Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

The Deceptive Stillness of Lucille Clifton

When The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (BOA Editions) hit my desk with a thunk--it's 770 pages, including a foreword by Toni Morrison and afterword by Kevin Young--I picked it right up and lost myself in the poems, some familiar, some new. As Morrison says, "The love readers feel for Lucille Clifton--both the woman and her poetry--is constant and deeply felt."

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was prolific. From her eight beloved Everett Anderson picture books to her 13 poetry collections, plus one memoir and 10 more children's books, she has enriched the lives of everyone who has read her. She wrote with heart, courage, humor, rage, joy; her poetry and prose is complex beneath a deceptive stillness.

Here is a poem written on her 40th birthday, for her mother who died young:

well i have almost come to the place where you fell
tripping over a wire at the forty-fourth lap
and i have decided to keep running,
head up, body attentive, fingers
aimed like darts at first prize, so
i might not even watch out for the thin thing
grabbing towards my ankles but
i'm trying for the long one mama,
running like hell and if i fall
i fall.

And a haiku written 28 years later:

over the mountains
and under the stars it is
one hell of a ride

I wish we had space for "wishes for sons" or "An American Story" or "godspeak: out of paradise" or even Everett Anderson's Goodbye. Such a writer! --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Debra Ginsberg: Author and Kitchen Goddess

Author Debra Ginsberg has invited us into her professional life in Waiting and Blind Submission; into motherhood and advocacy in Raising Blaze; matters psychic and pseudo-psychic in The Grift; sisterhood and family life in About My Sisters; and psychological suspense in The Neighbors Are Watching. Her new novel is What the Heart Remembers (NAL), a combination of several of her favorite themes and the introduction of a striking new consideration (see our review below). She lives in San Diego, Calif., within five minutes of all members of her family and is also an editor, freelance reviewer--yes, you've seen her reviews in Shelf Awareness--and NPR commentator.

You have mined both your own experiences and your imagination for books in various genres. How does your writing style and approach change for each?

When I started writing, before my first memoir, I thought of myself as a novelist. Then, Mary Karr and Frank McCourt came along and opened up memoir, and I found that I really enjoyed writing in that genre. I have always thought of myself as the only series character in my own life, so it's easy to switch between memoir and fiction. Having a conversational style makes it easy because the writing is actually from the same template--that of a character going through stages, except fiction is made up and memoir is not. I am interested in what is going on in people's heads. What are they really thinking? Why that bumper sticker? Why that yard sign? What I want to consider and explore in all my books, whatever genre, is the line between what is real and what is not. When people encounter things they don't understand, they become fearful and then hostile. I try to be open-minded, to write about and understand different mindsets.

A housekeeping question: since you have introduced your readers to your son and your family, how is everybody?

Everybody is just fine. Blaze is in college, slowly but surely earning his A.A. and planning to go on to a four-year college. He is working, getting very good grades and looking forward to his book, Episodes: Scenes from Life, Love and Autism, out in paper in November. As for my family, we live very close to each other and see each other frequently. I think it will always be this way. My husband, Gabe, is also close to his family so it works for us.

Are you a bit of a mystic or a psychic?

I have been interested in these matters since I was eight years old. Both my parents were into tarot, I Ching, astrology; they were always open to and interested in other philosophies. I watched my parents and then I took it up. They left it behind and became interested in other things, but I remained fascinated by the history, imagery, lore and stories attached to these other ways of thinking about life and the world. I started doing charts but would never do it professionally because I can't take money for it. I think that when a person opens up to me in that way and I am in a position to receive, I gain an insight that gives me a tremendous responsibility to them. It is intimate, not commercial. It is not just numbers; it is part psychology and intensely personal.

You bring up a fascinating topic in What the Heart Remembers: cellular memory; that is, is it possible that a transplanted organ brings with it the thoughts, feelings and attitudes of its donor?

Here's where that came from: I had one baby, Blaze, and while I was in an excruciating and long induced labor in unbelievable pain, I was furious with my mother for not warning me or preparing me. She had five children without medication, so I thought that I could do that, too. At least once. When the nurse told me that "the moment this baby looks at you and says 'I love you, Mama,' you will forget all this," all I could think of was: I am SO gonna remember every second of this! And I do. Not the pain itself, but the memory of it. I believe that my exploration of cellular memory started with that notion. It stands to reason that cells would hold memory in the brain and possibly elsewhere.

Everyone we talk to mentions the spectacular cakes you have started baking and decorating. Where did that come from, Kitchen Goddess?

Gabe starting bringing me cookbooks from one of the publishers he represents and bemoaning the fact that he loves desserts and nobody was making any for him. So, I started baking cakes. It has turned into a terrific creative outlet, and I am having fun with it. I made my first commissioned cake recently and have orders for others. The first one was for the author of the Dark Vengeance series, Jeff Mariotte. It was a gigantic dark chocolate cake with sugar leaves that looked like glass, repeating the cover motif of his books. I've made a Stonehenge cake, an Angry Birds cake and a cake for my artist mother with a canvas and a paint brush and a still life on it. I'm working on one about knitting now. It is usually fun, but occasionally has me near tears when something doesn't work.

So, in your down time from baking, what's next at your writing desk?

Two things: I'm working on a novel, and I also have a cookbook memoir involving cake. I don't know what will be finished first. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Cannon Beach, Ore.

Book Candy

Authors' School Photos; The Telltale Bookshelf

Another back-to-school book treat: Flavorwire showcased "20 famous authors' adorable school photos."


"What does your bookshelf say about you?" asked Peter Knox in the Guardian, where he observed that as a "lifelong reader myself, I've always had an obsession with seeing a person's bookshelf, to get a sense of what they've brought inside their home and their head."


For art aficionados: The Bookshelf blog found a bookcase "in the shape of Venus."


Metal Type Bookmarks customized with text you choose were showcased by Design Fetish.


Books That Should Be Filmed; Money, Authors and Books

Expressing bafflement "at some of the books that, for whatever reason, haven't yet been snapped up by the Hollywood machine," Flavorwire suggested "10 great books that should be movies."


Writing is a notoriously underpaid profession, but Entrepreneur magazine turned the tables with "9 millionaire entrepreneurs turned authors."


Whenever they say it isn't about the money... it's about money. The Huffington Post highlighted "6 expert-recommended books about money in politics."


"Too cool for school: 3 books on scandalous teachers" were recommended at NPR by Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly.

Why Detroit?

D.E. Johnson is the author of the historical mysteries The Detroit Electric Scheme, Motor City Shakedown and Detroit Breakdown (see our review below). The early 20th century, a time of big ambitions, huge achievements and crushing poverty, holds a special fascination for him.

With a few notable exceptions, authors have ignored Detroit for the last 50 years, leaving the city to rust away in the weeds like so many of its creations. That's changing now as the city struggles to find its way back from the abyss.

The resurgent interest in literature set in Detroit is, it seems to me, an example of the Rocky syndrome. There's nothing Americans love more than an underdog climbing back to its feet. Detroit has been down for the count since the mid-'60s, best known for riots, murder, political corruption, and uncompetitive automobiles. The "Great Recession" nearly K.O.'d the city once and for all.

But wait... cars made by the Big Three now compete head to head with the best of Asia. Businesses are starting or relocating to the city. Detroit is on the rise.

My interest lies more in the Detroit of 100 years ago. For decades, the city was known as the "Paris of the West" for its design, beautiful parks and abundant culture. In the early 20th century, Detroit was one of the fastest growing cities in America, nearly doubling its population every 10 years.

Yet all the same problems we associate with the city today, most notably crime, corruption and poverty, were central issues then as well. The .1% that made up the "Haves" had everything. The rest had nothing, and many people were willing to do whatever it took to be successful. And there were ways. During the first decade of the century, at least one Detroit police detective generated enough wealth to start his own bank.

While the rich prospered, political corruption was rampant, murder a fact of life, and children starved in the streets. None of these facts is unique to Detroit, but nowhere right now are the stakes higher.

Will the city rise from the (literal) ashes, or is it struggling for footing only to be knocked out once and for all? I don't know about you, but I'm staying tuned.

Book Review


What the Heart Remembers

by Debra Ginsberg

When a person receives a heart transplant, does that recipient take on some of the memories, characteristics and attitudes of the original owner? That's the scenario posited here by Debra Ginsberg (The Neighbors Are Watching).

Eden Harrison needs a heart transplant. Her fiancé, Derek, cares for her while she is waiting for a heart to be found and when she recuperates after surgery. Then life becomes complicated: Eden has terrible nightmares about a mountain road in a deluge, pulls away from Derek's attentions and, finally, breaks the engagement. She has always loved the misty skies of Portland, Ore.--but now she's inexorably drawn to the sunny climes of San Diego.

She takes a job in a restaurant that seems somehow familiar to her, where she meets a frequent customer named Darcy. Darcy is a gorgeous, wealthy young widow but she is also friendless and alone, still brooding over the fact that she allowed her husband to abuse her. She zeroes in on Eden and invites her to live with her. The suspense is heightened on every page as these two play a push-me/pull-you game: How much they can trust one another? How much can either tell the other? Most importantly, what does Darcy want from Eden?

Questions multiply: What happened to Darcy's husband? Whose heart does Eden have? The reader is kept guessing--until Ginsberg's carefully crafted ending. Psychologically taut, alternately menacing and benign, What the Heart Remembers is an entirely believable story of one possessed--but by whom or what? --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A heart transplant brings with it the essence of the donor, creating havoc in the life of the recipient.

NAL, $15, paperback, 9780451237002

Man in the Blue Moon

by Michael Morris

A land war in a Florida coastal town during the First World War is the setting of Michael Morris's Man in the Blue Moon. Ella Wallace's gambling, opium-addicted husband has disappeared, leaving her to raise three young sons and keep her general store out of foreclosure. She is forced to choose between making a partial payment on the property or paying the freight charges for a fancy clock her husband must've ordered before he vanished in the hope reselling it might pay off her debt.

Ella's decision complicates matters in the quiet little town. Then Lanier Stillis, a distant cousin of Ella's absent husband, shows up under mysterious circumstances, and her dilemma takes some more surprising twists and turns. Is this man, with his "Samson-like" blond hair and eyes that sparkle with "either hope or mischief," running from trouble? When Lanier miraculously heals one of Ella's sons and makes a lame mule walk, Ella suspects he might be an answer to her prayers, but others perceive him as a charlatan. His presence exacerbates the land battle, especially between the local preacher and a conniving banker.

Spiritual undercurrents abound in this well-plotted novel, as Morris raises provocative questions about faith and providence. With astute perception, he has crafted a story (rooted in actual events) about survival in the early 20th century, with a plausible evocation of small-town life--and the judgments and modus operandi found therein. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A land war and the presence of a stranger combine a small Florida town during the Great War.

Tyndale House, $19.99, hardcover, 9781414373300


by Zadie Smith

In NW, her third novel since White Teeth, Zadie Smith uses lean stream-of-consciousness narration tethered to taut skeins of dialogue to portray a trio of characters who have migrated varying distances from their shared roots in a northwest London housing estate. Smith's characters are ethnically diverse, but the subject of her novel is more existential than multicultural--all three principals struggle to inhabit their adult, free-will professional and personal lives with conviction after emerging from childhoods confined by cultural norms, familial expectations, geographical allegiance and immigrant anxiety.

Leah Hanwell and Natalie De Angelis have been friends from age four to their present mid-30s; Felix Cooper is a contemporary who lives in their periphery and whose noble story bridges their sections. The novel illuminates contemporary cultural frictions by investigating the progress of Leah's and Natalie's relationships and careers. Felix's quest takes the reader across London and depicts the fraught pressures of modern manhood.

Readers seeking a conventional narrative may be frustrated by NW's challenging stream-of-consciousness segues, hodgepodge typography, dearth of dialogue tags and fungible structure, but only about 10% of the text requires actual puzzling out.

By limiting most of her authorial prose to character thought and by delivering gobs of visceral dialogue, Smith virtually embeds the reader alongside her broad cast of NW residents. One does not read NW so much as eavesdrop on it. Smith has moved beyond the somewhat hyper comic tone of White Teeth and the descriptive indulgences of On Beauty to write her most empathetic, humanly vulnerable novel to date. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: Smith offers a transatlantic counterpoint to A Visit from the Goon Squad in a portrait of young Londoners struggling to design their lives against external expectations.

Penguin Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594203978

The Forgetting Tree

by Tatjana Soli

Since her son's tragic death, Claire Baumsarg has struggled to keep her family together as she runs a California citrus ranch with her husband. Even while fighting cancer, she refuses to sell the ranch, though her marriage has already crumbled and the ranch is struggling financially. When Minna, a young Caribbean woman, appears out of nowhere to become Claire's caretaker, her presence seems like a miracle. But is it a curse instead?

In her second novel, The Forgetting Tree, Tatjana Soli vividly evokes the fertile earth, ripe fruits and wild brush of the Baumsargs' isolated ranch, and its magnetic pull on Claire. She explores the fissures between Claire, her ex-husband and their two daughters--now grown but still scarred and haunted by the death of their brother. The ties of land and family are Claire's greatest treasures, but circumstances and the enigmatic Minna may be conspiring to dissolve both relationships.

Claire and Minna are strong, complex characters, and Minna in particular becomes infinitely more interesting as Soli reveals her true history. As Claire becomes increasingly dependent on Minna, though, she turns a willfully blind eye to the idea that her companion may not be what she seems. Thus their mutual downward spiral is compelling, but frustrating, to watch, and the ending feels both melodramatic and unsatisfying.

A haunting exploration of the bonds that bring us together and the tragedies that threaten to rip us apart, The Forgetting Tree, like its characters, is complicated, evocative and memorable. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A California ranching family torn apart by grief, and the struggle of its matriarch to keep her land.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250001047

The Garden of Evening Mists

by Tan Twan Eng

"History is filled with ironies," writes Tan Twan Eng in The Garden of Evening Mists, a novel that touches upon an often overlooked episode in the history of the World War II: the enslavement of, and cruelty visited upon, Chinese and European citizens during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. What results is a quiet but forceful examination of the power of memory to sustain anger and to nurture forgiveness as it dissembles.

In 1951, Teoh Yun Ling, the sole survivor among her family of a brutal Japanese internment camp, arrives at the Malaysian home of Magnus Pretorious, a family friend and surrogate father, hoping to convince his neighbor, the exiled gardener Aritomo, to create a Japanese garden in her sister's memory. Instead, Aritomo apprentices Yun Ling so that she can learn and apply the principles of shakkei, "borrowed scenery," to construct her own garden. Yun Ling's imprisonment has driven her toward hatred and vengeance. Over time, however, she develops an intimacy with her teacher, as Malaysia disintegrates into political uncertainty.

Tan Twan Eng's second novel (after the Man Booker-longlisted The Gift of Rain) is lush with poetic resonance, an emotional but staid masterpiece of yearning for a stunted past and for connections that can never be. "A garden borrows from the earth, the sky, and everything around it, but you borrow from time," Tan writes. "Memories are a form of shakkei, too. You bring them in to make your life feel less empty." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer

Discover: The story of a Japanese prison camp survivor reveals the power of our shared histories to sustain anger and foster forgiveness.

Weinstein, $15.99, paperback, 9781602861800

Mystery & Thriller

Detroit Breakdown

by , D.E. Johnson

As D.E. Johnson's Detroit Breakdown begins, Elizabeth Hume is abruptly called to the Eloise Insane Asylum, and her friend--and former fiancé--Will Anderson drives her there in his electric Model T (it's 1912, after all). When they arrive at the forbidding asylum, Elizabeth is told that her cousin, Robert Clarke, a patient there, is suspected of murder--but a distraught Robert swears he didn't kill anyone, that "the Phantom" did it. The hospital administrator scornfully dismisses this as the ravings of a lunatic who has recently read The Phantom of the Opera, but Elizabeth is convinced her cousin is incapable of such violence and attempts to intercede.

Though she is forced to leave without her cousin, Elizabeth begins investigating as well as she can from the outside. Will, however, takes a riskier route--going undercover as an amnesiac. Incarcerated in Eloise, Will endures dreadful conditions as the psychologists experiment on him. But primitive treatments for mental illness such as "radiation therapy" are not all Will has to suffer; he's also at risk from fellow patients--and from the rumored Phantom.

Johnson brings early 20th-century Detroit vibrantly to life with his descriptions of the terrible traffic, fashions of the era and Eloise's medical treatments. There are frequent references to Will and Elizabeth's earlier adventures (in The Detroit Electric Scheme and Motor City Shakedown); but this story can be fully enjoyed independently of the other two. Fans of historical mysteries and turn-of-the-century Americana will love Detroit Breakdown. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Murder, automobiles, love and lunacy in 1912 Detroit.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250006622

Biography & Memoir

Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal

by William H. Chafe

In Bill and Hillary, Duke University history professor William H. Chafe (Never Stop Running) draws a powerful connection between the political careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their personal relationships, tracing the lives of the former U.S. president and the current Secretary of State through their troubled childhoods, their college years and into the political tempest of the 1990s.

Chafe emphasizes throughout his book that the Clintons' personal lives--independently and together--cannot be separated from their public political work. Both experienced childhoods that left them with a profound respect for social justice and for creating change within the political system. Bill's personal struggles over whether or not to go to Vietnam deeply affected his college years, as did Hillary's commitment to seeking a calm middle ground amid the often-radical political demands of the 1960s. It was the tension of the Clintons' marriage as much as the professional powerhouse they assembled that catapulted Bill up the political ranks, from Arkansas attorney general to governor to the presidency, Chafe explains--and it was the couple's personal response to the Lewinsky scandal that finally gave Hillary the emotional and intellectual freedom to become a political force in her own right. Bill and Hillary is a nuanced and compassionate testament to the inseparability of public and private life. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A clear-eyed view of the political lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the personal struggles that both undermined and enabled their political success.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 9780809094653


After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa

by Douglas Foster

For many Americans, the most they know about South Africa is the story of Nelson Mandela. Although his contributions changed that nation forever, Mandela has retired from public life, and other leaders, including his successor Thabo Mbeki and current president Jacob Zuma, have taken his place. After Mandela is Douglas Foster's highly readable examination of the changes and struggles faced by South Africa in the post-Apartheid era.

Foster summarizes the history of South Africa, emphasizing its complicated origins and makeup, then raises questions about the myriad issues facing the country now. During a six-year period of extended research trips, he interviewed hundreds of South Africans, from politicians and wealthy businessmen to street orphans and HIV-positive teenagers. Their voices express both deep struggle and fierce hope.

Though South African politics struggles with deep racial and socioeconomic division, Foster presents a balanced view of the major parties and leaders. He praises positive developments, such as the distribution of antiretroviral medication for AIDS patients, but no politician--not even Mandela himself--is guiltless. As Foster struggles to fully explain the tangled web of political relations, it's clear that the fledgling democracy must still contend with backstabbing, corruption and favoritism.

From vibrant, cosmopolitan cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg to rural "homelands" still governed by ancient traditions, Foster ably evokes the multilayered, multicultural voices of South African society. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A vivid, fascinating glimpse into the people, complex issues and fierce hope of the new South Africa.

Liveright, $35, hardcover, 9780871404787

Social Science

H-Unit: A Story of Writing and Redemption Behind the Walls of San Quentin

by Keith and Kent Zimmerman

Since 2003, brothers Keith and Kent Zimmerman have operated a writing program at California's San Quentin prison based on the principles that prisoners who practice the writing habit might acquire a love of learning that leads them away from crime and that the work they produce can be as vital and meaningful as any other work by a published writer. In H-Unit, the authors describe their journey in tight, unobtrusive prose that, like their teaching style, is devoid of posturing. Samples of students' writings demonstrate the Zimmermans' methods to great effect throughout, and here, too, the unadorned prose achieves a certain gritty poetry, a level of self-reflection and self-knowledge that makes for riveting reading.

"The dust settles months later," Willie W. writes movingly of what is lost after incarceration. "Where the once wise witness of the sea had been, in its place the walls of a cell hold me. No more beauties, no more whiskey, no more sacraments." One of the best writing exercises the Zimmermans devise is an exercise in riffing off "My Favorite Things," as demonstrated by Bobby F.: "Mom's hugs. My cat's attitude. Lightning in the middle of New Mexico at night. My wife's head on my chest when she's sleeping, listening to her breathe and feeling her heartbeat. Watching someone rushing on Meth."

There are voices in H-Unit well worth hearing and lessons well worth teaching. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: Two brothers who teach creative writing at San Quentin share what they've learned through writing, teaching and opening ourselves to voices that are not often heard.

Turner, $24.95, hardcover, 9781596528550

Psychology & Self-Help

You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce

by Dana Adam Shapiro

There are marriage books, and there are divorce books. It's rare that someone manages to combine the two, but that's what Dana Adam Shapiro has done in You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married). After hearing of one friend's divorce after another, Shapiro decided to figure out what makes a successful marriage by dissecting the failures of others, crisscrossing the country to interview hundreds of divorcees. As he points out, more than 50% of American marriages end in divorce--and yet, despite these overwhelming odds, the "vast majority" of Americans will choose to tie the knot before the age of 35.

The stories Shapiro collected during his interviews leave no stone unturned, from crossdressing to military wives to serial infidelity. Though the personal nature of the stories can make the book feel a bit uneven at times, the end result is still a powerful one. As common ideas start to emerge from one story to the next, it becomes clear that Shapiro was onto something with his approach to understanding love through its failures. With candid, sometimes brutally honest revelations about love, sex, fidelity and friendship, there is wisdom contained in You Can Be Right... that won't be found in more traditional books about marriage. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A bachelor attempts to understand the key to a successful marriage by asking people who've gone through divorce.

Scribner, $24, hardcover, 9781451657777

What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal

by Nan Silver, John Gottman

After four decades of scientifically scrutinizing long-term romance in his "love lab" at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. John Gottman believes he has arrived at a mathematical definition of trust that can determine with great accuracy whether or not a couple's love will last. Gottman, an optimist at heart, says this discovery can salvage many unhappy relationships, and he provides hands-on, concrete exercises and tools to facilitate reconciliation in What Makes Love Last?

"Betrayal is the secret that lies at the heart of every failing relationship," Gottman writes, "even if the couple is unaware of it." Betrayal can take many forms besides sexual infidelity, including putting career before family or the changing of one's political or spiritual beliefs. The primary antidote to betrayal is trust, and Gottman uses principles derived from game theory to explain why. He defines trust as "the specific state that exists when you are both willing to change your own behavior" for the other's benefit.

Gottman provides transcripts of couples who have high levels of trust as well as those who exhibit four negative modes of communication: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. He includes quizzes to help readers evaluate the state of their own relationships, and then provides specific strategies and suggestions to strengthen any relationship. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Although Gottman's scientific take on love may at first seem unromantic, even the happiest couple can benefit from his idea of trust.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 9781451608472

Children's & Young Adult


by Raina Telgemeier, color by Gurihiru

Seventh-grader Callie lives out the drama that is middle school itself through her daily routines and passion for romance and theater in this funny and insightful graphic novel.

Raina Telgemeier (Smile) begins with an overture, and the events unfold in eight acts with one intermission. Callie loves all things theater. She covets an oversize volume about Broadway history in Longacre's bookstore. Her best friend, Liz, designs costumes and her friend Matt works the spotlight. Callie has the inevitable offstage crushes. Her first heartthrob is Greg, older brother to Matt. In a moment of weakness, having been jilted by Bonnie Lane, Greg kisses Callie, fortifying her crush. But the next day, Callie learns from Matt that Greg and Bonnie have reunited. And, the worst part is, Bonnie auditions for the school musical, and... she's talented! Luckily, a pair of handsome twins decides to get involved in the production, and quickly enlist Callie's help. Will their interest in her remain platonic?

Telgemeier builds both emotion and suspense through her panel illustrations. When Callie shows one of the twins her favorite Broadway book, the artist depicts the duo dancing on its pages. Later, Callie nervously composes a text to her chosen twin, and an entire page of panel illustrations shows her plummeting mood as her text goes unanswered. Raina carefully choreographs the painful rhythms of middle school. The beauty of Callie's drama is that the show must go on, and we applaud her throughout the ups and downs of her ordeal. Encore! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The tale of Callie and her middle-grade drama, the latest graphic-novel star turn from Eisner winner Raina Telgemeier.

Scholastic Graphix, $23.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 10-14, 9780545326988; $10.99 paper, 9780545326995

Guys Read: The Sports Pages

by Jon Scieszka, editor, illus. by Dan Santat

The Guys Read series has consistently offered terrific short reads, ideal for kids who don't necessarily think of themselves as "readers." The latest, The Sports Pages, is no exception. As with the earlier titles, author and editor Jon Scieszka has selected a theme (humor with Funny Business; goosepimply chills in Thriller) and authors (David Lubar, Anthony Horowitz, Dan Gutman) with instant kid appeal and name recognition.

Stories that spotlight sports, from baseball to martial arts, as well as two autobiographical sketches, provide wide-ranging material for middle grade readers. In a funny tale about the 1986 World Series and a grapefruit, Dan Gutman shows just how far a fan's imagination will take him. Another of Jacqueline Woodson's great kid characters, Cashew (started as Cashay, ended as a nut) learns an important lesson about running track and living life. Gordon Korman's "The Trophy" presents two teams of city kids who, by vying for possession of a basketball award, deliver a lot of laughs while defining the mystique of the sport. A line from Joe Bruchac's "Choke" ("This time, fish, I'm going to gut you") will keep readers devoted to this story where mixed martial arts creates a hero with the confidence to face down a bully.

These 10 short pieces will provide middle school kids with food for thought, more than a few good laughs and hours of enjoyable reading. --Ellen Loughran, reviewer

Discover: Ten short sports stories with great characters, strong narratives and lashings of humor--the illustrations clinch the deal.

Walden Pond/HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 8-up, 9780061963780; $6.99 paper, 9780061963773

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