Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 25, 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.


MacIntosh Books + Paper Reopening in Sanibel, Fla.

Congratulations to MacIntosh Books + Paper, Sanibel, Fla. After the bookstore's location and most of its inventory was destroyed in September 2022 by Hurricane Ian, it reopened temporarily with several other businesses in nearby Fort Myers for a year. The store has been rebuilding on Sanibel Island, however, at a new location in Heart of the Islands shopping center, and is now open for business as it continues construction, with a full opening planned for the fall, reported the Santiva Chronicle.

(photo: SanCap Chamber of Commerce)

"I'm thrilled to bring it back to Sanibel after Hurricane Ian and usher it into its next evolution," said Rebecca Binkowski, who purchased MacIntosh in 2017. "It is the very definition of a community bookstore. It feels amazing to be home and part of the recovery. We heal through sharing our stories and listening to one another. Every business that opens creates a safe space for learning more about what we need from one another to get back to 'normal.' We're giving each other hope, and hope is everything!"

John Lai, SanCap Chamber president and CEO, said, "What would Sanibel Island be without a bookshop? And Rebecca is the ideal of the community's independent, small-business model. The island seemed incomplete without the MacIntosh tradition and Rebecca and her ready willingness to participate in events and celebrations to support the community."

Binkowski thanked the Chamber for its help, saying, "The chamber meetings were such an essential way to connect with others in the business community while we were in Fort Myers. John and the board checked on us, offered us tools to get the word out about our interim location, and helped keep our spirits up. I'm grateful for their support."

Current hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

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The Rabbit hOle Opens in North Kansas City, Mo.

The Rabbit hOle, an immersive museum experience dedicated to children's literature, opened March 12 in a 150,000-square-foot building at 919 E 14th Ave. in North Kansas City, Mo. The Pitch reported that the project comes from the former owners of the Reading Reptile, Deb Pettid and Pete Cowdin, "who started dreaming up the Rabbit hOle in 2015. That dream became more solid in 2018, when they bought the building, and has continued to build through pop-ups in the Crossroads," all leading to the nonprofit museum's debut.  

Emily Hane, development manager, said a lot of thought went into curating the various exhibits: "I think that's going to be a key element, ensuring we are finding creators of different backgrounds. The history of children's literature is not particularly diverse.... Everyone deserves to have a book by someone who looks like them."

Although many features aren't fully open yet, they will be available either by the April 27 grand opening or later in the year. 

The museum takes inspiration from the art-driven City Museum in St. Louis, the Pitch wrote, adding that eventually, "the idea is for the Rabbit hOle to expand not only to the upper floors of its building but through the roof, just like City Museum. Fundraising will dictate the pace of any expansions." Two dozen artists are permanently on staff to craft and repair the exhibits. The challenge for them is to find ways to shift two-dimensional art into 3-D.

"Anything we make has to look exactly like the book we're replicating, so it's a big challenge for artists," Hane said, adding: "We believe children deserve a place that is beautiful and that is built to celebrate children's culture. And if they see something that is beautiful and interesting and it inspires them to pick up a book that they might not pick up otherwise, then we've really done our job. But most of all, we just want people to have fun."

After a successful opening day, the Rabbit hOle posted on Facebook: "Thanks to the more than 900 people who made our first day so special! Seeing people experience and explore everything has been a delight. Over and over again we've watched people of all ages pick up the books for each exhibit and READ."

Lanora Jennings on the Bookseller Oral History Project: The Bookseller Listener Is In

Lanora Jennings at Winter Institute

Lanora Jennings is director of the Bookseller Oral History Project, which has begun collecting interviews with current and former booksellers about their historical experiences, insights, and perspectives, and will be a part of a new archive on the history of bookselling at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections and Archive. Here she talks about the powerful stories she's heard so far.

When I was a bookseller, I often would think of the Charlie Brown comic in which Lucy would open her booth: "Psychiatric Help, 5¢. The Doctor is In." Customers, brows furrowed, would pull me aside: "We just had to say goodbye to our dog. Do you have any books for our kids?" "I just found out I have cancer. What can I read that will take me to another world?" "My grandmother is in hospice. Do you have anything I can read out loud that would comfort her?" Part of the power of books is that they are medicine for the soul. And part of booksellers' job is prescribing the right book. This interaction requires a bookseller to create a space where their customer feels safe, and to be an active and empathetic listener.

This past month, I've been listening to booksellers. During Winter Institute, 27 booksellers sat down to record their stories. Since then, I have conducted 10 more interviews with many more scheduled. My motivation for this project was an academic one: to create an archive that preserved the history and culture of bookselling told by the booksellers themselves. What I did not anticipate was how much booksellers needed to tell their stories. Booksellers listen to their customers, but who listens to them?

During the very first recording, my throat constricted, and the tears just started flowing. The young woman told a powerful story of how she is honoring the legacy of her mother through her store. I thought, "Wow! What an incredible start... but they all won't be like that." I hit play on the next one. And the next one. And then I had to stop. I just couldn't handle any more that day.

It's been a month, and I've listened to only half of the stories. I am savoring them, letting them sit with me while my own emotions process what I have heard. I've sobbed and laughed; I've cheered and been frustrated. There are threads that connect each story. I hear in all the booksellers' voices a deep love and respect for the power of books to create community. Many speak with such authentic passion and even awe at this vocation they have dedicated themselves to. But there is also an undertone of a deep sense of responsibility... to their staff, their communities, their representation of the ideas on their shelves. Their bookseller origin stories varied widely yet all found themselves at home in a community of other booksellers.

I am deeply grateful for every bookseller that sat down in front of that microphone and shared their stories with such candor and grace. The work that booksellers do is often underappreciated and unacknowledged. Once the world hears their stories, that will not be the case for long. Listening to these voices clearly reveals booksellers as the heroes they really are. For all booksellers and former booksellers reading this: my microphone is ready. The bookseller listener is IN.

Soon, I will begin to post these stories on the website for everyone to hear. In the meantime, I will leave you with a few anonymous (for now) quotes:

"All along in my career, bookselling was always kind of that mainstay, but I didn't picture it as my career until I had a mentor who really, to me, is the exemplar of what a bookseller is, just truly devoted to representation on the shelf, to the written word, to helping people find themselves in a story, to continuing to be creative and engaging with not just the readers and the shoppers, but the people who work there."

"I became a bookseller because it's a place of people and books and that alchemy between them. And I think that's a very unique place to be in the structure of life, of written words, the alchemic intersection between ideas and people and that ability to megaphone things, but also that ability to listen and read what a person might need and then have a treasure trove in your brain of all the potential books that might speak to it or touch it or hold whatever they need."

"And for us, just the way in which some communities are considered food deserts, we feel that communities without bookstores are considered knowledge deserts. So, we are based in... a historically black community that for a long time didn't have any bookstores in it. And we wanted to be right in the epicenter of what we felt was a knowledge desert... and to be able to bring knowledge to folks because that is as important of a source of feeding as food is. That is what was needed... knowledge is as needed as food."

"There's a lot of moments that have impacted me and made me feel proud about the work we're doing. And that's why I say I'm a book activist, because I know the inertia and the change that I've helped. And I didn't know I was doing that, but the impact made that difference, and I didn't even know. So, I'm very grateful and thankful that I'm in this industry because it is making a change for the next generation."

Obituary Note: Laurent de Brunhoff

French artist Laurent de Brunhoff, "who nurtured his father's creation, a beloved, very Gallic and very civilized elephant named Babar, for nearly seven decades," died March 23, the New York Times reported. He was 98. Babar was born one night in 1930 when Laurent, then five, and his four-year-old brother, Mathieu, "were having trouble sleeping. Their mother, Cécile de Brunhoff, a pianist and music teacher, began to spin a tale about an orphaned baby elephant who flees the jungle and runs to Paris, which is conveniently located nearby."

Enthralled by the story, they told it to their father, artist Jean de Brunhoff, the next morning and he began to sketch the little elephant, whom he named Babar. Histoire de Babar (The Story of Babar), an illustrated picture book in which Babar's escapade is recounted in Jean de Brunhoff's script, was published in 1931. Six more picture books followed before he died in 1937, when he was 37 and Laurent was 12.

The last two books were only partly colored at the time of his father's death, and Laurent de Brunhoff finished them. Trained to be a painter, he decided at 21 to carry on the adventures of Babar.

His first book, Babar's Cousin: That Rascal Arthur, was published in 1946, and de Brunhoff went on to write and illustrate more than 45 additional Babar books. "For the first few years, many readers didn't realize that he was not the original author, so completely had he realized Babar's world and his essence--his quiet morality and equanimity," the Times noted.

"Babar, c'est moi," de Brunhoff often said. The stories have sold millions of copies. The last title, Babar's Guide to Paris, was published in 2017.

Charles de Gaulle was a fan, noting that the Babar books promoted "a certain idea of France." So was Maurice Sendak, though he said that for years he was traumatized by Babar's origin story: the brutal murder of his mother by a hunter. "That sublimely happy babyhood lost, after only two full pages," Sendak wrote in the introduction to Babar's Family Album (1981), a reissue of six titles, including Jean de Brunhoff's original.

Among the criticisms of the works was the charge that Babar "was an avatar of sexism, colonialism, capitalism and racism. Two early works were particularly offensive: Jean de Brunhoff's The Travels of Babar (1934) and Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Picnic (1949) both depicted 'savages' drawn in the cruel style of their times, as cartoon images of Africans," the Times wrote. During the late 1960s, when Toni Morrison, then a young editor at Random House, Babar's publisher, objected to the imagery in Babar's Picnic, de Brunhoff asked that it be taken out of print. He also excised racist scenes from The Travels of Babar when that title was included in Babar's Family Album.

For Laurent, the idea and the images came first, after which he began to sketch and paint what that might look like. When he married his second wife, Phyllis Rose, a professor emerita of English at Wesleyan University, they often collaborated on the text.

In 1987, de Brunhoff sold the rights to license his elephant to businessman Clifford Ross, who then sold those rights to a Canadian company, Nelvana Ltd., with the understanding that Ross would continue to be involved in the conception of future products. What followed was what Times described as "an elephantine array" of Babar-abilia--including Babar pajamas and slippers, wallpaper and wrapping paper, perfume, fruit drinks, backpacks, blankets and bibs. There was also Babar: The Movie (1989), as well as a TV series.

"Babar and I both enjoy a friendly family life," de Brunhoff wrote in 1987. "We take the same care to avoid over-dramatization of the events or situations that do arise. If we take the correct, efficient steps, we both believe that a happy end will come. When writing a book, my intention is to entertain, not give a 'message.' But still one can, of course, say there is a message in the Babar books, a message of nonviolence."


Bookseller Cat: Hoagy at Keaton & Lloyd Bookshop

"Only in [Central New York] you'll experience all four seasons in a week. We decided it's a cozy hygge kind of day so we're building a dollhouse in this cold weather! Gotta say Hoagy fits the bill perfectly for the aesthetic of this kit we have at shop. Also we have other cute dollhouse kits you gotta check out so if you're braving the weather come visit us (with a warm beverage along preferably)," Keaton & Lloyd Bookshop, Rome, N.Y., posted on Facebook.

Chalkboard: Black Rock Books

"A good book is like a hug" was the sidewalk chalkboard message in front of Black Rock Books, Bridgeport, Conn., which noted on Instagram: "Spring might have thrown us for a loop with the chill last night, but it's a bright sunny day today! Stop by to pick up goodies for Easter baskets. Maybe a hug a book while you're at it." 

Personnel Changes at Chronicle Books

At Chronicle Books:

Jessica Tackett has been promoted to senior marketing manager.

Janice Yi has been promoted to social media manager.

Gabriella Frenes has been promoted to social media coordinator.

Reg Lim has been promoted to marketing coordinator.

Sophia Fox is becoming independent specialty sales assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Stephen Breyer on CBS Mornings, Colbert's Late Show

CBS Mornings: former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, author of Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism (Simon & Schuster, $32, 9781668021538). He will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Today Show: Sky Brown, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Skateboarding: A Beginner's Guide with Olympic Medalist Sky Brown (Magic Cat, $14.99, 9781419773402).

The View: Melanie Brown, author of Brutally Honest (Quadrille Publishing, $14.99, 9781837831562). She will also appear tomorrow on Tamron Hall.

Good Morning America: Gisele Bündchen, author of Nourish: Simple Recipes to Empower Your Body and Feed Your Soul (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593580486). She will also appear on the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Also on GMA: Jonathan Haidt, author of The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness (Penguin Press, $30, 9780593655030).

Today Show: Laura Vitale, co-author of At My Italian Table: Family Recipes from My Cucina to Yours (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780593579862).

Also on Today: Rebecca Quin, author of Becky Lynch: The Man: Not Your Average Average Girl (Gallery, $28.99, 9781982157258).

Also on Today: Cristina Henriquez, author of The Great Divide: A Novel (Ecco, $30, 9780063291324).

Sherri Shepherd Show: Carleigh Bodrug, author of PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking: 140+ Plant-Based Zero-Waste Recipes That Are Good for You, Your Wallet, and the Planet (Hachette Go, $32, 9780306832420).

Drew Barrymore Show: Hoda Kotb, author of Hope Is a Rainbow (Flamingo Books, $19.99, 9780593624128).

On Stage: Left on Tenth

Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman will direct the Broadway premiere of Left on Tenth, based on Delia Ephron's bestselling 2022 memoir, Playbill reported. The upcoming production co-stars Emmy winner Julianna Margulies as Delia and Golden Globe winner Peter Gallagher as Peter. Daryl Roth is producing the play, which will open in the fall. 

"I am grateful and thrilled to be working with these champions of theatre--Susan Stroman and Daryl Roth," said Ephron. "Left on Tenth is about a perilous and wondrous time of my life. We invite you to join our team of warriors and become believers yourselves."

Roth commented: "When Delia first spoke to me about her manuscript of Left on Tenth, I felt that her story would make a magnificent play. It is heartfelt, deeply personal yet universal, and full of hope. But it is also a classic romantic comedy for a certain generation, showing us that we can all be blessed with a second chance at life and love."

Books & Authors

Awards: Zalaznick American History Winner; Griffin Poetry Longlist

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has won the $50,000 New-York Historical Society's Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History.

The Society commented: "Vividly written and exhaustively researched, King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.--and the first to include recently declassified FBI files. In this revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, the bestselling biographer gives an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. Eig casts fresh light on the King family's origins as well as MLK's complex relationships with his wife, father, and fellow activists. As he follows MLK from the classroom to the pulpit to the streets of Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis, Eig dramatically re-creates the journey of a man who recast American race relations and became our only modern-day founding father--as well as the nation's most mourned martyr."


A longlist has been released for the 2024 Griffin Poetry Prize. Judges Albert F. Moritz (Canada), Jan Wagner (Germany), and Anne Waldman (U.S.) each read 592 books of poetry, including 49 translations from 22 languages, submitted by 235 publishers from 14 countries.

The shortlist will be announced April 17 and a winner named June 5 at the Griffin Poetry Prize Readings in Toronto. The winner receives C$130,000 (about US$96,115), while the other shortlisted authors each get C$10,000 (about US$7,395). Check out this year's longlisted titles here

Top Library Recommended Titles for April

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 April titles public library staff across the country love:

Top Pick
The Husbands: A Novel by Holly Gramazio (Doubleday, $29, 9780385550611). "Lauren, who's single, comes home to find that not only is she married, but she doesn't recognize her husband. She discovers that by sending a husband to the attic, she can replace him with a new model--and there seems to be a never-ending supply. The quirky nature of the book, humorous writing, charming characters and the unbelievable situation will have readers completely engrossed." --Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library, Md.

The Rule Book: A Novel by Sarah Adams (‎Dell, $18, 9780593723678). "Nora lands her first client as a sports agent, and it happens to be her ex-boyfriend from college. Derek, a tight end pro football player, needs all the help he can get to revive his career. Upbeat and engaging, this sports romance book is breezy with fun characters and plenty of heart." --Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Calif.

Happy Medium by Sarah Adler (Berkley, $18, 9780593547816). "A medium reluctantly visits a goat farm to exorcise a ghost, and even though she's a fake... the ghost is not. This is a story full of sweet love and friendship--and found family--with plenty of heat arising between the main characters. A very enjoyable romance with humor, cute animals, and deeper self-examination leading to rich relationships." --Di Herald, LibraryReads Ambassador, Colo.

Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes (Tor Nightfire, $27.99, 9781250884923). "This unsettling space horror novel follows Dr. Ophelia Bray as she is assigned to a crew exploring a deserted planet with ruins from an ancient civilization. Soon it's apparent that something suspicious happened to the previous crew and, even earlier, to the ancient society. Mystery, murder, and secrets keep the reader intrigued and guessing the outcome." --Kristin Skinner, Flat River Community Library, Mich.

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers: A Novel by Samuel Burr (Doubleday, $29, 9780593470091). "Baby Clayton is left on the steps of a puzzlemakers' society. Pippa, the society's founder, finds and raises him. When she passes away, Clayton, untethered, longs to solve the mystery of his abandonment. Pippa has created a special puzzle for Clayton to find out the secrets of life and discover his origins. Readers will absolutely love this fun, quirky tale." --Claire Talbot, Greece Public Library, N.Y.

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang (Del Rey, $30, 9780593722244). "After a Roman prince discovers Ruying's death power, he uses her sister's addiction to make a deal with Ruying. He needs her to assassinate someone at the top of the food chain, and in return her family will live. The cost of unusual magic, trust issues, attraction to the enemy, and constant action carry this novel." --Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Tex.

Late Bloomer: A Novel by Mazey Eddings (St. Martin's Griffin, $18, 9781250847089). "This sapphic romance is based on an adorable but outlandish scenario, where Opal accidentally buys Pepper's inheritance (a flower farm). The way they manage their insecurities and neurodiversity and communicate with tenderness is spectacular. Readers will love seeing them grow as they navigate their relationship." --Danielle Aronowitz, South Plainfield Public Library, N.J.

Extinction: A Novel by Douglas Preston (Forge Books, $29.99, 9780765317704). "When newlyweds are attacked at Erebus Resort, investigator Frankie Cash and Sheriff Colcord team up to find the killers. There is more going on than meets the eye as the killers carry out more blatant attacks at this unique location featuring resurrected dinosaur species, including a family of woolly mammoths. An interesting concept with loads of science." --Judy G. Sebastian, Eastham Public Library, Mass.

Home Is Where the Bodies Are by Jeneva Rose (Blackstone, $27.99, 9798212182843). "When three estranged siblings reunite after the death of their mother, things are bound to be tense. As they decide to revisit their childhood with a few home videos, the last thing they'd expect to see is their father carrying a dead body. But there's no denying the evidence. Readers looking for complex family dynamics and hidden secrets will devour this one." --Judy G. Sebastian, Eastham Public Library, Mass.

Table for Two: Fictions by Amor Towles (Viking, $32, 9780593296370). "Towles's literary fiction never disappoints. In this collection of short stories and a novella, readers will be entranced by his use of sophisticated and smart language to convey aspects of the human condition. Highly recommended for book clubs and lovers of short stories." --Julie Klein, The Bryant Library, Roslyn, N.Y.

Book Review

Review: April May June July

April May June July by Alison B. Hart (Graydon House, $28.99 hardcover, 352p., 9781525804274, May 14, 2024)

It's impossible to read Alison B. Hart's April May June July and not think of what Tolstoy wrote about unhappy families: they are all unhappy in their own ways. In Hart's beautifully crafted novel, the "Barber sadness" is a particular unhappiness born in tragedy: the disappearance of patriarch Frank Barber after he and three Iraqi associates were kidnapped in Iraq, where he worked as a civilian contractor.

Ten years after the kidnapping, "the length of his absence was its own sort of answer to the question any news?" And yet his four children--April, May, June, and July--are unable to put aside hope that he may someday reappear, a hope that soaks into their unhappiness as adults, "the way hope felt indistinguishable from despair." April throws herself into work and raising her children, but with a side of extramarital affairs. May disappears into herself, pulling away from friends and family alike. June remakes herself as Juniper, a star soccer player and rising coach, but struggles with alcohol. And July, the youngest and only son, tries to find his footing in college and his unrequited feelings for his roommate.

When the four estranged siblings are thrown back together in a series of celebratory events leading up to Juniper's wedding, the "contrails of tragedy" follow them into every encounter. And when April thinks she spots her father on a vacation in Dubrovnik, of all places, every hope--for Frank's life, yes, but even just for answers to the questions surrounding his disappearance--comes rushing back to the surface of their lives.

In her acknowledgements, Hart (The Work Wife) notes that a kernel of this novel came from her desire to understand more about the recent history of Iraq, "a place that's been in the headlines throughout my life... but that I felt I understood only opaquely." This weaves through the threads of the Barber siblings' lives, each indelibly shaped by the politics of the United States' involvement in Iraq, despite living thousands of miles away. Hart invites readers to grapple with an understanding of the larger geopolitical forces at play ("the realization that your life of relative safety was purchased through violence"), even as the Barber siblings deal with their own individual grief, hope, and desperate search for answers. April May June July is part family saga, part missing persons case, part political thriller; a captivating and important novel that reveals just how personal the political is--and vice versa. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: April May June July is part family saga, part missing persons case, part political thriller, a captivating and important novel revealing just how personal the political is--and vice versa.

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