Also published on this date: Wednesday April 17, 2024: Maximum Shelf: Sky Full of Elephants

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, April 17, 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.


Bem Books & More Plans 2024 Opening

Following a successful crowdfunding campaign that brought in more than $75,000, the owners of BEM Books & More plans to open a bricks-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, N.Y., by the end of 2024, Essence reported.

Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport

Co-owners and sisters Danielle and Gabrielle Davenport have found a 2,500-square-foot space in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, which will house the bookstore, a test kitchen, a cafe/wine bar, and a reading room/archive. While they did not specify an address, they did note that the space is on a main thoroughfare and has a number of Black-owned businesses as neighbors.

Along with books, the Davenports will carry food-related products from Black-owned brands, and they'll host literary and culinary events, including cooking classes, chef residencies, and author readings.

The Davenports founded BEM Books & More as an online bookstore in 2021. It focuses on cookbooks and food-related fiction and nonfiction, all by Black authors. They named the bookstore after the initials of their grandmothers.

Since opening, they've sold books online and done pop-up appearances that have run in length from six weeks to six months, and each pop-up has emphasized "how important it is for the mission and sustainability of our business to have a space of our own to shop up for our community in a consistent and continuous way."

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Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y., Targeted in Recent Bomb Threat

Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, N.Y., was the target of a bomb threat that closed Ithaca's Dewitt Mall on Sunday, April 7, reported.

The bomb threat, which was made via e-mail and sent to a news agency in a different part of New York, named the Dewitt Mall rather than Buffalo Street Books, but specifically mentioned five people associated with the bookstore. Once the threat was reported, law enforcement evacuated and searched the Dewitt Mall. It was reopened later that afternoon.

In a letter to the bookstore's community and customers, general manager Lisa Swayze noted that "it seems fairly clear that this threat was directed at the bookstore's efforts to welcome and include the LGBTQIA+ community, including our Drag Story Hour."

Swayze said the store reached out to the American Booksellers Association for help, and local and national law enforcement are investigating. While the incident left the Buffalo Street Books team "feeling a bit shaky," they "do not feel in danger at this time," and the team will review its safety procedures for future events.

"If anything," Swayze wrote, "the threat only increases our resolve to continue to do the things that we believe improve lives and spread love through books in our community, including Drag Story Hour. We are grateful to our Drag Queens who volunteer their time to spread literacy and joy so kids can be confident in themselves and become changemakers in their communities. We remain committed to inclusion and equity and to the bookstore being a safe community space for all."

Last Saturday, Mosaics in Provo, Utah, was the target of a bomb threat, and in September, the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City cancelled a drag queen storytime due to a pair of bomb threats.

Friendship Bookstore Relocates to Reedsville, Pa.

Friendship Bookstore, a Christian bookstore in business for more than 50 years, is relocating this week to Reedsville, Pa., the Lewistown Sentinel reported.

The bookstore, which sells fiction and nonfiction along with Bibles, religious study resources, Christian music, choir gowns, church supplies, greeting cards, and more, had been located in Burnham, Pa., for 20 years. Store owner and manager Theil Kauffman noted that the bookstore is going from 4,500 square feet to about 1,000. "It's a nice, cozy quaint little bookstore here."

The bookstore has been closed since March 30, and Kauffman expects to be open in the new space this week. Kauffman, who began working full-time at the bookstore in 1978 and purchased it with his wife in 1987, explained that the store has "really slimmed down" in some sections, particularly CDs and DVDs. "We wanted to downsize since we've gotten a little older."

PEN America Report: School Book Bans 'Climbing to Record Levels'

The number of individual books banned by schools is climbing to record levels, according to a new PEN America report Banned in the USA: Narrating the Crisis, which documents over 4,000 instances of book banning during the first half of the current school year--more than in the entire previous 2022-2023 school year.

Examining book bans from July to December 2023, the report details book bans in 52 public school districts in 23 states, encompassing both red and blue districts. PEN America has documented more than 10,000 bans over the last two and a half years (July 2021 to December 2023).

Although censors continue to use the concept of "obscenity" to justify widespread books bans, the report examines a wave of intense scrutiny regarding books that discuss women, sexual violence, and rape. It also finds that books discussing race and racism, LGBTQ+ and especially transgender identities continue to be targeted at consistently high rates.

"For anyone who cares about the bedrock of American values and the protection of free expression, this report should be a red alert," said Sabrina Baêta, Freedom to Read program manager at PEN America and a lead author of the report. "Book bans are targeting narratives about race and sexual identities and sexual content writ large, and they show no sign of stopping. The bans we're seeing are broad, harsh, and pernicious--and they're undermining the education of millions of students across the country."

Florida continues to have the highest number of bans  (3,135 in 11 school districts), but the report documents that book bans are increasing in other states, including Wisconsin (481 bans in three school districts), Iowa (142 bans in three school districts), Texas (141 bans in four school districts), as well as Kentucky and Virginia, which experienced at least 100 bans each. 

At the same time that bans are increasing, formalized resistance to censorship is growing. Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read Program director at PEN America and a lead author of the report, observed: "Students are at the epicenter of the book banning movement, and they're fearlessly spearheading the fight against this insidious encroachment into what they can read and learn across the country. By suppressing these stories, censors seek to delegitimize experiences that resonate deeply with young people. Just as we've seen the power of America's youth in rallying around causes such as gun violence prevention, they're refusing to yield to the censorship of book bans threatening their peers and communities." 

B&N Opening New Store in Concord, N.C.

Barnes & Noble is opening a new store in Concord, N.C., today, April 17.

Located in the Pavilion at King's Grant shopping center, in a space that previously housed a Buy Buy Baby, the new store features a cafe as well as B&N's updated store design.

The store is not far from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and today, former race car driver Kyle Petty will host the ribbon-cutting ceremony and sign copies of his book Swerve or Die (St. Martin's Griffin).

The Concord store is one of four new B&Ns to open this month; the others are located in New Orleans, La.; Dubuque, Iowa; and Dawsonville, Ga. B&N plans to open more than 50 stores in 2024.


Image of the Day: Rough Trade Launch at Charlie's Queer Books

Charlie's Queer Books in Seattle, Wash., hosted the launch for Katrina Carrasco's historical novel Rough Trade (MCD/Macmillan). Pictured: Carrasco (left), bookstore owner Charlie Hunt, and author Kim Fu, who interviewed Carrasco for the event.

Bookstore Wedding: S&S's Cat Boyd at the Strand

Appropriately, Cat Boyd, Simon & Schuster assistant director of publicity (in red), had the welcome reception for her wedding at The Strand Book Store's Rare Book Room.

Chalkboard: Schuler Books Ann Arbor

Schuler Books shared a photo of its "spring themed chalkboard from bookseller Hannah at our Ann Arbor [Mich.] store!" The message: "Your mind is a garden and books are the seeds, so pick your favorite and bloom as you read!"

Bookseller Moment: Fable Hollow Book Shoppe

Posted on Instagram by Fable Hollow Book Shoppe, Knoxville, Tenn.: "I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate our incredible community this morning. We get told quite often that Fable Hollow is a safe place for people. It's somewhere to decompress or just escape from stress for a while. 

"This means so much to hear but it also means that y'all understood the assignment. You see our vision and jump in headfirst. Any event we do is met with so much enthusiasm and eagerness, it truly blows my mind.

"Even roaming the shop on a random Tuesday morning, I see community communing and friends meeting and individuals just having a place to be. Fable Hollow wouldn't exist without you guys and I'm just so happy we have the best people around us."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alua Arthur on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Alua Arthur, author of Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End (Mariner Books, $28.99, 9780063240032).

Good Morning America: Josie Cox, author of Women Money Power: The Rise and Fall of Economic Equality (Abrams, $30, 9781419762987).

The Talk: Sara Jane Ho, author of Mind Your Manners: How to Be Your Best Self in Any Situation (Hachette Go, $29.49, 9780306832833).

Tamron Hall repeat: Blake Butler, author of Molly (Archway Editions, $17.95, 9781648230370).

TV: A Man in Full

Netflix has released the official trailer for A Man in Full, based on Tom Wolfe's 1998 novel and starring Jeff Daniels as a real estate titan who's going broke, Deadline reported. The six-episode limited series from David E. Kelley and Regina King premieres May 2 on the streaming network.

A Man in Full is written and executive produced by Kelley, who serves as showrunner. The cast also includes Tom Pelphrey, Diane Lane, Lucy Liu, William Jackson Harper, Aml Ameen, Sarah Jones, Jon Michael Hill, and Chanté Adams.

King directs three episodes and executive produces via her Royal Ties Productions as part of her first-look deal with Netflix. Tommy Schlamme directs three episodes and also executive produces, along with Reina King, Matthew Tinker, Thomas C. Wolfe, and Alexandra Wolfe.

Books & Authors

Awards: Sami Rohr Winner

Palestine 1936: The Great Revolt and the Roots of the Middle East Conflict by Oren Kessler (Rowman & Littlefield) has won the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, given in association with the National Library of Israel to "an emerging author writing in or translated into English who demonstrates the potential for continued contribution to the world of Jewish literature."

Organizers said, "Palestine 1936 has been heralded for its nuanced and balanced narrative on the origins of the Middle East conflict with far-reaching implications for our time. Kessler masterfully navigates the complex landscape of historical events, providing readers with a thought-provoking analysis of the actions and perspectives of the remarkable individuals involved in the conflict. Through meticulous research and compelling storytelling, he sheds light on a pivotal period in history, offering a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped the region to this day."

Reading with... John Schu

photo: Saverio Truglia

John Schu is the author of the picture books This Is a School, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, and This Is a Story, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo. Louder Than Hunger (Candlewick Press, March 19) is his debut novel-in-verse. He's the children's librarian for Bookelicious, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University, and a former classroom teacher and teacher-librarian. He lives near Chicago and travels around the world sharing his love of books.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Louder Than Hunger explores eighth grader Jake Stacey's experiences with anorexia nervosa and anxiety, showing the successes and setbacks of his journey toward recovery.

On your nightstand now:

Oh, there are always soooo many books on my nightstand.

Here are five of the middle-grade books waiting to be read:

The Secret Language of Birds by Lynne Kelly
Summer at Squee by Andrea Wang
Ultraviolet by Aida Salazar
Isabel in Bloom by Mae Respicio
And Then, Boom! by Lisa Fipps

Favorite book when you were a child:

As a child, I loved reading books based on TV shows, feature films, and media properties. They always reeled me in. I read Goofy's Big Race: Walt Disney's Fun-to-Read Library, Volume 4 and Jan Carr's novelization of Oliver and Company over and over again. Both books calmed me. They are tattooed on my heart.

Your top five authors:

I love booktalking books by Katherine Applegate, Lauren Castillo, Kate DiCamillo, Renée Watson, and Jacqueline Woodson. They inspire me to be a better writer and human. They write books that help hearts heal. They are AMAZING!

Book you've faked reading:

Wow! I've never been asked this question before. Should I feel ashamed that I've never faked reading a book before? Should I try it? Hmmm...

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm an evangelist for Newbery Medal-winning The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. There was something about this book, this character, and the way Katherine's beautiful words reached from the page to draw me in. It is the forever book of my heart. I've given away thousands of copies. Please add it to the top of your to-read mountain if you haven't read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Browsing bookstores and libraries is one of my favorite hobbies. I love when a cover screams,




In 2021, I bought Donna Barba Higuera's The Last Cuentista from Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill., because of Raxenne Maniquiz's artwork and Richard Oriolo's design. What a stunning cover for a beautiful story!

Book you hid from your parents:

This is a somewhat painful and complicated question to answer. In my book for educators and writers, The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life (Stenhouse), I write about how books can be the perfect prescriptions that let us know we're going to be okay. We give students access to these lifelines and leave room for the magic. The book I hid from my parents wasn't the perfect prescription to let me know I would be okay. It didn't provide magic and solace. It read more like a here's-how-you-can-develop-an-eating-disorder manual. A manual to help me become better at disordered eating, which is why I won't name the book, but I hid it from my parents because I didn't want them to connect any dots between the subject of the book and me. Thirteen-year-old me needed a book like Louder Than Hunger. I think it would have had a positive influence on my heart and health.

Book that changed your life:

Michael Cunningham's The Hours changed my life. Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Vaughan, and Laura Brown came into my life when I really needed them. When I really needed their stories. I skipped multiple classes one day during college to read it. I couldn't put it down. I started reading it again as soon as I finished it. I saw the movie based on the novel in the theater at least 10 times, and I memorized most of the screenplay.

Favorite line from a book:

I served on the Newbery Award selection committee that selected Kate DiCamillo's Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. I think about this part of the book multiple times per week:

"And she felt it. Her father's heart, beating there inside of him. It felt very certain, very strong, and very large. Just like Dr. Meescham had said: capacious."

Five books you'll never part with:

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman
It is a perfect picture book. I love how it shows the importance of each individual and how their presence impacts others.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
I vividly remember my second-grade teacher reading Charlotte's Web aloud in 1988. When I close my eyes, I'm transported back to our classroom. I see her standing in front of the room reading aloud one of the most beautifully written stories. It is the first novel I remember a teacher reading aloud. At a young age, it taught me the importance and power of experiencing books together. I also remember that she cried. I think about that moment a lot. Thank you, Ms. Villender!

The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how this series turns so many dormant readers into avid readers. Magic!

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
I wish I could gift a copy to every elementary, middle, and high school classroom. I love how it highlights the beauty in finding the courage to tell your story and to share yourself.

The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Julie Morstad
I was in the Seattle area doing school visits on The Puppets of Spelhorst's book birthday. I bought a copy from Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond. I read aloud the entire book in my hotel room. I was the only person in the room. I couldn't resist! It was written to be read aloud! I loved every moment I spent with the king and the wolf and the girl and the boy and the owl. What a gift!! 

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

I wish I could read Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan again for the first time. Thankfully, I can re-read it whenever I want. I love that when we re-read a favorite book, it often offers something new.

Book Review

YA Review: Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet

Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet by Molly Morris (Wednesday Books, $20 hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9781250290069, June 4, 2024)

A teenage girl wins the chance to bring her best friend back from the dead in this quirky and compassionate debut YA novel.

Every 10 years, the small town of Lennon, Calif., holds a peculiar contest in which the winner gets to bring one person back from the dead "for exactly thirty days, after which they must return to the afterlife." Seventeen-year-old "Resident Virgin Dork" Wilson Moss doesn't believe she'll actually win when she impulsively enters to resurrect her ex-best friend, Annie LeBlanc. Halfway through high school, Annie "transferred to some elite private school" and stopped talking to Wilson. Soon after, Wilson's family "self-destructed"--her mother and stepfather split up--and Wilson spiraled into "friendless loserdom." It therefore comes as a surprise when Annie comes back to life eager to spend time with Wilson, acting as if nothing has changed between them. And Wilson is determined to give Annie "another chance at life"--she discovers a loophole in the contest rules that she hopes may let Annie stay alive. The only problem is the plan requires the cooperation of Ryan Morton, daughter of the owner of Lennon's "most famous restaurant" and Wilson and Annie's former friend who now hates them both. (Except for that one awkward evening when Ryan and Wilson kissed.) With her 30 days dwindling, Wilson is determined to "bring my two best friends back together again" for good.

Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet does not elaborate on the magic behind Annie's return or the origins of Lennon's contest. Instead, author Molly Morris uses an outlandish speculative premise as the starting point for a coming-of-age story exploring grief, nostalgia, and friendship. Though the novel's pacing is uneven--despite the time constraint on Annie's return, there is little sense of urgency--compelling characters (such as the caustic yet charismatic Ryan and Wilson's freewheeling mother, Jody, who has "an extensive collection of pleather bandeaus") are likely to endear readers to Morris's work.

Wilson longs for "how things used to be" when she, Annie, and Ryan were "inseparable." But, as Ryan tells Wilson, "We're not those people anymore." Wilson must relinquish her pursuit of an idealized past to create a future with her loved ones. Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet suggests that it is possible "to let the hard memories power you instead of holding you back, to live with them, not in spite of them." --Alanna Felton, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A teenage girl wins the chance to bring her best friend back from the dead in this quirky and compassionate YA novel.

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