Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 8, 2014

Harperteen: The Someday Daughter by Ellen O'Clover

From My Shelf

Learning the Ropes at School

A child's comfort level at school is directly related to knowing what's expected. Often, it can feel like an alien place, as Sue Ganz-Schmidt's Planet Kindergarten so aptly describes, with illustrations by Shane Prigmore that depict classmates literally as aliens. Edda: A Little Valkyrie's First Day of School by Adam Auerbach (reviewed below) likewise depicts young Edda as a visitor from another civilization. Both books give first-time students a window into how to navigate an unfamiliar place.

Other titles more directly introduce what a school day is like, such as Little Lola by Julie Saab, illustrated by David Gothard, in which the feline heroine is pleasantly surprised by what she discovers at school. Similarly, in Dog Days of School by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Brian Biggs, a pooch ends up in class due to a wish by its boy owner; the dog does well enough, until the boy wishes to get back his old life. In Dinosaur vs. School, Bob Shea explains a few preschool guidelines--dinosaur-style. These three add comic touches through the creatures' perspectives.

For first-time bus riders, The Little School Bus by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar (reviewed below), walks them through what to expect, and some simple safety rules. Back to School Tortoise by Lucy M. George, illustrated by Merel Eyckerman, delivers a twist: even teachers get nervous before the first day of school. Everyone's favorite canine pupil and his little yellow bird teacher inject humor into an al fresco schoolroom in Drop It, Rocket! by Tad Hills (reviewed below).

Two smart middle-grade novels that are also great for year-round entertainment: Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. And an entertaining alternative to Kate Turabian as an indispensable guide to paper-writing, grammar and punctuation rules: Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice by Catherine Lewis, illustrated by Joost Swarte. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Conn Iggulden

photo: Jules Beresford

Conn Iggulden has written poetry, short stories and novels for as long as he can remember. He taught English for seven years and was Head of English at St. Gregory's RC High School in London by the end of that period. He's the author of the Emperor novels, which chronicle the life of Julius Caesar, and is co-author of The Dangerous Book for Boys. Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Putnam, July 8, 2014) is the start of a new series. He lives with his wife and four children in Hertfordshire, England.

On your nightstand now:

The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently by Allen Carr. It makes an argument for stopping--and about halfway through the book, you find yourself saying, "Huh," and just... stopping. No cravings, nothing. I made a point of finishing it, and I keep it like a talisman. In fiction, I'm reading The Iron Castle by Angus Donald: great medieval adventure, historical fiction based around the time of Robin Hood.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Usborne Book of Spies. I lost it, so it became, in those pre-Internet days, unbearably precious, a symbol of my childhood, a treasure trove of knowledge I would never have: an irreplaceable book. Then the Internet came along, and I bought a copy on eBay. Apart from that, I loved The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. I read all the sequels, and I was ever so sorry to hear she had passed earlier this year. Hers are still among the funniest books I have ever read.

Your top five authors:

James Clavell for Tai-Pan and Shōgun; Jerome K. Jerome for Three Men in a Boat; David Gemmell for Waylander and the Drenai Tales; Raymond E. Feist for Pug (from the Riftwar Saga); and Wilbur Smith for the Courtney family.

Book you've faked reading:

Beyond using Cliffs or Brodie's Notes a couple of times in school, I don't, I really don't. I do put books down if they don't keep my interest. I expect people to do the same with mine--just give me 20 pages. Read them in the shop if you like. If it doesn't grab you, put it down!

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Allen Carr book above. It works. If you want to stop smoking, get that book and smoke along as you read it. That's if you want to, you know. The worst that could possibly happen is that nothing will change.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe--it was just a beautiful edition in black with silver lettering and red, debossed illustration and silver-edged paper. I am a sucker for fine editions. In fact, I went through a phase of having my old Bible, Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm Brothers books all rebound in calf leather to last another generation or six.

Book that changed your life:

In terms of my own, The Dangerous Book for Boys, as it won prizes and reached a lot of people. I hope it will continue to do so if the TV proposal with Bryan Cranston comes off. That would be a joy, as I loved him in Malcolm in the Middle and, of course, Breaking Bad.

In terms of books I've read, it must be Caesar by Christian Meier, a work of history written so vividly that scenes kept flashing into my head as I read it. That was my starting point for writing about the young Julius. Meier died before I could ever thank him, unfortunately.

Favorite line from a book:

I was intrigued to look through previous Book Brahmin examples. A line of poetry makes sense, for the sheer power and impact one line can have. For example, the haiku written by a Japanese mother in the 18th century [Chiyo-Jo] after the death of her son, just before she went into a monastery for the rest of her life: "Dragonfly catcher,/ Where today/ have you gone?" The joy and loss and exuberance in "Dragonfly catcher" makes me gulp every time I read it, father of four that I am. Yet, in prose novels, good characters are built to a more sustained peak of suspense and intimacy. Novels are tantric, compared to poetry. Individual lines might have terrific impact, but always in the context. They can't often be yanked out and laid bare without an awful lot of explanation.

Which character you most relate to:

The most intricate and layered character in Shakespeare is a hundred times simpler than the simplest living man. Human beings are extraordinarily complex, to the point where I sometimes think we are little more than an ant riding an elephant--and with no real sense of how to steer. In other words, while I might recognize individual traits in a character, not one will resemble me, not really. Or if they do, I won't know myself well enough to recognize it. A friend of mine said how much an awkward wedding speech in a recent BBC Sherlock episode reminded them of me. On the walls of the ancient oracle at Delphi was the phrase in Greek: "Know Thyself." Recognizing aspects of one's character in others requires a level of self-knowledge that I don't think I have.

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

After the last question, an easy one. Patrick O'Brian wrote 21 books [in the Aubrey Maturin series]--a few were made into a film, Master and Commander. I usually enjoy fast-paced books, but somehow these snuck under the radar and I was enjoying them before I realized they're all about the people and not a huge amount happens. They are treasures--gentle books full of nautical terms and delight in language and music and ships and the sea. They were a joy to me for a very long time. I cannot go back to being young, but I can read them all again and wish it was all for the first time.

How does it makes you feel that there are some people in the world who will never read one of your books? Good people, Conn--people who pet their dogs and water their plants and stare up at the stars and wonder every now and then, but somehow, they just won't ever pick one up:

It makes me sad. It's not right. It's just... not... right.

Broadleaf Books: What We Remember Will Be Saved: A Story of Refugees and the Things They Carry by Stephanie Saldaña

Book Candy

Writers Share Summer Holiday Photos

"Writers' holiday photos: postcards from my past" were featured in the Guardian, which shared summer pics from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Howard Jacobson, Penelope Lively, William Boyd, Will Self and others.  


Because... why not? Rain Taxi showcased "classic book titles replaced with the word 'Butter.' "


For artist Katie Paterson's "Future Library" project, Oslo, Norway, has given her "a plot of land in a forest outside a city called Normarka. There, she and her team have planted 1,000 trees, which will grow for the next 100 years. In the meantime, Paterson and a group called the Future Library Trust... will select an author a year to write a text of any kind for 'Future Library," Hyperallergic reported.


Pop quiz from Mental Floss: "Before they make it big, writers have to pay the bills somehow. Can you guess what these famous scribes were doing before they were household names?"


"I don't read." That was just one of "13 things book lovers are tired of hearing" collected by Buzzfeed.


"Marvel at our favorite TV shows and movies as children's books," io9 invited in showcasing Joey Spiotto's "Storytime" exhibition.

Book Review


The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances

by Ellen Cooney

"It was dusk on a winter day, and from high on the mountain came barking, drifting down above the snow like peals of a bell... just to say the light was leaving, but that was all right: here I am, I'm a dog, all is well." And so begins The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, a charming novel about damaged souls looking for a "forever home." Longtime creative-writing teacher and novelist Ellen Cooney (A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies) is not afraid to take risks, and she reveals the details of the protagonist's past in gentle and surprising ways.

Evie, a troubled 24-year-old, describes herself in a haiku after spending a few months attempting a dog-training job for which she has no background, experience or guidance: Came in as a stray/ Is not completely hopeless./ Please allow to stay. However, Evie soon learns all she needs to know about trust, unconditional love and second chances from the rescued pups in her care. The narrative alternates between Evie's point of view and the perspective of the "Warden," Mrs. Auberchon, another lost soul taking refuge in her job at the school. Both characters must share the narrative stage with a host of fully realized canine characters (inspired by the author's own pups): Tasha, a rottweiler abandoned on the road, Dora, a miniature schnauzer left behind when her owners moved, Alfie, a greyhound fresh off the track and others, all of whom embrace Evie and are sure to captivate the reader. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A charming novel about damaged souls looking for a "forever home."

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780544236158

If Not for This

by Pete Fromm

It's easy to see from the very first pages of If Not for This that something will go awry. That may be the greatest testament to Pete Fromm's moving novel about a couple of rafting guides who battle rapids both literal and metaphorical. Though an early and devastating diagnosis means the course will not run smoothly for the protagonists, Fromm (As Cool As I Am; How This All Started) weaves a narrative that is compelling enough to bind readers to these characters almost as closely as they're bound to one another.

If Not for This is, at its core, a story about gravity, about the ways in which the physical world tries to thwart these characters' spirits and bodies. When we meet Maddy and Dalt, young and fearless, they make their living navigating rivers. We see them through a whirlwind courtship, a wedding, and then an illness that looks like mono but acts like something more sinister. When Maddy finds out that she's pregnant and suffering from multiple sclerosis, the reader's stomach drops like a tourist on a Class V rapid.

What might be an overwhelming story finds unexpected levity in Maddy's voice, a spitfire narrator who's unafraid to intersperse reflections on her illness with memories of her moonlight trysts with Dalt. This is a tough read, but a worthy one; it asks unnerving questions about mortality and resilience, and answers them with the example of one couple's devotion. Maddy and Dalt call themselves "The Luckies," and despite everything, Fromm proves that they're not wrong. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

Discover: Two river rafting guides navigate the dizzy highs of love and the harrowing lows of a debilitating disease, testing and strengthening their devotion.

Red Hen Press, $15.95, paperback, 9781597095389

All We Had

by Annie Weatherwax

Annie Weatherwax is an accomplished visual artist and sculptor. In her debut novel, All We Had, she crafts three-dimensional, multifaceted characters and infuses gritty humor and poignancy into the story of the hardscrabble existence of a mother and daughter.

Ruthie Carmichael, the narrator, is a precocious, jaded 13-year-old who lives with her 29-year-old mother, Rita--a woman with "movie-star looks and Oscar-worthy acting." Together, they're poverty-stricken drifters, moving from town to town in California, until they decide to cut and run from Rita's latest beau (one of many) who has taken them in. They head East in their beat-up 1993 Ford Escort, as Rita has high hopes that one day Ruthie will attend Harvard. When their car breaks down in Fat River, N.Y., the extended detour seems like more hardship in a string of difficulties for the penniless pair. But after Rita and Ruthie are befriended and offered jobs by the owner of a local diner, the breakdown appears suddenly providential.

Quirky townsfolk--each with their own challenges, including a transgender waitress and an older couple who owns the hardware store--welcome and support Rita and Ruthie in their effort to put down roots. But when Rita falls for a slick mortgage broker who helps her qualify for a subprime housing loan she cannot afford, it seems possible mother and daughter may slip back into old habits. Weatherwax's tight dialogue and short, emotionally charged scenes examine hope, the meaning of home and the unbreakable bond of love between mother and daughter. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A pair of drifters, mother and daughter, who try to make a fresh start in New York State.

Scribner, $24, hardcover, 9781476755205

Mystery & Thriller

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

by David Shafer

Journalist and history professor David Shafer's debut novel concerns three 30-somethings as they attempt to find meaning in their lives by pursuing the Committee, a cabal of corporate industrialists and media barons who want to privatize all the world's data in hopes of selling it back to the highest bidders--whether they're individuals, corporations or governments.

Members of the resistance front, Dear Diary, choose silly code names like Dixon Ticonderoga so they can anonymously pursue their plan of freeing humanity with new, plant-based computers that are not yet fully understood. In order to join the revolutionaries, the three protagonists must each take an eye test, which opens their minds to a new level of connectedness--essential to take on the Committee.

Leila Majnoun is a Persian-American who travels through underdeveloped nations looking to help women receive education and medical supplies. Leo Crane works with kids at a daycare facility, slacks daily, and has a decent trust fund, along with bipolar disorder. Self-hating self-help guru Mark Devreaux (Leo's childhood friend) works for the Committee, and could be Dear Diary's way in, if Leila and Leo can convince him that he's sold out to an evil cabal.

Blending elements of spy, science-fiction and literary genres, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a fun debut full of rich characterization and a just-complex-enough plot that takes place in evocative locales like Myanmar, Oregon and London. The action never overwhelms the interaction within and between the main protagonists, making for an engaging read. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A funny, absorbing story about three misfits who must come together to save the world from an evil corporation.

Mulholland Books, $26, hardcover, 9780316252638

Paw and Order

by Spencer Quinn

Fresh from cracking a hard case in the Big Easy, Chet and Bernie leave the bayous of The Sound and the Furry and head for D.C. In Spencer Quinn's seventh PI-plus-canine partner mystery, the duo gets to Foggy Bottom just as old friend Suzie Sanchez needs them to impose some Paw and Order on a deadly situation.

Bernie Little and Chet, his four-legged partner, are both sweet on Suzie, who left them in Arizona to write for the Washington Post. Happy to see her surprise visitors but preoccupied with work, she takes Chet along to meet a source for a story on an aspiring candidate for the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, they arrive to find the informant expired--setting Chet's experienced nose to work and drawing the Little Detective Agency into its next case.

Chet isn't a talking dog but a thinking (and very funny) narrator, so the reader knows the big picture even if Bernie doesn't. The duo pursues the case in Bernie's latest Porsche; readers following the series will know this isn't the original, but, as Chet would say, "That's a story for another time."

Chet and Bernie, as usual, find themselves at the heart of a knotty case, leading from back-alley bars to political fund-raisers to Virginia horse country. Quinn adds another layer to enigmatic Bernie's history--we learn he attended Annapolis and fought in Iraq. Close calls, Russian spies and a nasty guinea pig don't deter the Little Detective Agency and, as man and dog close the case with Suzie's help, readers will wonder where the Porsche is headed next. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: The seventh Chet and Bernie mystery, steeped in political intrigue and Washington politics.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 9781476703398

Hollow Mountain

by Thomas Mogford

Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is torn. He's following a trail of clues across Italy, searching for his girlfriend, Zahra--who disappeared in Malta months before--when he receives a mysterious phone call from Zahra warning him to stop looking for her before his loved ones get hurt. Then he finds out that his partner, Peter Galliano, is in a coma, the victim of a hit and run. Reluctantly, Spike heeds Zahra's warning and heads back to Gibraltar.

He immerses himself in work, trying to pick up the slack in Peter's absence. While researching a case, he meets a beautiful young widow, Amy Grainger, who is convinced that her husband, Simon, did not commit suicide and that the police investigation was too hasty. Digging further into Simon's life leads Spike in an unexpected direction--a conspiracy as deep as the Rock itself.

Thomas Mogford (Shadow of the Rock; Sign of the Cross), brings the quirky culture of Gibraltar to life in Hollow Mountain. The Spanish-British-Moroccan mélange lends an unusual air to the characters, and the proximity to the Mediterranean influences the cases that Spike takes on (including one involving a ship searching for sunken treasure). Fans of international mysteries with a strong sense of place will love Hollow Mountain. Though this is the third book in Spike's series, readers will have no difficulty starting with this installment. After they finish, they'll probably be tempted to go back and catch up on what they missed. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Lawyer Spike Sanguinetti uncovers a vast conspiracy in this thriller set in Gibraltar.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781620405963

Alone in the Classroom

by Elizabeth Hay

In her fourth novel, Alone in the Classroom, Elizabeth Hay (Late Nights on Air) awakens the hidden histories of Saskatchewan and the small-town Ottawa Valley, as her narrator Anne Flood researches the life of her aunt, Connie.

Connie Flood taught for one year, 1929, at a small prairie school in the town of Jewel. Among her students, she worked closely with one challenged boy, Michael Graves. The strikingly portrayed principal, Mr. Burns, surveyed them with an ominous air. One of Connie's students died a tragic and mysterious death; some 80 years later, the repercussions of that death still swirl through Anne's life. Likewise, the unrelated murder of another child shortly thereafter haunts Connie, Mr. Burns and Michael Graves for years to come.

Alone in the Classroom is not really a murder mystery (although no slack is permitted in the plot); it's a lyrical, thoughtful exploration of a town's secrets. The Flood family's history and the legacy of Mr. Burns make for a taut, suspenseful and compelling tale. There are threads of romance intertwined with obsession, sensuality paired with threat. Anne's relationships with mother, aunt and grandmother--both sinister and everyday--form a central theme as well. Though it's a slim book, at just over 200 pages, Alone in the Classroom begs to be read slowly; at the novel's close, it's easy to feel an intimate connection with Anne and her forebears and, having come so far with her, be strangely refreshed by the journey. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A novel of family history, passion and menace, based on historical events in eastern Canada.

Maclehose Press, $24.99, hardcover, 9781623651046


Love and Let Spy

by Shana Galen

The name's Bonde--Jane Bonde--and she's one of the finest English spies of the 19th century. Jane needs all her skills to destroy a French spy ring before it destroys her. At the same time, her spymaster uncle has thrown her life into turmoil by decreeing that Jane must marry to avoid suspicion of her high-society persona, and he's chosen the worst possible fiancé for her: Dominic Griffyn, a man handsome enough to tempt her, smart enough to ferret out her double life, and bold enough to win her heart. How can Jane keep her beloved career if she marries someone so distracting?

Dominic is no more eager about the marriage than Jane. After a false paternity claim scandalizes his family, his stepfather (the marquess) insists Dominic mend his wild ways and settle down with a gently bred bride. Who better than impeccable beauty Jane Bonde? But while Miss Bonde may be a diamond of the first water, Dominic quickly realizes she's much more than meets the eye. How can he marry a gorgeous firebrand clever enough to uncover his dark past?

Shana Galen (True Spies) offers more Regency-era passion and fast-pace derring-do in the third novel in her Lord and Lady Spy series. Despite the level of action and the occasional dead body, Galen keeps this spy caper light and breezy, with just enough 007-inspired jokes to make readers chuckle, not groan. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Dashing Dominic Griffyn and Bonde--Jane Bonde, Regency England's finest secret agent.

Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 9781402291739

Current Events & Issues

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War

by Helen Thorpe

Helen Thorpe (Just Like Us) captures the lives of three women, who, for different reasons, decided to join the Indiana National Guard. Michelle was 18 and found her "circumstances dreary"; she drove a beat-up old car, drank excessively, smoked too much pot and was having trouble in her community-college classes. The National Guard would pay for her tuition and get her in better physical shape. Debbie ran a beauty salon and was soon to be grandmother, but she joined the Guard at the age of 34 to emulate her father, who had been a drill sergeant in the army. Desma grew up in and out of foster homes, was a mom at 17, and said she "joined the military on a dare."

What none of these women anticipated were the September 11 attacks, which eventually led to their deployment first to Afghanistan in 2004 and then to Iraq in 2007. Thorpe thoroughly details the lives of these three women at home, while in training and then on deployment. While on duty, they survived sexual harassment, loneliness, depression and the explosion of a roadside bomb, and they forged strong bonds with each other because of their circumstances. Once home and struggling with often-overwhelming choices and decisions in their daily lives, they turned to one another for support despite the miles that separated them. Thorpe's careful exposition of the life women face in the armed forces is highly enlightening and should be considered a must-read for anyone--particularly women--who thinks she might enlist. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An edifying look at the life inside the military from the viewpoints of three women who served in the Middle East after 9/11.

Scribner, $28, hardcover, 9781451668100

Nature & Environment

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America's Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

by Robert Oswald, Michelle Bamberger

The Real Cost of Fracking asks what degree of risk and environmental degradation is "acceptable to obtain energy--and who should profit?" Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, involves blasting millions of gallons of water and chemicals thousands of feet below the aquifer in order to extract natural gas from the earth. The resulting wastewater is sometimes spread on roads as deicing fluid or returned to the earth by injection. While some believe fracking could eliminate U.S. dependency on foreign oil, Bamberger and Oswald--a veterinarian and a pharmacologist, respectively--believe the cost to the environment and to human health is too high.

"Silence is the sound of money talking." Sandra Steingraber's foreword describes three layers of silence surrounding fracking: legal exemptions granted by the 2005 Energy Policy Act that allow companies to conceal and inadequately monitor the chemicals blasted into the ground; state and federal agencies refusing to investigate the public health effects of fracking (despite 161 cases of water contamination in Pennsylvania alone); and nondisclosure agreements signed by homeowners after they have alleged their water and health were ruined by nearby fracking operations.

The Real Cost of Fracking focuses on animals and children as "sentinels of human health," since their immature neurologic and detoxification systems make them prone to the adverse effects from environmental hazards. Stories of healthy pets and cattle dying or suffering miscarriages after exposure to hydraulic-fracturing fluid, children struggling to breathe air poisoned by hydrogen sulfide and other effects of "Shale Gas Syndrome" (including headaches, nosebleeds, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and the loss of the sense of smell) show that a national discussion about fracking is needed. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Why cities across the U.S. are beginning to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Beacon Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9780807084939

Children's & Young Adult

Drop It, Rocket!

by Tad Hills

Parents and children will welcome back everyone's favorite student and teacher, Rocket and the little yellow bird, in their beginning-reader debut. Having learned that he fancies reading (in How Rocket Learned to Read) and writing, Rocket now stars in a Step into Reading book that shares his love.

"Rocket and the little yellow bird love words," the book begins. "They love their word tree, too." Fans of Rocket Writes a Story will recognize the word tree in the opening scene, as the little yellow bird adds "tree" and "dog" to its branches. "Rocket finds a leaf. 'Drop it, Rocket,' says the bird," standing on Rocket's nose on the left-hand side of the next spread. "Rocket drops the leaf. He is a good dog," accompanies the picture on the right-hand side of the same spread. Hills shows the leaf on the ground as Rocket faces forward with the yellow bird on his head. The same series of events occur when Rocket finds a hat and a star. Leaf, hat, star and bird all appear on the word tree now. However, Rocket rather likes a red boot. He's not so eager to part with it. This allows Hills to repeat "Drop it, Rocket" several times and to use his illustrations to escalate the humor. Owl comes to the rescue.

The repetition of key words and of sentence structure, and Tad Hills's wonderful illustrations all help to guide children through the action, as they learn to recognize letters and word combinations. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The star of How Rocket Learned to Read (with help from the little yellow bird) teaches beginning readers what he knows.

Random House, $12.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-8, 9780385372473

Edda: A Little Valkyrie's First Day of School

by Adam Auerbach

The fun of Adam Auerbach's debut picture book springs from his illustrations of exotic Asgard, "a land full of magic and adventure," and its "littlest Valkyrie," Edda.

Edda, in full Viking regalia, stands with one foot on a stone, while a dragon peeks at her from behind a tree, a giant pursues a warrior, and tiny bearded men sit on a branch above her. Edda helps her father and sisters find monsters, but she believes there's more to life. "Papa... I want to find someone my own age," she says. The wise man knows of such a place, and takes her to Earth for the first day of school. When she gets to the classroom (still in full Viking gear), no one says hello: "She wishes she were back home in Asgard." In a series of vignettes, Auerbach contrasts what Edda does at home ("what she wants") and in school ("she is expected to sit still"). The funniest contrast occurs at lunchtime, when Edda thinks about the feasts in Asgard and how everyone shares: "In school, no one wants to make a trade." Could it be because of her giant steakbone and strange, tail-shaped drinking vessel?

By day's end, Edda has made a friend, who comes home with her to Asgard, and the next day Edda brings her nervous dragon to class. "Don't worry... Dragons are very brave," she tells her companion, echoing the very words her father told Edda. She's telling readers, "If I can do it, you can, too." --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A child making a difficult transition from home to school, who helps someone else adjust.

Christy Ottaviano/Holt, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780805097030

The Little School Bus

by Margery Cuyler, illus. by Bob Kolar

Margery Cuyler and Bob Kolar (the team behind The Little Dump Truck) will boost the confidence of first-time bus riders thanks to this perky book featuring a four-wheeled cheerful yellow bus.

Let's begin with introductions: "I'm a little school bus,/ my driver's name is Bob./ Rumbling, shifting, clunking,/ we like to do our job." The bus and Bob rise at five ("Driver Bob drinks coffee,/ then we start to drive"). Kolar portrays the bus with eyes at half mast as Bob boards with his java, then the two get lively as they make their way through town. Other early risers walk dogs and drive trucks. Author and artist demonstrate safety with the flashing red lights and stop sign that extends while "picking up my children/ as they stand in line." The little school bus also lowers a ramp for a wheelchair, to "[give] Kate a ride,/ letting down my platform,/ so she can wheel inside." The children "sit and laugh and talk" on the bus, then safely disembark (children who like to keep track will find all eight of the passengers who boarded) when they reach "Friends School."

Other safety rules apply: "No hands out the windows," says Driver Bob to his young riders; he gets a tune-up when it's time, and on a day of ice and snow, the little school bus and Driver Bob stay home. It's as if the little yellow bus is saying, Nothing to fear here! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An ideal way to familiarize first-time school bus riders with the rules of the road and the fun ride ahead.

Christy Ottaviano/Holt, $12.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-6, 9780805094350


Author Buzz


by Jessica George

Dear Reader,

Exploring the idea that a 'coming of age' can occur at any age and a number of times is at the heart of Maame. An often introspective, often funny, often realistic look at a later bloomer finding herself amidst all her assigned labels: daughter, carer, friend, assistant, mother.

To celebrate the upcoming publication of the paperback, I'm giving away five copies of Maame. Send your mailing address to enter!

Jessica George

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: Maame by Jessica George

St. Martin's Griffin

Pub Date: 
February 6, 2024


List Price: 
$18.00 Paperback

Christmas in Cape May
(A Sunshine Sisters Novella)

by Jennifer Probst

Dear Reader,

What happens when a woman who loves Christmas meets a man who relates better to the Grinch are suddenly forced together to run the annual holiday fur gala?

Let the festivities begin.

This enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract, holiday romance is part of my bestselling Sunshine Sisters series that takes place in the beach town of Cape May, New Jersey. Devon and Jameson stole my heart with their snarky banter, off-the-charts chemistry, and emotional vulnerability that slowly creates a bond between them. But is there enough magic in Christmas to keep them together?

Let's find out.

Happy reading.

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Christmas in Cape May (A Sunshine Sisters Novella) by Jennifer Probst

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
November 7, 2023


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

Legacy of Temptation
(Demonica Birthright #1)

by Larissa Ione

Dear Reader,

Three decades after the events of REAPER, humans in the Demonica world still struggle to adapt to the existence of supernatural beings. Now, an ancient, powerful demon-slaying organization promises to contain or exterminate all underworlders, even if that means ushering in the End of Days.

Standing in their way is the next generation of warriors, children of demons and angels and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

See how they become legends in their own right.

Larissa Ione

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: Legecy of Temptation (Demonica Birthright #1) by Larissa Ione

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 6, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Ode to a Pug

by Jill Rosen, illus. by Stephanie Rohr

Dear Reader,

Ode to a Pug is a rhyming story about a precocious pug with a penchant for messes and mayhem who drives her frazzled owner to declare that she will give her pug away! Will she? Families will enjoy finding the answer and children will see that everyone experiences strong emotions at times in Ode to a Pug, starring the infamous clown of the canine world.

The Children's Book Review calls Ode to a Pug "a sweet and funny exploration of what unconditional love looks like."

Wishing laughs and maybe even a tear or two,

Dark Ink: Ode to a Pug by Jill Rosen, illus. by Stephanie Rohr

AM Ink Publishing

Pub Date: 
February 15, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$14.99 Paperback

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