what the author had to say about them.

Book you hid from your parents:

Funny thing is the books I hid were comic books. Even comic books for kids are pretty graphic, so you can just imagine the ones for adults. So, I figured hiding them was a good way to preserve my collection. 

Book that changed your life:

The Bible! It was like a letter from the father you'd never met that you finally got to read. Reading the Bible has changed my life!

Favorite line from a book:

My favorite line from a book comes from Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. In the book, he says, "Love is not like other resources. There is infinite supply. As a matter of fact, the more it's used the more the supply increases." 

Five books you'll never part with:

The Bible, Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Timothy Keller, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.

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

Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked by Gene Thornton (aka Malice of the Clipse) was my first audiobook, and it's an adventure that I'd go on again. 

Book Review

YA Review: Ensnared in the Wolf's Lair

Ensnared in the Wolf's Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge by Ann Bausum (National Geographic Kids, $19.99 hardcover, 144p., ages 12-up, 9781426338540, January 12, 2021)

Following a failed coup and assassination attempt, Adolf Hitler exacted sweeping revenge against participants and their families, detailed in the skillful Ann Bausum's engrossing Ensnared in the Wolf's Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Relentless Revenge.

Charting Hitler's rise to power and subsequent resistance by notable German dissidents, Bausum frames a failed attack on Hitler at his isolated military outpost, the Wolf's Lair. Trusted associates and community leaders, some connected by blood and others by shared disgust with Nazi leadership, banded together against the regime to mount an assault code-named Operation Valkyrie. Despite missed opportunities and unavoidable delays that stymied the assassins, when Valkyrie deployed on July 20, 1944, it was only a series of coincidences that saved Hitler's life.

The vast reach of Valkyrie fueled Hitler's mounting paranoia. His policy of Sippenhaft--or "family punishment"--implicated relatives in anti-Nazi conspiracies and demonstrated Hitler's merciless commitment to retaining political control. Within weeks, the investigators held some 700 extended family members (teenaged to elderly)--of the suspected disloyals, guilty by association but often with no understanding of their ties to the attempted uprising.

Meanwhile, with parents detained, Gestapo agents seized detractors' youngest children, holding them in a secluded rural facility and giving them scant information, much of it lies. Through strong primary resources, emphasizing four detainees who offered her their first-person accounts, Bausum recounts heartbreaking months of isolation and anxiety: these children were stripped of family connections, berated and silenced, earning their nickname "the ghost children." Bausum evocatively laments, "The uncertainty swirled and festered in endless mental loops, depriving the children of their sense of security." As Germany neared surrender, Bausum traces the children's flagging morale, eventual family reunions and the damaging, lasting impact of Sippenhaft confinement.

Bausum's writing is uncomplicated and respectfully frames the ghost children's shared experience of trauma for an older middle-grade audience. Supporting photographs on almost every spread humanize the Valkyrie players, and rich primary resources notably feature journal entries from Christa von Hofacker, who kept a diary while detained as a 12-year-old. Extensive backmatter includes a full listing of families ensnared by Sippenhaft, author's note, bibliography and much more.

As with her previous work, Bausum (The March Against Fear; Viral: The Fight Against AIDS in America) excels in tackling thorny issues with frankness and approachability. This gripping insight into German dissidence and Valkyrie should fascinate and inform history enthusiasts and modern upstanders alike. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: Hitler quelled German resistance with family punishments that included young children, several of whom recount their detainment during World War II.

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