Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 4, 2021

Union Square Kids: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston

Tor Teen: Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

Peachtree Teen: Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard

Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz and Rob Schwartz

Neal Porter Books: All the Beating Hearts by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Cátia Chien

Quotation of the Day

Black-Owned Bookstores: 'Historically... the Foundation for a Lot of Our Community'

"Bookstores in general, but specifically Black-owned bookstores, have historically been a place where people have shared their ideas, shared their beliefs, and organized. It's been the foundation for a lot of our community. The other day I was putting away a book that talked about literary societies and their importance in Black communities and the roles that they played. You get your information from books, but sharing those ideas with other people and the development and growth that it allows within our community is the importance of Black bookstores. We're able to get books that are directed to us, which we might not be able to find most other places. It gives us an ability to see ourselves in a way that we wouldn't."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline


Assouline Opens Houston, Tex., Boutique

Assouline, the luxury book publisher that operates free-standing boutique bookshops as well as pop-up locations in other retailers around the world, has opened a stand-alone boutique in Houston, Tex., Paper City reported

Located in River Oaks District, the Assouline store carries about 1,500 titles pertaining to subjects such as architecture, art, design, fashion, food, travel and more. Assouline is known for publishing books with hand-binding, "luxurious papers" and hand-tipped photographs, and Paper City noted that most of their books range in price from $95 to $995.

The Houston shop's inventory also features Versailles: From Louis XIV to Jeff Koons Special Edition, retailing for $4,900. Only 100 copies exist and each features a velvet clamshell with a sculpted medallion of Louis XV and includes a private tour of Versailles by a palace curator. 25% of sales of each copy is being donated to the Château de Versailles.

GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

B&N in Independence, Mo., Closing

The Barnes & Noble in Independence, Mo., just east of Kansas City, is closing this coming Saturday, February 6, the Examiner reported. The store, which is located in the Independence Commons shopping center, had been open for 24 years.

The Examiner noted that B&N's announcement closely follows Macy's announcement that it is closing its store in the nearby Independence Center shopping center.

Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam

How Bookstores Are Coping: 'More or Less Normal'; Missing Events

In Northfield, Minn., Content Bookstore is "getting the hang of the new normal," reported store owner Jessica Peterson White. Customers are able to browse and buy in a "more or less normal way," with the store's capacity limited and all standard safety precautions--such as distancing, masks and hand sanitizer--in place. Now that the holiday season is over, the limited capacity is much easier to manage, and she added that some customers still manage to seem surprised by the store's mask requirements, though that is getting rarer and rarer.

Located in a college town, the store has a number of employees who are college students, and White noted that at the start of the term there were a few two-week periods where the team was short-handed. Those disruptions are thankfully over, and in general the whole community is proud of and happy with how conscientious the students have been. Workstations have been arranged to allow for ample social distancing and staff members sanitize high-touch surfaces often. There are also new air purifiers throughout the store and in the break room.

Content Bookstore continues to see a much higher than normal volume of online orders for shipping, curbside pick-up and local delivery, and White said she and her team are still dealing with some delays and unpredictability in fulfillment from suppliers. They heard from customers, in fact, that adding more non-book listings to the store's website has made it easier for customers to keep their visits short. Many people now "pre-shop" on the website before buying in-store.

Last year, Content Bookstore saw its "biggest year-over-year growth" since the store opened in 2014. White and her team heard from so many customers "that they had a new commitment to shopping locally for the holidays," and so far in 2021, the store seems to be retaining a lot of those customers. Presumably, they've discovered that shopping with indies is "not only virtuous" but also "a lot more fun and satisfying."

Looking ahead, White said she has "no idea what to expect." She's been adjusting goals week-to-week because she doesn't know how things will shape up during the first half of the year. So far, though, things have been very positive, with January 2021 up considerably over the same time last year.


Holland Saltsman, owner of The Novel Neighbor in Webster Groves, Mo., said her store is back to normal hours and open to browsing with masks required and capacity limited. There are sanitizer stations throughout the store, plexiglass shields around the register and an outside company does thorough cleaning. The store continues to offer curbside pick-up and shipping and is doing virtual author events as well as virtual school visits. 

Looking back on 2020, Saltsman said that while there were a few months during which the store was up, 35%-40% of the store's sales normally come from events, and "there was no way to completely make up for that loss." Those events, she pointed out, included not just author signings but book-themed birthday parties, acoustic shows, classes and more.

Last year the store introduced mystery boxes that have become big sellers, and the team also worked wth a blogger and podcaster called Modern Mrs. Darcy to curate the book club boxes for her fall, winter and spring selections. With no events taking place, the team moved non-book items into the store's event spaces, which resulted in much higher gift sales than in previous years.

Saltsman reported that 2021 has started out a bit slower than 2020, but January and February are some of the store's slowest months in any year. There are some school author visits coming up that she hopes will generate some solid sales, and otherwise the team is using the extra time to tighten up HR, review store policies, source new merchandise and more. --Alex Mutter

Weiser Books: Mexican Sorcery: A Practical Guide to Brujeria de Rancho by Laura Davila

International Update: Waterstones Furloughed Staff Launch Petition, Ruis Named Indigo President

A petition warning that booksellers are "facing misery and financial insecurity" after being furloughed and seeing their pay fall below the minimum wage has been launched by a group of current and former Waterstones staff. The petition calls for the company "to top-up furloughed booksellers' pay to the minimum wage after recently filed accounts by the chain's owners, Elliott Advisors, showed 107 staff at the London hedge fund were paid a total of £93.3 million [about $127.7 million]" in 2019, the Bookseller reported.

"Our aims are pretty simple. We understand the impact Covid has had on the business and that the high street is in a precarious position," petition organizers told the Bookseller. "We understand the future is uncertain. However, there is real and genuine need right now and many low paid workers are falling between the cracks of the available support. We are not asking for wages to be topped up in full (we are not paid a great deal above minimum wage anyway), simply that those falling under minimum wage as a result of seeing their income drop to 80% are topped back up to the safety line that is minimum wage. We think this would make a massive amount of difference to so many situations.

"Secondly, and importantly, we're asking that the company use its clout as a successful U.K. business and its perceived standing with the public and the media to highlight the inadequacy of the current furlough scheme to the policy makers in government and ask that more be done to protect those in the greatest need, not just campaign for better business support."

Noting that Waterstones "must protect jobs and use the furlough scheme to do so," as well as protect "the financial integrity of the company when we have no clarity for how long we will be prevented opening our shops," COO Kate Skipper observed: "It would be much better if we were in a position to pay our booksellers their full salaries, even as we keep our shops closed. With no clarity for how long this crisis will last, this would not be prudent. We look forward to reopening and bringing our booksellers back to work. Then we will have certainty and are pleased that we will be able to give well-deserved pay rises.

"The petition is one with which we have great sympathy. Only the extreme circumstances of prolonged, enforced closure of our shops, with no certainty of the timing of their reopening, has caused the furlough of our booksellers in this manner."


Peter Ruis

Canadian retailer Indigo Books & Music has appointed Peter Ruis as the company's new president. He reports to CEO Heather Reisman.

Ruis has more than 30 years of retail experience, most recently as managing director of Anthropologie URBN Group. Prior to that, he was CEO of Jigsaw Group and the executive buying & brand director at John Lewis.

Reisman said, "We look forward to having Peter bring his wealth of knowledge and expertise to Indigo at this exciting moment in our business as we pivot to a Living with Intention company, providing our customers with the ideas, experts, and products to help them in their quest to live with purpose."

Ruis added: ''I am hugely excited to take on this opportunity with such an iconic retailer. Indigo is uniquely positioned for success as we move forward from these challenging times."


More than a hundred Dutch and Flemish writers sent an open letter to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, calling on him "to support booksellers, as well as publishers and authors who depend on them, by classifying bookstores as essential businesses," the European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported, adding: "This would allow the stores to at least provide click and collect services, which the current lockdown measures are not permitting." --Robert Gray


Obama Makes Surprise Book Club Visit

Last week, Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to the MahoganyBooks & Very Smart Brothas Book Club meeting, a monthly book club created in partnership between MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., and Panama Jackson, writer for the band The Roots. 

The meeting, held virtually on January 26, was the book club's first meeting since the pandemic began, and the topic of discussion was Obama's A Promised Land. Participants were told they would be speaking to someone from the Obama administration, only to find themselves speaking with the former POTUS himself.

Derrick and Ramunda Young, the bookstore's owners, teamed up wth Jackson to launch the book club in November 2018. Prior to the pandemic, it met on the first Friday of every month at Mahogany Books.

A recording of the conversation can be viewed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

#SnowShovelingLocal: Let's Play Books

Posted on Facebook after this week's snowstorm by Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa.: "After digging out of 24+ inches at our home, we drove to the shop to see what we were up against. Thanks to our neighbors (or snow angels as we are referring to them) our sidewalk had been cleared! We’ll be back later to dig out the back and open the front for pick ups. Thank you to Dustin from Schantz Funeral Home, P.C. for helping us! #neighbors #communitylove."

Personnel Changes at Atria Books

Karlyn Hixson has joined Atria Books as marketing director. She was formerly director of strategic partnerships at BookPal, the specialty bulk retailer focused on selling books to organizations, corporations, and schools. Earlier she was senior marketing manager at St. Martin's Press.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ann Patchett on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House: A Novel (Harper Perennial, $17, 9780062963680).

This Weekend on Book TV: In-Depth with Robert W. Merry

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

Saturday, February 6
6:55 p.m. Tim Wise, author of Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, $17.95, 9780872868090).

8 p.m. Gorshom Gorenberg, author of War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East (PublicAffairs, $34, 9781610396271).

9 p.m. Salamishah Tillet, author of In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of Alice Walker's Masterpiece (Abrams, $26, 9781419735301). (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m.)

10 p.m. Amelia Pang, author of Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods (Algonquin, $27.95, 9781616209179). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, February 7
1:30 a.m. John Ghazvinian, author of America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (Knopf, $37.50, 9780307271815).

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Robert W. Merry, author of Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians (Simon & Schuster, $18, 9781451625424). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

6:05 p.m. Claire Wasserman, author of Ladies Get Paid: The Ultimate Guide to Breaking Barriers, Owning Your Worth, and Taking Command of Your Career (Gallery, $26, 9781982126902).

7:20 p.m. Carl L. Hart, author of Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (Penguin Press, $28, 9781101981641).

Books & Authors

Awards: Victorian Prize for Literature

The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay won the Victorian Prize for Literature, the overall prize of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, honoring Australian writing and administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the premier of the state of Victoria. CHeck out the winners in all categories here.

McKay, whose novel also won the fiction category, received A$125,000 (about US$96,460), altogether. The judges said: "Bold, exhilarating and wholly original, McKay's book is a gripping and timely story about a pandemic that focuses on the ethics of human-animal interactions, asking what would happen--for better or worse--if we finally understood what animals were saying? Laura worked on The Animals in That Country during her time as a 2018 Hot Desk Fellowship recipient at the Wheeler Centre."

Raúl the Third: Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner

Raúl the Third is currently working on the expanded world of his Vamos! series and illustrating the fourth volume of the Lowriders series, written by Cathy Camper. He grew up in El Paso, Tex., and Ciudad Juárez, México, and now lives in Boston with colorist and collaborator Elaine Bay and their son, Raúl the Fourth. Last week, he won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for ¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat! published by Versify/HMH.

How does it feel to get the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award? Especially for the second in a series, the first of which, ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market, won a Belpré Honor?

This is the second Pura Belpre medal I have received, the first one was for Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, which was also the second in a series! I am so incredibly happy that my books have been honored three times with this prestigious award. The Latinx cultural experience is vast, and I hope these books inspire more kids to grow up with the confidence to share their own stories and origins.

Is there anything affirming or maybe bittersweet about winning this award for the second of these books?

These awards have given me so much confidence in the books I want to continue to create. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet! 

You're in the process of expanding the world of Vamos!, correct? What can we look forward to in upcoming titles?

By 2023 there will be at least 10 World of Vamos! books out on the shelves. The World of Vamos! is an ever-expanding universe. There will be more Let's Go books featuring Little Lobo and his delivery service. El Toro and Friends will have their own adventures in an early reader series that is inspired by superhero team books and luchadores! Plus, we will have a super-cute board book series featuring everybody's favorite cockroach, Coco Rocho.

Beyond that I can't really say but I imagine Saturday morning cartoons and toys!

What was your inspiration for the first book in the series? What has pushed you to develop that world further?  

It's been my dream to create my own cartoon/comic book universe since I was a child. I started to lay down the foundation for this world in ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market. I remember telling Margaret Raymo that I wanted to work on this series and these characters for the next 20 years! After the first book, I pitched the spin-off titles--I can't wait for them to hit the shelves in April and September of this year.

Has this past year changed your artistic process at all?

Since I am now writing and illustrating my books, I have become much more efficient in the process. I also work with Elaine Bay, the colorist in the series, and I draw with her in mind. I also have fun linking all of the books together by having special guest appearances and Easter eggs throughout the books!   

What are you hoping readers take from ¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat!?

I have a great time creating these books so I hope my readers enjoy the experience of reading our World of Vamos! books. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 9:

We Run the Tides: A Novel by Vendela Vida (Ecco, $26.99, 9780062936233) follows two teenage girls in San Francisco, one of whom disappears.

Never Far Away by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316535939) is a thriller about a missing mother reunited with her children under a new identity.

The Power Couple: A Novel by Alex Berenson (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781982103699) follows a successful couple whose daughter is kidnapped while on vacation.

The Burning Girls: A Novel by C.J. Tudor (Ballantine, $27, 9781984825025) is the latest thriller from the author of The Chalk Man.

A Tip for the Hangman: A Novel by Allison Epstein (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385546713) is historical fiction about Christopher Marlowe and Elizabethan espionage.

Unfinished: A Memoir by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Ballantine, $28, 9781984819215) is the memoir of the actress.

Nuestra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation by Claudio Lomnitz (Other Press, $27.99, 9781635420708) is a family memoir by an anthropologist with Jewish and Latin American roots.

The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones by Larry Loftis (Atria, $28, 9781982143862) tells the story of an OSS agent who married a Spanish count.

Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues by David Bradford and Carole Robin (Currency, $28, 9780593237090) is a guide to cultivating interpersonal skills.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Delacorte, $18.99, 9781984848697) features 16-year-old young woman forced to choose between two equally dangerous, potentially deadly options.

The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa (Inkyard, $19.99, 9781335091765) is the first in a new trilogy that takes place in the world of the Iron Fey.

The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business by Nelson D. Schwartz (Anchor, $17, 9780525435655).

Love and Other Lies: A Novel by Ben McPherson (Morrow, $16.99, 9780062406149).

Wild Rain: Women Who Dare by Beverly Jenkins (Avon, $7.99, 9780062861719).

The Rain Heron: A Novel by Robbie Arnott (FSG Originals, $15.99, 9780374539306).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

The House on Vesper Sands: A Novel by Paraic O'Donnell (Tin House Books, $26.95, 9781951142247). "Paraic O'Donnell leavens the dark foreboding of a truly sinister, otherworldly mystery with distinctively clever storytelling and a decidedly marvelous cast of characters. You are in the best of hands with Inspector Cutter and Gideon Bliss on the case, along with the intrepid and resourceful reporter Octavia Hillingdon. Beautifully done!" --Peter Sherman, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

The Center of Everything: A Novel by Jamie Harrison (Counterpoint, $26, 9781640092341). "This is a story about family, about history, and about love. The characters are like you and me; their stories are intertwined just as ours are, with a past and a hoped-for future. Author Jamie Harrison wields a mighty pen with precision and care, peopling her book with a myriad of interesting characters living believable lives. Her narrative is insightful and moving, and she has that rare gift of making a fictional story sound like the real thing." --Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash.

Cleanness: A Novel by Garth Greenwell (Picador, $16, 9781250785664). "Cleanness is a trance-inducing read. I started this book and was immediately swept up in it, and before I knew it, hours had passed. Greenwell describes human relationships in raw, beautiful detail while also exploring the power dynamics at play. If Cleanness is not one of my favorite books of 2020, it will have been a spectacular year for books." --Hunter Gillum, Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa

For Ages 4 to 8
Oona by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Raissa Figueroa (Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99, 9780062982247). "I am in love with this book: the characters, the storytelling, the art, the message--everything. Oona the mermaid and her best friend, Otto the otter, live in a dreamy ocean world filled with adventure and laughter. Oona has a passion for finding, collecting, and creating, which leads to some serious trouble but also some great problem-solving. It's impossible to finish this book without feeling like you have two new friends--and perhaps a sudden desire to make something fantastic of your own." --Brittany Baker, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury Children's Books, $18.99, 9781681199443). "This incredibly well-constructed book of historical poetry by many women, Golden Shovel poetry by the book's author, and art by Black illustrators is ideal for all ages even though it's listed as a middle-grade book. My kindergartener loved looking at the pictures and talking about what they mean, and I found so much meaning in the Harlem Renaissance poetry as well as in Nikki Grimes' works based on those poems. This is a must-have book for families, school libraries, and educational settings." --Emily Autenrieth, A Seat at the Table Books, Elk Grove, Calif.

For Teen Readers
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant (Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 9780062982834). "I loved Happily Ever Afters. It's one of those wonderful reads that leaves its readers nose-wrinklingly happy. It's a wonderful exploration of new and old best friends, family dynamics, and the pressure we put on ourselves and on living up to the expectations of others that can sometimes lead to paralysis. This book is absolutely lovely, and I'd easily pick it up to read it again." --Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me, A Children's Book & Art Shop, Raleigh, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears

A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears by Bjorn Dihle (Mountaineers Books, $17.95 paperback, 208p., 9781680513097, February 15, 2021)

Bjorn Dihle was born and raised in the outdoors of Alaska, where he has worked for years as a brown (or grizzly) bear viewing guide. A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears is his lovely, thoughtful study of the relationship between humans and this evocative, storied species.

"There have been times I almost hated bears," he writes. "Like most feelings of hostility, mine were rooted in fear. Yet, there is no place I love more than grizzly country, and no animal has intrigued and challenged me more than the bear." Moving around in time, Dihle tells his own stories of encounters, from the first brown bear he ever saw--a carcass in a salmon stream when the author was four or five years old--through early trailside meetings and learning how to relate to bears, into his career seeking them out, especially on Alaska's Admiralty Island. "There's no way to make bears safe," Dihle acknowledges, which is surely part of their appeal. But there are measures, such as Larry Aumiller's "concept of habituation, which he defined as taking away the fight-or-flight response in a bear, that's key for developing trust between our two species."

A Shape in the Dark is an appealing, accessible memoir and a history of the interplay of bears and humans in the American West. Dihle intersperses his own and his friends' bear encounters with those of Grizzly Adams and Teddy Roosevelt, outlining the evolution of attitudes and policy toward grizzlies. In considering the writings of John Muir and Aldo Leopold, he reviews the history of wilderness thinking beyond bears, with a ruminative style and personal perspective. He writes of famous and less famous maulings, the complexities of bear hunting, the role of grizzly bears in native cultures and the impact of climate change on Alaska and its greatest predator.

Dihle's title hints at something elemental about our fears and the way he handles them: "After a while, much like our ancestors who'd built fires to keep away the monsters, I opened my laptop and stared at the lit-up screen, hoping the words would come." As his subtitle suggests, Dihle deals with life and death in balanced proportions, portraying the deaths of bears and humans with similar reverence.

Quiet, meditative, wise, well informed, A Shape in the Dark is memoir, history and philosophy in one: "everything leaves a trail, whether it's imprinted in the land, in the narratives we tell, or even in our blood." Dihle's love for his subject is contagious and beautifully conveyed. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A lifelong Alaskan inspires awe with his beautifully written, expert portrait of the grizzly bear.

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