Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 18, 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


December Bookstore Sales Down 'Only' 15.2%, Best Results Since Early 2020

In the 10th month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of many bookstores for a time and limited access since then, in December sales at bookstores dropped 15.2%, to $879 million, compared to December 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates.

Between May, when bookstore sales plummeted 59.9%, and November, bookstore sales have been down in a range between 21.5% and 35.4%, making December's drop of 15.3% an improvement over the previous seven months.

For the full year, bookstore sales fell 28.3%, to $6.3 billion.

Total retail sales in December rose 4.3%, to $616.6 billion. For the full year, total retail sales rose 0.6%, to $6.25 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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

Ecco's Daniel Halpern Moving to Knopf

Dan Halpern

Congratulations to Daniel Halpern, who is joining Knopf as executive editor, effective July 1. He founded Ecco in 1971 and was president and publisher of the imprint until becoming editor-at-large last year. He is also founder (with Paul Bowles) of the literary magazine Antaeus, which he edited for 25 years, and the author of nine poetry collections and two books about food. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Poets & Writers Editor's Award and the Center for Fiction's Medal for Editorial Excellence (formerly the Maxwell E. Perkins Award).

Among the writers, poets and chefs he has published are Joyce Carol Oates, John Fowles, Amy Tan, Annie Dillard, Vendela Vida, Russell Banks, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Jonathan Lethem, Natasha Trethewey, Charles Frazier, Dennis Lehane, Robert Hass, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Simic, Louise Glück, Jackie Robinson, Deborah Eisenberg, John Ashbery, Anthony Bourdain, Czeslaw Milosz, Simon Schama, T.C. Boyle, Elaine Pagels, Ferran Adrià, José Andrés, April Bloomfield, Daniel Boulud, Nigella Lawson, Wylie Dufresne and Padma Lakshmi.

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

Deep Vellum's Cristina Rodriguez Joining A Public Space

Cristina Rodriguez

Cristina Rodriguez, manager and buyer at Deep Vellum Bookstore, Dallas, Tex., is joining A Public Space as marketing and sales director, effective March 1. She will oversee marketing for the literary and arts magazine A Public Space and A Public Space Books, as well as work on A Public Space's ongoing series of virtual book clubs, #APStogether.

Rodriguez joined Deep Vellum in 2017 and is a Bookselling Without Borders Fellow and a member of the American Booksellers Association Advisory Council.

She commented: "I'm thrilled to build on A Public Space's remarkable legacy and share it with a growing community of readers and booksellers. My bookselling career has always been dedicated to championing new voices and distinctive titles and I cannot wait to continue this important work with A Public Space."

Rofhiwa Book Cafe Opening Soon in Durham, N.C.

Rohfiwa's future home

Rofhiwa Book Cafe, a Black- and queer-owned independent bookstore and coffee shop, will open in Durham, N.C., later this spring following a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $41,000. Founder Boitumelo Makhubele and curator Naledi Yaziyo launched Rofhiwa's online store on February 1 and are on track to open the physical bookstore between mid-March and early April.

The bookstore will reside in a 1,800-square-foot space located in East Durham, in an area already home to a community of Black-owned small businesses. Yaziyo and Makhubele will sell new books by Black writers from the U.S. and around the world, with a particular emphasis on fiction. All sorts of genres will be represented, including literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, crime and romance. There will also be biographies and autobiographies about and by Black literary, cultural and political figures, along with a substantial selection of children's literature. While there are no immediate plans for carrying used books, they do hope to start selling them eventually.

"A lot of what we are doing is experimental," Makhubele and Yayizo explained. "We imagine Rofhiwa to be a living thing, always evolving, always reflexive and responsive to the needs of our community."

Naledi Yaziyo and Tumi Makhubele

The cafe side of the business, meanwhile, will source its coffee from Black-owned coffee roasters located throughout the U.S. The Rofhiwa team has been sampling coffee from a variety of roasters and are working toward forming partnerships for their regular, decaf and espresso drinks.

When asked about their plans for events, they said the pandemic has been something of a mixed blessing in that regard. With everyone taking their community events online, the Rofhiwa team has been able to connect with other Black booksellers throughout the U.S. to both learn about conducting online events and discuss potential collaborations.

They pointed to Sistah Scifi in Seattle, Wash., as an example of a store they're learning from and with which they'd like to collaborate, and they added that Sankofa Video Books & Cafe in Washington, D.C., is the general inspiration for their bookstore model. "It's early stages for Rofhiwa and so our priority right now is to learn from the community of Black booksellers around us and to collaborate where possible."

The pair also has "dreams for the future" when pandemic restrictions are lifted and intend to host book events that demonstrate their deep love for Black creatives and "honor the difficult and important work they do."

Makhubele and Yaziyo first met in 2019, and it wasn't very long before they were seriously talking about what the bookstore might look like. While neither Yaziyo nor Makhubele have prior experience in bookselling, they both have long histories with books. Makhubele has been a long-time collector of rare and out-of-print books by Black and African writers, while Yaziyo's relationship to books has been informed by her mother's work as a librarian in South African township libraries.

Prior to 2017, Makhubele had slowly been building a collection of books that they thought might eventually become a community library of some sort. After their grandmother passed away, however, they began seriously thinking about turning that small library into something more and opening a Black bookstore of their own. And after meeting Yaziyo, that dream formed into Rofhiwa.

Yaziyo and Makhubele have been overwhelmed by the support their young bookstore has received. The Kickstarter campaign had more than 1,000 backers, and while there were a handful of large donations, the vast majority were smaller amounts and came from community members who gave what they could to help Rofhiwa open. Feedback from those same community members has already been instrumental in shaping the team's plans, and they are "always thinking about how we will honor that in the work we put into Rofhiwa." --Alex Mutter

New Members for ABA's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee

The American Booksellers Association's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee has selected nine booksellers--from among 45 nominated--to join the committee, Bookselling This Week reported. It is the first time the committee members were nominated; the current committee members were appointed. At the same time, of those current committee members, three are continuing and five are stepping down. The committee serves as a sounding board and advisory council on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, representation, and access facing the bookselling industry and ABA. It began in 2017 as the Diversity Task Force.

The new group, BTW wrote, represents "micro, small, medium, large, and extra-large stores and includes booksellers who identify as neurodivergent, disabled, fat, Latinx/Chicano/Mexican, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, Chinese American, African American, Black, and Afro Caribbean/American, as well as booksellers and bookstore owners, ranging from two years in the business to 30, and from all bookseller regions."

The new committee members are Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., Paula Farmer, Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif., Lee Francis, Red Planet Books and Comics, Albuquerque, N.Mex., Morgan Haywood-Joy, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., Rosa Hernandez, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., Derek Holland, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., Audrey Huang, Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass., Candice Huber, Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop, New Orleans, La., and Amanda Kranias, Blue Manatee Literacy Project, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The continuing committee members are Melanie Knight of Books Inc., San Francisco, Calif., Michelle Malonzo of Changing Hands, Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz., and Sarah Hollenbeck of Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill.

Members leaving the committee are Hannah Oliver Depp, Loyalty Bookstores, Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., BrocheAroe Fabian, River Dog Book Co., Veronica Liu, Word Up Community Bookshop, New York, N.Y., Angela Maria Spring, Duende District, Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque, N.Mex., and Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

ABA CEO Allison Hill said, "The DEIC worked hard to create a committee as diverse as possible in terms of all of the ways booksellers self-identify as well as in terms of region, store size, store format, and creating a mix of ages and store positions. We thank those who nominated people to the committee for their support of those booksellers and of the DEIC. We thank the committee for their dedication to the selection process."

She added: "It's been a long journey for this committee, but we are all benefiting from the results of this group's hard work. ABA's work around diversity, equity, inclusivity, and representation has grown thanks to their efforts, and the DEIC has become a pipeline to the ABA Board, with three DEIC members now also serving on the board. I have been honored to work with them and am inspired by their commitment to making our industry better."

International Update: Celebrating #IReadCanadianDay, Hatchards Now Selling Online

Yesterday marked the second annual I Read Canadian Day, celebrating Canadian books for young people, with the goal of raising awareness and highlighting the richness, diversity and breadth of the country's literature. The event is a collaboration among the Canadian Children’s Book Centre; children's author Eric Walters; the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers; and the Ontario Library Association. This year, Communication-Jeunesse and Canadian School Libraries have joined the steering committee.

"We are very lucky because Canada is home to some of the world's best authors and illustrators," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Across our country, from coast to coast, and in every region, Canadians are sharing the stories that reflect our culture, heritage and our diversity."

Noting that "families, schools, libraries, and bookstores are celebrating the talent and diversity that CanLit has to offer," the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association shared "some of our fave posts, events and displays. Let us know what Canadian books you're reading and what is on your 'to buy from my indie bookstore' list using #IReadCanadian!" Among the indies joining in on the fun:

The Gold Rush Bookstore, Rossland, B.C.: "This year, we need to read Canadian #NowMoreThanEver. On February 17, the second annual @IReadCanadian Day is taking place all across the country. This event is even more important than ever, in a time when we could all use something to bring us together."

Woozles Bookstore, Halifax, N.S.: "Feeling the love for our wonderful Canadian authors as we celebrate #ireadcanadian day. Impromptu author visits, signed bookplates and constant outpourings of support from our beloved community of writers and illustrators make this day and every day a joy."

Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ont.: "Celebrate local businesses and Canadian Literature with the I Read Canadian Story Walk Down Brock! From now until February 21st, storefronts on Brock Street will feature pages from the lovely Canadian picture book My Winter City by James Gladstone and Gary Clement."

Argo Bookshop, Montreal, Que.: "Did you know that February 17 is I Read Canadian Day? Support Canadian authors and illustrators (and local bookstores!) by reading Canadian books with your kids, even if just for 15 minutes. Our #IReadCanadian ambassador this year is local author Su Sokol, who has recorded a video!... Now more than ever, discover the Canadian books that you and your family will love!"

McNally Robinson, with stores in Winnipeg, Man. and Saskatoon, Sask.: "It's #IReadCanadianDay! We could spend all day talking about our favourite books by Canadians, but we'll keep things relatively brief by showcasing just some of our booksellers' top picks."

Another Story Bookshop, Toronto, Ont.: "Today is #IReadCanadianDay, for us here at Another Story that means supporting the authors who are a part of our community. It means uplifting BIPOC, queer, and trans voices. And it means supporting the authors and books that we wish we had access to as kids."

Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C.: "Love this video shout-out from the wonderful Julie Lawson!" And from Sue Macartney: "I'm so happy to be giving a shoutout to the wonderful @MunrosBooks for #ireadcanadianday 2021! They have a wonderful display and loads of great Canadian kidlit titles to choose from."

The Yellowknife Book Cellar, Yellowknife, N.W.T.: "We hope you have had a great #ireadcanadian day and that you’ve had a chance to read your favorite Canadian children’s book for 15 minutes today!"


London bookseller Hatchards is launching its first transactional website after more than two centuries of serving customers through postal order and its outlets, the Bookseller reported. Designed and built in a partnership between Waterstones e-commerce, IT and Hatchards teams, the site will allow customers to browse and purchase online books signed by their author, with collector's editions and titles from the Hatchards Library, the bookshop's own series of limited editions, soon to be available.

"After almost 225 years of serving the world by post, we are immensely excited with the launch of our new Hatchards website," said Hatchards manager Francis Cleverdon. "We can now bring all the things that make us unique to an even wider world, with a level of personal service, personal knowledge and personal curation not seen elsewhere. One hundred years ago Hatchards was described as 'a beacon of sanity'--our ambition must be to bring that sanity to the online world. I'd like to give enormous thanks to all the technological wizards who have built the site and all our marvelous booksellers who have helped create it."

Waterstones COO Kate Skipper added: " is the result of many months of hard work and considered bookselling by our team. We're tremendously proud of the site they have created, which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Hatchards, if not the scent of the flowers that fill the shop. To my mind, it's a tremendous balm for all of us who are currently missing shopping in Hatchards so greatly and I'm delighted we're able to bring a little bit of Hatchards magic online, to be enjoyed by book lovers around the globe."


Dutch window shopping: Posted on Facebook by the Little Bookshop, Wassenaar, the Netherlands: "WE MISS YOU!!! How adorable are these two lovely little people peering through the Little Bookshop window? We still have time for a few more Doorstep Story Times this Saturday--see our last post for details!.... Lots of new books winging their way to The Little Bookshop this week... so exciting--love unpacking books! Maybe we should do an unboxing video." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: James E. Gunn

James E. Gunn

James E. Gunn, an award-winning science fiction writer and editor, died December 23. He was 97. The New York Times noted that his death, which "was not widely reported, was announced by the University of Kansas, where he taught his first English class in 1955 and founded the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982."

Gunn edited 10 anthologies of science fiction and wrote about 30 books, including his last novel, Transformation (2017), and some 100 short stories, one of which he submitted shortly before he died.

Carl Sagan described Gunn's novel The Listeners as "one of the very best fictional portrayals of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence ever written." The Times wrote that it was "credited with encouraging research by the SETI Institute into the search for life beyond Earth."

Gunn was named a grand master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2007 and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015. He earned a Hugo Award for his critical study Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction (1983) and edited The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1988).

In a 2017 interview with the University of Kansas, he said, "I've told people that I feel I earn my place here on Earth each day when I am able to create something that wasn't there before, and, in turn, some of these things enter stories that influence people."


'Getting Books into the Hands of Kids Who Need Them Most'

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Cincy Book Bus, Cincinnati, Ohio: "Jobi, the librarian at Arnett Elementary, was in desperate need of nonfiction books. She wasn't able to get the funding she needed so she reached out to me for help. I was so happy to be able to deliver over $2,000 worth of books. These books are library bound so they will be able to serve her library for years to come. If you're a teacher or school who could use some help getting books, send me a message and I'll see what I can do. And keep those book orders coming! Together we are getting books into the hands of kids who need them most."

Bookish Winter Weather Advisory: Adventure Bound Books

In a week of wild weather, Adventure Bound Books, Morganton, N.C., shared a photo of the shop's own version of a winter weather advisory: "I grabbed an obnoxiously large stack of ARCs and posted this note on the door, just in case something comes of the winter weather advisory for our area...."

Foggy Pine Books Update: Colbert Bump Boosts Sales

Foggy Pine Books, Boone, N.C., which received national publicity for an unanticipated, post-Super Bowl, star-studded TV ad on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, had more than a thousand orders come in from all over the country during the first 24 hours after the commercial aired, Spectrum News reported.

"The store is everything to me," said owner Mary Ruthless. "It's genuinely my dream and knowing now that I'm not in danger of losing that, and that I'm still going to be able to employ the employees I have and benefit the community in that way, as well as just bringing attention to the community too."

On Facebook last week, Foggy Pine Books posted: "Here’s a couple behind-the-scenes photos for you from our work today processing all the incoming orders! That box full of packages is the 3rd overflowing box to be put together today--2 were already taken to the post office before the drop off deadline earlier.... A huge & heartfelt thank you to y’all!! We appreciate every single order, phone call, email, comment, share, & private message."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cherie S.A. Jones on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Cherie S.A. Jones, author of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316536981).

This Weekend on Book TV: Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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 20
10 a.m. Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, authors of Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons (The MIT Press, $29.95, 9780262045742). (Re-airs Sunday at 2:05 p.m.)

2:30 p.m. Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Good American: The Epic Life of Bob Gersony, the U.S. Government's Greatest Humanitarian (Random House, $30, 9780525512301).

3:30 p.m. Peter W. Wood, author of 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project (Encounter, $28.99, 9781641771245). (Re-airs Sunday at 10:25 a.m.)

6 p.m. Rebecca Carroll, author of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781982116255). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:15 a.m.)

7 p.m. Michael Gerhardt, author of Lincoln's Mentors: The Education of a Leader (Custom House, $32.50, 9780062877192). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:15 a.m.)

9:05 p.m. Dale Maharidge, author of Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s (The Unnamed Press, $17, 9781951213220), at White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pa.

10 p.m. John Fortier, author of After the People Vote: A Guide to the Electoral College (AEI Press, $60, 9780844750330). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, February 21
1:05 p.m. Benjamin Friedman, author of Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Knopf, $37.50, 9780593317983).

3:15 p.m. Charles Kenny, author of The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease (Scribner, $28, 9781982165338).

6:35 p.m. Todd Bensman, author of America's Covert Border War: The Untold Story of the Nation's Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration (Bombardier Books, $19.99, 9781642937251).

7:45 p.m. Jonathan Alter, author of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 9781501125485).

10 p.m. Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation (Flatiron, $28.99, 9781250756121).

10:55 p.m. Janice Nimura, author of The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine (Norton, $27.95, 9780393635546).

Books & Authors

Awards: Aspen Words Finalists

Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute, has selected the finalists for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, the $35,000 annual award for "a work of fiction that illuminates vital contemporary issues." The finalsts are:

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa (Atria Books)
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Harper)
The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories by Danielle Evans (Riverhead Books)
If I Had Two Wings: Stories by Randall Kenan (Norton)

The winner will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 21, that will feature a conversation with the finalists, moderated by Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the author of two novels.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 23:

The Bone Fire by György Dragomán, translated by Ottilie Mulzet (Mariner, $16.99, 9780544527201) follows a young girl in an Eastern European dictatorship after a violent revolution.

While Paris Slept: A Novel by Ruth Druart (Grand Central, $28, 9781538735176) alternates perspectives between 1944 Paris and 1953 Santa Cruz.

The York Patrol: The Real Story of Alvin York and the Unsung Heroes Who Made Him World War I's Most Famous Soldier by James Carl Nelson (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062975881) explores the heroics of Sergeant York.

The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine (Harper, $26.99, 9780062975829) features the ghost of children's book writer Margaret Wise Brown.

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas (Putnam, $26.99, 9780525542056) is the second mystery with Detective Adam Tyler.

Smoke by Joe Ide (Mulholland, $28, 9780316531061) is the fifth mystery with Isaiah "IQ" Quintabe.

The Pegan Diet: 21 Practical Principles for Reclaiming Your Health in a Nutritionally Confusing World by Dr. Mark Hyman (Little, Brown Spark, $28, 9780316537087) advocates a combination paleo and vegan diet.

Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney, illus. by Robyn Smith (DC Comics, $16.99, 9781401296407) features a Black teen with Amazonian-like strength trying to find her place in world that refuses to accept she might be just like Wonder Woman.

InvestiGators: Off the Hook by John Patrick Green (First Second, $9.99, 9781250220004) is the third adventure in this graphic novel series for early readers.

Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong by Georgina Lawton (Harper Perennial, $17.99, 9780063009486).

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 Bad Muslim Discount: A Novel by Syed M. Masood (Doubleday, $27.95, 9780385545259). "I loved The Bad Muslim Discount so much I read the acknowledgments just so it wouldn't end--and they were great, too! This is an insightful and funny novel about faith, family, and being a Muslim American today. Masood offers us a sharp perspective, a seamless style, and unforgettable characters, leaving the reader enriched for the experience." --Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt.

Love Is an Ex-Country: A Memoir by Randa Jarrar (Catapult, $26, 9781948226585). "Randa Jarrar's intimate memoir is nothing short of monumental. Intelligent, tender, and lacerating in equal measure, Love Is an Ex-Country takes readers on a journey across the U.S., probing what it means to live fully in a hostile environment and contemplate survival in the face of erasure. Jarrar navigates the profound with a light touch and infuses every page with humor, insight, and defiance. Above all, this is a story of being: being corporeal, being of many places and no place, and being joyful--triumphantly." --Nika Jonas, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen (Mariner, $15.99, 9780358272557). "I loved this stunning debut collection of stories. Chen digs deep and uses her experience as a foreign correspondent to portray the voices and lives of people living in modern China. These stories will stay with you long after you've finished reading the book. Highly recommended." --Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

For Ages 4 to 8
No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, illus. by Bryce Gladfelter (Sourcebooks Explore, $17.99, 9781728206592). "A fabulous follow-up to P Is for Pterodactyl! This book of homonyms is a silly delight for kids of all ages. The best picture books are the ones you want to read slowly to savor all the little details in the word choice and illustrations, and No Reading Allowed definitely accomplishes that." --Lizzy Nanney, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles (Random House, $16.99, 9780593175170). "What an incredible time to be a middle-grade reader. Take Back the Block is a beautiful reminder that more often than not, the most effective, passionate, and honorable activists are barely old enough to drive themselves to rallies for a movement their voices helped create. I love that readers won't just learn about gentrification in this book--they'll learn what empathy and community can accomplish." --Hannah Oxley, Mystery to Me, Madison, Wis.

For Teen Readers
Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett (Simon Pulse, $19.99, 9781534425170). "Another incredibly captivating read from Jenn Bennett! The chemistry between Josie and Lucky is palpable as former best friends become quarreling rivals. A picturesque setting in a seaside bookstore makes this a fun and charming read that you won't be able to put down." --Katie Kenney, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The Soul of a Woman

The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende (Ballantine Books, $22.99 hardcover, 192p., 9780593355626, March 2, 2021)

"Women's emancipation is not incompatible with femininity," declares Chilean novelist Isabel Allende (A Long Petal of the Sea) in her fifth nonfiction book, The Soul of a Woman. "Quite the opposite: I think they are complementary." In this slim memoir-cum-manifesto, Allende, a passionate feminist since age five by her own estimation, recounts her experiences with the patriarchy as a young woman, her early career as a journalist and translator, and her eventual success as a novelist (and a thrice-married woman). In the book's second half, Allende details some of the atrocities faced by women around the world and makes a cogent case for changing laws and policies to empower women and ensure their rights, reproductive and otherwise.

Best known for her novels featuring strong women, Latin American politics and magical realism (The House of the Spirits; The Stories of Eva Luna), Allende is also a long-time supporter of vulnerable women and girls through her eponymous foundation. She recounts her own early experiences as the daughter of a single mother, Panchita, who was forced to take refuge with her father (Isabel's grandfather) after her husband disappeared. As a young girl, Allende saw her mother dominated by men with economic and political power, and she vowed not to live her life the same way. Determined to forge her own path, she worked in TV and magazine journalism before turning to fiction. She peppers this brief autobiography with wry asides about political systems that routinely oppress women, the conflicting messages women receive about beauty and power, and the newfangled ideas about gender politics that her grandchildren bring to her attention. Some of Allende's comments on changing cultural practices sound like the musings of an older woman reflecting on the way things used to be. However, her comments on the value of passion, the unexpectedness of romantic love and the absolute value of women as human beings are both timeless and timely.

Allende's narrative rambles at times, but she never loses sight of her chief objective: to celebrate women's worth and value, and urge readers to stand up for the women in their lives, including themselves. Readers of Allende's fiction and memoirs will enjoy this sharp, thoughtful, often charmingly irascible glimpse into the author's fiercely feminist soul. She comments, "I am not interested in the warrior's rest; I'd rather keep some ardency of mind and blood." The Soul of a Woman is--among other things--an ardent call to keep fighting the good fight. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Acclaimed novelist Isabel Allende offers a passionate, wise and charmingly irascible meditation on feminism.

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