Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 10, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Leo Dillon: Iconic Illustrator

Leo Dillon, who with his co-collaborator and wife, Diane, was one of the iconic book illustrators of the 20th century, died on May 26, 2012, at age 79.

His obituary in the New York Times concentrated on their career as children's book illustrators; Leo Dillon was the first African-American to win the Caldecott, and the Dillons were the first (and only) duo to win the award two years in a row, for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears and Ashanti to Zulu. Wikipedia lists 38 picture books and 25 chapter books done over a period of 39 years, and the page hasn't been updated--there are even more. But I remember first discovering the Dillons from their covers for Ace science fiction novels.

I began with Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness--I was not a science fiction fan, but I couldn't resist the cover. And then Keith Roberts's masterwork Pavane (just reissued by Old Earth Books with the same cover), Harlan Ellison, Joan Vinge, Roger Zelazny--drawn in by the Dillons' art, I explored science fiction. I also embarked on collecting picture books, with the Dillons making up a major percentage or my purchases.

Their illustrations are elegant, lovely, powerful, dark, delicate, joyful. The span of the Dillons' artwork is vast, both in output and time. For so many people, the art has formed a familiar and delightful backdrop to their lives. Byron Preiss edited a 1981 biography and retrospective called The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon; we can hope that a new compilation is in the works.

To enjoy some of Leo and Diane Dillon's art, look here and here. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

Book Candy

Artifacts from Fiction; Stair, Chair Bookshelves; Shelf Portraits

Imagine owning a fictional object. Flavorwire did in showcasing "10 artifacts from literature that we wish were real."


Levitate, an architecture and design studio in London, created "stairs that double as bookshelves in a small city apartment."


Summer seating: Laughing Squid suggested the Sunflower Chair, "an ingenious sunflower-shaped chair that is ringed by an integrated bookcase."


"Shelf Portraits," Darragh Casey's current series, "shelves" members of the artist's family and focuses "on the traditional role of the shelf as a device to display, portraying people significant to the artist alongside objects relevant to their own lives and personalities," Bookshelf noted.


Late Summer Reading; Hottest Sex Scenes; Surrealist Books

Since there isn't much beach reading time left, Reuters recommended a "top 10 list of must reads for summer 2012" while conceding: "From now until Labor Day, you have just over four weeks left to cram in all that summer has to offer, including losing yourself in sunshine, travel and a good story."


This issue's Fifty Shades moment has nothing to do with E.L. James's erotic bestsellers. The Houston Press offered its choices for the "10 hottest sex scenes in literature."

Shane Jones, author of Daniel Fights a Hurricane, recommended "10 essential surrealist books for everyone" at Flavorwire.


Emma Barnes, author of Wolfie, chose her "top 10 books with wolves," noting that despite their sometimes bad reputations, "there is another side to the wolf. These intelligent, highly social animals, with their hierarchies and loyalty to the pack, also invoke strong feelings of sympathy in many humans."

Overcoming Fear

Sandi Tan was born in Singapore, attended University of Kent in the U.K. and received an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University. Her short films have shown at major festivals and museums around the world, including the New York Film Festival and MoMA. She lives in Pasadena, Calif., with her husband, the critic John Powers, and their cat Nico. The Black Isle (Grand Central), a 20th-century coming-of-age story--with ghosts--is her debut novel.

I was a scaredy-cat. I was irrational, superstitious, omniphobic, and the single thing I dreaded most as a child was the sight of a ghost at the foot of my bed. I avoided horror movies, made sure my blanket covered every finger and toe, and until recently, when I smelled cigarettes in our house--though nobody here smokes--I joked that it had to be the mice.

When I sat down to write The Black Isle, a book filled with ghosts of different kinds, I hoped it might provide some kind of catharsis. I imagined that, by facing the emotions called up by my heroine's supernatural encounters, I would liberate myself from having to fear them. After all, the dead were no different from us--except that they were gone.

Once I got started, something strange happened. I discovered that my fear of shadows crouching in the dark was nothing compared to the terror inspired by the inertness of the blank page.

There are few things more mundane--and unromantic--than the multiple drafts it takes to perfect a chase sequence through a buzzing jungle at midnight, to capture the shock of an unnatural coupling on a beach, or even to convey the heartache of a ghost who would linger at the foot of your bed. For me, the sheer work of writing about terror defanged terror.

Dare I say it? I'm no longer scared. Not very much, anyway.

These days, I leave the nervous twitching to Nico, my Siamese--an actual 'fraidy-cat. This is a kitty who flees from the mildest cricket. Were she to see a long-haired ghoul hanging bat-like over my bed, she'd be too spooked to wake me--and I really wouldn't have it any other way. --Sandi Tan

Book Brahmin: Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in a small coastal town in northwest England. He completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he served as the fiction editor of the literary journal PRISM international. His debut novel, The Bellwether Revivals, centers on a gifted young organist at Cambridge University who believes he can heal people with his music. It was published by Viking Penguin on June 14, 2012, and is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

On your nightstand now:

I'm halfway through Donald Sturrock's excellent Storyteller: The Authorised Biography of Roald Dahl. This is partly character research for my next book, as I find the lives of inordinately talented people fascinating and I like to see how personal experiences can sometimes inform or steer their creative output. Beyond that, Roald Dahl was a childhood hero of mine--I'm sure I wouldn't be the first author to say that his books inspired me to write my own rhyming poems and strange tales when I was a kid. It's an absorbing exercise to go back as an adult and learn about the man's flaws and eccentricities, his creative process, and comprehend something of the mind which created those beloved stories.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. I read this on a family holiday when I was 12. It is a wonderful, dark, creepy adventure story about a kid called Harvey Swick who gets lured into the mysterious house of a man known as Mr. Hood. The house has been standing for thousands of years and, of course, very strange things begin to happen to Harvey the longer he stays there. In the end, he has to battle to extricate himself from the place by defeating the evils of Mr. Hood. It's sort of a fable about not wishing your life away, being grateful for what you have, and it was really one of the first novels I remember being utterly captivated by--a children's book that didn't patronize or insult my intelligence, but which evoked something sinister and adult without being in any way sensational. And I remember the day I finished reading it on the beach: my parents and my brother were swimming in the sea and they kept calling me over, but I just couldn't leave Harvey alone with Mr. Hood. That's the mark of an exceptional story, I think.

Your top five authors:

Oh, heck--only five? I'll have to be ruthless about this: Richard Yates, Tobias Wolff, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and Graham Greene. Four of those are American. Only one is still alive. That says a lot about my reading tastes, I think.

Book you've faked reading:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was implored to read this at school, as it was mandatory reading for English Literature. In the end, I hated it too much to get beyond a few chapters, and it dawned on me that I could just pretend to have read it, because it wasn't going to be part of the final exam. I have never gotten on very well with Tolkien. Sorry. I know I'm in a very small minority, but his work makes my brain itchy. All that questing and resting. The fact that Tolkien can't even whittle down his own initials tells you a lot about the economy of his prose style.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I sermonize yearly on the sheer elegance and skill of Carson McCullers's writing in The Member of the Wedding. To my mind, it would be hard to better the way she handles the third-person point of view of the book's protagonist, Frankie, as she graduates into adolescence and becomes "F. Jasmine." Also, I keep telling my students about Eric Puchner's Music Through the Floor, but it's not available here in the U.K, so they just shrug back at me. Maybe some clever publisher will bring it out one day, so people can enjoy the brilliance of his story "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan."

Book you've bought for the cover:

Of course, I would never do this. Cough. But, let's pretend--cough--in a moment of weakness--cough--I were to stumble upon a first edition of William Styron's Darkness Visible in a used book store--cough--I might find its cover so alluring that I part with over 30 pounds for it. But that wouldn't happen. Honest. And it would probably turn out to be a thoroughly interesting book anyway, and money well spent.

Book that changed your life:

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. I read this when I was an unemployed 20-year-old musician, stuck in the disheartening pursuit of a record deal, and I would say that reading the first novel in the trilogy, City of Glass, made me realize something vital about myself--that some of the things I wanted to say, most of the stories I wanted to tell, could not be contained in the songs I was writing. That novel made me feel seasick with creative possibilities. I had written a lot of fiction as a child, but I'd sort of fallen out of the habit in my teens. That year, I started writing a novel--it was a bad one, but it was a start. If I hadn't read the New York Trilogy when I had, I doubt I would be a novelist today.

Favorite line from a book:

From the short story "Reunion" by John Cheever:
"I knew that when I was grown I would be something like him; I would have to plan my campaigns within his limitations." Still makes me teary.

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

I would love to read William Golding's Lord of the Flies again for the first time, without it being a prescribed text on a school reading list. That way, I could really enjoy it for the wonderful book it is, rather than feel a simmering enmity towards it, and dismiss it to my friends as "a stupid story about some fat kids and a conch." What an idiot.

Book Review


In the Shadow of the Banyan

by Vaddey Ratner

Vaddey Ratner's debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, is an autobiographical treatment of the Khmer Rouge's takeover of Cambodia and subsequent genocide. Raami, the seven-year-old Vaddey surrogate, is the narrator of the horrendous events. (Vaddey herself was five when the Khmer Rouge dispossessed her royal family; they never saw their home again.)

Raami, her parents and other family members are driven out to the countryside, where, in rhetoric reminiscent of China's Cultural Revolution, soldiers with bullhorns scream at them, commanding them to forget the past in order to create a new Cambodia. Families are separated so that loyalty will revert to the state, not remain with individuals, yet Raami, who adores her father, a poet, never transfers allegiance from her family, even when her father is lost to them.

Four years of privation, illness, killingly hard work and sorrow are recounted with equal parts poignancy, lyrical reflection and heartrending remembrance of halcyon times at home, connected by Raami's hope for survival. Her beloved father is the reason that hope stays alive for Raami. "When I thought you couldn't walk, I wanted to make sure you could fly," he tells her, recalling the polio she had as an infant. "I told you stories to give you wings, Raami, so that you would never be trapped by anything--your name, your title, the limits of your body, this world's suffering."

Ratner's touching and beautifully written In the Shadow of the Banyan celebrates the human spirit, the power of story and imagination and the triumph of good over evil. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A little girl witnesses the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge's takeover of Cambodia and survives by remembering her father's stories.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451657708

Goodbye for Now

by Laurie Frankel

Perhaps Goodbye for Now should be sold in a plain white wrapper so readers will not be scared off by Laurie Frankel's utterly original, yet possibly off-putting, premise. The novel begins as a sweet love story when Sam Elling creates an algorithm for the computer dating company where he works that bypasses the often inauthentic information clients offer and instead matches them according to the sum of every online interaction they've ever had. As a result, instead of showing customers the matches they think they want, it sets them up with people they will truly love. Unfortunately, this bit of genius coding gets Sam canned; his employer starts to lose money once the perfectly matched couples no longer have a need for matchmaking. Fortunately, while beta-testing his creation on himself, Sam has already found Meredith, his true love.

Early in their relationship, Meredith's beloved grandmother dies; this gives Sam an idea that revolutionizes the grief process. With code he created to track people's past online interactions, he may be able to write another program that can replicate communication with DLOs (dead loved ones). After all, so many conversations tend to follow certain patterns as they cover common subjects--weather, health, job, sports. What happens next is not only thought-provoking and a bit disturbing but hilarious and well-intentioned.

Frankel's second novel (after The Atlas of Love) finds a way to translate one of the most painful aspects of mortality--losing loved ones--into a compelling and humorous look at how relationships have evolved in the age of the Internet. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A quirky and thoroughly original romance that has surprising insight about identity and relationships.

Doubleday, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385536189

A Hundred Flowers

by Gail Tsukiyama

"Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." In 1956, Mao Tse-Tung issued an invitation to the people of China, encouraging them to give their frank opinion of the communist government and of how to create a stronger nation. Gail Tsukiyama's A Thousand Flower distills the horrible reality of what happened next through the fictional experience of one Guangzhou family.

Someone in the Lee family writes a letter with concerns about the present and suggestions for a greater China. When the letter is received by Mao's cadre, former professor Sheng Lee is taken away for "re-education." There is never-ending sadness in the household because they know that they may never see Sheng again.

Sheng's wife, Kai Ying, with the assistance of Auntie Song, who lives in a small cottage and keeps a huge garden, does all she can to manage the household despite missing her husband, worrying about her son and being chief caretaker of all. But one day, Sheng's father, Wei, telling no one, boards a train for Luoyang, determined to find his son. He has much to tell him--and much to atone for.

Wei's trip back to Guangzhou, what he has to report and Tao's growth in maturity and understanding are beautifully told as Tsukiyama reminds us (as she has in previous novels) of the solace of family and tradition against a backdrop of guilt and secrets. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Mao's crackdown tears a family apart--but they hold each other up through unbearable loss and sadness, finding comfort in stories and hope for a better future.

St. Martin's Press, $24.99, hardcover, 9780312274818

Mystery & Thriller

Münster's Case: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery

by Hakan Nesser, trans. by Laurie Thompson

Münster's Case is billed as an Inspector Van Veteren mystery, but we see very little of Maardam's veteran Chief Inspector until near the end of the story. Instead, Hakan Nesser turns the investigation over to Van Veteren's colleague, Intendent Münster.

Four retirees have won a 20,000-guilder lottery--not a fortune, but worth celebrating. They get gloriously drunk at their favorite bar, two of them argue and everyone goes home. At around 2 a.m., Waldemar Leverkuhn is murdered, stabbed 28 times. It develops that another member of the quartet, Bogner, disappeared that night. Are the two events connected?

Much of the first part of the novel is concerned with the investigators trying to figure out not only who killed Leverkuhn but whether they should look for Bogner's body. Bogner and Leverkuhn are the two who had argued, giving credence to the possibility the dispute continued outside the bar.

Marie-Louise, Leverkuhn's wife, who came home late to find her husband in a veritable bloodbath, says she ran to the nearby police station, discovered it closed, then came back home to call the police. The Leverkuhns' apartment caretaker, Else Van Eck, also disappears suddenly: Is it connected to the murder? Interviews with the three grown Leverkuhn children also deepen the mystery.

Just when the reader thinks that the story is all sorted out, an unexpected snapper at the end makes one realize there were early clues to the outcome all along. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Hakan Nesser returns to the Scandinavian dark and gloom, with a new lead investigator in a murder case where the unexpected trumps the ordinary.

Pantheon, $25.95, hardcover, 9780307906861

The Viper

by Hakan Ostlundh, trans. by Per Carlsson

Arvid Traneus, a ruthless businessman who has been working in Tokyo, returns home to the Swedish island of Gotland. Within a few days of his arrival, his wife, Kristina, is found brutally murdered in the Traneus living room along with another dead body. It's soon proven that the unrecognizable victim is not Arvid but his cousin Anders, making Arvid the number-one suspect.

Detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson lead the chase for Arvid, digging into the history of the Traneus family to discover why he would want to kill Kristina and Anders with such viciousness. Hindering the investigation is the fact that Gotland is a small community where memories are long and people are unwilling to get involved in a family dispute.

Hakan Ostlundh heightens the tension of The Viper by recounting the lead-up to the crime from various points of view: Arvid's, Kristina's, each of their children's, and that of an unknown man. He intersperses these flashbacks into the unfolding of the current investigation, along with chapters set a few weeks in the future, where a police officer is lying unresponsive in the hospital. These chapters added a nice twist--the reader must figure out not only the murder scenario, but also how the police officer ended up in the hospital, whether it's related to the case, and how much time has elapsed between the murders and the future scenes. It's a touch that upgrades the novel's traditional mystery into one that is irresistible. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A creepy, irresistible mystery set on a seemingly idyllic Swedish island.

Minotaur Books, $24.99, hardcover, 9780312642327

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Iron Wyrm Affair

by Lilith Saintcrow

For The Iron Wyrm Affair, Lilith Saintcrow has created an alternative 19th-century England where Queen Victrix recently gained control of the throne--which carries with it the additional responsibility of being the living incarnation of Britannia, the empire's spirit. Emma Bannon is a sorceress of the highest rank, working in the queen's service; as the story begins, she has come to recruit (or to protect?) Archibald Clare, an unabashedly Holmesian master of deductive reasoning. The reasons why emerge with precisely calibrated narrative timing, but even as the sorceress and the "mentath" begin to work together, Emma's most important relationship is the one between her and her Shield, Mikal. Though Mikal is duty bound to protect her life, Emma cannot bring herself to fully trust him--even though she has taken profound steps to protect him from the consequences of the very crime that stirs her misgivings.

Saintcrow (The Hedgewitch Queen) shows rather than tells as she introduces readers to the supernatural parameters of her Londinium with a minimum of speechifying. As a result, her Victorian-era blend of urban fantasy and steampunk-ish technology is occasionally overwhelming, but narrative momentum carries the day--and Clare's intensively inquisitive nature helps put many of the pieces together along the way. In some ways, you might regard The Iron Wyrm Affair as a test run. Now that Saintcrow has established that Bannon & Clare function neatly as a team (with the help of their supporting cast), subsequent novels should reveal the full extent--or limitations--of their capabilities. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: Lilith Saintcrow's new series is a fast-paced blend of Victorian-era urban fantasy and steampunkish technology.

Orbit, $13.99, paperback, 9780316201261

Biography & Memoir

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

by Bob Spitz

No one did more to change American attitudes toward food and home cooking than Julia Child. For more than 30 years, this television icon inspired and encouraged viewers' culinary pursuits with her confident joie de vivre and a voice Bob Spitz describes as "a cross between Tallulah Banks and a slide whistle." Spitz's Dearie, published to coincide with the centennial of Child's birth, is a comprehensive biography that fizzes with the humor and spirit of its subject's remarkable life.

Spitz shows us Child's formative years and how an adolescence that stretched into adulthood allowed her to develop the independent, rebellious spirit that would help her shine a bright light against the onslaught of over-processed convenience foods. He devotes ample space to Paul, Julia's husband, an artistic and romantic man of the world who considered his wife "a veritable goddess" and with whom she enjoyed years of wedded bliss.

Spitz and Child intended to collaborate on her biography, a decision made as they toured Sicily together in 1992, when Spitz interviewed Child for several magazines. Child passed away while Spitz was completing another biography (The Beatles), but Spitz continued the project, through letters and diaries belonging to Julia and Paul Child as well as her closest friends Simone "Simca" Beck and Avis DeVoto, plus interviews with friends, family and colleagues. Dearie may not be the only biography of Julia Child on bookstore shelves, but Spitz's joyous and definitive rendering of an American icon will inspire readers in the kitchen and beyond. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: Spitz's comprehensive biography of American icon Julia Child, filled with humor and spirit, arrives just in time for the centennial of her birth.

Knopf, $29.95, hardcover, 9780307272225

Before the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Revolution

by Luisita Lopez Torregrosa

Luisita López Torregrosa (The Noise of Infinite Longing) is a New York newspaper editor when Elizabeth comes aboard as a new reporter in the 1980s. Her quiet, self-contained, slightly mysterious air draws Luisita's attention. When Elizabeth lands a sought-after position as foreign correspondent, she builds a home for herself in Manila, Luisita joins her there, and the two women throw themselves hesitatingly and then wholeheartedly into a passionate affair against the backdrop of the fall of Ferdinand Marcos.

As a love story, Before the Rain is spellbinding and heartwrenching, but Torregrosa's highest feat is perhaps one of poetry. Her tone is haunting, lyrical and sensuous. Readers will feel the equatorial heat of the Philippines and the beat of the Manila Blues, smell the mangoes and squatters' camps, taste the margaritas and then feel the biting cold of New York winters as the story returns to the United States.

Before the Rain is a memoir of revolution as well as love: the beauty, upheaval and political turmoil of the Philippines are handled sensitively and lovingly. Besides Manila, Luisita and Elizabeth live and travel in New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Miami, Rio and Washington, D.C.--each of these places leaves its mark. But their relationship is always the book's main focus. The two women travel, move, work various jobs (some rewarding, some soul-draining); throughout, their ardor has a momentum all its own. Even in its painful finale, that love is this book's most lovely evocation. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at Pages of Julia

Discover: An impassioned memoir of love between two journalists, set amid travel and revolution.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780547669205


Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings

by Craig Brown

Hello Goodbye Hello is "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," repeated more than a hundredfold--without Kevin Bacon. The book cycles through 101 meetings between well-known writers, artists and heads of state, each vignette connected to the next by at least one of its participants. Thus Adolf Hitler is nearly run over by John-Scott Ellis, who in his childhood knew Rudyard Kipling, who once dropped in on Mark Twain... and so on, until the Duchess of Windsor takes tea with Hitler and the circle is complete.

What makes Hello Goodbye Hello a joy to read is its fast pace combined with Craig Brown's impeccable comedic timing. Each chapter lasts no more than a few pages, yet Brown (host of BBC Radio 4's This Is Craig Brown) consistently catches the essence of the participants as well as the spirit of the age. Each is punctuated with humorous moments that are often a surprise. (One expects Madonna and Michael Jackson's disastrous dinner date to be funny, but Jackie Kennedy's first tête-a-tête with Queen Elizabeth II?) Brown provokes smiles as well as suppressed giggles--and the urge to read particularly good lines aloud to anyone nearby.

Hello Goodbye Hello is a quick and charming read, and it's great fun for anyone interested in the hidden connections between the great figures of the 20th century--and more than a few of their social gaffes. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: 101 unexpected meetings between some of the past century's greatest luminaries--often unexpectedly funny.

Simon & Schuster, $26.95, hardcover, 9781451683608


The Game of Boxes

by Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett's first book of poetry, Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced, was stunningly reviewed; it was also awarded the 2003 Beatrice Hawley prize. Her followup, The Game of Boxes, has been greatly anticipated, and is likely to garner congratulatory praise of its own.

Barnett explores the theme of love in its most intimate forms. In some poems, the unifying connection seems to be one of familial love. A series of poems, each titled "Chorus," is written from the viewpoint of children, while other verses clearly depict a deep maternal perspective:

The night is covered
in books and papers and child
and I like having him here,
sleeping loose and uninhibited.

The subject of the poetry shifts easily into an exploration of a more physical form of love. Some poems demonstrate the erotic push and pull, as well as the give and take, of man and woman:

Though I can't sleep neither could I wake,
and when you spoke I heard only the come-on
hard-on voice of this is how I'll do it to you so I moved away,
I wanted you to leave.

Short and tight, all of Barnett's poems are purposeful--and often powerful. The Game of Boxes is a book the reader will want to return to after the first perusal, as the carefully chosen language, imagery, and intent of each poem may open up more broadly with subsequent glances. --Roni K. Devlin, owner, Literary Life Bookstore

Discover: Guggenheim fellow Catherine Barnett's tightly written collection is filled with purposeful pieces commenting on both familial and erotic love.

Graywolf, $15, paperback, 9781555976200

Children's & Young Adult

One White Dolphin

by Gill Lewis, illus. by Raquel Aparicio

"Each night I have this dream. Each night the white dolphin waits for me." Gill Lewis (Wild Wings) writes about the dreamer, Kara Wood, a child struggling with loss who continues to love and care about her family and friends and the creatures that populate the sea.

When Kara's marine biologist mother failed to return from a mission a year earlier, Kara and her father had to move in with his loving but anxious sister. Classmate Jake Evans bullies Kara in school, just as his father, Dougie Evans, bullies the townsfolk. After she gives Jake a bloody nose and argues with her father, Kara flees for a cove she once visited with her mother. There she sees the white dolphin calf of her dreams, where "sometimes grey seals haul out on these rocks and lie basking in the sun." Kara believes it's a sign that her mother will return. When the calf beaches, Kara's quick action saves it. As she works to reunite the calf with its mother, readers will feel Kara has a personal stake in the outcome. Aparicio's often dramatic India ink and liquid pencil illustrations reinforce the twining of the fates of the dolphins and the villagers who make their living from the sea.

This life-affirming novel gets its depth from well-drawn, supportive characters such as Kara's father, her cousin Daisy, and Felix, a new boy who has cerebral palsy. But the satisfying climax and believable ending come about because of Kara's indomitable and generous spirit. --Ellen Loughran, reviewer

Discover: A girl in love with the sea who will inspire in readers a similar respect for nature.

Atheneum, $15.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 8-12, 9781442414471

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone

by Kat Rosenfield

Kat Rosenfield's suspenseful first novel looks at the psychological effects of a stranger's death on Becca, a small-town 18-year-old bound "for a high-powered life in a city far away."

With graduation behind her, Becca is headed for college at summer's end. Her plan is on track until her boyfriend dumps her the night of her graduation, and a dead girl is found on the side of the road just outside of town on County Road 128, a route that veers off to the Appalachians. Becca is so shaken that her future is derailed just hours after she's accepted her diploma and waved the crowd goodbye.

The discovery of the body, beaten and left lying in a pool of blood, with a man's shoe print beside it, leaves Becca stunned and reeling, unable to reconcile the easy world she thought she knew with this new, ugly one filled with suspicion and doubt. Rosenfield alternates scenes of how Amelia Anne ended up dead with Becca's first-person recollections of that summer. The tension rises as each vignette closes, propelling us headlong into a flash of violence and hate as the two stories come together at the finish.

Readers will revel in Kat Rosenfield's description of small-town life. She captures the essence of what it's like to know everyone in town but not know anything about who they really are--their secrets, their fears, their desires. --René Kirkpatrick, blogger and bookseller at Mockingbird Books

Discover: A murder on the outskirts of a small town, which leads to violence and suspicion in the community.

Dutton, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 14-up, 9780525423898

Unlikely Friendships for Kids: The Monkey and the Dove

by Jennifer S. Holland

Jennifer S. Holland adapts her popular adult book, Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom, into an attractively designed photographic paper-over-board book that makes an ideal transitional reader.

In her introduction, Holland describes how she observed a pair of inseparable fish from two different species on a dive at the Great Barrier Reef, which set her down a path to discover other unlikely buddies. She spotlights five such pairs, beginning with the three-month-old rhesus monkey of the cover, rescued from an island in China, and the dove that befriends him until both can return to the wild. Other odd duos include Mauschen, an Asian black bear in a zoo in Germany, and a stray black cat named Muschi; and Tarra, a performing pachyderm that retires to a Tennessee elephant sanctuary where Bella, a stray dog, befriends her. When Bella gets hospitalized in the vet's quarters, Tarra plants herself outside until Bella emerges, then "pets" the pooch with her trunk! Readers also meet Libby, the "seeing-eye cat" for canine Cashew, who's going blind, and the astonishing friendship of a predator and prey in Kenya--a lioness and a baby oryx.

Each six- to eight-page story, set in large type, brims with irresistible full-color photographs. Children can dip in and out or read the entire book in one sitting. Readers will also want to collect The Dog and the Piglet, Book 2 and The Leopard and the Cow, Book 3. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Five entertaining true tales about odd couples of the animal world, collected in a highly photographic early chapter book

Workman, $7.95, hardcover, 48p., ages 7-10, 9780761170112

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