Also published on this date: Wednesday, November 3 Dedicated Issue: Introducing Neon Squid

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 3, 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

News

Justice Department Sues to Block PRH Acquisition of S&S

The Department of Justice has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block Penguin Random House's proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, which was first announced by Bertelsmann last November, from ViacomCBS. 

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the complaint alleges that if the proposed merger is allowed to proceed, PRH "would be, by far, the largest book publisher in the United States, towering over its rivals. The merger would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work. The deal... would likely harm competition in the publishing industry and should be blocked." 

The complaint also alleges that the acquisition of S&S for $2.175 billion would put PRH in control of close to half the market for acquiring publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books, leaving hundreds of individual authors with fewer options and less leverage. 

"The complaint filed today to ensure fair competition in the U.S. publishing industry is the latest demonstration of the Justice Department's commitment to pursuing economic opportunity and fairness through antitrust enforcement," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. "Books have shaped American public life throughout our nation's history, and authors are the lifeblood of book publishing in America. But just five publishers control the U.S. publishing industry. If the world's largest book publisher is permitted to acquire one of its biggest rivals, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry. American authors and consumers will pay the price of this anticompetitive merger--lower advances for authors and ultimately fewer books and less variety for consumers."

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the DOJ's Antitrust Division commented: "In stopping Penguin Random House from extending its control of the U.S. publishing market, this lawsuit will prevent further consolidation in an industry that has a history of collusion."

PRH "said it planned to vigorously fight the challenge and hired Daniel Petrocelli as its trial lawyer," the New York Times reported, noting that Petrocelli "successfully defended AT&T and Time Warner against the Justice Department when it tried to block their $100 billion merger."

"The government should only be challenging those mergers where they can prove that, as a result of the combination, consumers are going to be harmed--typically in the form of higher prices. And here there is no such evidence," Petrocelli said, adding: "The government does allege that consumers will have fewer books, but that is completely speculative through a chain of strained logic. They're not going to be able to prove that at the end of the day."

In a joint statement, PRH and S&S responded that the Justice Department "has not alleged that the acquisition would harm competition in the sale of books" and that the company had not planned "any reduction in the number of books acquired or in amounts paid for those acquisitions." The Times noted that they also said the rationale for bringing the companies together was to find efficiencies that would save money on the back end, and that it had no plans to reduce the number of books it acquires or the amounts it pays for them.

"Blocking the transaction would harm the very authors DOJ purports to protect," the companies added. "We will fight this lawsuit vigorously and look forward to PRH serving as the steward for this storied publishing house in the years to come."

PRH CEO Markus Dohle commented (via the Bookseller): “Since ViacomCBS announced that it was contemplating selling S&S, we at Penguin Random House knew S&S would have its best home with us--a place that would be committed to carrying forward its storied legacy. We continue to firmly believe this. Our goal is for the new combined company to be truly greater than the sum of its parts, and our focus is to grow our community of distinct imprints that will operate independently and autonomously and will continue to compete vigorously among themselves and with outside competitors, a process that best serves the objective that every author finds the right editor and the best imprint for their work to develop and flourish."

In a note to staff, S&S president and CEO Jonathan Karp observed: "For all of us, this news is unsettling: nobody likes to work in an atmosphere of uncertainty. But over the last 18 months we have proven our ability to perform at the highest possible levels on behalf of our authors and their books. Our admirable performance during this period is a testament to your dedication, resilience, and ability to adapt under extreme conditions. Your hard work is greatly appreciated.... We are committed to working together with PRH to fight this lawsuit. I expect that there will be further developments along the way as this process unfolds."


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


Kenny Brechner Resigns from ABA Board over Free Expression Approach

Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, has resigned from the board of the American Booksellers Association, citing a change in approach by the ABA toward free speech. At issue is the tension between a traditional definition of free speech that aims to protect a broad range of titles and speech and more recent definitions that exclude titles and speech offensive to some people, especially on the basis of antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion.

In a PW Shelf Talker post explaining his resignation, Brechner wrote, in part, "In September the Board voted to restrict its active support and defense of free expression by changing its Ends Policies regarding free expression to read as follows. 'Core members have the resources in support of their right to freedom of expression.' This nebulous statement undermined ABA's long established role as a defender of free expression in the literary world. Pointedly it constricted ABFE's scope in representing the voices of ABA members. My objection to this change was a dissenting voice and I speak strictly for myself....

"In its resolute determination to consider free expression an impediment to the values recently enumerated in its Ends Policies--antiracism, equity, access, and representation--the ABA has turned away from its long-established protection of minority voices and democratic interpretations of freedom and liberty. In the name of protecting a vulnerable segment of its constituents from harm, ABA has adopted a position that dilutes the very principles that have steadfastly defended them. Many of us recognize that the literary world is polarized and troubled, which is why we must defend its core values now, and will dearly miss them when the political pendulum next swings to the right....

"Protecting the speech we find offensive so that our own speech is protected can be emotionally messy. It is built upon the intellectual appreciation that there is no free expression without free expression for all. Free expression is not about putting forward that all speech is equal, nor that exclusion isn't harmful, but rather that the suppression of speech is the greater harm.... The defense of free expression is the only means to protect the speech of the disenfranchised, the powerless, and the critics of power. Civil rights, LGBTQ+, Black Lives Matter--no movement for social justice or protest could operate absent the defense of free speech."

Bradley Graham, president of the ABA and co-owner of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., commented: "Kenny was a valued voice on the ABA Board. His thoughtfulness and experienced perspective were greatly appreciated. So was his wit. His presence will be missed.

"After a year-long discussion about the importance that ABA places on freedom of expression and on its commitment to antiracism, representation, access, and equity, the Board revised the Ends Policies. The revisions make it possible for ABFE to continue supporting the right of bookstores to freedom of expression by providing them with resources and by working with coalition partners. They also make it possible for ABA to live up to its DEI commitment and support for all members."


GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill


Thunder Road Books Rolling in Spring Lake, N.J.

"I wanted it to be a hub of storytelling, whether that is music, screenplays, fiction, nonfiction or poetry," explained Basil Iwanyk, owner of Thunder Road Books in Spring Lake, N.J. "The focus is flicks, books and rock & roll."

Iwanyk, a movie producer who owns the production company Thunder Road Films, opened the bookstore in late May with the help of Kate Czyzewski, a former special education teacher and book blogger who runs the bookstore day-to-day. The general-interest bookstore sells books for all ages, with a significant children's section and, because of Iwanyk's film background and love of music, more coffee-table books, film books and music books than the typical small indie bookstore might have.

The store sells all new titles, along with a selection of nonbook items that speak to "creativity and artistry." There are journals for writers and musicians, as well as kids items like night lights and puzzles; Czyzewski noted that they're looking to expand those sideline offerings as the months go on.

Thunder Road Books has started hosting events for children and adults, with twice-weekly storytime sessions and adult author events almost weekly. Given the limited space, the store has partnered with the local community theater to host off-site events, and Czyzewski said those have "really taken off this fall." Czyzewski added that there's a sort of bar area at the front of the store, where people can sit, read and use the store's wi-fi, that has proven very popular.

Toward the end of November the store will start hosting monthly writing workshops for people of all ages, and on the subject of future events, Iwanyk said he plans to "cash in on every favor" he's owed from writers, directors, actors and authors that he's worked with over the years. He hopes to bring them down to Spring Lake (about 90 minutes from New York City) and have them discuss "their craft and point of view."

"What's beginning to take shape is that it's becoming a space for artists to gather," said Czyzewski. "It's incredible to start seeing that."

Iwanyk explained that he's "always been a huge reading fanatic," though he's worked in the movie business since the early 1990s, on films such as the John Wick movies, Sicario, A Star Is Born, Wind River and many others, and "one of the things about producing movies is you travel a lot." When he was away from his family, sometimes for long stretches at a time, he "found solace in going to bookstores," and they were places he always loved.

After some 12 years of being bi-coastal, with Iwanyk and his family spending summers on the East Coast while living in Los Angeles, they moved to Spring Lake about 18 months ago. While sitting around with his wife one day, they started asking themselves, "what do we want to do now?" A storefront between a coffee shop and a pizza place opened up, and Iwanyk realized that he wouldn't find a better space for a bookstore in Spring Lake.

He took the plunge and got the space, but at the same time had "no idea what I was doing." He was very passionate about books, but had never worked in retail or owned a store, let alone a bookstore. While the store was being built out and he was brainstorming what the inventory should look like and what sort of atmosphere he wanted to create, Iwanyk was also looking for someone to "not just run the store but have an emotional investment in it."

At that time Czyzewski was still working as a teacher while running a book blog in her spare time. A mutual acquaintance introduced her to Iwanyk, recommending her as a "huge book nerd." Czyzewski actually said no the first time Iwanyk asked her to manage the store, but she eventually decided it was a great opportunity to merge her "love of teaching" with her "passion for books."

Iwanyk recalled that there was an initial six-week stretch where Czyzewski was at school and he covered the store every morning until around 1 or 2 p.m., which felt like jumping into the deep end. "It was a blast," he said, laughing, "but now she doesn't want me anywhere near the store." --Alex Mutter


Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam


International Update: Bookshop.org Celebrates First Year in U.K., French Government Backing Indies

Bookshop.org celebrated its first anniversary in the U.K. yesterday, with managing director Nicole Vanderbilt hailing a "really incredible" first year. The Bookseller reported that since its U.K. launch at the beginning of the second national lockdown last November, the website has generated more than £1.7 million (about $2.3 million) for the 480 bookshops on the platform.

Nicole Vanderbilt

"That has been incredibly rewarding," said Vanderbilt. "I went into this with a deep love for independent bookshops, that's why I joined the team to do this, and my love for them and awe of them has only grown. The biggest thing for me and the entire team is the impact that we've been able to have on these bookshops."

Looking to the future, she said the Bookshop.org team wants to continue working with the industry to help tackle Amazon's market position: "Too often authors and publishers are still racing to Amazon as the default for pre-orders and for online sales. We have made good progress with that but there is still a huge amount of opportunity out there for us to get more of that action into the hands of the indies."

Jess Paul, manager of Max Minerva's Marvellous Books in Bristol, said: "In April 2020, we weren't sure how we were going to get through the year and pay our bills. Bookshop.org couldn't have arrived at a better time--with the commission from them, we have been able to pay all our bills, as well as offer our hard-working staff bonuses and raised wages." 

Olivia Rosenthall owner of Maldon Books in Maldon, noted that while the service has "not been for everybody, because at the end of the day the best way to support your independent bookshop is to buy directly from them," a lot of customers who have spoken to her in store said they first found out about her shop on Bookshop.org. 

Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls called the platform's first anniversary in the U.K. "a moment for celebration," noting: "The team at Bookshop.org quickly established themselves as an invaluable resource for online bookselling, both for those shops who use it exclusively, and those who use it in tandem with their own e-commerce offers. It allowed the indie bookselling sector a viable way to get online market share at a crucial moment during the pandemic, when the future of bookselling looked very much in jeopardy, and we have been nothing but impressed by the continued sense of mission, support, investment and engagement with indie bookshops that the whole team at Bookshop.org have demonstrated.  

"It's an option for bookshops, not an obligation, obviously, and looking at some of the moving testimonials from bookshops who have embraced the platform does illustrate the impact it has had for many."

--- 

The French government is seizing on increased support for independent bookshops to pursue its war against the domination of big tech firms, the Guardian reported. "In a blow to Amazon, new legislation in France is to set a minimum price for book deliveries, in order to stop what the government calls 'distorted competition' against independent bookshops from digital giants who deliver books for a charge of as little as €0.01."

France has had three nationwide lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, but in the final lockdown last spring, books were deemed essential items and bookshops permitted to stay open. 

Wilfrid Séjeau, owner of the independent bookshop Le Cyprès in Nevers, said he had posted about 70 books a day to customers during France's second lockdown last year, wrapping many as gifts. When his shop reopened, there was a marked rise in customers from the surrounding rural area. "People realized certain things are precious," he said. "A person might buy a lot of books on Amazon but also enjoy browsing in small bookshops. People often save a book into their basket on Amazon as soon as they hear about it so they don't forget. Now they tell us: 'I'm stopping that, I'll send you a list or reserve on your site instead.' " 

Guillaume Husson of the Syndicat de la Librairie Française, observed: "Independent bookstores don't sell the same things as other sales points--they have more first-time novelists, more challenging publications--that has allowed hundreds of publishers and writers to exist."

--- 

In South Africa, Cape {town} Etc.'s showcased "3 unique book shops to visit" in Cape Town, noting that the city is "home to some wonderfully unique book stores, perfect for picking up a page-turner or basking in a bit of you time." 

The bookshops featured included Kalk Bay Books ("quaint and filled with a quality selection.... The setting is filled with stunning natural light."), Obz Books ("the perfect place to get stuck into a heap of different reads") and Clarke's Book Shop ("began specializing in Africana in the 1970s, making this a special hub to expand your appreciation for African talent"). --Robert Gray


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


All She Wrote Books, Somerville, Mass., Supporting Community

When owner Christina Pascucci-Ciampa first opened the queer, feminist bookstore All She Wrote Books in Somerville, Mass., the store was offering curbside service and shipping only. Now, the bookstore's doors have been open to customers for months and Pascucci-Ciampa is focused on building community through events and partnerships, the Boston Globe reported.

Located in Somerville's Assembly Row neighborhood, All She Wrote Books sells new and used titles with an emphasis on intersectionality and underrepresented authors. All genres are available and there are books for children, teens and adults. There is an artists' corner featuring the work of local artists and a box of free advance reader's copies, so no visitor leaves empty-handed.

Pascucci-Ciampa explained that she would often see books like Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique at independent bookstores, and while she loved those titles, she found that most stores shelved the same small collection of related books. She wanted to open a store of her own that would "showcase those authors and those voices and those stories consistently, throughout all of our shelves, all the time."

She also wanted to make sure her store carried books on subjects like domestic violence, which she was unable to find at other bookstores while she was trying to leave an abusive relationship in 2010. One of her goals with the store is to foster an environment where customers and community members can feel comfortable talking to staff members about difficult subjects.

“It’s planting the seeds to let folks know that we’re here for them, we’re a resource for them, we’re a space where you can come and be loved and respected for who you are, no matter where you’re from, or who you are,” Pascucci-Ciampa told the Globe.

All She Wrote Books first began as an all-used pop-up shop in April 2019, with Pascucci-Ciampa doing business at places like local brewery Winter Hill Brewing Company. Now she's hosting events in her own store, such as a teen LGBTQ+ book club and author readings with local writers, and helping support the Somerville community. She hosted a free book fair for students at a nearby school, helped fill Little Free Library boxes with social justice titles and donated books to the Somerville Library.

"It's really important to be part of the community because we're in it, and I wouldn't be anywhere with the bookstore if there wasn't that community," Pascucci-Ciampa said. "It's just a no-brainer."


Notes

Bookseller Cat: Googey at BookMarx

"Out today in paperback the further adventures everyone's second* favorite bookstore employee killer," BookMarx, Springfield, Mo., posted on Facebook along with a photo of You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes (Book and Netflix series You) and *Googey, who "has terminated mice with no remorse."


Personnel Changes at Workman Publishing

At Workman Publishing:

Diana Griffin has been promoted to associate director of publicity & marketing within the Workman imprint. Most recently, she was publicity & marketing manager, and before that she was senior publicist. Prior to joining Workman, Diana worked as a publicist at Tor/Forge Books and in marketing and publicity at Ryland Peters and Small and Abbeville Press.

Claire Gross has been promoted to publicist within the Workman imprint. Most recently, she was associate publicist, and before that she was publicity assistant. Prior to joining Workman, Gross worked as a bookseller at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Mass.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Paul McCartney on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Paul McCartney, author of The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present (Liveright, $100, 9781631492563).

Tomorrow:
Drew Barrymore Show: Carla Hall, author of Carla and the Christmas Cornbread (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781534494695).

Tamron Hall: Cody Alan, author of Hear's the Thing: Lessons on Listening, Life, and Love (Harper Horizon, $27.99, 9780785249153).

The View: Michael Eric Dyson, author of Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America (‎St. Martin's Press, $32.50, 9781250135971).


TV: Station Eleven; Kingston & the Magician's Lost & Found

A teaser trailer has been released for Station Eleven, the HBO Max miniseries based on Emily St. John Mandel's 2014 novel. Entertainment Weekly reported that in series creator and showrunner Patrick Somerville's project, "the global pandemic starts quietly. A rumor here, a whisper from a doctor in an inundated emergency room there. One person panic-buys a half-dozen carts full of groceries and barricades their apartment, another person isn't quite sure what this new flu is. The situation escalates quickly and devastatingly, and the world begins to go dark."

The cast of Station Eleven, which launches December 16 on HBO Max, includes Mackenzie Davis, Himesh Patel, Matilda Lawler, Danielle Deadwyler and Gael Garcia Bernal. EW noted that even though the teaser "looks chillingly familiar 18 months into a real-life pandemic, the series began filming before Covid-19 turned the world upside-down, underscoring the story's eerie prescience."

---

Disney Branded Television has optioned the TV rights to Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi's recently released middle-grade book series Kingston and the Magician's Lost & Found and its sequel, Kingston and the Echoes of MagicDeadline reported that an original movie based on the first book is currently in development with Jane Startz (Disney's Sneakerella, The School for Good and Evil) executive producing. The authors, Craig S. Phillips and Harold Hayes Jr., will serve as co-executive producers.

"We are thrilled to partner with Craig, Harold and Theo and bring their heartfelt story of wonder and mystery to our audience," said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television. "Set against the backdrop of true magical history, this is an inspiring adventure of extraordinary moments happening in everyday situations."

"Kingston is an adventure that is epic and intimate, set in a world that is both mysterious and familiar--with a story and characters our audience can relate to and be awed by," said Lauren Kisilevsky, senior v-p, original movies, Disney Branded Television. "The adventure, emotion and authenticity in these books align with our mission to tell stories that not only engage and entertain but remind us that there is magic all around us, even in the most unexpected places."



Books & Authors

Awards: NEIBA Winners

The winners of the 2021 New England Book Awards, sponsored by the New England Independent Booksellers Association, are:

Fiction: Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books)
Nonfiction: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (Mariner Books)
Poetry: Just Us by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
Children's: Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House)
Middle Grade: Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (Quill Tree Books)
Young Adult: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (Holiday House)


Reading with... Margaret Verble

photo: Greg Reynolds

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel, Maud's Line, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her second novel, Cherokee America, was selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year for 2019. Her new book, When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky (Mariner, October 12, 2021), follows a death-defying young Cherokee horse-diver who, with her companions from the Glendale Park Zoo, must get to the bottom of a mystery that spans centuries. Verble lives in Lexington, Ky.

On your nightstand now:

I have to be disciplined about buying books because that's a habit that can get totally out of hand. I read reviews. Then I buy about 10 or 11 books at a time. As I go through them, I read more reviews and when I get down to two books, I buy another slew. At this moment, there are four novels beside my bed: The Vixen by Francine Prose, Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard and World Enough and Time by Robert Penn Warren. Three of those are current works that have gotten good press. The fourth is part of my commitment to read a few vintage novels a year.

Also in that stack are All that She Carried by Tiya Miles and The Ledger and the Chain by Joshua Rothman. As a Southerner, I like to continually educate myself from the African American perspective. A History of the Ozarks, Vol. 2, The Conflicted Ozarks by Brooks Blevins is also by my bed. I enjoy reading history, and three generations back some of my family had problems with an Ozark vigilante group called the Baldknobbers. Finally, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb is on my nightstand. It combines two of my favorite things, true crime and Victorian England.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite books as a child were the Dr. Dolittle series. They were written between the 1920s and the 1950s, and some are considered racist now. But they actually instilled in me an interest in going to foreign counties and meeting different people.

Your top five authors:

I have a weakness for the Brits. I think Hilary Mantel is the most brilliant fiction writer of our time. I also like Ian McEwan for his range as well as his skill, and I like Sarah Waters for her ability to build suspense and write good, creepy historical fiction. On this side of the pond, I like Elizabeth Strout for her ability to make the lives of small-town Midwesterners feel as tragic as King Lear, and Flannery O'Connor for being flat-out the funniest and most philosophical of American writers.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick. I was a senior in college and I just didn't have time to read 700 pages about whale hunting. I've never regretted it. And I've never read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The latest book I've been recommending is Charles Hudson's Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. It's both engrossing and educational. Very few people know this history, and the book is brilliantly researched and written.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I think some covers are a lot better than others, but I can't say that I've ever bought a book for its cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins. I think I was reading it for the sex and my father thought so, too. He asked me not to finish it, so I had to hide to do that.

Book that changed your life:

The Portable Jung. It's a collection of C.J. Jung's most important work edited by Joseph Campbell. I came across it when it was 25 and it changed the way I looked at the world. After reading it, I read everything of Jung's I could get my hands on. I still think he had deep insight into the nature of the human mind and our connection to one another.

Favorite line from a book:

On the page this will look like a misprint, but it's written in dialect. From Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find":

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

The sentence is at the end of a powerful and awful (the truest sense of the word) story. Every time I read it, I want to laugh out loud. And then I want to slap myself for being so wicked.

Five books you'll never part with:

She's just my favorite American author. So damn funny. So wise about human nature.

History of the Cherokee Indians by Emmet Starr. This has been an invaluable resource for me as a writer and amateur historian. It's an essential primary source for all Cherokees.

20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson, M.D. I became interested in reincarnation decades ago, but most books on that subject lack substance and rigor. Stevenson was at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for about 50 years. He did serious--and convincing--work.

Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph Lash. I'm a great admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt. This book started me down that path.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. A lot of my doctoral work was in philosophy, and I've retained an interest in all branches of it, but especially in ethics.

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

Anything by Flannery O'Connor.


Book Review

Children's Review: Spell Sweeper

Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Fodi (HarperCollins, $16.99 hardcover, 368p., ages 8-12, 9780062845320, November 30, 2021)

Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Fodi (The Secret of Zoone) is a middle-grade magic school adventure that features a sassy and smart-mouthed heroine who wants to be recognized as a real wizard instead of as one who cleans up after them.

Seventh-grader Cara Moone attends Dragonsong Academy for the magically gifted, but she's not learning how to brew potions or cast spells. Rather, Cara is learning to clean up messes. Equipped with her trusty broom, she is a MOP, a Magical Occurrence Purger, who "sweeps" the spell dust left behind when "real" wizards do magic--real wizards like 15-year-old Harlee Wu, the "so-called Chosen One" and Cara's sworn enemy. "She's a star and I'm a set piece," Cara explains, believing that if she were like Harlee, "life would be so different.... So much better."

After one of Harlee's awe-inspiring magical feats, Cara is faced with sweeping a slime-oozing rift in the Field of Magical Matter, which is what wizards access when spellcasting. Though Cara closes it--by herself--Master Quibble, the MOP department head (who thinks Cara a "disobedient failure"), doesn't believe her. Worse yet, Cara is sure he won't believe her theory that Harlee is using an occuli--a forbidden magical talisman--to cast magic, which consequently harms the Field. But when more ruptures start appearing, the Wizard High Council assembles a team to investigate: Quibble; Cara; her fellow MOPs Zuki, a wisecracking three-tailed fox, and Gusto, a notorious rule-follower; and, of course, Harlee Wu. Cara, certain Harlee is causing the rifts, knows it's up to her to protect the Field: "For once, I'll be the star of the school."

Spell Sweeper is a genre-loyal magic school tale full of mischievous antics told from the point of view of a gutsy girl wizard who never lacks a comeback. Young readers acquainted with Harry Potter will recognize several references to the series, such as how the kids eat dinner at the Cranky Cauldron and enjoy drinking ginger beer. Daring leap-before-you-look moments, hilarious mishaps ("The broom ends up standing on its head, my pink unicorn underwear dangling from it like a flag") and tense family drama add excitement, levity and depth. Interspersed between chapters are quirky guides on the "wizarding world" and tender reflections on Cara's most private memories. Together, Cara and her wizard companions show that people are not always who they seem on the outside and, if given the chance, they can truly shine. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: A feisty tween girl wizard leads this lighthearted magic school story, in which brooms are used to sweep up the waste left behind by spells.


The Bestsellers

Libro.fm Bestsellers in October

The bestselling Libro.fm audiobooks at independent bookstores during October:

Fiction
1. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Dune by Frank Herbert (Macmillan Audio)
3. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster Audio)
4. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)
5. Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune (Macmillan Audio)
6. State of Terror by Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster/St. Martin's Press)
7. The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (HarperAudio)
8. No One Goes Alone by Erik Larson (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Penguin Random House Audio)

Nonfiction
1. The Storyteller by Dave Grohl (HarperAudio)
2. A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
3. Taste by Stanley Tucci (Simon & Schuster Audio)
4. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski (Simon & Schuster Audio)
6. Please Don't Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
8. Unbound by Tarana Burke (Macmillan Audio)
9. Cultish by Amanda Montell (HarperAudio)
10. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk (Penguin Random House Audio)


Powered by: Xtenit