Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 2, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly


Reed 'Retiring' BookExpo & BookCon

The final in-person BookExpo, at the Javits Center in 2019.

Show organizer ReedPop is "retiring" BookExpo, BookCon and Unbound, effective immediately, the company announced today. It said, in part, "With continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time, the team has concluded that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community's needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events that will reach larger audiences than they ever could before. The ReedPop team is actively engaging in conversations with publishers, booksellers, and other partners, and with their feedback and ideas they will together agree how to best rebuild the events in the future."

Event director Jennifer Martin added: "While we missed not seeing old friends and colleagues in person this year, we believe that canceling our in-person BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound 2020 events was the correct decision to make. BookExpo Online and BookConline brought us together virtually to celebrate our love of books and remind us that there are other, new ways to gather to support the stories and community we hold dear. The pandemic arrived at a time in the life cycle of BookExpo and BookCon where we were already examining the restructure of our events to best meet our community's needs. This has led us to make the difficult decision to retire the events in their current formats, as we take the necessary time to evaluate the best way to move forward and rebuild our events that will better serve the industry and reach more people than we were able to before. We remain committed to serving the book community and look forward to sharing more information in the future."

The move was not a full surprise to most in the industry since, as ReedPop suggested, the show has been under some stress before the pandemic: although it was once the biggest trade book convention in North America and the place where upcoming books and authors were introduced to booksellers, it has declined in size, attendance and importance in the past few decades. In an era of rapid technological and market changes, the show seemed to lose much of its rationale. For many years, it was the American Booksellers Association's annual convention, when bricks-and-mortar bookstores were a huge part of the book retail market and the show was one of the most effective ways for publishers to reach booksellers. But obviously the Internet has made sales and marketing communication easier year-round, and traditional booksellers are a smaller segment of the market. Also, fewer booksellers attended in recent years because of the higher cost of traveling to New York City, where BookExpo is usually held, and because of the popularity of ABA's Winter Institute, now the biggest event for indies. BookExpo has put a lot of effort into trying to reinvent itself, making it easier for booksellers to attend, promoting rights activities and highlighting non-book products for booksellers, and it may yet find a formula that can appeal to enough people in the industry to re-launch as BookExpo or under a new name.

"The retirement of BookExpo feels like the end of an era," ABA CEO Allison Hill told the AP. Still, she said, the need for booksellers to meet remains strong. "ABA is exploring new ways to bring booksellers, publishers, and authors together in the future. For now, we'll keep bringing everyone together virtually."

One effect of the changes announced yesterday by ReedPop is that with no BookExpo, the ABA's annual meeting will no longer be held at BookExpo and the association will no longer be an official sponsor, which had involved revenues from ReedPop. (The Association of American Publishers has also been an official sponsor.)

BookExpo began in 1947 as the ABA Convention and Trade Show, and for many years was held regularly in Washington, D.C., in the basement of the Shoreham Hotel. It eventually outgrew that venue and then traveled around the country, in part to attract booksellers in different regions, being held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas and other cities. For a time, it took place regularly in Chicago at McCormick Place, while in this century the show has been held almost exclusively in New York City at the Javits Center. In the early '90s, the ABA sold half of the show to Reed Exhibitions, then sold the other half in 1994. Reed renamed the event BookExpo America then, effective with the 2017 show, changed the name to BookExpo. This year, BookExpo and BookCon were originally postponed from their original dates of May 27-31 to July 22-26, but then, of course, were cancelled in favor of virtual editions. BookExpo Online and BookConline were held in May during the original dates for the shows.

The "retiring" of BookCon was a surprise. The consumer-facing show that has followed BookExpo since 2014 has been very popular, with crowds that were like those at ABA shows in their heyday.

Although BookExpo had obvious difficulties in recent years, for many in the industry, it's been one of the highlights of the year, when many people see each other in person (finally) and catch up with old friends and have the kind of serendipitous meetings and introductions that can lead to all kinds of new business and lifelong friendships.

Good luck, ReedPop, in reinventing the show!

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace

Mondragon Books Opens in New Location

Mondragon Books in Lewisburg, Pa., has reopened after moving three blocks to a new location, the Daily Item reported. The bookstore is still on Market Street in downtown Lewisburg, but now shares a storefront with art gallery Open Door Gallery.

Owner Sarajane Snyder closed the store down in August and completed the move in late October. Snyder told the Daily Item that she saw an immediate uptick in foot traffic after reopening, and that pairing art and books felt like a natural fit.

Snyder explained that her store's previous location was outside of the main "shopping and walking" district in downtown Lewisburg, which she noted is very tightly concentrated. At the old location, only very committed customers would walk all the way over there. People looking for the bookstore would find it, but few shoppers would discover it while simply walking by.

"It's the better location, a better space," Snyder added.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

International Update: British Booksellers on Government's 'New Flexibility', French Bookshops Reopen

British communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the government will allow store opening hours to become "a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council," enabling stores to open for up to 24 hours a day in the run-up to Christmas and in January, the Bookseller reported, adding that for booksellers, "there are conflicting signals about how many will be taking advantage."

Phil Henderson, Blackwell's sales and marketing director, said: "We've seen customer shopping habits change this year, and they will continue to evolve, so we welcome the flexibility offered to allow us to manage what we hope will be significant volume of customers through our shops."

A spokesperson for Waterstones said its focus was on the safe reopening of its Irish and English stores this week: "Opening hours will vary depending on the shop's local market but we currently have no plans for any of our bookshops to open for 24 hours."

Packing orders at Sevenoaks Bookshop

Smaller shops in England and Wales can open on any day or time they prefer, but several indies told the Bookseller they were not sure there would be customer demand for late-night shopping.

"The thing is we are quite stretched as it is in terms of staffing," said Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop. "Although I can see the advantages, perhaps for those in city centers, we have been working our socks off all through lockdown to keep everything going.... We need to look after our mental and physical health. We'll be keeping to normal opening hours so we all can survive until Christmas--it's been a long year!"

Sheryl Shurville, owner of Chorleywood Bookshop, called it "a hollow gesture" and "so impractical" on the part of government. "Who is going to be shopping in the middle of the night? And who is going to want to staff the shops in the middle of the night?"

Noting that the government's easing of regulations would not make "a blind bit of difference" for his store, Nic Bottomley of Mr. B's Emporium in Bath said: "We are reopening the shop floor on Wednesday. We are busier than ever online. It will just be a question of managing [the flow of customers]; we simply won't be able to accommodate the amount of people we usually would fit in. There's going to be a lot of queue management." 

Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls observed: "It makes sense to spread customers out as widely as possible, to keep retail a safe and responsible space, and extended opening hours will allow consumers to spread their shopping times. We are concerned for the well-being of our members though, as booksellers are exhausted from the pressures of the Covid crisis, and we are urging booksellers to take care of their own health and well-being as they enter the Christmas frenzy, and not burn out from overwork."


Bookshops in France are emerging from their second nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which was imposed last month. "Deemed non-essential then--to the dismay of many--bookshops and other small stores have now reopened for business," France24 reported. "Desperate for a boost after a trying month and a difficult year, French booksellers are raising their iron curtains at just the right time, with the Christmas shopping season afoot and the Prix Goncourt awarded on Monday."

"I'm very happy," said a customer at Librairie La Belle Lurette in central Paris. "I wasn't bothered about the clothes shops reopening, but anything book-related: Yes!"


Guadalajara, Mexico, was named World Book Capital for the year 2022 by UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay. A UNESCO Creative City since 2017, Guadalajara was selected for its comprehensive plan for policies around the book to trigger social change, combat violence and build a culture of peace. The year of celebrations will begin on World Book and Copyright Day April 23, 2022.

Guadalajara's proposed program focuses on three strategic axes: regaining public spaces through reading activities in parks and other accessible places; social bonding and cohesion especially though reading and writing workshops for children; and strengthening of neighborhood identity using intergenerational connections, storytelling and street poetry. Activities will include literary events in collaboration with Latin-American writers, an artistic project on the Tower of Babel, events linking theatre and music to literature and the use of local radio for poetry readings. --Robert Gray

How Bookstores Are Coping: Reopening for the Holidays; Success with Virtual Events

In Iowa City, Iowa, Prairie Lights opened for limited in-store shopping this past Saturday. Owner Jan Weissmiller reported that the store is now open by appointment only in the mornings. From noon until 6 p.m. the store is open to walk-ins, but no more than 12 people are allowed in at a time. All customers and employees are required to wear masks, and there are plastic screens at the cash registers and information desks. 

Weissmiller noted that since the store is 10,000 square feet, she and her team feel comfortable with that level of occupancy, and the store will likely continue operating this way through Christmas. Iowa remains one of the "very worst" states in the country when it comes to Covid cases, but Weissmiller pointed out that Dr. Fauci and others have said that with masks and social distancing requirements, "businesses throughout the nation should feel that they can operate safely."

On Saturday, she continued, there were lines outside of the store for most of the day, and sales were on par with past Small Business Saturdays. Online orders have been "incredible," and the store is continuing to do curbside pick-up and free local delivery. Many customers, she added, still prefer to shop that way.

So far, Weissmiller said, she and her team feel they've been "very lucky" with stock given the predictions for the season. They ordered heavy quantities of the books they expected to do well, and "so far so good" on that front. The store did run out of Shuggie Bain and Interior Chinatown when the awards were announced, but those titles are shipping again and Weismiller expects to have both back in stock this week.

Prairie Lights is also starting to run low on Library of America's African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, and she's hopeful that the store will get that back in again soon. The team is also keeping an eye on A Wealth of Pigeons.

When asked about any bright spots over the past several months, Weissmiller answered that "other than the election," the bright spot has been the store's customers. They've been "so dedicated and caring," and it's been a pleasure to hear from so many people who no longer live in Iowa City but are thinking of the store now. There has also been an outpouring of support for indie bookstores in general, and it is a "hopeful moment in that sense."

And although virtual events are "not at all the same" as in-person events, the store has hosted some "seriously good" events with writers like Marilynne Robinson and John Grisham. There was also an online event that featured a large group of poets reading from the work of Marvin Bell, the recording of which has been viewed more than 1,800 times.


Georgia Court, owner of Bookstore 1 Sarasota in Sarasota, Fla., reported that her store reopened for browsing in mid-September, though she and her team are still offering curbside pick-up. 

On the subject of holiday buying, Court said she did almost no additional holiday buying other than some sidelines like boxed holiday cards. Instead, the bookstore will be promoting items that are already in stock. She started getting the early shopping message out in October, and puzzles, she noted, have been very popular throughout the pandemic.

Georgia Court

The store started doing Zoom events during the pandemic, which Court said she likes, as the store has been able to host authors who normally might not be able to visit Sarasota. She's also invited other indie bookstores to participate for several events, and those have worked well; Court hopes to continue doing those sorts of events even after the pandemic. She and her team also decided to shorten the store's hours, and they plan to keep it that way.

She added that prior to the pandemic, the store began collaborating with a local Spanish-only theater, doing Spanish-language book clubs for adults in the store. During the pandemic, this has grown with the use of Zoom, and they've added two Spanish book clubs for children as well, which are "flourishing." --Alex Mutter

Binc Update: End of Year Campaign; COVID Chronicles Anthology

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has kicked-off its year-end fundraising campaign, with Ingram Content Group matching contributions up to $15,000. So far the campaign has raised just over $14,000 out of a goal of $40,000.

For the first time, Binc has also put together a holiday gift guide featuring products that benefit Binc. There is Binc-branded merchandise, including a limited edition T-shirt designed by illustrator Henry Sene Yee, and many items from indie bookstores around the country.

And through December 11, shoppers can help support comic retailers through the Give Comics Hope Jesse James Comics/Comic Book Shopping Network auction, which is being hosted by eBay.


In February, Penn State University Press's new graphic novel imprint Graphic Mundi will publish its inaugural title, COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology. The anthology collects more than 60 short comics from a variety of artists and creators, and a portion of the proceeds from its sales will go to Binc.

Kendra Boileau, publisher of Graphic Mundi and PSU Press assistant director and editor-in-chief, and Rich Johnson, founder of Brick Road Media, edited the anthology.

"The generosity of Penn State University Press is greatly appreciated," said Pam French, Binc's executive director. "As we move into 2021, we anticipate the level of need among booksellers and comic store staff will continue to be extraordinary. We thank PSU Press for helping booksellers and comics retailers who are experiencing emergencies that place them in difficult situations."


Bookish Christmas Tree: Bear Pond Books

Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., shared a photo of the shop's seasonally appropriate and bestselling decoration: "We made a Christmas tree out of A Promised Land for our Christmas window. Turned out great!"

Holiday Display Window: Barbara's Bookstore

The Barbara's Bookstore location in Vernon Hills, Ill., shared a photo of its holiday display on Twitter, noting: "Come and see the beautiful window at our Hawthorn Mall bookstore! Yes, we know Santa!!! There's an Elf skyscraper city here, too. Stop by or call ahead for your books and take advantage of our curbside pickup."

Chalkboard: Wheatberry Books

"Making Bookshelves Bright Since 2017" was the latest chalkboard message from Wheatberry Books, Chillicothe, Ohio, which posted on Facebook yesterday: "Today is our 3rd birthday! We are celebrating by giving back in a way that matters deeply to us. 15% of today’s sales (online and in-store) will be donated to the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library, a partner of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Eric Dyson on Today Show

Today Show: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250276759).

TV: Diary of a Sentimental Killer

Diary of a Sentimental Killer, a short novel by the late Chilean author Luis Sepulveda, is being developed into a TV series that will be sold by Latin America's EO Media Distribution (Narcos, El Presidente). Variety reported that BlackBox Multimedia, EO Media and Italy's Leader Produzioni have teamed up to adapt the book as a limited series primarily in Spanish.

The main character, an unnamed assassin, "is struggling through change; he's struggling to adapt, he's struggling because he's in love," said EO Media CEO Ezequiel Olzanski. "We are going to fall in love with a guy who is actually a killer," in a narrative that will "bring back the classicism of early James Bond and Humphrey Bogart, but within a modern world where rules have changed."

Giuliano Papadia, CEO of BlackBox Multimedia, noted that Sepulveda's unusual voice in this material has the makings of "a global, high-end television classic which will build a bridge between Europe and Latin America."

Books & Authors

Awards: Prix Goncourt, FT/McKinsey Business Book Winners

Hervé Le Tellier has won the 2020 Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious French book award, for his novel L'anomalie (The Anomaly), which "is set in 2021 on a flight between Paris and New York. The novel is narrated by 11 different passengers on the flight, including a part-time hit man and a Nigerian pop star," the Guardian reported.

Le Monde described the book as a page-turner that "flirts with being a thriller and science fiction" and keeps readers guessing with a "very efficient orchestration of suspense." While Le Tellier gets only €10 (about $12) for winning the Goncourt, the prize "guarantees renown and massive book sales. Previous winners... have seen novels rack up sales of 400,000 copies," the Guardian wrote.

The Anomaly's English translation will be published by Other Press in fall 2021. Publisher Judith Gurewich noted: "Hervé Le Tellier has been with Other Press for many years, and all his books share a love of humor, counterintuitive insights, and a style as crisp and luminous as a full moon on a beautiful night."


No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram (S&S) by Sarah Frier won the £30,000 (about $39,715) Financial Times/McKinsey & Company Business Book of the Year Award, which recognizes a work that provides the "most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues." Each of the five runners-up receives £10,000 ($13,240).

Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times and chair of the panel of judges, said, "No Filter is a topical and well-reported account of the rise of Instagram and its takeover by Facebook. But it also tackles two vital issues of our age: how Big Tech treats smaller rivals and how social media companies are shaping the lives of a new generation."

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner, McKinsey & Company, commented: "Sarah Frier has written a compelling saga about how this start-up phenomenon deeply embedded itself into the global cultural Zeitgeist of this digital era, in just one decade after its creation."

In addition, Stephen Boyle was named winner of the £15,000 (about $19,860) Bracken Bower Prize, which is designed to encourage young authors to tackle emerging business themes in a proposal for a book that is not yet published. He won for his book proposal, New Money, "about how central bank digital currencies could transform the economy--and why you might not want them to."

Reading with... Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley


Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley are the co-creators of the online project Call Me Ishmael. Kent is a writer, media producer and amateur boxer. Smalley is an award-winning filmmaker and the founding director of TED-Ed. They live in New York City with their rescue dog, Matilda, and co-authored The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book: An Interactive Guide to Life-changing Books (Avid Reader Press, October 13, 2020). They agree on many things, but which books to read is not one of those things.

On your nightstand now:

Kent: New York by Edward Rutherfurd. It's a beast of a thing, an 800-plus-page novel about the history of my beloved New York City. I first picked it up at the beginning of the pandemic because these long, lonely quarantine days seemed like a great time to tackle a longer book. Sadly, it's been slow going, because my ability to be awake after 9:30 p.m. leaves something to be desired, and I only get through a few pages each night before I fall asleep.

Smalley: My nightstand is normally reserved for a stack of fiction books. Nothing is normal these days, though. The only book on my nightstand is very nonfiction, and it's called The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack. Yes, it's about the way(s) the universe will end. No, it's not depressing. Yes, I'm obsessed with it. No, I'm not obsessed with death. In such wild times, it has been really rewarding to be reminded by such a capable communicator as Dr. Mack that we are part of the biggest and oldest and youngest thing that ever was and ever will be.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Kent: Lately I've been thinking about Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss. The cover looks like a composition notebook and is full of diary entries by a fictional preteen girl. I loved it then, but have been reflecting on it this month as our Phone Book is released, because Amelia's Notebook was probably one of the first books I ever picked up that had such a playful format. I was inspired.

Smalley: I hereby summon the crowd wisdom of Shelf Awareness readers to please, please, please help me re-learn the title of a book that I coveted as a child. The memories are fuzzy, and I don't have much information to provide, but here goes: It was a children's book, taller and wider than an average children's book, and in the middle of its otherwise emerald green cover bloomed a hand-painted tableau of a young warrior climbing a mountain to fight (or befriend) a beautiful but fierce dragon. The cover also contained lots and lots of clouds. That's all I have in terms of identifying features. The entire book was full of gloriously illustrated myths, legends and fables about dragons, and I'd be very grateful to anyone who helps me find this book.

Your top five authors:

Kent: At this moment in time, in no particular order: Ocean Vuong, Brit Bennett, Jaed Coffin, Greg Hrbek, Samantha Hunt.

Smalley: Also at this moment in time, and also in no particular order: Stephanie Kent, Stephanie Kent, Stephanie Kent, Stephanie Kent, Stephanie Kent.

Book you've faked reading:

Kent: Most of the Jane Austen ones. I'm sorry and ashamed.

Smalley: I've been in many heated arguments with friends and foes about various aspects of Lord of the Rings. Who hasn't, right? At great risk, I admit here and now that I have sometimes, but not all the time, and only in pursuit of ending (or winning) an argument.... I have not less than once lied and told people I read The Silmarillion cover to cover. I own the book. I have started the book so many times. I have not read past page 20.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Kent: I am personally responsible for at least 10 people purchasing The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Just mentioning the title gives me chills. It caused one of the best cries. Of. My. Life.

Smalley: I'm proud to have preached Cixin Liu's The Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy many years before Netflix thought it was cool.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Kent: Last year, I was walking around the Brooklyn Book Festival and spotted a big children's book with this gorgeous orange cover and an illustration of a little girl with boxing gloves. It was Feather by Rémi Courgeon, and I bought it and I've read it many times and it always brings me joy.

Smalley: Touching back to an earlier answer, I probably would have eventually bought Dr. Katie Mack's The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), but it became a "must have this immediately" situation when I viewed a tweet in which Dr. Mack demonstrated how the optical illusion on her book's cover is enhanced when it interacts with light. As you may note with the cover of The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book, I'm a sucker for covers that contain interactive secrets.

Book you hid from your parents:

Kent: My parents were wonderfully cool about books. I don't remember ever being told I couldn't read a book I picked out. I read Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks when I was 10 or 11, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers around 13, and spent a lot of time in the "Divorce" section of the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble when I was 15 and dumped.

Smalley: My dad had a solid collection of old books that he salvaged from his childhood. He stored them inside a relatively tall bookcase, and though he didn't lock the glass doors that served to protect the most important books on the shelf, he did lecture me that I wasn't old enough to read that collection yet, and that it was important keep them good condition so that they might be worth lots of money one day. I pillaged the entire shelf, one book at a time, and he was none the wiser.

Book that changed your life:

Kent: I've just read Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and it has acutely sharpened my rage against those who don't protect and respect our natural world.

Smalley: In my senior year of high school, I was at a high risk of permanently losing interest in reading. Thankfully, shortly before graduating, I picked up Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and re-experienced how awesome reading can be.

Favorite line from a book:

We'll join forces for this one. We love this line from The Watchmen by Alan Moore so much that we included it in our wedding ceremony:

"Come... Dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg. The clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes... and let's go home."

Five books you'll never part with:

Kent: My old, beat-up, overly highlighted copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgereald from when I read it in high school. The illustrated edition of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott from my mom. Bruce Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run, which I read with my dad. My signed copy of What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada. My copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that was given to me with romantic intentions.

Smalley: I know citing the Lord of the Rings trilogy risks sounding trite, especially referencing it twice in one questionnaire, but you must understand that I read all three books while traveling with a newly formed soccer team (all strangers) on an international trip without my parents at age 11. I was extremely lonely and homesick, except for when I was reading and helping Frodo and Sam reach Mount Doom. Two left: The Silmarillion. Just kidding. The copy of Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse that my mom gave me, and an especially marked-up copy of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary that Steph and I share.

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

Kent: Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. I was dizzied by how wonderful it was to read that book, and I've not read it since for fear the experience won't be exactly as intoxicating and all-consuming as the first time.

Smalley: This is an easy one for me. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. "But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul." I try to re-read Frankenstein every year, but I would give an arm and a leg to re-experience reading it for the first time.

Favorite opening line in literature:

"Call me Ishmael." 

Book Review

Children's Review: Where Wonder Grows

Where Wonder Grows by Xelena González, illus. by Adriana M. Garcia (Cinco Puntos Press, $17.95 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781947627468, February 16, 2021)

In Where Wonder Grows, nature rocks--literally. Xelena González and Adriana M. Garcia, the team behind the Pura Belpré Illustration Honoree All Around Us, here introduce readers to the wonder and healing power of the natural world and the importance of sharing in cultural traditions.

"When grandma walks to her special garden, we know to follow." The narrator and her two sisters gather stones from around the garden and sit with their grandmother to learn. The girls are told in school that "rocks are things" but, as they collect an array of crystals, stones and "relics from nature," the sisters and grandmother acknowledge that "they are beings" and "are alive with wisdom." González's easy, poetic pace feels like a meditation, inviting readers to ponder the interaction between people and the earth: the rocks and crystals "were here long before us and know more about our world than we ever will."

Where Wonder Grows is not just a story about pretty stones; it's about generational knowledge. Grandma tells the girls that in the sweat lodge, the stones "help send songs and prayers through the air, to our ancestors./ They have survived fire, and so they give us strength." The narrator and her sisters are excited, anticipating the day when they're old enough to participate in the prayers of the sweat lodge. "When we're old enough to enter... we'll know exactly what she means," the narrator observes of her grandmother. González's text conveys a sense of marvel, for instance at the impact nature has on itself: "water makes and breaks even the biggest rocks, very slowly, over time." This is also a lesson to humans: "When life feels too hard, just remember to go with the... flow." These subtle contemplations are a lesson in patience and thoughtful spiritual engagement, no matter the reader's background.

Garcia's illustrations have a dream-like quality that pairs beautifully with González's spiritual yet grounded narration. The fully saturated colors and curving lines reinforce the awe of "the colors of crystals and the glow of grandma's stories." Garcia's vividly colored stones have a magical quality; white lines emanating from the crystals are bright bursts of suns, oceans and the movement of stars. This visual meshing of the tangible and intangible creates a seamless connection between the poetry of the text and the art. As the story progresses, the day passes, and warm daylight tones give way to cooler night-time shades that make it feel like readers have completed the journey of knowledge with the narrator and her family.

An author's note at the end gives facts about rocks and encourages further reader participation with questions like, "What do you gather in your nature collections?" and "Do you name any of your rock friends?" --Zoraida Córdova, author and freelance book reviewer

Shelf Talker: In this dynamic picture book, a grandmother teaches a trio of granddaughters about their spiritual connection to the earth.

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