Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 3, 2013

W. W. Norton & Company: The Iliad by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

From My Shelf

Milkshakes and Martinis for Mom

Mothers deserve treats along with the standard flowers and flowery cards. Two books provide the means with panache. Malts and Milkshakes by Autumn Martin (St. Martin's Griffin) offers scrumptious recipes for basic shakes, like vanilla, fresh mint, and blackberry lavender; plus boozy shakes like chocolate espresso whiskey malt and jalapeño tequila, with a few cookie recipes thrown in, like killer Bacon-Oatmeal Raisin (breakfast?).

If a shake is too gentle for mom after a hard day, check out The Big Book of Martinis for Moms by Rose Maura Lorre and Mavis Lamb (Adams Media): 250 pages of accomplishments ("Taught Your Child How to Wipe") and rewards (a Pooh-tini, with honey, vodka and cold chamomile tea).

Another way to make it through the day (or parenthood) is by baking, according to novelist Marian Keyes, in Saved by Cake (Plume). Learning to bake helped her recover from depression. The recipes are divine, often unusual (Balsamic, Black Pepper and Chocolate Cake) and annotated with Keyes's characteristic wit.

While the cake is baking, mom can sit down with a martini or malt and read. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (Harper) is the stunning story of a mother 's quest to discover why her daughter jumped to her death (or did she?).

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling (Viking) is also a thriller, with supernatural elements: historian Annie Kendall, the ghost of a Carthusian monk and a handsome investigative reporter. Both books are mesmerizing.

For good laughs, give mom a copy of Henri, le Chat Noir by William Braden (Ten Speed Press), existential musings taken from the popular website and videos of the justly famous angst-filled cat. Or Maddie on Things by Theron Humphrey (Chronicle Books), photographs of the coonhound who can balance on anything, taken from an absolutely addictive website--one of the coolest books of the year.

Recipe for a perfect Mother's day: dessert and drinks, a novel and a furry animal (disdainful or not). --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Tommy Nelson: Buster Gets Back on Track (Buster the Race Car) by Dale Earnhardt Jr., illustrated by Ela Smietanka

Book Candy

Movies Based on Poems; Behind the Bookshelves at Google

Quiklit unearthed "20 classic novels you've never heard of."


GQ magazine suggested a "New Canon: The 21 books from the 21st Century every man should read."


Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis, chose his "top 10 books about cities" for the Guardian, noting that "urban life can be beneficial, liberating, creative and sustainable."


Book shopping on a big budget: Mental Floss featured "8 rare books that cost a fortune."


Flavorwire offered "10 great movies based on poems," noting that while "it might seem surprising to see a film based on a poem, it’s actually probably a lot more common than you think."


Google's New York City office "has something that every office in America needs: secret rooms hidden by swiveling bookshelves," Gizmodo reported.

Parallax Press: Unshakeable: Trauma-Informed Mindfulness and Collective Awakening by Jo-ann Rosen

Great Reads

Karen Karbo and Caroline Leavitt: Lasting Gifts

In What My Mother Gave Me (Algonquin), Elizabeth Benedict has gathered 31 original essays to honor mothers. At the same time, it honors daughters who have experienced both love and grief, not to mention joy and rage, with their mothers. Rev. Lillian Daniel's mother taught her to see the beauty in the broken and the messy, a lesson that didn't resonate with Daniels until the last cup of spilled coffee she had with her dad. Margo Jefferson's mother loved style and clothes--Claudette Colbert hair, Pauline Trigére coat--armor that shielded her and her daughter from exclusion and inferiority in racially segregated Chicago.

We talked to two authors featured in the book, Karen Karbo (the present of an etiquette book) and Caroline Leavitt (an old photograph), about the gifts of mothers.

Most of the gifts in these essays were modest. Is there a common denominator to the resonance that these gifts have that isn't present in, say, a BMW or the wedding of one's dreams?

Caroline Leavitt: I think it really has to do with the deeper meaning of the gift. My mother is usually pretty close-mouthed, and for her to give me not only a photograph that shows her struggling, but to open up and tell me the story of those days, bonded us in a way that nothing else had before. (And she's given me some spectacular and expensive gifts in the past!) I knew that she wasn't just letting me see the "real" her, so to speak, but she was trusting me with information about her own past that hurt her. I saw it as the ultimate act of love.

Karen Karbo

Karen Karbo: Practically speaking, I don't think most of our mothers were in a position to buy us BMWs! My mother, who was a housewife, surely wasn't. Also, it seems like the presents you suggested belong firmly in the realm of father's present to a daughter: the lavish grand gesture, something that costs a lot, compensating for the time he hasn't spent with her and expresses the degree to which he worships her. Mothers give their entire lives to their children; what else is there to give, really? I also think that mothers, especially with daughters, often find themselves in an instructional frame of mind. As fellow females, mothers know what daughters will be up against in the big wide world. Modest presents generally reflect reality; lavish presents reinforce the "I'm a princess" fantasy, something which most moms know isn't close to anything resembling the reality.

Often the recalling of the gift brings about a realization about a mother's life that wasn't noticed when the recipient was younger.

CL: Oh, absolutely. When I was younger, I didn't get why my mother was often cranky or sad. I just thought she was moody or mad at me. Giving me the photograph made me realize how rough her life had been and how hard she struggled to pretend that everything was fine. It made me realize that telling the truth about a rough time is far better than pretending everything is going well.

Carolyn Leavitt

KK: Or, perhaps we daughters simply chose to write about presents that helped us better understand those unfathomable beings known as our mothers. My own mother, who died when I was 17, is still an enormous, unknowable force in my life. My essay concerns an etiquette book, White Gloves and Party Manners, that she gave me for Easter the year I turned 11. I still have the book and over the decades my realizations about my mother keep morphing into further realizations. 

How can these gifts heal mother-daughter wounds later in life?

CL: Any time anyone lets you really see who they are, it offers up real understanding. I began to understand things my mother had done in the past in a new way. Gifts are tangible evidence that you care enough to try to bridge a gap, or heal a hurt.

KK: By urging us--forcing us?--to see our mothers as the complex, three-dimensional people they are and were, and not just the fun-killer who wouldn't let us wear that outfit to junior high.

Is there a way for mothers now to figure out how to make a gift to their daughter meaningful, or is it a random act that can only be seen as valuable later?

CL: Again, I'd say, give something that really matters to you, that reveals who you really are. Or give a gift that shows that you know, or want to know, who your daughter really is.

KK: A gift that expresses both who you are and who honors who she is, is one worth giving, and meaningful in a good way. Gifts that are meaningful, but not positive, are like the one my mother gave me, which was a present meant to help transform me into someone better (or at least with better manners). Although I'm sure it was given in a spirit of love, White Gloves and Party Manners only served to communicate to me my mother's life long belief in the power of self-transformation. She was a beautiful woman, a tremendous flirt and conversationalist, and she used these gifts to snag my dad, which catapulted her from her life as an illegitimate daughter of the Irish working class to the wife of an educated upper middle class professional. Her hope for me was that I could marry even higher up, to someone more educated, more accomplished and richer, and her present communicated this. It had a great deal of meaning, but the ramifications were complex. Perhaps the complexity is what gave it meaning.

Rita Dove's story is not about a tangible gift, but the gift of a mother allowing her child to make a decision and go her own way. There are so many intangibles that we so often forget about or have nothing to jog our memory. How could we think about those gifts and remind ourselves as well as we do with a china cup or a jade necklace?

CL: Ha! This made me laugh! But I think our memories of the event work on us and remind us in deeper ways what's most important--which, to me, is human connection. I was so much more deeply affected by what my mother said about the only childhood photograph of her than I was by the photograph itself (though the photo is pretty amazing.)

KK: That's an excellent point. Despite my still-conflicted feelings about my mother, there are things she gave to me--or perhaps taught me is a better word--for which I remain grateful. My mother showed me how to talk to other people, and also how to enjoy myself. She loved a good time and modeled for how to find humor in most situations. She was a great friend to her friends, and taught me how to be one too. (Right, friends? Maybe they would disagree!) Whenever I do anything specifically related to having fun, talking to strangers, or being there for my friends, I remember her.

Has your mother given you any other gift since then that was as meaningful?

CL: Yup. After a terrible marriage and a young widowhood filled with anger and resentment toward and around men, my mother went to live in a retirement community, where she managed to fall in love for the first time at 90, and they are still going strong. To me, that's a gift that says that people can change, that life can hold lovely surprises, that love is always possible. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also New York Times Notable Books. Karbo is best known for her Kick Ass Women series, the most recent of which is How Georgia Became O'Keeffe, published in 2011. Next up: Julia Child Rules (skirt!, October 2013).

Caroline Leavitt is the author of nine novels, including Pictures of You, which was a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick and a Costco Pennie's Pick, and was on several Best Books of 2011 lists. A book critic for the Boston Globe and People, Leavitt is a senior writing instructor at UCLA online. Her latest book is Is This Tomorrow? (Algonquin, May 7, 2013).

Book Review


Dear Lucy

by Julie Sarkissian

Words, whether a person can speak them or is willing to speak them, are the cornerstone of Dear Lucy, an inventive debut novel by Julie Sarkissian about a young, innocent girl with cognitive limitations and her relationship with those around her. Lucy, who knows "I don't have the right words for things," can't understand why she has been abandoned by her mother and sent to live with Mister and Missus, an older couple who own a farm. Lucy's job, in which she takes great pride, is to carefully collect the eggs for breakfast each morning. "The farm," says Lucy, "is about taking the life from something and putting it somewhere else."

Also living on the farm is Samantha, a pregnant teenager who befriends Lucy, yet tells contradictory stories about her past and the baby's father. When Samantha gives birth and her baby suddenly vanishes, Lucy sets off on a quest, determined to reunite Samantha and her missing child.

Lucy's limited, stream-of-conscious point of view keeps readers off balance. Her voice and the abstract structure of the narrative sweep readers up, drawing them in to the unexpected surprises of a story set in an elusive time and place. This allows Sarkissian to increase the inherent level of suspense by slowly divvying out plot points and revealing the truth of the story, piece by piece. While the plot and language are sparse and economical, this is an ambitious, complex novel offering themes about the fragility of life, love and being loved. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An abandoned young girl with cognitive limitations goes on a quest to unite a mother and child.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451625721

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

by Rhonda Riley

Folkloric elements blend with pure romance in Rhonda Riley's startling The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, a debut novel that raises questions about how well we ever know our loved ones.

In the aftermath of World War II, the course of Evelyn Roe's life changes forever when she unearths a horribly scarred person buried in the red clay of her family's North Carolina farm. As the scarring quickly transfigures itself into new skin and features, Evelyn realizes something fantastical is at work. She finds herself in charge of a fully grown being who remembers nothing of its past, who can change form as well as gender, who is both otherworldly and completely human.

Determined to protect this innocent life, Evelyn makes up a history for Adam that will allow them to live a normal life--they marry, work the land and produce children, their love and commitment strengthening as the years pass. Questions remain, though: Who--and what--is Adam? How much of their father's nature have their daughters inherited, and how can Evelyn explain that to them?

Riley's unusual meditation on the private worlds we build to shelter our partners and our children is written with earthiness and deep appreciation for the power of the land. Evelyn's guilt over the lies she tells her family is mitigated by the discovery that her parents have in turn kept a secret to protect her--that humans use layers of deception not only for evil purposes but out of love.

Both dreamily erotic and filled with the relatable minutiae of day-to-day life, Evelyn and Adam's love story will make readers reassess their own origin stories. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Latah County Library District; blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A young woman falls deeply in love with a supernatural being she unearths on her family's farm but must hide his nature from the outside world.

Ecco, $15.99, paperback, 9780062099440

Maya's Notebook

by Isabel Allende

If Isabel Allende hadn't chosen to alternate between the past and present narratives of Maya's Notebook, the suspense in her 10th novel (not counting her YA books) would have been unbearable.

Maya Vidal is boarding an airplane in San Francisco as the novel opens, bound for Chile with a fresh notebook from her beloved grandmother Nini and an admonition "to write down the monumental stupidities you've committed." At 19, Maya has been lovingly banished to the islands of Chiloé where she can be kept out of trouble--and safe from her pursuers.

Maya's fresh, direct narration is endearing, although her "stupidities" are monumental. Raised by her Chilean Nini and Popo, Maya has overcome her mother's abandonment and her father's neglect. But Popo's death sends Maya into a downward spiral, and she embraces every temptation her Berkeley environment offers until her innate sense kicks in, buttressed by Nini's courageous tenacity.

Maya's story is woven with mysticism, revelations of complex family relationships, spirituality of several stripes and memories of the dark years after Chile's 1973 military coup. Allende's irrepressible humor brightens her journey to self-discovery, and readers will cheer her on as, under the care and gentle tutelage of Nini's old friend Manual Arias and the villagers of Chiloé, she revives physically and emotionally. The story of Maya's recovery, as she takes to the simple challenges of daily tasks and learns to savor small pleasures, alternates with details of the addiction and brutalities of her past--ultimately confirming the young woman's redemption... but not before a thrilling last-chapter twist. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: An endearing young woman finds refuge from her past off the coast of Chile in Isabel Allende's novel of teen rebellion, family love and redemption.

Harper, $27.99, hardcover, 9780062105622


A Spear of Summer Grass

by Deanna Raybourn

Deanna Raybourn (The Dark Enquiry) brings to life the splendor of 1920s Kenya in a romantic story of finding oneself by leaving home.

Beautiful young socialite Delilah Drummond is the outrage of two continents (three, if she counts South America) with her string of failed marriages, reckless behavior and constant drinking. Her newest scandal, a property dispute with her late ex-husband's heirs, has even raised eyebrows in her current home city of Paris. Her devil-may-care attitude finally sees Delilah exiled to Kenya at the behest of her mother and stepfather until talk dies down.

Packed off to her stepfather's African estate, Delilah faces challenges beyond the harsh heat and wild animals: The house is falling apart, the feckless steward is cheating the estate and the local native tribe looks to her for succor. Most challenging of all is her attraction to Ryder White, a Canadian guide as intense and untamed as Africa itself. Through him, she learns to see the beauty and majesty of Kenya as well as its brutal, uncompromising nature. When blood is spilled on her land, Delilah sees the difference between brazenness and true bravery, between what we cling to out of fear and what's truly worth a fight.

Watching prickly, complicated Delilah go from carefree to caring without losing a modicum of style is as entrancing as Raybourn's relationship-driven plot and loving descriptions of the Kenyan landscape. Readers won't want Delilah's sensual safari to come to an end. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Stylish and notorious socialite Delilah Drummond's transformative adventures in 1920s Kenya.

Mira, $15.95, paperback, 9780778314394

Biography & Memoir

However Long the Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph

by Aimee Molloy

In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy brings readers a beautifully rendered portrait of Senegal, its generous people, and Molly Melching, the American who fell in love with both and dedicated herself to bringing them education on their own terms.

From the moment Melching arrived as a college exchange student from Illinois, Senegal became her second home, and she eagerly embraced the culture and language, falling particularly in love with the villages outside the French-influenced city of Dakar. In time, her respect for the people and society led Melching to develop educational programs that considered what the Senegalese themselves wished to learn and imparted information in their native tongue. These empowering strategies were radical at the time, but within a decade Melching had piloted a fast-growing program called Tostan ("breakthrough" in Wolof) that brought villagers education, encouraged development projects, and enhanced rather than hindered villages' communal self-esteem. What Melching didn't anticipate was that Tostan held the key to empowering Senegal's women and ending the acceptance of a key piece of Senegalese culture: female genital cutting.

Aimee Molloy's account of a modern-day heroine glows. Perhaps most impressive is her ability to translate the philosophy of a culture so different from our own. With precise strokes, Molloy draws the reader into the lives of the women, who as a group had the ability to change the fate of their nation's girls. This is their inspiring biography as much as it is Melching's. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Latah County Library District; blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The inspiring story of Molly Melching's programs in Senegal, and how they enhanced villages' self-esteem and empowered Senegalese women.

HarperOne, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062132765

A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov

by Donna Krolik Hollenberg

The poet Denise Levertov (1923-1997) is finally getting the biographical treatment she deserves. Less than a year after the publication of Dana Greene's A Poet's Life, Donna Krolik Hollenberg presents the comprehensive, in-depth A Poet's Revolution--an effort, she says, to "observe the connections between life and work in a way that illuminates the greatness of the major poems."

Levertov was born in England into many cultures: Jewish, German, Welsh, English. Well educated, she began writing poetry early. At 12, she sent some poems to T.S. Eliot for comment; he was encouraging. After her first book, The Double Image, was published in 1947, she married and moved to the U.S., where she came under the influence of such poets as Robert Duncan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

With her title, Hollenberg places Levertov's life in the right place, revolution--which the poet embraced as "the only word/ we have." Her poetry was filled with political and anti-war material; some felt it detracted from her art, but she kept at it until her later years when, after converting to Catholicism, her work took on a very religious, contemplative tone.

Hollenberg quotes extensively from the poems to show that Levertov's life was a "process of growth" personally and artistically. In the end, she points to the poem "Hymns to the Darkness" and its line about "embracing the dark." Levertov died in a Seattle hospital on December 20, 1997--the darkest night of the year. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A beautifully written, impeccably researched biography of a great activist poet whom Kenneth Rexroth called the "most profound, the most modest, and most moving."

University of California Press, $44.95, hardcover, 9780520272460

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders

by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Ten years after her pioneering transgender memoir, She's Not There, Jennifer Finney Boylan's Stuck in the Middle with You reveals how making the transition from a man to a woman affected her wife, Deedie, and their two young sons. Boylan describes being "a father for six years, a mother for 10, and neither or both--a parental version of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo--for a time in between."

At 40, James Boylan committed to becoming Jenny; when this memoir opens 10 years later, Jenny is reflecting on what a good life she has. She loves her teaching career, she and Deedie have a strong marriage and their boys are thriving teenagers. In a seamless updating of her journey, she relates stories (often hilarious) of her parents and childhood, the acceptance of their Maine community and the strength of her nuclear family. Cavalier about their father becoming their second mother, the boys opted to call her "Maddy."

What is parenting? "Every family is a nontraditional family," Boylan suggests, alternating her autobiography with 11 illuminating and heartrending interviews with Richard Russo, Augusten Burroughs and other writers, along with an adopted adult reunited with his birth mother, a father who adopted an autistic son and others who, as they tell their stories, posit thoughtful questions to Jenny as well.

While Boylan is writing as a transgender parent, Stuck in the Middle with You is ultimately an inspiring tribute, full of endearing wisdom and humor, to unconditional family love regardless of labels and gender. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Jennifer Finney Boylan's latest memoir explores parenthood and gender from all sides, concluding that love and understanding are what count.

Crown, $24, hardcover, 9780767921763

Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods

by Christine Byl

Christine Byl's Dirt Work adeptly intermingles stories of life as a trail dog--"a laborer who works in the woods maintaining, repairing, building, and designing trails"--with reflections on her natural surroundings. The stories are grounded by the ax, rock bar, chainsaw, boat, skid steer and shovel she learns to use to clear deadfalls, haul away brush, clean ditches and build rock staircases and log walkways. Cold, dirty and wet are some of the adjectives Byl consistently uses to describe her 10- to 14-hour days slogging through thick brush or fording icy cold rivers thigh deep to reach a designated work site.

Covering 16 years and hundreds of miles of trails in the Glacier and Denali national parks--plus one steadfast relationship--Byl reflects on the tools she needed, her fellow trail dogs, the wildness that surrounds her and the meaning of labor--hard, physical labor, the kind that either makes or breaks a person. Byl discovers herself amid the sweat, bugs, dirt and dirty jokes, and rejoices in the way her body feels and responds to the demands she places on it. Her expressive and descriptive prose opens the doorway to a hard but fulfilling way of life that few people notice or get to experience firsthand. "[The] outdoors," she reminds us, "is not playground but homeschool, where I am taught to settle in, over and over until being outside isn't about endurance or leisure, but life." --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A memoir about the hard labor that goes into the nature trails in our national parks.

Beacon Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780807001004

In the City of Bikes

by Pete Jordan

After the close of his first memoir, Dishwasher, Pete Jordan moved to Amsterdam for a semester to study urban planning, with a focus on his passion: bicycles. He never left.

Jordan's decision to move was rather capricious--he knew almost nothing about Amsterdam--but he found a city packed with bicycles and rich with cycling history. In the City of Bikes is the story of his journey from itinerant dishwasher to settled family man, as well as a thoroughly researched history of the bicycle in Amsterdam. Beginning with the early bikes of the 1800s and cycling's golden age in the 1890s, when the safety bicycle hit the streets, Jordan moves on to the tire shortages and (in this case, bicycle-related) atrocities of the city's Nazi occupation before concluding with his own place in modern cycle-crazy Amsterdam.

Joining Jordan are his new wife, Amy Joy, and their son, Ferris, a passenger and later pilot of Amsterdam bicycles since his conception. When Amy Joy becomes proprietor of a local bike shop, the Jordans have truly found their home in the Dutch capital. Considering his reason for going in the first place, Jordan is especially well suited and qualified to tell this story, and he lives up to expectations with a meticulous detailing of Amsterdam's bikes. Full of personal anecdote, self-deprecating humor, local lore and a history of cycling that positively bursts with enthusiasm, In the City of Bikes is both a memoir and an ode to bicycles. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A history of Amsterdam's love affair with the bicycle contained within an American cyclist's memoir.

Harper Perennial, $15.99, paperback, 9780061995200


How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

by Wendy Moore

Thomas Day was an 18th-century aristocrat whose progressive political views, rooted in the ideals of liberty, equality and philanthropic good, clashed wildly with his constrictive views on women. While Day's experiments in grooming the perfect mate became a source of mirth among his peers, they provide fresh fodder for Wendy Moore's How to Create the Perfect Wife, which examines the age-old debate on nature versus nurture through painstaking historical research.

By the the time he turned 20, Day had already suffered two broken engagements and considerable heartbreak, leading him to conclude contemporary education was instilling women with corrupted values and that perfection could come only from schooling them in the virtuous ideals of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile. So he hatched a scheme to groom a wife who would be "strong-willed and self-sufficient yet utterly doting and dedicated to his every whim." To that end, he kidnapped two preteen orphans under the guise of an apprenticeship, renamed them and subjected them to a battery of torturous mental and physical tests. Even finding a young girl who could rise to this challenge, though, failed to bring him satisfaction.

Moore frames Day's life through its ironic twists, contrasting his lofty political ambitions against his hypocritical views toward women. She even manages to impart varying degrees of sympathy for the morally repugnant Day--a testament to her ability to look beyond surface appearances and give the reader meaty philosophical quandaries to ponder. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Wendy Moore's ironic recounting of a real-life Pygmalion whose bizarre plan mirrors the fantasies of My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman--and the moral quandaries such a plan raised.

Basic, $27.99, hardcover, 9780465065745

Children's & Young Adult

A Funny Little Bird

by Jennifer Yerkes

In this inspiring debut picture book, a white feathered hero feels invisible--until he discovers that what he thought was a drawback is, in fact, an asset.

Yerkes outlines the bird with a swash of color at the neckline or a hint of shadow under the wing. The eye of the onlooker connects the dots. "Once there was a funny little bird," the tale begins. The feathered hero's full, round eye peers out as he stands firmly on his purple feet. He is as invisible to other birds as he is to readers. However, "when he was seen, others made fun of him." When a "magnificent bird" ignores the hero, it leaves behind some red curling feathers. The invisible hero gets an idea, and begins to create a makeshift costume of that red feather, snap pea–green curling vines, and other attractive accoutrements. But when he starts to be seen, the formerly invisible bird begins to "show off." His preening attracts a fox. Yerkes depicts the fox in midair, all mouth and front paws, and the bird's eye resembles a spiral, while feathers, wings and legs go akimbo. Without his makeshift costume, the bird is once again invisible--and soon discovers he can camouflage his friends like an invisibility cloak.

Yerkes reveals signs of seasonal change to mirror her hero's metamorphosis: a butterfly emerges from its cocoon and a squash ripens, as the bird finds a way to express himself in his own way. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A bird turns invisibility into an asset in this remarkable debut picture book.

Sourcebooks, $15.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 4-up, 9781402280139

When the Butterflies Came

by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Kimberley Griffiths Little (Circle of Secrets) lyrically captures the complex feelings of grief and renewal for 12-year-old Tara Scarlett Doucet, "daughter of one of the oldest families in New Iberia Parish, descendant of the original Paris Doucet family," after the sudden death of her beloved Grammy Claire.

Tara's mother often slides into melancholy absences, and her older sister, Riley, seems to care more about boys and rock music than keeping the family together. But Grammy Claire anticipated what Tara might need, and leaves her granddaughter a legacy of adventure and surprise, beginning with 10 keys, a warning of danger and notes that lead Tara to a series of interlocking questions and answers. All revolve around the mysterious nipwisipwis (butterflies), which seem to be dying off prematurely, one by one. Could whoever is responsible for that also have caused Grammy Claire's car accident? As in Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, the journey brings the heroine closer not only to the loved one she misses, but also to herself.

The author discloses some delectable facts about butterflies and their habitats, as well as some insights about human nature. As her mother clings to the past glories of her family, Tara works to remain present, and to slowly build a future for herself--with the help of her grandmother. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A 12-year-old girl's path to solving a mystery with clues left behind by her grandmother regarding her disappearing butterflies.

Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 8-up, 9780545425131

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron

by Mary Losure, illus. by Timothy Basil Ering

Gripping, haunting, and fascinating, Wild Boy carries the same emotional impact as its subject--a feral child discovered when he was about age 10 in Southern France in the late 1700s. The boy was taken to the mountainous village of Lacaune and instantly became a magnet for scientists, doctors, tourists, teachers and bullies.

Mary Losure (The Fairy Ring) lyrically and smoothly tells a story full of discovery and pain, as some "men of science" declared the boy an "imbecile," while others, particularly Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, sensed untapped potential in him. Losure does an especially fine job of exploring the gray area between science and humanity as Dr. Itard struggles to be a teacher, psychiatrist and, at times, father, to the boy he dubbed "Victor." Quotations from Itard's journals tell of his conflicting feelings. Though Losure researched her subject exhaustively and includes extensive back matter that makes this exemplary nonfiction, she never bogs down the story with too many facts or jargon. Her writing emphasizes story over science--a choice that honors Victor himself.

Timothy Basil Ering's smudged charcoal illustrations highlight Victor's facial expressions, which range from tormented to angry to joyful to wondering. Though Victor could never speak beyond simple vocabulary, those who knew Victor were always impressed by the starkness of his emotions, a quality Ering captures beautifully. Working together, Losure and Ering never leave readers in doubt as to Victor's humanity. Readers will be struck by the differences between themselves and Victor, but also haunted by the similarities. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education

Discover: The real-life story of a "wild boy," beautifully and simply told.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 176p., ages 10-up, 9780763656690

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