Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Quotation of the Day

'The School Library Is Without Question the Most Important Room in the Entire School'

"The school library is without question the most important room in the entire school, because it contains--or used to contain, or should contain--books that are not required for examination purposes. Books that no one might expect to find. Books on every subject under the sun. Books that some teachers don't even know are there....

"But the library should be the heart, the soul, the mind, the source, the spring, the gold-bearing seam, the engine room, the treasure chamber, the priceless inheritance, the joy and the pride of the school. Every school."

--Author Philip Pullman, calling on government to legislate immediately to ensure all schools in Britain have libraries (via the Guardian)

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ALA's 2024 Youth Media Award Winners

At the Youth Media Awards, announced yesterday in Baltimore, Md., American Library Association President Emily Drabinski opened the proceedings with a good morning to "people who love books as much as I do."

Emily Drabinski at the Youth Media Awards.

Jonda C. McNair, president of the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC), revealed the winners of two of ALA's longest-running awards, the Randolph Caldecott Medal ("to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children") and the John Newbery Medal ("to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children"). Vashti Harrison became the first Black woman to receive the Caldecott Medal, for her picture book Big (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and received both a Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor. Dave Eggers's The Eyes and the Impossible (Knopf Books for Young Readers and McSweeney's Publishing), illustrated by Shawn Harris, received the 2024 Newbery Medal; and young adult anthology The Collectors: Stories (Dutton Books for Young Readers), edited by A.S. King, was named the Michael L. Printz Award winner.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author as well as a specific body of their work for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature, went to Neal Shusterman. Pam Muñoz Ryan won the Children's Literature Legacy Award, which honors an author or illustrator whose books have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. All the winners can be found here.

Our interview with Vashti Harrison is below, and interviews with winners of the Newbery, Printz, and other awards will appear here throughout the week. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Vashti Harrison: 2024 Caldecott Medalist, CSK Illustrator & Author Honoree

Vashti Harrison

On Monday morning, Vashti Harrison became the first Black woman to win the Randolph Caldecott Medal, given for "the most distinguished American picture book for children," for her 2023 book, Big (Little, Brown). The author/illustrator was also awarded two Coretta Scott King honors, in the Illustrator and Author categories.

What a huge morning you've had. Are you somewhere in the country where the award announcements are at an acceptable time?

I'm in Florida with my parents and sister, so we got up, made coffee, fed the cats, and watched the livestream! I'm so grateful to have family around to celebrate--we just had a party for my dad's 89th birthday so there are a lot of people in town.

Big has had a wonderful year. First, it was a finalist for the National Book Award and now it's received the Caldecott Medal as well as two CSK honors. What are you thinking right now?

It's more than I could ever have imagined. The National Book Award was so unexpected and such a wild journey with many authors and illustrators I admire! For the Coretta Scott King committee to give me two honors is incredible--particularly for the writing honor. I feel comfortable with the title of illustrator, but author will always sound foreign. To be recognized for the text in this book is truly humbling.

And the Caldecott? I wished, I hoped for an honor. Never, ever did I believe it was possible to win the Medal. I watched the livestream just to make sure I didn't dream it all up!

Would you describe Big to our readers?

Big is the story of a young girl who's experiencing some really BIG feelings, particularly about her body. It traces how the meaning of the word big can change in a girl's life: when you're young, big can be a word of affirmation. But as a girl grows older, it can become something negative. The book tracks how this young girl internalizes some of that negativity, and follows her on her journey to self-love. In the end she reclaims big as just one of the words that define her. I hope the book encourages young readers to know they get to define who they are--no one else gets to decide that for you.

What inspired you to create Big?

Part of this story is inspired by my own childhood and relationship with my body. I started writing it to process many of the experiences and unresolved feelings I still carry. It's an ongoing journey, but I wanted to expand the narrative beyond myself, to create a roadmap for young readers on their own journeys toward self-love. I wanted to make a book about Black girlhood, touching on things that many young Black girls experience in the United States, particularly anti-fat bias and adultification bias.

The illustrations are brilliantly effective: the color palette, the formatting, the use of double-page spreads, that gatefold (!). Did this story come to you fully formed? Or did words or images come to you first?

The images definitely came first. The first thing I drew was a sketch of the lowest point of the book: the girl curled up, back to the viewer, boxed in. No words. Just isolation. I wanted to tell the story of how this girl got here, and how she breaks free. In the beginning I hoped to make a fully wordless book, but there was so much more to say.

The ah-ha moments for me were realizing I could use the gutter and trim size of the book to help support the narrative. That led to me realizing that this is a book about words--I can have the girl literally hold words and hand them back to people. Still, the text is quite spare, so I used color to help communicate her emotions and feelings.

How did you find such an excellent balance of text and illustration?

I went back and forth on edits with my incredible editor and friend Farrin Jacobs. This book only has about 150 words and each one is like a number in a sudoku puzzle. If we put one in, we'd have to take another out. She guided me through this process, especially when I started questioning everything or felt too close to the subject matter. 

Have you had the chance to read this book with children?

I've had the opportunity to do school visits across the country, and it's always so amazing to hear how thoughtful and empathetic children are and how they have such a strong sense of justice. The responses have been great. I've seen some amazing classroom projects where they've made posters listing all the positive words that describe themselves, and notes about what to do when they see someone is struggling or being bullied.

What were you hoping to accomplish when writing and illustrating this book?

As much as I hoped this story would be a mirror for young Black girls and a window into this type of experience, I also wanted it to act as an appeal to adults to consider the words we use with and say to children. You never know what's going to stick with a kid. I remember all too well what it was to be that girl, so I want to create space for kids to just be kids, to let their bodies change and grow without adult appraisal or criticism.

Your first book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, was published in 2017 and you have been rather prolific since then. What have the past seven years been like in publishing?

SEVEN YEARS! I can't believe it's been that long! It started like a whirlwind with Little Leaders, Little Dreamers, and Little Legends. I said yes to so many projects in such a short amount of time: I illustrated four books in 2018 and three came out in 2019. When the pandemic hit and all my events were cancelled, it was really my first moment to slow down. That's when I started doodling my initial thoughts about Big. Those years all blend in my mind, but I think it's been a great seven years for kid lit. My friend, author and editor Winsome Bingham, believes we're in another golden age of picture books. I tend to agree, and am grateful to be able to witness so many diverse, creative, and beautiful books being published. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Iowa's Swamp Fox Bookstore Moving

Swamp Fox's current store.

Swamp Fox Bookstore, Marion, Iowa, is closing its current location this Friday, January 26, and reopening in a new spot at 1375 7th Avenue on Wednesday, February 7. The new location will give the store more space for gatherings and consolidate all operations. A grand reopening event is planned for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 27, which is also the third anniversary of Swamp Fox's original opening celebration.

"We are so excited that the community has supported us and showed us they want a locally owned bookstore in their backyard!" said Terri LeBlanc, who owns the store with Amanda Zhorne and Ursla Lanphea. The three opened the tiny shop featuring books from their personal collection and from another bookstore that closed. The store added Swamp Fox Kids, a children's store, in 2021 and merged the two in 2022 when a larger unit became available. Swamp Fox has had retail space in Marion's West End since July 2020.

"Now, with 1,150 square feet to work with, our inventory and hours may expand a little, but our goal is for the store to feel cozy, like you're walking into someone's living room," LeBlanc added. "We want to be a gathering space for book lovers so everyone can learn about new authors and discover books they might like."

Obituary Note: Andrew Vachss

Andrew Vachss
(photo: Lorraine Darrow/

Andrew Vachss, "who crusaded against the abuse of children both in his real-life work as a lawyer and in vivid crime novels," died November 23, 2021. He was 79. Noting that his death had not been widely reported previously, the New York Times wrote that Vachss "was known to crime fiction fans for his novels, which were frequently described with terms like 'hard-boiled' and which just as frequently centered on child pornography, pedophilia, incest and other abuse involving children. Eighteen of them featured a tough character named Burke, an ex-con turned unlicensed private investigator who breaks more than a few rules as he goes after those who prey on children."

In 2000, Vachss told the CBS program The Early Show, "If I had a wish, it would be that what I write about was fiction."

He contended that the crimes against children he described were based on his real-world experience as a lawyer specializing in abuse and neglect cases, custody disputes and other matters involving children. The Times noted that he often commented on or wrote about public policy matters that related to such cases, and a suggestion he made as a guest on Oprah Winfrey's show in the early 1990s set in motion the legislative initiative that led to the National Child Protection Act of 1993.

Vachss was the author of more than 30 books; his first Burke novel, Flood, appeared in 1985, and the last in the series, Another Life, in 2008. He followed those with the Cross series and the Aftershock trilogy. Vachss also wrote stand-alone novels, comic books, and poetry. 

He often described his novels as "Trojan horses," a way of raising awareness about the prevalence of child sex abuse and getting his ideas about the subject into popular culture. Those ideas could be polarizing. He did not, for example, have much faith in the idea of rehabilitating sexual predators.

Among his admirers was writer Joe R. Lansdale (the Hap and Leonard series), who said Vachss "was not only a great crime novelist, he was someone who changed the world, literally. Child abuse is no longer in the dark, due to Andrew shining a bright spotlight on it, and on the impact it had on into adulthood."

David Hechler, whose writings about crimes against children include the 1989 book The Battle and the Backlash: The Child Sexual Abuse War, added: "We often hear about people who are said to be 'laser focused.' It's become a cliché. But even if it weren't, it's too tepid to describe Andrew Vachss. He wasn't a professor pointing a beam at a whiteboard. His light was more like a flamethrower's. He had a white-hot intensity and a persistence that never quit."


Image of the Day: Postindustrial DIY Launches in Brooklyn

Spoonbill & Sugartown in Brooklyn, N.Y., hosted the launch event for Daniel Campo's  Postindustrial DIY: Recovering American Rust Belt Icons (Fordham University Press). Pictured: Campo (center) with Yale professor of urbanism Elihu Rubin (left), who moderated the event, and photographer Camilo José Vergara (right). 

PRHPS to Sell and Distribute Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group

Penguin Random House Publisher Services will sell and distribute the entire Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group (WWBG) frontlist and backlist across all sales channels worldwide, effective September 1.

Formed in 2019 as Wattpad Books before evolving into the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group with the launch of Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, WWBG publishes more than 40 new titles a year. WWBG includes the fiction imprints of Wattpad Books, W by Wattpad Books, and Frayed Pages x Wattpad Books, plus the graphic novels of WEBTOON Unscrolled. Its bestselling titles include True Beauty by Yaongyi, The Falling by Anna Todd, Night Shift by Annie Crown, Float by Kate Marchant, and Everything Is Fine by Mike Birchall.

Tina McIntyre, senior v-p and head of global publishing at Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, said, "Fans around the world have proven time and again that they will follow their favorite webcomics and webnovels to print format, so we are thrilled to be starting the next chapter in our publishing journey with Penguin Random House Publisher Services. Their enthusiasm and proven success in building brands is unmatched, and we can't wait to see what we will do together for our titles and creators."

Rachel Goldstein, executive v-p of PRHPS, said, "Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group has stood out from the pack in discovering and publishing the most exciting and engaging stories across genres in both prose and graphic storytelling. We're invigorated to bring the full suite of PRHPS and Penguin Random House resources to deliver their books to even more readers throughout the world."

Personnel Changes at Abrams; Scholastic

Christine Edwards has been appointed senior v-p of sales at Abrams, heading global sales and subsidiary rights, effective February 12. She was most recently senior v-p of the adult sales group at HarperCollins and earlier was v-p and group sales director of the Crown Group and Audio Publishing at Penguin Random House and before that was director of merchandising and held other buying and merchandising positions at Borders Group.


At Scholastic:

Kristin Rasmussen, formerly co-executive director of the California Independent Booksellers Alliance (CALIBA), has joined the company as district sales manager.

Tessa Meischeid, formerly publicity manager at Penguin Young Readers, has joined the company as publicity manager.

Abigail Jordon, formerly publicity assistant at Other Press, has joined the company as publicity assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Simon Shuster on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Simon Shuster, author of The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky (Morrow, $32.99, 9780063307421).

CBS Mornings: Antonia Hylton, author of Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum (Legacy Lit, $30, 9781538723692).

Good Morning America: Robert Downey Jr. and Thomas Kostigen, authors of Cool Food: Erasing Your Carbon Footprint One Bite at a Time (Blackstone Publishing, $29.99, 9798200962372).

TV: Ripley

Netflix has released a teaser trailer for its upcoming series Ripley, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley. The adaptation was originally set up at Showtime, but was acquired by Netflix in a sale between the companies, Variety reported.

Directed and written by Steven Zaillian (The Irishman), Ripley stars Andrew Scott (All of Us Strangers) in the title role, along with Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf and Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood. The series premieres April 4, with all eight episodes available on Netflix.

Previously, Matt Damon played Tom Ripley in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, co-starring with Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Books & Authors

Awards: Sydney Taylor Winners

The Association of Jewish Libraries has announced the winners of the 2024 Sydney Taylor Book Awards:

Picture Book: Two New Years by Richard Ho, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield (Chronicle Books)
Middle Grade: The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman by Mari Lowe (Arthur A. Levine/Levine Querido)
Young Adult: The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins)

In addition, the winner of the Body-of-Work Award is Joni Sussman, publisher of Kar-Ben Publishing, a Lerner Publishing Group imprint.

To see the full list of winners, honor books and notable books, click here.

Book Review

Review: Wild Houses

Wild Houses by Colin Barrett (Grove Press, $27 hardcover, 272p., 9780802160942, March 19, 2024)

In his story collections, Homesickness and Young Skins, Colin Barrett, who grew up in County Mayo on Ireland's west coast, demonstrated an affinity for writing about the lives of the inhabitants of that region. It's not surprising then that in Wild Houses, his first novel, he's returned to his home turf with a brisk, engaging tale of a small group of dubious characters who'd be at home in one of Martin McDonagh's darkly comic films.

The action of the novel unfolds over the course of a weekend in the small town of Ballina, hosting its annual Salmon Festival. But that celebration is far from the minds of brothers Gabe and Sketch Ferdia, who appear one evening at the front door of their cousin Dev Hendrick with teenager Doll English in their grasp. The Ferdias work as enforcers for a drug dealer named Mulrooney, and they've been using Dev's house to store their boss's product. They've kidnapped Doll to pressure his older brother, Cillian, a former dealer, into satisfying an old drug debt. When Doll disappears from a Friday night party after a fight with his girlfriend, Nicky Hennigan, her annoyance turns to alarm when she learns that he's being held hostage.

Barrett moves his plot efficiently between the story of Doll's captivity and Nicky's uneasy mind in what feels to her like an interminable weekend. There's pure pleasure in reading Barrett's crisp prose, brimming with descriptions like one of Gabe, a man "with a face on him like a vandalized church, long and angular and pitted, eyes glinting deep in their sockets like smashed-out windows," or when he likens Mulrooney's voice to "the lively, frictionless register of a priest or a minor politician working the room at a parish fundraiser."

But what ultimately elevates the novel is Barrett's ability to blend an unsparing eye with genuine empathy for some superficially unappealing characters readers nonetheless end up caring about, even as they recognize their profound flaws. That strength emerges most clearly as he gently unfolds the story of Dev, now in his 20s, who's suffered since his teenage years. The object of relentless bullying in secondary school, aggravated by his passivity, Dev eventually drops out to take a manufacturing job, but he lacks the capacity to deal with his profound grief over his mother's sudden passing.

And so, even as the novel's tension builds toward the inevitable confrontation between the thuggish Ferdia brothers and Cillian, readers will appreciate the human dimensions of this story. Colin Barrett is heir to the sensibility of fellow Irish writers like Roddy Doyle and Kevin Barry, and the fact that he's only at the beginning of his career is reason for celebration. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Accomplished short story writer Colin Barrett's first novel is an engaging story of the machinations of a group of small-time criminals in small-town Ireland.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
3. Twisted Games by Ana Huang
4. Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
5. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
6. Twisted Lies by Ana Huang
7. Hooked by Emily McIntire
8. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
9. The Ritual by Shantel Tessier
10. Twisted Hate by Ana Huang

[Many thanks to!]

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