Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Autumn Chills

Horror is not my favorite genre, but sometimes a really good horror novel falls into my hands, like Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman. When I first read it, I accidentally skipped the preface, so thought it was a "straight" novel with moody and lush prose--honey-thick air, the whirr of locusts, sweat- and sex-damp sheets, a milky moon--but he slowly built in chilling curves that threw me into one of the best books of 2011. Buehlman followed this with Between Two Fires; our reviewer said it starts out as a medieval variation on True Grit, but shifts into horror with welcome echoes of early Stephen King. October brings The Necromancer's House, with a sexy but murderous rusalka (a Slavic water nymph), a handsome warlock perhaps in over his head, and an unstoppable evil in a blend of horror and urban fantasy.

My preferred genre is mystery/thriller; one of my favorite authors is John Connelly and his Charlie Parker series. Parker is a former police officer who, in the first of the series, Every Dead Thing, is haunted by the unsolved slayings of his wife and daughter. Connolly combines hard-boiled plots and characters with a dash--sometimes more--of the supernatural, in 11 books. He's also written three "Samuel Johnson Tales" for readers "who like their dark fantasy light on fright and big on laughs." The Creeps is the latest.

Penguin Classics has released six titles in its new Penguin Horror series, edited and introduced by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who certainly knows horror. These hardbacks, designed by Paul Buckley, feature striking covers in neon and ink, with bleeding black-stained page edges: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft; The Raven: Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe; Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories by Ray Russell, American Supernatural Tales, edited by S.T. Joshi; and, of course, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Donald Driver: From the Streets to the Super Bowl

photo: Lammi Sports Management

spent his 14-year NFL career playing wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. Born in Houston, Driver attended Alcorn State University in Mississippi and was drafted by Green Bay in 1999. Also a world-class track athlete, Driver finished his career in 2012 as the Packers' all-time leader in receptions and yards. After being a part of the Packers' 2011 Super Bowl-winning team, Driver went on to participate in--and win--ABC's Dancing with the Stars. His autobiography, Driven (Crown Archetype), is reviewed below.

What inspired you to tell your story now?

After winning the Super Bowl, becoming the Packers' all-time leading receiver and winning Dancing with the Stars, the timing just felt right. I felt like after finishing up one part of my life, I could look back at what got me here.

You revisit some fairly dark places when writing about your youth in Houston.

When you're young and everyone around you is dealing drugs or stealing cars, it's all you can see. You think that that's just the way things are supposed to be. You see your friends running around in their new Jordans, wearing nice clothes and you just think, "That's what I want; I'll do what they do and make a living for myself."

When you're a kid in that environment, you don't worry about getting caught. You figure it's six months in juvenile detention and then you're out. You don't think about what happens if you get caught again, and that six months ends up being life in prison. If you hurt some people, you hurt some people.

What changed your outlook growing up? Family seems to play a major role.

Definitely. For me, it was about asking myself if I want to be talked about in the past tense or in the present tense. Meeting [my wife] Tina made that decision for me. She's my best friend; I can talk to her about anything and she's always willing to listen. Sometimes that's all you need--someone to listen to you. I realized I could go back out on the street or change for the better. God and Tina made that decision for me.

When we first started talking about having kids, I told her I didn't want to put them through the pain and the suffering I went through. I never wanted to have my kids have to ask me, "Daddy, what are we going to eat today? Daddy, why did the lights get cut off? Daddy, where are we going to sleep today?"

Growing up in Houston, I never really had a father figure, and we went through those things. Getting locked out of our apartment, having the power cut, sleeping in a U-Haul for a month. I didn't want to put my kids through that. After the Packers offered me a five-year deal, Tina and I decided to go ahead, knowing that we had stability. We finally had Christian in 2003, and just holding him changed everything for me.

What is your relationship with your father like?

My father made me the man who I am. I write about him not being there for me as a kid, but as we got older, he tried to mold that relationship. And he did. He would always call me on Saturday before a game. He showed me how to love my wife; he wasn't there for my mother--even though he loved her, he didn't give her all the love that she needed. Most importantly, he taught me that you love your kids unconditionally.

At the end of the day, family's family, and that's all you have. I love my family more than anything else. The one thing my dad really wanted was for us all to be close, and within the last year all 17 of us have gotten much closer [Donald's father, Marvin, died in August]. One thing my father taught me is that it's easy to father a kid; it's hard to be a father to that kid. My father was a father to all of us.

Our inner sports fanatic needs to talk football. You'd been so close to the Super Bowl in the past, you finally got there and then were injured and had to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines--what was that experience like?

At first it was devastating. I made my second catch of the game over the middle, but got bent backward when James Harrison tackled me. I remember James looking at me and asking if I was all right, and all I could do was shake my head "no." In the locker room, when they came and told me that I was done for the day, that was the toughest thing I've ever felt.

I didn't want to come out of the locker room at first, but I knew I couldn't leave my receivers. I remember sitting down with Jordy [Nelson] and James [Jones] and telling them to just keep doing what we'd been doing all season, and that's just catch the ball. I think me coming out of that tunnel really made a difference and motivated those guys. On the sidelines they came up to me and said, "Drive, we're going to win this for you."

The Packers won and you finally got to touch that trophy. What were you feeling?

It was everything all at once--you're relieved, you're excited, you don't know what to feel. It's like being a little kid again. I told the media before the game that I wanted to do what [Packers' legend and NFL Hall of Famer] Reggie White did--take that trophy to the end zone, hold it up for the fans and let them know we're bringing it back to Titletown. And I got to do that. That's something you can never take away from me.

You went from winning a Super Bowl trophy to winning Dancing with the Stars--that's quite a transition.

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I've been watching the show since season one, and I used to joke to Tina that I can dance better than anyone, and if I ever got on the show, I was going to win it, and I did. I trained for it just as if I was playing football. And my kids loved it, Tina loved being in Hollywood; it was just a great experience.

Now that your playing days are done, what are you up to? We really enjoyed reading about your charitable work.

We started the Donald Driver Foundation in 2000 as a private foundation and went public two years later. Someone gave my mom an opportunity, someone gave me an opportunity, and I felt that I had to help pass that along. It puts a smile on my face every day knowing that I've helped a mother transition from a homeless shelter into an apartment or a house. We give $1,000 scholarships to underprivileged kids if they can maintain a 3.0 GPA; we provide computer scholarships to kids from low-income families attending a two- or four-year college.

We run a program for recipients of federal free lunch aid called "Blessings in a Backpack," to allow them to have food to eat on the weekends. On Fridays, those students pick up a backpack with enough food to feed themselves and their families. That way they're not coming to school on Monday hungry and too focused on finding something to eat to focus on their classes.

Have you thought about coaching or maybe doing broadcast work?

I've gotten offers from networks to be an analyst, but I retired to be with my family. It's time for me to be there for them when they need me; I don't need to be on the road for a game when they need me. My family is everything I have. I don't have an exact idea what's next for me--I've been talking with Nickelodeon about turning my children's books, the Quickie series, into a TV series.

Finally, we have to know--do you ever get the itch to play again?

As a football player, I love football. I lived and breathed football my whole life, but at the end of the day I love my family more. --Benji Taylor, freelance writer, student, blogging at Destructive Anachronism

Book Candy

Halloween Fright; Declining a Nobel

Have a bookish Halloween. "Get the look for every single Hunger Games district," the Huffington Post advised in featuring Cover Girl's new fall campaign. Flavorwire featured "the devil's 10 best appearances in literature" and the "50 scariest books of all time." 


Oops. Old rejection letters from publishers addressed to Nobel laureate Alice Munro were recently found in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


Artist Paul Rogers, who recently illustrated Jack Kerouac's On the Road, inspired Flavorwire to "search out other illustrations of famous novels--those stories that didn't necessarily contain images to begin with, but have been brought to life by contemporary artists."


"How much do you know about the plucky French warrior and his world?" the Guardian asked in posing its "all things Asterix" quiz.


"Mitt Romney's new house has a secret room behind a bookcase--for, um, 'office storage,' " New York magazine reported.


Buzzfeed highlighted "22 things that belong in every bookworm's dream home."

Book Review


The Two Hotel Francforts

by David Leavitt

David Leavitt's The Two Hotel Francforts takes place in the summer of 1940, as Americans crowd into Lisbon hotels waiting for the SS Manhattan to rescue them from war-torn Europe. Julia Winters, forced to abandon her dream flat in Paris, loathes the prospect of returning to the U.S. Her devoted husband is the gullible, well-intentioned Pete Winters, head of the Buick sales division in France.

When pigeons swoop low over their café table, Pete ducks, knocking Julia's playing cards off the table. When he bends to get them, his glasses fall off, and a passing waiter kicks them into the path of wealthy, charming Edward Freleng, who has never had to work in his life and is dominated by his tall, red-haired wife, Iris, who drives and sails and rides--and intends to hang onto her husband.

The couples discover they are staying in different hotels with, in essence, the same name, the Hotel Francfort and the Francfort Hotel. The women retire and the men decide to take a spin in Pete's car. Suddenly, Pete and Edward are on a madcap nighttime journey, where they try absinthe and plunge naked into the sea, changing all of their lives forever.

Leavitt is superb at comedy of manners, his dialogue is witty and tight and his characters constantly reveal themselves while trying to keep their true feelings hidden. He has never been in greater command of his talents: the genius of the set-ups, the pay-offs that generate more pay-offs, the luminous and perceptive language, the sensuous evocation of Lisbon, the re-creation of the sheer uncertainty in the face of Hitler's relentless advance. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A gripping dark comedy of manners set in 1940s Lisbon, in which two couples become entangled in each other's secrets while awaiting evacuation back to the U.S.

Bloomsbury, $25, hardcover, 9781596910423

The Sisters Weiss

by Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen's The Sisters Weiss is a fascinating portrait of an insular community living by ancient laws in a modern metropolis--and of one woman's insatiable hunger for a life of her own. Beloved by their ultra-Orthodox parents, Rose and Pearl Weiss grow up sheltered but safe in their 1950s Brooklyn community. But when Rose makes a new friend and develops a secret passion for photography, she is shamed and banished to a distant neighborhood. Longing to reconcile with her parents, she agrees to an arranged marriage, but flees on the eve of her wedding, breaking off all contact with her family.

Forty years later, Pearl's daughter, Rivka, discovers the truth about her aunt Rose's break with her family and community. Feeling similarly stifled, naïve Rivka embarks on a reckless, rebellious journey of her own, which will have far-reaching consequences for Rose, her daughter, Hannah, and Pearl.

The Sisters Weiss is a sensitive look at a painful dilemma: the agonizing choice between freedom and family, between loneliness and an often stifling community, between a world of opportunity and a rich but demanding heritage. Ragen (The Saturday Wife) skillfully captures the paradoxes inherent in the lives of Orthodox Jewish women, who receive far less education than men, but must run their households and work to support their families while their husbands study the Torah. The choices of the Weiss women--Rose, Hannah, Rivka and Pearl--reverberate through their lives in surprising and empathetic ways. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A fascinating portrait of Orthodox Jewish life in New York City, and the effects of one daughter's rebellion on her family.

St. Martin's Press, $24.99, hardcover, 9780312570194


by Iosi Havilio, trans. by Beth Fowler

In the first sentence of Paradises, Iosi Havilio disposes of the romantic lead of his first book, Open Door, by having him run over. This sends Havilio's unnamed female narrator into a downward spiral that will leave her fighting for survival with her young son in a Buenos Aires slum.

This fascinating narrator is a strangely passive woman unburdened by moral considerations, who casually injects herself with someone else's morphine and steals a baby iguana from the zoo. She's too passive to say no to her daffy friend's plan to steal from her boyfriend's rich parents. Though coming out of a four-year relationship with a man, all of her bonds now are with women. The novel is crowded with female characters, like Iris, the Romanian babysitter who gets the narrator a job at the zoo, and Tosca, an immense woman who needs an injection of morphine every morning and night.

But most of all, there's Eloisa, the sexually uninhibited tattooed blonde first seen in Open Door. This potty-mouthed pothead is Havilio's finest creation, and effortlessly dominates the novel. An inexhaustible stream of eccentric characters, the marginal citizens of Buenos Aires, parades through Havilio's fiction. The plot is free-form, with parties erupting in the street, fistfights breaking out in restaurants and lost old friends appearing out of nowhere.

"This place is hell," says the narrator's best friend, taking in her wretched new living quarters. "Things turned out this way," the narrator replies, and that sums up Havilio's sense of the random momentum of life, the unexpected conjunctions that can lead a mother to raise her son among dealers and thugs and still have hope for the future. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Havilio's sequel to Open Door brings an unnamed female narrator and her girlfriend back to unpredictable, law-breaking life in a Buenos Aires slum.

And Other Stories, $15.95, paperback, 9781908276247

The Last Animal

by Abby Geni

The Last Animal by Abby Geni is the rare short story collection that's as coherent and powerful as a well-constructed novel. It begs to be read straight through rather than sampled casually. Although each story stands on its own, as an ensemble, their brilliance becomes apparent. They build quietly on one another, examining the same dark little corners of the human experience from vastly different angles.

Geni's prose is clean and slightly dreamlike, in an intimate voice that lingers occasionally on glimmering sensory details. A suburban forest is "as shadowy and chaotic as deep ocean"; a son walks away from his mother, "following the marbled disc of the rising earth." Describing unexpected rain, she writes that "the sky opened suddenly, dropping a collision of water on the tender plants."

Reading The Last Animal is like glimpsing a distant, hauntingly familiar shore illuminated by the rotating beam of a lighthouse. In "Fire Blight," the illness of an orchard reflects the illness of a relationship, while elsewhere a sapling helps a couple find the future after a painful miscarriage. In "Terror Birds," the rage of a young child at his philandering father is expressed by a murderous flock of ostriches. In the title story, a manatee and a giant sea turtle help a woman lay the ghost of her husband to rest. In all cases, the natural world helps people find a place beyond their grief. There is no answer here--only luminous writing about pain and the possibility of peace. --Emma Page, bookseller at Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash.

Discover: An exquisite collection of short stories about life, loss and the magic of the natural world.

Counterpoint, $24, hardcover, 9781619021822

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Cusanus Game

by Wolfgang Jeschke, trans. by Ross Benjamin

Wolfgang Jeschke's The Cusanus Game is an ambitious amalgam of philosophy, religion, history and the best of science fiction that evolves from a seemingly typical near-future dystopian tale into a masterful exploration of metaphysical cosmology.

In 2052, after a nuclear disaster renders northern Germany uninhabitable, Europe is a nightmare of xenophobia and ecological catastrophe. Domenica Ligrina is finishing her botany training in Rome, a city dying of desertification and political anarchy. Even the pope has fled north, moving the papacy to a militarily expanded Austria. The Vatican, however, is far from idle. It offers Domenica a position in a secret new program, one that seeks samples from uncorrupted past ecosystems to heal the present. The details of this program have grand implications for humanity's past, present and future. Domenica's personal fascination with Nicolaus Cusanus, a 15th-century German cardinal and Renaissance humanist, defines her journey through time and space.

The complex world of Jeschke's future Europe is both familiar and alien. As Domenica travels from Rome to Venice and across Europe--including the irradiated exclusion zone in Germany--each location is alive with art and architecture, especially an astounding vision of Venice awash in benevolent experimental nanobots. The title refers to a game created by Cusanus, in which players use roundabout aiming strategies to hit the center of a board. It's an apt analogy of the novel's only drawback--some minor pacing problems. Aside from that, though, The Cusanus Game will appeal to science fiction buffs and lovers of literary excellence alike. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Considered by many Germany's best contemporary science fiction writer, Jeschke makes his American debut with a botanist's journey through time and space to save an imperiled Europe.

Tor, $25.99, hardcover, 9780765319081

Biography & Memoir

Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field

by Donald Driver

From crack dealer to community icon and philanthropist, from a no-name Division II player picked in the final round of the NFL draft to the Green Bay Packers' all-time leading receiver, Donald Driver has experienced and accomplished a great deal. In Driven, Driver presents his story in refreshingly candid prose, writing candidly about the ease with which he and his brother integrated themselves into the underworld of Houston's notorious Fifth Ward, rising quickly among the ranks of drug dealers and auto thieves. He credits his success to the prodigious speed that earned him the nickname "Quickie" and also served as his ticket to professional athletics.

Driver also credits his success in the underworld to strict self-discipline, a trait that later fueled his determination to win a scholarship to college (Alcorn State University) and then to succeed in Green Bay despite his low draft position--and, after retiring from football, to win Dancing with the Stars. At Alcorn, Driver also met his eventual wife, Tina, whom he credits with providing the impetus to leave his former life behind. Driver's story makes for an incredibly compelling read told matter-of-factly, a moving tribute to the friends and family who helped him rise to his current status as one of the most beloved players in Packers history. --Benji Taylor, freelance writer, student, blogging at Destructive Anachronism

Discover: The Green Bay icon and Dancing with the Stars champion discusses his journey from homelessness to the Super Bowl.

Crown Archetype, $25, hardcover, 9780385349147

Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and Out of Humanitarian Aid

by Jessica Alexander

What Mary Roach does for the alimentary canal in Gulp and Robin Nagle does for garbage collecting in Picking Up, Jessica Alexander does for global catastrophe in Chasing Chaos--entertainingly enlightening us with a hands-on look at something we'd really rather not see.

A naïve do-gooder, Alexander studied at Penn and then drifted to New York City for PR work, grad school and a fiancé before she shucked them all to fly to Rwanda. As she works for aid organizations in Rwanda, Darfur, Sri Lanka and Haiti, she brings not only compassion but also an eye for the story behind the story and an ear for the humanitarian lingo. She observes aid groups fighting over the Indonesian tsunami's huge relief jackpot "like watching a dog pee to mark his territory" and participates in expat workers' frequent parties.

Reality is never far away, though, like the Darfur curfew "in place because 10 p.m. was when the militia, usually drunk and wielding heavy artillery, came out to patrol the streets." Alexander doesn't shy from the horrors: the starvation and disease, the mindless violence, the red tape and stolen supplies. She wonders if her meager efforts matter. "Did the covers we put on the latrines to stop flies mean anything anymore?" she asks. "The country needed a government that didn't terrorize its own population."

Alexander returns to New York intent on finding ways to deliver humanitarian aid more effectively. She also returns with a new-found respect for the simple efficiency and ease she left behind where "even the DMV seemed well organized." Chasing Chaos is a journey well worth the chase. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An entertaining memoir of life on the front lines of global catastrophe reveals as much about its author as the world of humanitarian aid.

Broadway Books, $15, paperback, 9780770436919


The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable: A True Tale of Passion, Poison & Pursuit

by Carol Baxter

Australian historian Carol Baxter melds true crime and science in the gripping The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable. The electric telegraph (or the "electric constable," as it was known) was a newfangled, doubtful-looking invention in 1845, when a well-liked young woman was found gasping her final breaths in the small English town of Slough. Fortuitously, Slough was connected by an experimental telegraph line to Paddington Station; when a distinctively dressed gentleman was seen leaving the apparent murder scene and boarding a train, quick-thinking locals sent word along the line. The pursuit by telegraph of a criminal suspect marked a turning point, Baxter argues, and sparked the communications revolution that continues today. That the suspect, John Tawell, was a Quaker made this case still more sensational, and his personal history as a transported convict helped to transfix the public.

This peculiar case involved not only the "electric constable" but also the new fields of toxicology and forensic science. The murder trial riveted the medical and legal professions, setting new precedents; the public, already inspired by poisoning cases, was riveted by the cyanide evidence that "the Quaker murderer" provided. Baxter's accounts of the telegraph's technology, the prevailing cultural climate regarding murder and poisonings, contemporary forensic methods and Tawell's personal history are all worthy of an engrossing thriller. (Her research was meticulous, though, she explains in an author's note, and all the dialogue attributed and factual.) Expertly told, The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable is a captivating accomplishment in nonfiction. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An exhilarating real-life thriller about the murder that showed the power of the telegraph.

OneWorld, $17.95, paperback, 9781780742434

Current Events & Issues

Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town

by Mirta Ojito

On a November night in 2008, seven teenaged boys--six of them white--attacked two Ecuadorean immigrants in Patchogue, N.Y. During the melee, one of them pulled a knife and killed Marcelo Lucero. In 1993, Lucero had illegally entered the U.S. from Gualaceo, the small Andes valley town where most of Patchogue's Ecuadorean community originated. The fabric of the suburban Long Island town came unraveled as resentment between the immigrant population and the remaining "locals" exploded. Pulitzer-winning journalist Mirta Ojito (Finding Mañana) saw in this tragedy not only a dramatic news story, but also a microcosm of the controversy over immigration in the U.S.

Hunting Season is a first-rate study of prejudice and institutional indifference. With thorough research and tight prose, Ojito asks how Patchogue, a city built by Italian immigrants, could become such a hotbed of intolerance, fear and hate. Though an immigrant herself, Ojito rarely interjects herself into the narrative--the court and police records, U.S. Census Bureau statistics, her interviews and on-the-scene observations speak for themselves.

Only in the epilogue does she speak personally: "There were no winners in this case. Eight families were shattered," she writes. "After three years of reporting and writing this book, there is a lot I will never know." Fortunately, Hunting Season shines its light on a community, a crime and a social milieu so well that readers will know more about the historical and contemporary challenges of American immigration than they ever did before. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A Pulitzer-winning reporter turns her attention to a small-town hate crime and reveals the essence of country's immigration dispute.

Beacon Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780807001813

Essays & Criticism

Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays

by Norman Mailer, Philip Sipiora, editor

Mind of an Outlaw contains 50 of Norman Mailer's best essays, selected by Philip Sipiora, the editor of The Mailer Review. At more than 600 pages, it's mighty impressive--and so are the essays. Many have argued about Mailer the novelist, but there's no arguing about Mailer the essayist--he was outstanding.

From the groundbreaking 1957 essay "The White Negro," about the birth of the hipster and the cultural influence of black Americans, to 2004's "Immodest Proposals," which presciently notes "Roe v. Wade probably repels more good conservatives than any other item in the liberal canon," Mailer repeatedly shows that he could write, think and be an outlaw--a witty, pen-wielding one--and a social nonconformist.

These essays are very readable. Mailer's sentences consist of clean, strong prose, generally eschewing the fussiness of the semicolon or colon. Although he found some fault with Hemingway's canon, he certainly imbibed the master's prose style. He could grab your ear immediately, make you laugh or snicker with a turn of phrase. Take, for example, the descriptions of his literary contemporaries in "Quick Evaluations on the Talent in the Room." Jack Kerouac was "pretentious as a rich whore"; J.D. Salinger the "greatest mind ever to stay in prep school"; and James Baldwin one of the "most tortured and magical nerves of our time."

These insightful essays educate, argue and persuade on everything from politics and literature to film, philosophy and the human condition. We could surely use an essayist or television pundit as witty, opinionated and smart as Mailer today. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The first posthumous collection of essays by Norman Mailer (1923-2007), with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem.

Random House, $40, hardcover, 9780812993479

Children's & Young Adult

There, There

by Sam McBratney, illus. by Ivan Bates

The team behind Just You and Me portrays a loving father-son relationship in this tale of a cub who gets to return the tender care his father has shown him.

Little Hansie Bear pretends to walk like his friends the ducks and falls headlong into "a deep-down ditch." Luckily, his dad comes along to help and expresses his sympathy: "[T]hat's not easy... unless you're a duck," says Dad. Two more challenges arise (sand in Hansie Bear's eyes and a bonk on the head from a tree branch), also bringing Dad to the rescue; each time, the cub bounces back. Sam McBratney's (Guess How Much I Love You) playful language lets youngest children know that the cub is never seriously hurt ("Do blinkety-blink like this, and you'll soon be better," says Dad when Hansie gets sand in his eyes), and Ivan Bates's (Farmer Dale's Red Pickup Truck) depictions of a warm family, with fur that looks soft enough to touch, contrast nicely with the autumn backdrop.

Best of all, when Hansie's friends have all gone home, and his father comes very slowly through the gate due to a thorn in his foot, Hansie (with a little help from Mom) knows just what to do. Like Dan Yaccarino's Every Friday, this picture book honors the special bond between father and son. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Little Hansie Bear gives tender loving care to the father who set the example.

Templar/Candlewick, $15.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9780763667023

Picture Me Gone

by Meg Rosoff

In the unerring voice of 12-year-old Mila, Meg Rosoff (There Is No Dog) unlocks a mystery that takes her heroine from precocious child to young woman over the span of her Easter holiday.

Just before Mila and her father, Gil, prepare to leave London to visit Gil's oldest and best friend, Matthew, in New York, Gil receives a call from Matthew's wife, Suzanne. Matthew has disappeared. Mila is good at solving puzzles, and she has always wanted to thank Matthew for saving her father's life at age 22 during an avalanche while the pair was mountain climbing. Mila wonders "if we've been summoned for some sort of cosmic leveling, to help Matthew this time, the one who has never before required saving." Also prior to their departure, Catlin, Mila's estranged best friend, attempts a rapprochement. Mila thinks, "I didn't exactly miss her because she seemed like someone I no longer knew." Flashbacks of what passed between them become a lens for Mila as she tries to make sense of her father's friendship with Matthew.

Mila's first impression of Suzanne and Matthew's home is: "This is not a happy house." With her discoveries about Matthew's messy life, Mila also learns that her father has also kept secrets from her. "If a person can lie to you about one thing," Mila thinks, "he can lie about something else." Mila's sense of humor, intelligence and innate sense of justice will win readers over so that they feel the full impact of her sense of betrayal. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Another of Meg Rosoff's riveting characters, precocious 12-year-old Mila, travels to the U.S. to help her father find his missing friend.

Putnam, $17.99, hardcover, 250p., ages 12-up, 9780399257650

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