Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 14, 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.


London Book Fair 2024: Global Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

Copyright in the age of AI, free expression, and reclaiming the mantle of providing accurate, trustworthy information were among the topics covered at the panel "Exploring the Ever-Evolving World of Publishing: Global Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities" on Tuesday morning at the London Book Fair, moderated by Ed Nawotka of Publishers Weekly.

Karine Pansa, president of the International Publishers Association, called "copyright related to AI" one of the most important issues today: "Our content is being used without permission and without license by AI."

Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Federation of European Publishers, applauded the European Parliament for the AI Act, which is in the process of being approved and adopted, saying the measure establishes a baseline for AI protections and helps put publishers "at the table" for defending against negative use of AI.

From l.: Ed Nawotka, Karine Pansa, Ricardo Franco Levi, Youngsuk 'YS' Chi, and (on screen) Lawrence Njagi.

Youngsuk "YS" Chi, chairman of the Association of American Publishers and director of corporate affairs at RELX Group, also applauded the AI Act, but emphasized that beyond using copyright to protect content, book publishers "need to move forward ourselves" and highlight the issue of trust in a time when people have enormous and often free access to all kinds of material. "What we don't have is trust," he said. "And that's what we do. Those of us involved in publishing add trust to the material people access, and there is no value being granted for that by those who simply want volume and not quality. Tech firms want to scale things," and don't care if material is inaccurate or misleading or has other defects. "As long as there's traffic, they make money."

Chi added that with the wave of free access to so much material, people have forgotten the importance of trusted material--"until we get burned by the free stuff." He cited doctors, teachers, and lawyers who might hurt patients, students, and clients by using wrong material. He added that "it will take society a while to get over two decades of free stuff," which means "publishing has to stay steadfast to stay relevant" and convey the message that publishing supplies trustworthy material and that it "deserves a reward for what we put in."

Saying "we need to value the content that we do," Pansa echoed Chi, stating that publishers "have responsibility for the content we are editing and delivering, whereas big companies just publish in volume and don't care about what's being done there. We need to give more credit to our profession and the things we deliver to the public."

Levi noted also that, "rightly," book publishing currently is in a defensive mode, "but we must look forward because technology and innovation must be an ally of the publishing industry. We must not give up on that."

Levi emphasized, too, the importance of freedom to publish, and Pansa noted that besides copyright, the other "pillar" of the International Publishers Association is the freedom to publish. Threats to the freedom to publish is something that "we thought should be out of fashion," Pansa said. "But it's not at all. It's happening everywhere, every day."

Participating via an often uncooperative connection from Kenya, Lawrence Njagi, president of the African Publishers Network, said that in Africa, too, there are major problems with the accuracy of published materials, especially academic texts that are often "full of errors."

Njagi said that Africa has a lot of potential for publishers. At a time when many countries in Asia and Europe have declining populations, Africa has the fastest-growing youth population in the world. It also has myriad languages, approximately 2,000, and publishers don't publish titles in many of those languages. Even though Africa is an expanding market, he continued, "we see too little activity from European and Asian publishers."

Njagi noted, too, that Africa's young people are "very digitally involved. They are very quick on their phones and machines, as opposed to the older generation, who had to be taught how to use machines. This generation comes ready to use. If you're talking about the future, this is where the future is." --John Mutter

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2024 Walter Dean Myers Awards: 'The Work Goes On"

Winners and Honorees (l.-r.) Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Hannah V. Sawyerr, Ari Tison, Jacqueline Woodson, and Elizabeth Acevedo

We Need Diverse Books hosted the ninth annual Walter Dean Myers Awards celebration on Wednesday morning, March 13, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Central Library in Washington, D.C. Both of the 2024 winners--Younger Readers winner Jacqueline Woodson (Remember Us, Nancy Paulsen Books) and Teen Readers winner Ari Tison (Saints of the Household, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)--were in attendance, as were two of the five honorees: Teen Reader honoree Hannah V. Sawyerr (All the Fighting Parts, Amulet/Abrams) and Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, one of the four co-authors for the Younger Readers honoree Grounded (Amulet/Abrams).

The Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature are given by We Need Diverse Books and celebrate diverse books by diverse creators. The awards are​ ​named​ ​for​ ​prolific​ ​children's​ ​and young​ ​adult​ ​author​ ​Walter​ ​Dean​ ​Myers​ ​(1937-2014), ​the​ ​third​ ​National​ ​Ambassador for​ ​Young​ ​People's​ ​Literature and ​a​ ​champion of​ ​diversity​ ​in​ ​children's​ ​books.​ ​

Ellen Oh

Ellen Oh, WNDB executive director, opened the event by recalling the creation of WNDB and two March 2014 New York Times opinion pieces written by Walter Dean Myers and his son, Christopher Myers. Both "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?" by Walter Dean Myers and "The Apartheid of Children's Literature" by Christopher Myers begin with a statistic: according to a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, of the 3,200 children's books published in 2013, just 93 were about Black people. (Oh noted that only 18 of those 3,200 books were about Asian Americans, which she knows because her debut, Prophecy, was one of those 18.) We Need Diverse Books became a nonprofit in July 2014; as of 2022, the CCBC reported that 40% of the titles it received were by a person of color. This "includes 18% (634 books) that had at least one Asian creator, 13% (462) that had at least one Black creator, and 11% (371) that had at least one Latine creator." In the 10 years since Myers's death, WNDB has donated tens of thousands of books to the more than four million students across the U.S. who have been affected by book bans. "Today," Oh said, "is a celebration day."

Judges (l.-r.) Jamie Kurumaji, Jeremiah Henderson, Sara Martínez, Siân Gaetano, Hanna Lee, Jamila Zahra Felton, Sarah DeMicheli, Jenell Igeleke Penn, Hadeal Salamah

National Book Award-winner Elizabeth Acevedo, Young People's Poet Laureate, 2019 Walter Award winner, and event moderator greeted the crowd of adults and students from eight local schools. "We are here to celebrate the winners and honorees and honor the life of the award's namesake," she began. However, Acevedo said, quoting Walter Dean Myers, "There is work to be done." The work "we are here to honor today," she said, "is also under attack. In the first eight months of 2023 alone, ALA tracked nearly 700 attempts to ban library books. Even worse, many of these bans target diverse voices." There is work to be done "and we are here to do it because we all know books are precious and they can even save lives." After Acevedo presented the winners with their medals, Tison and Woodson gave brief remarks.

"Numerous books this award has honored have been mentor texts to me," Ari Tison started, and even an award book from this year--Sawyerr's All the Fighting Parts--is a book that "changed my life already." Tison said that her title, Saints of the Household, made her braver in her own healing journey, and makes her "feel now more than ever how sacred life is--may we continue to fight for [the children] and hear them." Tison, who is Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) American, celebrated that "folks are growing ready for books like mine.... Diversity is reality. We, humanity, contain multitudes. Therefore, our art should contain the same reality. I both congratulate us for being here and give encouragement for us to keep going until the world of books looks like the world."

Jacqueline Woodson reminisced about the early days of WNDB, around the same time as the publication of her National Book Award and John Newbery Medal-winning Brown Girl Dreaming. "I'm so proud to be a part of it now and to watch the metamorphosis and change that can happen in our lifetime." Woodson shared a story about a "smart and talented and loving family" with whom she is close, and how utterly remarkable the family's young daughter is. Walter Dean Myers, the late patriarch of this family, she said "would have been so proud of this trio." Myers would have "loved this room," Woodson said, referring to the auditorium. "He would have loved WNDB doing the work and the books being awarded. He would have grinned and been flattered about the award being named for him, then he would have said 'no thank you.' He would have said 'the work goes on.' " Woodson told the audience she will not keep this award--she plans to give it to Myers's granddaughter. "I am so grateful to have known Walter. He was a dear friend to me. In this moment, with all of you doing the work, like Walter, I am grinning, I am proud, and I am grateful."

Panelists Acevedo, Tison, Sawyerr,  Thompkins-Bigelow, Woodson (photo: Nancy Anderson)

A panel discussion moderated by Acevedo and featuring both the winners and honorees immediately followed the speeches. The conversation was excellent and Acevedo's questions insightful, creating many moments of interesting debate and conversation. Acevedo's first question--where they were 10 years ago in their writing journey--highlighted the very different lives of each woman on stage, Thompkins-Bigelow said, "Ten years ago I was a mom of a four-year-old and had just had a baby." [Said four-year-old was in the audience, now 14, filming every moment his mother was on stage.] "I wasn't writing yet and I was falling in love with picture books. I was falling in love, but I was feeling a sadness--I really wanted to see Black Muslim children in books. I wanted my son to be in books. I didn't even pick up a pen until 2015." Sawyerr described herself as "a high school senior and a really annoying writer--I was annoyingly passionate." Woodson's response had a bit of understandable weariness to it: "Brown Girl Dreaming had just won the National Book Award and I won't go into detail about what happened at the dinner." [Author Daniel Handler introduced Woodson by making a, in Woodson's words, "wink-nudge joke about being Black." Her response, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke" was published in the New York Times.] "It was time for change. I feel like that was a point when we were really taking a hard look at what was going on in children's literature," she finished. Tison was, like Sawyerr, a senior in high school: "I grew up in an awful house and my reaction to that was to be an overachiever. When I was 18, I saved up enough money to buy myself a novel-writing workshop. I think about that 18-year-old me and all the energy she put in. All the tenacity." Acevedo went on to ask the authors about their processes, what writing teaches them about themselves, what their definition of success is, and then to home in on specific parts of each work, such as how this is the first time many of the Bribri stories in Tison's book have been translated into English.

Around 20 young people in the audience asked questions that were insightful, hard-hitting, and tender. One asked, "How do you find your voice in a space where so many concepts are recycled?" The impressed panelists paused to collect their thoughts before answering. Thompkins-Bigelow said that she writes for the young girl she used to be: "When I start with her first--what is the book that she wants--that's when I can find my unique voice." Woodson suggested the young reader "stop engaging with that recycled content. I think if you pick up a book and it feels like something you've read before, you don't have to engage with it. You know when you find that book that speaks to you because that's the one you read again and again." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Philosophers & Fools Bookstore Bar Opens in Charleston, S.C.

Philosophers & Fools bookstore bar has opened at 50 Bogard St. in Charleston, S.C. Charleston City Paper reported that co-owners Jenny Ferrara and Michael Bourke "knew they wanted to open a bookstore bar--they just needed the right neighborhood and community for it.... A shared love of books and 'a nice glass of wine' led to Philosophers & Fools, a bookstore that will serve wine, beer and snacks, and it's now open."

Jenny Ferrara and Michael Bourke

"Whenever we travel, we look up the local bookstores and go to as many as we can," said Ferrara. "We've seen the cafe concept with some kind of wine or bar element and we know that it works in other places. We thought, 'Wouldn't that be great in Charleston? Why don't we create that?' "

The project was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2023, which Ferrara said helped "alleviate some of the startup costs.... We are painting ourselves and building all the bookshelves ourselves and we're doing all the sourcing of decor and furnishings." They hired a contractor to work on electrical and plumbing and to build out the store's bar. 

The 1,400-square-foot space will have a small seating area in addition to the bar, where Ferrara envisions guests cozying up with a drink and a book, or perhaps serving as a space for small book clubs to meet. She expects the store to start with an inventory of about 5,000 titles. 

"Hopefully there's something for everyone," she said, adding that sourcing books for the store has been the couple's favorite part of the process. "Our approach is that we want anyone who walks in to be able to find something that interests them. We have a wide variety in all genres, from fiction to nonfiction to kids to young adult." 

Ferrara and Bourke have partnered with Advintage Distributing to curate a list of wine and beer offerings. The store will have NA drinks and coffee available too, as well as snack foods like popcorn, chips and sandwiches. 

"As we've met with neighbors, the response we've gotten has been enthusiastic," said Ferrara. "It's really great to receive that support and excitement."

Binc Names DPI Scholarship Winner

Elayna Trucker
(photo: Jim Hankey)

Elayna Trucker, a bookseller at Napa Bookmine in Napa, Calif., has been awarded a scholarship to attend the Denver Publishing Institute this summer. A collaboration of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, Sourcebooks, and the Institute, the scholarship includes tuition, room, and board, and up to $2,000 to cover travel and replacement wages.

"After nearly 20 years of working in bookstores, I am beyond thrilled to expand my book industry education to include the arena of publishing," said Trucker. "I'm so excited to attend the Denver Publishing Institute and learn from leaders in the field, as well as my fellow students. I am so grateful to Binc, not just for awarding me the DPI scholarship, but also for the incredible work they do every day to support bookstore and comic book store employees. They are an exemplar of the tangible sense of community we have in the indie book world, and I can't imagine this industry without them. Thank you to my boss, Naomi Chamblin, who is just about the most supportive manager one could ever hope for, and to the amazing team of booksellers I get to work with every day at Napa Bookmine."

A Sanctuary Cat Cafe & 'Micro-Bookstore' Opening in Boston

A Sanctuary Cafe, a cat cafe and bookshop, will open this spring at 80 Charles Street in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. Boston Uncovered reported that while A Sanctuary Cafe "will also be overflowing with books genres, they consider themselves to be a 'micro-bookstore,' placing more emphasis on the ambiance and petting areas," offering Bostonians "the chance to play with its friendly cats-in-residence."

Owned by Brittany Baker, A Sanctuary Cafe will offer "human friendly treats in addition to cat food. Sip on locally sourced coffee, espresso and tea and munch on local fresh-baked goods," Boston Uncovered noted, adding that the café's customers will be "invited to pay a small fee to mingle with the resident cats. You're then free to play, pet, and admire the beautiful felines and can come back and visit them regularly, as A Sanctuary Cafe will house its own family of cats. Customers cannot bring their own cats."

A Sanctuary Cafe will not have an "official" opening date or grand opening, but will instead open in phases," according to the shop's newsletter, which noted: "The cafe and bookstore areas will open before the cat lounge so the cats have extra time to settle in. We are so lucky that our supporters agree with our 'cats first' policy and understand the importance of going at the cats' pace!" 


Happy Pi Day!

"Happy Pi Day!!" Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y., posted on Facebook. "Pi day has special meaning for Odyssey--it's the anniversary of when we first received all our books. Every year we add a few more digits to our string of pi(e)s. And this year we're excited to partner with our neighbor Rashida Bakery to offer a 10% discount at Odyssey any time you buy something at Rashida today through Friday the 15th. That way you can enjoy your Pi--and eat it too."

Bookseller Moment: White River Books

"Bookstores are lonely forts. Spilling light onto the sidewalk," White River Books, Carbondale, Colo., posted on Instagram, adding: "We are stalwart bastions of stories and sanity, few and far between, little beacons casting light. But never lonely, thanks to all of YOU out there!"

Personnel Changes at Hachette Audio; Open Road Integrated Media

Jasmine Normil has been promoted to publicity and marketing coordinator at Hachette Audio.


Hazel De Leon has joined Open Road Integrated Media as marketing coordinator, sales channels.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Peter Pomerantsev on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Peter Pomerantsev, author of How to Win an Information War: The Propagandist Who Outwitted Hitler (PublicAffairs, $27, 9781541774728).

CBS Mornings: Deion Sanders, author of Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win On and Off the Field (Gallery/13A, $29.99, 9781668026793). He will also appear on the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Today Show: Allison Pataki, author of Finding Margaret Fuller: A Novel (Ballantine, $30, 9780593600238).

Good Morning America: Von Diaz, author of Islas: A Celebration of Tropical Cooking--125 Recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands (Chronicle Books, $35, 9781797215242).

The Talk: Lewis Howes, author of The Greatness Mindset: Unlock the Power of Your Mind and Live Your Best Life Today (Hay House, $26.99, 9781401971908).

This Weekend on Book TV: Mary Ziegler on Roe

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, March 16
8 a.m. Mary Ziegler, author of Roe: The History of a National Obsession (Yale University Press, $27, 9780300266108). (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m.)

2 p.m. Candice Shy Hooper, author of Delivered Under Fire: Absalom Markland and Freedom's Mail (Potomac Books, $36.95, 9781640124486).

5:55 p.m. James L. Swanson, author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (Morrow, $19.99, 9780060518509).

Sunday, March 17
8 a.m. Rachel Bitecofer, author of Hit 'Em Where It Hurts: How to Save Democracy by Beating Republicans at Their Own Game (Crown, $30, 9780593727140), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. Kristin Carlucci Weed, co-author of Get Me Carlucci: A Daughter Recounts Her Father’s Legacy of Service (Disruption Books, $29.95, 9781633310834). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Jane Marie, author of Selling the Dream: The Billion-Dollar Industry Bankrupting Americans (Atria, $29, 9781982155773). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2 p.m. Lorraine Daston, author of Rivals: How Scientists Learned to Cooperate (Columbia Global Reports, $17, 9798987053560).

3:20 p.m. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, author of America's Black Capital: How African Americans Remade Atlanta in the Shadow of the Confederacy (Basic Books, $35, 9781541601994).

5 p.m. Laura Pappano, author of School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics, and the Battle for Public Education (Beacon Press, $28.95, 9780807012666), at Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, Pa.

6 p.m. Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane, authors of Getting Education Right: A Conservative Vision for Improving Early Childhood, K-12, and College (Teachers College Press, $35.95, 9780807769461).

Books & Authors

Awards: Yoto Carnegie Medal Shortlists

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has released shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing and Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustrating. The winners, who each receive a gold medal and a £5,000 (about $6,400) Colin Mears Award cash prize, along with £500 (about $640) worth of books to donate to their local library, will be named June 20. This year's shortlisted titles are: 

Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing
The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander 
The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell  
Away with Words by Sophie Cameron 
The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner  
Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček
Crossing the Line by Tia Fisher 
Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan 
Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore 

Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustrating
The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker 
April's Garden by Catalina Echeverri, written by Isla McGuckin 
Lost by Mariajo Ilustrajo 
The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy 
To the Other Side by Erika Meza 
The Midnight Panther by Poonam Mistry  
The Bowerbird by Catherine Rayner, written by Julia Donaldson
The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfish by Chloe Savage 

Winners of the Shadowers' Choice Medals--voted for and awarded by the children and young people who shadow the medals--will also be presented at the ceremony. They will also receive a golden medal and, for the first time this year, £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 19:

The Morningside: A Novel by Téa Obreht (Random House, $29, 9781984855503) follows a displaced mother and daughter in a near future impacted by climate change.

A Year of Last Things: Poems by Michael Ondaatje (Knopf, $28, 9780593801567) is a return to poetry from the author of The English Patient.

Expiration Dates: A Novel by Rebecca Serle (Atria, $27, 9781982166823) follows a woman who receives a note showing the time she will spend with each new romantic partner.

Annie Bot: A Novel by Sierra Greer (Mariner, $28, 9780063312692) explores the relationship between a female robot and her human owner.

James: A Novel by Percival Everett (Doubleday, $28, 9780385550369) is a retelling of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Finding Margaret Fuller: A Novel by Allison Pataki (Ballantine, $30, 9780593600238) is historical fiction about a central figure in Transcendentalism.

The Last Bloodcarver by Vanessa Le (Roaring Brook, $19.99, 9781250881526) is the first in a debut duology that takes place in a fantasy world inspired by Vietnam.

Redeeming 6 by Chloe Walsh (Bloom, $14.99 paper, 9781464216022) is the fourth novel in the bestselling, BookTok-famous YA series, Boys of Tommen.

Secrets of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery (National Geographic, $30, 9781426223723) is the illustrated companion to a National Geographic special and followup to The Soul of an Octopus.

Who's Afraid of Gender? by Judith Butler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 9780374608224) explores how authoritarian movements are wielding "anti-gender ideology."

The Black Box: Writing the Race by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Penguin Press, $30, 9780593299784) is fashioned from years of the author's Harvard introductory course in African American Studies.

One Way Back: A Memoir by Christine Blasey Ford (St. Martin's Press, $29, 9781250289650) is a memoir by the woman who testified about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Ghost Town Living: Mining for Purpose and Chasing Dreams at the Edge of Death Valley by Brent Underwood (Harmony, $28, 9780593578445) chronicles life in an abandoned California silver mining town.

The New Plant Collector: The Next Adventure in Your House Plant Journey by Darryl Cheng (Abrams, $24.98, 9781419761508).

Restoring Sanity: Practices to Awaken Generosity, Creativity, and Kindness in Ourselves and Our Organizations by Margaret J. Wheatley (Berrett-Koehler, $21.95, 9781523006267).

Just for the Summer by Melody Carlson (Revell, $16.99, 9780800744717).

DIY: The Wonderfully Weird History and Science of Masturbation by Eric Sprankle (Union Square, $17.98, 9781454948797).

Adirondack Campfire Stories: Tales and Folklore from Inside the Blue Line by James Appleton (North Country Books, $19.95, 9781493076949).

The Best Way to Bury Your Husband: A Novel by Alexia Casale (Penguin Books, $18, 9780593654606).

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:

Piglet: A Novel by Lottie Hazell (Holt, $27.99, 9781250289841). "Lottie Hazell manages to brilliantly articulate the societal pressures placed on women to be the perfect cook, the perfect wife, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter: to be and do it all. A timeless story told in a new, unique way." --Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.

The Book of Doors: A Novel by Gareth Brown (Morrow, $30, 9780063323988). "We all know books are metaphoric doors--what if they were literal doors as well? Full of fascinating characters, mystery, and magical books, this debut novel will appeal to fans of The Starless Sea." --Keith Glaeske, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

The Still Point: A Novel by Tammy Greenwood (Kensington, $17.95, 9781496739339). "Based on Greenwood's experience as a ballet mom, this sometimes-painful journey into adulthood (for both the moms and their daughters!) is also a story of friendship, life aspirations, and moving on from tragedy and heartbreak." --Terry Gilman, Creating Conversations, Redondo Beach, Calif.

Ages 4 to 8
I Lived Inside a Whale by Xin Li (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 9780316492270). "What a spectacular story! It is a rare picture book that combines gorgeous illustrations with humor and real insight into real emotions, but I Lived Inside a Whale does so perfectly." --Jennifer Carney, Sidetrack Bookshop, Royal Oak, Mich.

Ages 8 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Daughters of the Lamp by Nedda Lewers (Putnam Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 9780593619308). "A magical tale of a science-minded kid encountering things she can't explain as Sahara and her father travel to Egypt for a family wedding. This was an adorable book full of family love and Arabian traditions!" --Andi Richardson, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.

Teen Readers
The Fox Maidens by Robin Ha (Balzer + Bray, $18.99, 9780062685124). "This book was absolutely fantastic! The feminist, queer retelling of the Gumiho story I never knew I needed. If you've ever struggled with taking hold of your own power, this one's for you." --Leah Grover, Scrawl Books, Reston, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Nothing's Ever the Same

Nothing's Ever the Same by Cyn Vargas (Tortoise Books, $15.99 paperback, 168p., 9781948954877, May 14, 2024)

Cyn Vargas's Nothing's Ever the Same is a starkly honest coming-of-age story told in the disarming voice of its 13-year-old protagonist. Simple but moving, this novella documents events that are traumatic but not unusual, thus marking the kinds of pain that are heartrending, as well as common, for a child approaching young adulthood.

"The first time I saw my mom cry was after my dad's heart attack," Itzel begins in the opening chapter, "Angioplasty and Piñatas." The heart attack comes during preparation for her 13th birthday party. After a brief hospital stay, he comes home and improves quickly. But this event, coming at an important symbolic point in Itzel's adolescence, is the first of a number of upheavals, as Vargas's title suggests.

Itzel's beloved father recovers from his heart attack, but something feels off. "Dad was different, like moving the lamp... the light and shadows hit in a different way that made all that I was used to seem a little strange." The family suffers one loss and then another. Itzel explores new feelings for her best friend. And then she sees something that will change the course of life for her entire family. "I shut my eyes tight to make it go away like erasing the wrong answer on a test, but I still saw... the wrong answer etched into the paper though the lead was brushed away." What to do with her new knowledge? Who to blame? As the known routine is uprooted for Itzel and her parents, she has to navigate redefining relationships. While the circumstances of these changes for Itzel are specific and acute, her experience reflects universal elements of being a teenager: disappointment, betrayal, discovery, acceptance, and always, unavoidably, change.

Vargas (On the Way) gives Itzel a straightforward storytelling voice, often naïve but also sharp-eyed. She is clever, thoughtful, and quick to question what she or others have done wrong to bring pain and difficulty to her family. Her father, mother, Tia Amelia, and best friend Fred are characters sketched only briefly in Itzel's telling, but each has personality and redeeming qualities even when making mistakes. The author behind the narrator commands this story with a quiet compassion. Nothing's Ever the Same is a work of restraint and understatement, its young narrator capable of stoic relating of events as well as emotional reaction. The effect is deeply moving. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: With a remarkably true-to-life adolescent narrator, this novella charts the large and small traumas that accompany a girl's coming of age.

Deeper Understanding

Among Friends: John Cassidy on Klutz and 'Event Publishing'

Among the many contributors to Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing & Bookselling in the 20th Century, published last fall by Two Trees Press and distributed by Ingram Content Group, is John Cassidy, co-founder and longtime head of Klutz Books. Here we reproduce his contribution, which focuses on Klutz and "Event Publishing."

In 1977, I was 27, living the unmarried, van-based, low-overhead lifestyle. During the summers, I was a guide leading river trips in California and Idaho. (Think "ski bum" without the snow.) Like most of my shiftless friends, I enjoyed the freedom and was open to ideas about how to make a living without "making a living."

At night, around the campfire, we were expected to entertain the guests. I couldn't sing but somewhere in my checkered past I had learned how to juggle. Frequently, after dinner, I would take a group down to the river and teach them how to juggle with rocks--or at least try.

Juggling proved surprisingly popular and when fall rolled around with its attendant cash-flow issues, I approached a friend, B.C. Rimbeaux, and proposed that we go back to the Bay Area and spend a little time busking on the street, selling bean bags and giving away juggling lessons. I suggested $5 for three bean bags. We sewed them ourselves.

After a week of this, we had cleared more than $30 and it was then, I believe, that we first realized the sky was the limit. 

While Rimbeaux decided to take a much-needed vacation, I stayed in the Bay Area and wrote a booklet titled Juggling for the Complete Klutz, an homage to John Muir's How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual for the Complete Idiot.

On his return, Rimbeaux and I pooled our resources and with $6,000 in start-up capital, we felt we were ready to publish. Except our juggling book lacked art. Fortunately, I had just met Diane Waller at a party, and she mentioned that she liked to draw. That was good enough for us.

Another friend in business school joined us, and talked one of her professors into investing a little. Thus were we incorporated and capitalized.

In October 1977, we ran off 3,000 copies of Juggling for the Complete Klutz. Our hope was to make an immediate fortune and retire to a lifestyle of excess and indulgence. At the same time, we were realistic and figured the far greater likelihood was abject failure.

The following year turned out to be quite disappointing. Not because the business was a failure, but because it wasn't. We were not interested in a career--only immediate outcomes, good or bad--and our little book on juggling just kept chugging along, gradually building sales and distribution in the face of a fairly aggressive degree of neglect by its publishers, the three of us.

Eventually my partners both got married and left, although they retained their financial interest. I ended up doing the same--getting married, that is--and shortly after that I became parental. Thus the "c" word ("career") began to lose some of its terror.

I should pause here for a moment to say something about our decision to package our book with three bean bags.

We are occasionally given credit for pioneering this format, for packaging how-to books with the tools of their trade and breeding what eventually turned into a publishing category: books plus. "What a brilliant idea!" we've been told. "Packaging genius!"

Actually, packaging the bean bags with the book was a huge hassle. But one cannot learn to juggle with almost anything except bean bags. And since one cannot run down to the store and buy bean bags, our hands were tied. We had to package them together.

By 1982, we had sold some 50,000 books on juggling, and the ceiling of that industry felt nearby. I had a young child to feed and rent to pay. Thus I began to wonder... does the world want to learn anything besides juggling?

At a trade show, we met some young guys from Oregon with a new game they were calling Hacky Sack. It was like juggling in that the goal was to keep a bean bag in the air, but you could only use your feet.

A few months later, I saw kids playing it on our street. I gave those guys from Oregon a call. The Hacky Sack Book sold 100,000 copies in its first year, and Klutz now had a catalog. Two titles long.

I knew absolutely nothing about publishing, printing, distribution, marketing, accounting, warehousing, or management. I had to borrow a coat and tie for trade shows. As the years wore on, I was forced to learn stuff that an English major ought never to know.

Over the 25 years of our independent life, Klutz published something like 75 titles. We never sold any equity or borrowed from anyone. Nothing went out of print and many of our books sold more than a million copies. We did titles on games, science, cooking, crafts, art, journaling, and beauty (or "preening" as I sometimes called it).

Thanks to our reputation, we were able to order large print runs and devote significant resources of time and money to the editorial process. Everything was created in-house, and we published two or three titles a year. We called it "event publishing" and every title was given a red-carpet launch. All the books were putatively for kids, although I'm sure many adults sneaked in.

By 2000, we had a staff of 45 and revenues of about $45 million. It was then that my partners announced they wanted to sell. I considered going to a bank and buying them out, but eventually decided against that. Part of me still remembered my early footloose years, and a big loan didn't comport well with that memory, or a vision of my future either.

We held an auction and attracted the interest of publishers and media players, including Penguin, the Discovery Channel, Scholastic, and a small Toronto animation house called Nelvana. I ended up choosing Nelvana. There followed an awkward year after Nelvana was purchased by a Canadian cable company, Corus Entertainment. I had one foot out the door when Corus announced unexpectedly that they had closed a deal to sell Klutz to Scholastic.

I stayed for five more contented years running Klutz, a division of Scholastic, in our California offices. But then I was almost 60 and retirement was on my mind when a couple of things triggered the decision.

Since the beginning, readers had approached me to say how much they liked the juggling book. I had developed a stock response: "So you learned to juggle and ran off to join the circus, right?" To which they inevitably responded: "No, actually I lost the bean bags."

This happened so reliably that I told a co-worker that if anyone ever gave me a different response, I would promptly retire.

In fall 2008, a young parent came up to me and started the usual dialogue. They'd been given the juggling book when they were a kid... etc. etc.

"So you ran off to join the circus?" I asked. "Absolutely," said the fellow. "I spent five years with Ringling Brothers as a clown. How'd you know?"

I retired later that year.

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