Also published on this date: Wednesday, January 6, 2021: YA Maximum Shelf: Tokyo Ever After

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Quotation of the Day

'Inspired by the Support & Grit I See on a Daily Basis'

"Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic and lockdown conditions, I wrote in this paper that in the face of statewide inaction it was 'up to us--the small businesses, the nonprofits, the individuals--to do what’s right and hope for some aggregate impact. A mosaic of common sense'....

"As we head into 2021, it will be difficult not to look back on the past year with disdain and some level of post-traumatic stress. That will be far worse for those who have lost loved ones in this endless season of sickness. But in my little corner of the world (we all have one), I have been constantly inspired by the support and grit I see on a daily basis. I often romanticize the past and imagine an era of FDR-style cooperation and big ideas. Too many Jon Meacham books and Ken Burns documentaries perhaps. But almost always, when I’m lamenting the downfall of society, the actions of an individual picks me up off the ground and dusts me off. And that’s the cycle. Oklahoma frustrates me to no end, but Oklahomans never let me down. Ditto America."

--Jeff Martin, president and cofounder of Magic City Books and the Tulsa Literary Coalition, in an op-ed for Tulsa World

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan


Barrio Books Opens in Tucson, Ariz.

Barrio Books, a bilingual independent bookstore with titles in English and Spanish, has opened in a space inside Hotel McCoy in Tucson, Ariz., KGUN9 reported.

For the past two years, Barrio Books has been a pop-up shop, with owner Syrena Arevalo-Trujillo selling books all around Tucson. Hotel McCoy, which has invited select small businesses to turn one of their hotel rooms into a store, asked Arevalo-Trujillo to open Barrio Books in its space. The space is rent-free, and Barrio Books is the first of these hotel shops to open. All of the titles in Barrio Books's inventory highlight Hispanic culture in some way.

"My inspiration is all the people that want to escape the pandemic," Arevalo-Trujillo told KGUN9. "I want them to escape into books."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Red Jacket Books Coming Soon to Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

Red Jacket Books, an independent bookstore that began as an online store last July, will open a bricks-and-mortar location this spring in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., the Southampton Press reported.

Owner Ben Vengroff plans to stock some 2,500 titles when Red Jacket Books opens. He began selling curated book collections through his online store, and will continue to do so, and will also carry a wide array of titles in multiple genres. Eventually, he hopes to turn Red Jacket Books into a community meeting place, with book clubs, writing groups, readings and other events. He told the newspaper that he'd also like to publish quarterly collections of short stories by local writers.

Vengroff, whose background is in IT, visited Westhampton Beach frequently after his parents moved there. One of his favorite things to do in town was visit Books & Books on Main Street, and after that store closed in 2016, he felt there was a void in the community. When many of his family members moved to Florida in 2020, Vengroff decided to stay in New York and fulfill his dream of opening a bookstore in Westhampton Beach. 

"I'm excited to be a part of this village," Vengroff told SP. Community members and business owners have all been supportive, and "people have left messages on my website saying how excited they are to have a bookstore coming."

International Update: Waterstones, BA React to New U.K. Lockdown

As England moved to a national lockdown to combat a spike in Covid-19 cases, Waterstones announced it is temporarily closing stores, furloughing staff and no longer offering click-and-collect service, the Bookseller reported.

"In the circumstance of a lockdown in which people should not be leaving their home other than to 'go to an essential retailer,' and we are deemed not to be essential, click and collect becomes something that simply doesn't work," said Waterstones managing director James Daunt. "Effectively we're closed. Waterstones of course is lucky enough to have a big and successful online operation and will keep sales flowing but we are at heart a physical bookseller and we want to get back into our shops so it's intensely frustrating.

"On top of which one has the curiosity of so many shops being open and deemed essential, including WH Smith in our own sector, and many other people who sell books. So we sit here and we obviously support the principles of what the government is trying to achieve while clearly falling into the losers as far as the overall impact goes from a financial perspective."

Referring to a government loan initiative for closed businesses, Daunt said the £9,000 (about $12,170) available for indies was "probably not going to be enough to keep an awful lot of people going." He added that support for independent booksellers should include "a rates holiday extension beyond April and a moratorium on landlords taking action against their tenants," the Bookseller wrote.


The Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland issued a warning that the new restrictions in England, as well as lockdowns in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, could have a "severe" impact on already struggling indie bookshops, the Bookseller reported. 

BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "Booksellers understand entirely the challenges to public health represented by Covid, and have a keenly-felt duty of care for their staff and their customers--as well as themselves--so they are supportive of all measures to curb the spread of the new variant of coronavirus. However, the economic impact on retail and livelihoods of another extended lockdown could be severe and the BA, on behalf of its members, urges the government to continue all the support for retailers previously available....

"We urge booksellers to take care of themselves and their staff, and we know that booksellers are set up to run their click and collect operations responsibly and safely. This period is traditionally the quietest part of a bookseller’s year so there is some comfort in that, but there is a gaping hole in the 2020 numbers for many bookshops, and they need to be able to keep trading to recoup those losses."


Responding to the lockdown developments, British indie Drake--The Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees posted on Facebook: "NEWSFLASH 1) In light of this evening's news, you will be getting through your Christmas book haul pretty quickly now. 2) We have lots of books, both oldies and newies that you can still order and we can still deliver. 3) LOCKDOWN PHARMACY Bear is about to head off for an early night, in order to be fully refreshed and ready for your PHARMACY REQUESTS. 4) Books got us through this last time, and can do so again. 5) We WILL be here at the end of all of this--so keep safe and think ahead to the awesome party on the cards!" --Robert Gray

How Bookstores Are Coping: Up for the Quarter; 'Shipping Was a Mess'

Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, N.H., reported that while sales were down for December by about 4.5%, the store was actually slightly up for the fourth quarter, which he and his team "never would have expected."

Compared to past holiday seasons, sales still trended upward throughout the month, with the heaviest sales coming in the last four or five days before Christmas. But, Herrmann said, the peaks during those last few days were not as high as they usually are, which likely accounts for the 4.5% shortfall. It seemed that people took the advice about shopping early to heart, and sales were more evenly spread throughout the season. Many sales also moved online, and shoppers who entered the store did not browse the way they normally would. Instead, their time was "brief and targeted," with many simply picking up online orders and leaving immediately.

Herrmann pointed out that under New Hampshire's Covid guidelines, Gibson's could have had 80 people in-store at any given time, but Herrmann and his staff felt that was "way too many." They enforced their own limit of no more than 40 customers at a time, and they were able to do that successfully over the last two weeks before Christmas. People were "happy to wait," and for the most part the weather cooperated. And, like every bookstore in the U.S., "we had to become the mask police all too often, and we hated it." While most shoppers were willing to comply, this added a "layer of stress to an already exhausting time of year."

The store's biggest seller of the holiday season was The Last Traverse by Ty Gagne, a local title published by small publisher TMC Books. It "barely edged out" A Promised Land by Barack Obama, and other top sellers included The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (which Harper "heroically" delivered to Gibson's two days before Christmas in quantities sufficient to fill orders), A Libertarian Walks into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling and Shake Strain Done by J.M. Hirsch.

On the subject of shipping delays and other such difficulties, Herrmann said they became the "new normal," and the store was "never sure when, or even if, orders were going to come in." He remarked that in a way it was liberating, as it removed any pressure to give customers answers that would make them happy. The team only had to convince shoppers they were doing their best, and then do it.

He noted that every publisher "up and down the line" was hampered by Covid-related supply-chain issues, though some, like Penguin Random House, were particularly reliable. And there were a few publishers, he continued, who were so spotty that in the last couple of weeks of the season the store "didn't even try."


WORD in Jersey City

For WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., sales were down for the holiday season and down for the year, owner Christine Onorati reported. 

Online sales in November and December were "way up," as they had been for months already. Compared to past holidays, there wasn't a "huge in-person spike," and Onorati noted that there were occupancy rules in place. It seemed that customers did their ordering earlier in the year, but shipping and tracking orders was still a "nightmare" that "sucked up so much of our resources."

Thanks to a signing visit from David Sedaris, Best of Me was WORD's top seller of the season. Other major titles included A Promised Land, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Ottolenghi Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage.

Onorati added that in general "shipping was a mess," and the store ran out of a few titles. Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval went out early, and Onorati and her team were waiting for Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart to come back "for a while." Overall, most of the team's energy was spent on processing orders and tracking shipments, as opposed to in-store traffic, and it "seemed like we were always struggling to keep up." --Alex Mutter

Edelweiss BookFest to Launch Virtually in June

Partnering with virtual event technology consultants 365 MEDIA, Edelweiss by Above the Treeline is launching Edelweiss BookFest, a virtual event "designed to create a gathering place for all members of the book publishing industry." The event will take place Tuesday, June 8, and Wednesday, June 9.

Organizers said that preliminary education tracks will include new title discovery, retail bookselling, library best practices, and a special track on revenue generation in the evolving pandemic period. Edelweiss BookFest will offer virtual booths for attendees to visit that will enable live conversations, videos and downloadable tools for sales and marketing. The two-day event will be preceded by a series of individual book launches using an expanded Edelweiss platform.

John Rubin, CEO of Edelweiss by Above the Treeline, said, "We repeatedly hear from our customers that there continues to be a need to bring together the market, particularly in such times of uncertainty. Stores are looking for ways to drive sales and survive the pandemic period by reaching the expanding online reader audience. Publishers want new ways to highlight their authors and fuel new and traditional revenue streams for all parties. Edelweiss BookFest will provide a new way to put more books in people's hands."

Obituary Note: Eric Jerome Dickey

Eric Jerome Dickey, "who blended crime, romance and eroticism in Sister, Sister, Waking With Enemies and dozens of other stories about contemporary Black life," died January 3, the Associated Press reported. He was 59. A native of Memphis, Tenn., Dickey moved to Los Angeles after college and worked as a software engineer in the aerospace industry, but found himself drawn to the arts. He "was an aspiring actor and stand-up comic who began writing fiction in his mid-30s and shaped a witty, conversational and sometimes graphic prose style," the AP wrote.

His nearly 30 novels include Bad Men and Wicked Women, Milk in My Coffee, Cheaters, Chasing Destiny, Liar's Game, Between Lovers, Thieves' Paradise, The Other Woman, Drive Me Crazy, Friends & Lovers, Naughty or Nice and the Gideon crime fiction series (Sleeping with Strangers, Resurrecting Midnight and more). A final novel, The Son of Mr. Suleman, will be released in April.

Dickey also worked on the screenplay for the 1998 movie Cappuccino, wrote a comic book miniseries for Marvel, and contributed to such anthologies as Mothers and Sons and Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica, the AP noted.

Becky Odell, Dickey's publicist at Penguin Random House, said, "His work has become a cultural touchstone over the course of his multi-decade writing career, earning him millions of dedicated readers around the world."

"I am truly saddened to hear about the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey," author Roxane Gay tweeted. "His were some of the first novels I ever read about black people that weren't about slavery or civil rights. He was a great storyteller."

Memphis bookstore Novel posted on Facebook: "We are crushed to learn of the untimely passing of native Memphian and longtime friend of our bookstore in all its iterations, Eric Jerome Dickey. The Novel team extends our sincerest condolences to the deeply, devotedly beloved author's family, loved ones, and longtime readers."

Loyalty Bookstores, Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, Md., tweeted: "We are saddened to hear of the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey, a truly influential Black author. From the pages of Marvel comics to his tender, tantalizing novels, he created a space to depict Black Americans that was more than trauma and suffering."


Image of the Day: Nikki Grimes and Ekua Holmes at Loyalty

Yesterday evening, Loyalty Bookstores, Silver Spring, Md., and Washington, D.C., hosted Nikki Grimes and Ekua Holmes in conversation for a launch celebration of Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomsbury Children's). Pictured: (l.-r.) Loyalty Bookstores programs & marketing manager Christine Bollow, illustrator Ekua Homles, author Nikki Grimes.

Avid Bookshop: 'Let's Keep Making History, Georgia!'

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.: "We've voted--have you? According to the Georgia voters we're hearing from, lines are quick and all polling places are going above and beyond to keep voters and poll workers safe. But if the line is longer than expected, there's no need to panic: you have a perfect reason to read your new book! Don your mask and head to your polling place. Let's keep making history, Georgia!"

Pennie Picks: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has selected The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (Sourcebooks Landmark, $26.99, 9781492682721) as her pick for January. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"On Friday, December 3, 1926, a young up-and-coming writer by the name of Agatha Christie vanished. Eleven days later, Christie reappeared with no memory of what had happened. While there were theories and rumors about the disappearance, the truth never emerged, not even in her autobiography. In this month's book buyer's pick, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Marie Benedict has concocted a riveting scenario that could easily have been an early Hitchcock film. The book will leave you spellbound."

[Editor's note: our Pennie Picks item on Monday highlighted the December Pennie Pick but mistakenly referred to it as the January selection. This is the correct January pick! Our apologies for the error.]

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the Real

The Real: Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow (Scholastic Focus, $10.99, 9781338713657).

TV: Fab Five

Former NBA all-star Chris Webber is developing Fab Five, a limited scripted series based on his upcoming autobiography, By God's Grace, "that will tell the story of the group--Webber, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King and Jalen Rose--who constituted the greatest recruiting class in college basketball history when they enrolled at Michigan in the early 1990s and went to two NCAA championship games," the Hollywood Reporter wrote.

By God's Grace is the first project from a partnership between Webber and Peter Gilbert's Webber/Gilbert Productions and Cashmere Originals, the content arm of advertising and marketing firm the Cashmere Agency (FX's Atlanta, HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show). Howard, now the basketball coach at Michigan, and Jackson will be consultants on the project.

"What I think is different about it is I've never spoken about my time with the Fab Five," said Webber, now an NBA analyst for TNT. "There's a lot of behind the scenes that not many people know about, and it's about so many things. Hopefully I'll be able to express those things, whether it's about Detroit or the work ethic of the city and the factories--all those things that made us.... I'm just so excited to tell this story and clear the lane for some other people to tell their stories."

Books & Authors

Awards: Costa Book Category Winners

Winners have been named in the five Costa Book Awards categories, celebrating "the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the U.K. and Ireland. Each author receives £5,000 (about $6,760) and is eligible for the £30,000 (about $40,560) Costa Book of the Year prize, which will be announced January 26. This year's Costa category winners are:

Novel: The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story by Monique Roffey
First novel: Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
Biography: The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence
Poetry: The Historians by Eavan Boland
Children's: Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

Reading with... Nikki Grimes

photo: Aaron Lemen

Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the Children's Literature Legacy Award, the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Grimes's works include Southwest Sunrise, illustrated by Wendell Minor; the Printz Honor and Sibert Honor book Ordinary Hazards; NAACP Image Award nominee Planet Middle School; Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris and Words with Wings (which was also named an ALA Notable Book); and What Is Goodbye?, an ALA Notable Book. Her most recent book is Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance (out now from Bloomsbury). She lives in Corona, Calif.

On your nightstand now:

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle
Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light by Joan Chittister
All of Me by Chris Baron
The Unvarnished Jesus: A Lenten Journey by Brian Zahnd
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Favorite book when you were a child:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Francie and I had a lot in common--we were both familiar with childhood trauma and we were both tough.

Your top five authors:

This, of course, is an impossible choice, but here goes.

Lucille Clifton is the poet I want to be when I grow up. Of course, there's not much time left, so that probably won't happen!

Mary Oliver because her poetry is simply sublime.

James Baldwin because he was brilliant, his work still resonates and he was my first mentor.

Naomi Shihab Nye because, whether she's writing for children or adults, all of her work feels elegant and necessary.

C.S. Lewis. Because he's C.S. Lewis. Come on! The Chronicles of Narnia? The Screwtape Letters? Mere Christianity? Who can argue with those?

Book you've faked reading:

I never faked reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, but I didn't actually read it until I was well into my 40s.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. It takes the modern reader inside of the experience of being a slave and shows us what it truly means to have no choice and no power. It eliminates any excuses we might have for not making something of our lives today.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers. It was so unusual to see a book cover celebrating the beauty of Black babies and I had to have it.

Book you hid from your parents:

It doesn't exist.

Book that changed your life:

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters changed my writing life. It taught me how powerful a tool of storytelling poetry could be. I've been telling stories that way ever since.

Favorite line from a book:

Another impossible task! I'll choose two. 

From The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: "A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment." I found this stunning. I ached for this girl who failed to see her own beauty but wanted to borrow someone else's.

Another favorite is from Come with Me: Poems for a Journey by Naomi Shihab Nye. It's from the poem "Secrets" which opens, "Because a secret is a ticket... and without it/ the trip would be/ too lonely." There is no more perfect line than that.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Bible. This is the book upon which I build my life.

Kindred by Octavia Butler.

The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo by Tom Feelings. The horror and anguish Feelings captured remind me of how much my people have overcome, and what a miracle it is that we're alive.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. No essays have ever been more potent, more true, more prophetic or more exquisitely written. They are as fresh and resonate as much today as ever.

A Dark and Splendid Mass by Mari Evans. Mari Evans was one of the most underrated poets of this generation and this collection makes the point.

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

The Liars' Club by Mary Karr. It was brave, it was bold and so much of Karr's story resonated with my own. This book showed me what a memoir could be, and it was this memoir I had in the back of my mind while I worked my own.

Book Review

Children's Review: Yolk

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $19.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 14-up, 9781534446007, March 2, 2021)

Youthful romance has made Mary H.K. Choi (Permanent Record; Emergency Contact) a bestselling #OwnVoices author. In Yolk, she pivots effectively toward the familial, focusing the most significant of the book's relationships on two Seoul-born, San Antonio-raised sisters. Devoted audiences need not worry here about missing a love story--possibly three--but what lingers longest is the resonating, multifaceted story of Jayne and June Baek.  

Once upon a time, the sisters were so close as to be mistaken for twins; as adolescents, their relationship devolved into relentless antagonism and occasional violence. In high school, June turned inward and studious while Jayne was more desperate for social acceptance and approval. As young women, the pair have become estranged New Yorkers. At 20, Jayne is a distressed design school student, living an hour away from her classes in a grim Brooklyn sublet. Her roommate, Jeremy, who was once an object of her obsession, then a live-in hook-up, these days resembles a pretentious, parasitic lothario who owes her way too much money.

Just a block and a half from Jayne's school is June's shiny, doormanned Manhattan high-rise where Jayne has never been welcome--until the night June summons her to Chelsea. Only three years older, June managed a full ride to Columbia, turning that Ivy League degree into a high-powered hedge fund career. Beyond buying Jayne a new mattress when she was ejected from her first New York City apartment, June has kept a distance from Jayne's seemingly endless dramas. Until now.

June is sick. Really sick. A perennial workaholic, June is now home all the time, which Jayne discovers when she abandons her heat-less squat for June's couch. Keeping secrets in such close quarters proves impossible: the truth is, June's glittering tower is on the verge of collapse. Meanwhile, Jayne has plenty of her own baggage to shed. Moving forward, somehow together, will demand the reluctant, aching mending of frayed sororal bonds.

Like the Baek sisters, Choi, too, is Korean-born, was partially raised in Texas and lived in New York as a young adult. While her author's note assures "This is a work of fiction," she also lays bare her "own history with disordered eating, dysmorphia, and bulimia." Her openness--personally, culturally, geographically--gives her narrative a seamless, insider fluency; her writing is consistently assured, her dialogue nimbly tuned, even her pain potently channeled through Jayne's struggles. As Choi moves the wary sisters toward reconciliation, the most difficult lesson they'll need to learn is embracing vulnerability--to discard harshness, admit need, accept help and draw strength from renewed connections. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Sudden, serious illness forces two Korean American sisters--once as close as twins--to confront their estrangement and rediscover the empowering strength of their sororal bond.

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