Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, September 12, 2014

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

From My Shelf

Hitting the Book Club Mark

A recent novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (Picador, paperback), has been evoking strong reactions, with a title character described by one reader as a "somewhat arrogant" intellectual who "has studied feminism in a classroom and thinks he gets it."

Stephanie Valdez, co-owner of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., says, "The best book club books provoke nuanced, substantive conversation, and Love Affairs hit that mark. We debated whether Nate was sympathetic, and whether that mattered. Opinions were varied and unpredictable, and did not split along gender lines or age groups." 

Susan Coll, events and programs director at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., said the store had a great event with the author; Coll was "struck by the number of young men in attendance, and by how many of them lined up at the microphone eager to ask questions, which seemed a bit of an anomaly for a novel about relationships. The book is so sharply observed that it feels like an anthropological study. I think that's part of what will be good fodder for book groups. Are Waldman's observations about men reliable? Is this book too Brooklyn-centric, or is this the way of the dating world? Is Nate a misogynist? I think Waldman has touched a collective raw nerve about male behavior."

At Brookline Booksmith, in Brookline, Mass., Natasha Gilmore and Jamie Tan noted that "Nate P" generates a lot of discussion. Gilmore added, "It's a perfect book club book--it's not terribly long, and a strong reaction to a book or character provokes more discussion than general kinds of comments. Why do we hate Nathaniel so much? Why is our reaction so strong? Is there something about him that we see in ourselves or people close to us that makes us so crazy?" Tan said, "People are coming to this book with all sorts of experiences. Single, married, looking. I'm fascinated by how people read Nate--terrible, sympathetic, understandable, attractive--and how much people insert themselves into each of the characters in the book." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Sally Koslow

Following many years of reporting for and editing magazines, including serving as editor-in-chief of McCall's, Sally Koslow has written four novels and one nonfiction book, Slouching Toward Adulthood. Her work has been published in a dozen languages and her novel The Late, Lamented Molly Marx was a Target Book Club Pick. Koslow's essays have been published in the anthologies Dirt: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House and Wedding Cake for Breakfast, as well as in Real Simple, More, O Magazine, the New York Times and elsewhere. Her newest novel is The Widow Waltz (Plume, June 13, 2014). Koslow teaches creative writing at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College and elsewhere in the New York City area, where she is an independent writing coach.

On your nightstand now:

At the moment I'm reading for two book clubs. One chooses works that have stood the test of time: currently, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. The second, newly formed, is all Manhattan writers committed to discussing recently published books, starting with The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. I like to read beyond book club choices, though. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is gathering momentum. Next up are A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson and Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. I also have manuscripts to read in order to write blurbs for other authors. My nightstand may topple.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved many of the books my grade-school teachers in Fargo, N.Dak., read aloud. Most memorable were Bartholomew and the Oobleck and If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald. I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett again and again, paving the way for Jane Austen. And like every other female writer who identifies with Jo: Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Your top five authors:

Edward St Aubyn, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde and, not least, Mary Cantwell, author of the memoirs American Girl, Manhattan, When I Was Young and Speaking with Strangers. I started my post-college work life at Mademoiselle magazine where--lucky me--Mary top-edited my bumbling efforts. I can imagine her marginal criticism of my current work and try to respond to it.

Book you've faked reading:

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. Could. Not. Finish.

Books you're an evangelist for:

I am a pro bono publicist for Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson and The Art of Civility by Amor Towles, novelists of whom I am deeply envious.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Recently I stopped dead in a bookstore in front of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. The cover features a design of roses and a snake intertwined with elegant black upper-case serif type set against a shade of circa-1940 green. I know from my years in magazines that green is tricky for covers, but I fell in love with this book on sight. The downside of today's reading habits is, to borrow a magazine term, a lowered pass-along factor, because the cover of what someone is enjoying on an e-reader doesn't draw in secondary readers. Boo.

Book that changed your life:

At 11, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. This led me to look at my parents' copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Since then, compelling books about the Holocaust always cry out to me: Mila 18 by Leon Uris, The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, City of Women by David R. Gillham and many more.

Favorite line from a book:

Kill me now, but as I was sitting at a funeral I thought, "When I imagined my funeral, this wasn't what I had I mind." A whole story fell in place around this line: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, my second novel.

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

The week of my bat mitzvah, I started Gone with the Wind, got sucked into Margaret Mitchell's fictional world, stopped practicing my Torah portion and felt less guilty about that than I should, because I learned how absorbing a novel could be.

Book you'd read to a child:

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. Mature vocabulary, catchy rhyme and a message not to "spread the dreary-wearies all over the place." I can think of many adults who could benefit from this book.

Book Candy

Book Recommendations; Author Beards

Calling the list "an updated curriculum," Buzzfeed suggested "24 books you should read now, based on your high school favorites."


Emma Carroll, author of The Girl Who Walked on Air, chose her "top 10 circus books" for the Guardian.


Bustle highlighted "11 great New York moments from books," noting that "they all contain those quintessential, only-in-NYC moments that make New Yorkers feel all mushy and sentimental, and make everyone else want to hop on a plane and come for visit."


The Telegraph had a trim list of the "top 12 authors' beards."


Roald Dahl "wanted a relatively unknown young artist called Maurice Sendak to illustrate the first edition." This is just one of "10 surprising facts about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" featured in the Huffington Post.


"The natural moss on this wooden bookcase is preserved forever in resin." Check out the Undergrowth bookcase by Italian design duo Alcarol.

Book Review


Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

For Kirsten Raymonde, Shakespeare came before and after the end of the world. At eight years old, she played an hallucination in a stage production of King Lear starring middle-aged film star Arthur Leander. As an adult, she portrays Cordelia, Titania and others for the Traveling Symphony, an orchestra and Shakespearean theater company touring the wasteland of the former United States under the banner of a Star Trek: Voyager quote: "Survival is insufficient." Twenty years after a virus wiped out so much of the human population that no statisticians were left to tally the damage, many comforts are relics of a lost past: electricity, medicine, digital technology, automobiles. The Traveling Symphony offers cultural enrichment in exchange for food and shelter in loosely governed towns. In one such place, the company meets a dangerous cult leader known as the Prophet and his rabidly loyal followers. When the performers inadvertently attract the Prophet's wrath, they struggle to escape. Their intended destination, an airport rumored to hold a Museum of Civilization, may also hold the key to the Prophet's true identity--and link directly back to Arthur Leander, whose rise to fame, fortune and regret is told in interludes between pieces of the Symphony's story.

Emily St. John Mandel (The Lola Quartet) uses the before-and-after timeline to place modern life under a microscope while painting an unromantic vision of a future without modern advancements. Humanity here is neither blameless nor in control: the collapse snuck up on them. Incisive, suspenseful and peopled with meticulously detailed characters, this stunner will leave readers prickling with dread but also breathless with wonder. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A chilling version of life before and after the apocalypse, centered on a present-day film star's regrets and the end-time adventures of a traveling performance troupe.

Knopf, $24.95, hardcover, 9780385353304

The Children Act

by Ian McEwan

The title The Children Act refers to the 1989 British law providing for government intervention in situations where parental ability or conviction threaten to harm a child. Ian McEwan (Atonement) uses it to frame a character-driven story about the consequences of unspoken intentions.

At 59, Fiona May is at the height of her career. She's a highly respected judge specializing in family law, particularly in cases complicated by religion. She is famous for a ruling in favor of separating conjoined infants who would otherwise both have died to ensure one would survive, against the wishes of the parents and the Catholic Church. Her decision haunts her despite the resulting acclaim. She has just seen the case of Adam, a lovely and gifted Jehovah's Witness, just shy of legal adulthood, who is dying of leukemia. For reasons of faith, Adam and his parents refuse the blood transfusions needed to save his life. In crisis, she visits the hospitalized Adam to assess the clarity of his wishes. Can Fiona overrule a boy's choice, which is based on his sincere belief? Can a teenager know what he really wants? She has withdrawn into the details of the case when her husband, Jack, shocks her with his threat to embark on an affair in reaction to their sterile marriage.

McEwan seems less interested in exactly how Fiona will decide her case or whether her marriage will survive; instead, The Children Act derives its power from the character's infinitely varied and intimately observed emotional responses--encompassing anger, grief, hope, joy and fear--to love offered or withdrawn. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A High Court judge responds to her husband's infidelity while considering a challenging legal case.

Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $25, hardcover, 9780385539708

The Hunting Gun

by Yasushi Inoue, trans. by Michael Emmerich

Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue published 50 novels and 150 short stories in his lifetime, though few have been translated into English. Pushkin Press aims to introduce Inoue to a broader audience, first with the Akutagawa Prize-winning The Bullfight and now The Hunting Gun, Inoue's debut novella from 1949.

The story revolves around a tragic love triangle and is narrated by a writer who authored a prose poem called "The Hunting Gun" for a Japanese hunting magazine. The poem describes a lonely gentleman's hike to Mount Amagi; his shotgun "leaves the imprint of its creeping weight on the middle-aged man, on his solitary spirit, on his body, all the while radiating an oddly bloody beauty of a sort you will never see when its sights are trained upon a living thing." Soon after publication, the subject of the poem, Misugi Jōsuke, writes to the narrator to explain his emotional state. Misugi encloses three letters: one from Midori, his silent and resentful wife who knows he's having an affair; one from Saiko, Midori's sister and the woman at the heart of the triangle; and one from Shōko, Saiko's daughter and Misugi's niece, who discovers her mother's infidelity in a diary.

His sorrow and emptiness is exposed in nuanced layers; the shotgun represents the destructive coldness to which the relationships descend and a snake--"each of us has a snake living inside"--represents the secrets threatening to ruin these intertwined lives. The Hunting Gun retains a timeless and universal relevance, reflecting on the delicate balance that truth, love and death play in all human relationships. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A timeless, elegiac and masterful novella about a tragic postwar love triangle by one of Japan's most prolific writers.

Pushkin Press, $16, paperback, 9781782270010

The Christmas Cat

by Melody Carlson

A single, 34-year-old man with an aversion and allergy to cats is forced to find homes for six precious felines in The Christmas Cat, a heartwarming novel by Melody Carlson (The Christmas Dog). Garrison Brown--trying to build a new life in Seattle after spending nine years doing missionary work in Uganda, battling malaria and nursing a broken heart--receives word, near Christmas, that his widowed grandmother has died of a heart attack.

Summoned to Vancouver, Wash., to settle her affairs, Garrison is surprised to learn that his frugal Gram--who raised him after his parents died in a car crash when he was 12--left behind her house, fully paid off, along with a substantial nest egg. Before Garrison can claim his inheritance, however, he is designated as "the keeper of the cats," responsible for following Gram's detailed, stringent criteria to match each of her six very different kitties with a compatible new owner. Once Garrison can prove each cat is happily settled, the selected adoptive families will each receive $10,000. Where does this leave Garrison--especially with his ill feelings about felines? And just how can he sort the suitable prospective pet-lovers from the opportunists looking for quick cash?

What ensues is a lighthearted story of Garrison's reconnection to his old neighborhood, his interactions with strangers who may become friends--or even something more--and his rekindling of old hopes and dreams. Carlson, prolific in feel-good, faith-based fiction, once again delivers an affirming tale brimming with compassion and charm. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A single man is challenged with the task of finding suitable homes for six cats that belonged to his deceased grandmother.

Revell, $15.99, hardcover, 9780800719661

Mystery & Thriller

The Monogram Murders

by Sophie Hannah

Since his introduction in 1920's The Mysterious Affairs at Styles, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot has captured the hearts and minds of readers everywhere in more than 30 novels and countless film, radio and television adaptations. The Belgian detective, noted for his full moustache and keen eye for detail, makes a return appearance in Sophie Hannah's The Monogram Murders, a Poirot novel sanctioned by Christie's family and estate.

As with so many of Christie's mysteries, The Monogram Murders begins rather simply: Poirot is staying in a boarding house in 1920s London, where he has befriended young Catchpool, a relatively new member of Scotland Yard. When Catchpool reveals to Poirot that three bodies have been found in a local hotel, all poisoned and all with a monogrammed cufflink placed in their mouths, the esteemed detective is immediately captivated by the crime, setting off with (or without) Catchpool to collect as many seemingly trivial details as possible, all of which inevitably become very important as the case grows in complexity.

Hannah (The Little Face) spectacularly captures Poirot, building around him a mystery worthy of Christie herself. The Monogram Murders draws in enough detail from the original Poirot mysteries to satisfy even the most die-hard Christie fans--from Poirot's irritating habit of making his peers wait for an explanation of his thoughts to a truly convoluted motive that only Poirot could have seen. The work never feels derivative or unoriginal, though, as Hannah builds an unusual murder case so complex that readers will delight to find their "little grey cells" racing to keep up. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A true British cozy that revisits one of the most famous detectives of all time: Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

Morrow, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062297211

The Distance

by Helen Giltrow

Charlotte Alton may seem like a well-bred London socialite, but her alter ego, Karla, operates in the shadows, gathering information that can be used for deadly purposes but also for good. While at the opera one evening, Charlotte sees a man she helped disappear eight years ago--a man she never thought she'd see again. Simon Johanssen is a killer for hire who was forced to go underground when a job went wrong.

Johanssen has returned to take a new assignment, but he needs Karla's help--to break into a prison to kill a woman. Karla arranges the necessary paperwork and gets him admitted as a convicted double murderer after she warns him that the man who wanted him dead eight years ago is incarcerated at the same prison.

Karla digs further into the identity of Johanssen's target and discovers no record of the female prisoner or her supposedly horrific crime. Fearing Johanssen has walked into a trap, Karla gives orders to her colleagues to pull him out... and is told he can't be found anywhere.

Helen Giltrow's debut novel, The Distance, has many threads with multiple narrators, and nothing can be taken at face value since most of the characters mistrust each other. Johanssen's determination to finish the job--despite the sadistic treatment he suffers, the lack of information about his target and Karla's repeated attempts to get him to abort--seems unreasonable if not foolish at first, but his commitment helps bring about a satisfying ending to this brutal thriller. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A dark, complex thriller about killers seeking prey and redemption.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385536998

Biography & Memoir

Epilogue: A Memoir

by Will Boast

Will Boast (Power Ballads) was seven when his family moved from England to small-town Wisconsin. He grew up straddling two worlds in a comfortable--if not happy--family, the straight-arrow older brother to popular, party-loving Rory. Then, during Will's first year at college, their mother died of cancer. Rory, lost in grief, was killed in a car accident on his way to a party the following year. Boast's father died of alcoholism a few years later. Preparing to review his father's will with his lawyer, Boast found divorce papers for a first marriage he never knew his father had, and thus learned of his two half-brothers in England.

Was his father the devoted but difficult man who worked 12-hour days and came home to cook elaborate family dinners or the hard-partying playboy who cared so little for his first children that he abandoned them? That question anchors the memoir and makes it much more than an account of family secrets. Epilogue starts with Boast's father's death, then cuts back and forth through time as Boast revisits childhood memories in search of the answer and forges tentative connections with his newfound brothers. In an effort to make his losses less painful, he even tries writing alternative drafts of past events, like Rory's last day.

In his raw, lyrical memoir, Boast is less concerned with shaping loss and new beginnings into a neatly resolved story than he is with finding the space to hold the contradictions in his life, allowing him to love his father despite all the unanswered questions and begin to see his own way forward. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A memoir of profound loss and discovery addressing the complexity and necessity of family love.

Liveright, $25.95, hardcover, 9780871403810

Nature & Environment

The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us

by Diane Ackerman

"Our relationship with nature is evolving, rapidly but incrementally," writes Diane Ackerman, "and at times so subtly that we don't perceive the sonic booms, literally or metaphorically." In this thought-provoking analysis of our connection to the earth, Ackerman (The Zookeeper's Wife) moves from the macro--the global climate, in its current state of flux--to the micro--the new discoveries in science and biology that are redefining how we perceive our own bodies. While talk of climate change, the increase in extreme storms around the world and rising sea levels is not new, Ackerman brings clarity and insight to these subjects, presenting scientific material with an easily understood conversational tone and making the "planetary chaos that threatens our well-being" seem less dire.

Ackerman discusses the way humans have interfered with the natural order of predator and prey by introducing nonnative plants and animals to different environments, creating imbalances that have cost millions to try to correct. Turning to the inner world of the human body, she illuminates how scientists have crossed cellular boundaries to examine the tiniest microbes and molecules that might influence not only our immune systems but our relationships and career choices as well. Ackerman examines concepts that verge on science fiction, such as the newest prototypes in biochemistry and 3-D printing--labs are currently "printing" spare ears using living cells as the medium, and future possibilities include producing functioning kidneys and other organs. The Human Age is a lens that magnifies and clarifies the fascinating, far-reaching effects humans have had on our planet and ourselves. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An engrossing look at the radical transformations humans have made globally and internally.

W.W. Norton, $27.95, hardcover, 9780393240740


Prelude to Bruise

by Saeed Jones

The first book of Saeed Jones's poetry, Prelude to Bruise, reads with astonishing momentum and tenacity, a lyrical torch thrust into shadows and silence to illuminate pain from a history of wounds. "And his darkness/ mistakes me/ for sunrise," he writes in "He Thinks He Can Leave Me." Jones writes often about Boy, whose body reveals truths--about himself and about the outside world--that are dangerous in their acute honesty. He wears dresses, so many dresses, and is met with violence and desire, sometimes as one and the same. In the devastating "Body & Kentucky Bourbon," Jones is loath "to realize you drank/ so you could face me the morning after." Here and again Jones pulls taut the recurring tension of "boy" and "body," a mere letter to distinguish them. Later, in "History, According to Boy," this defining letter--D--stands in for the first willing object of Boy's desire.

Orbiting, interrupting, intersecting and converging upon these intimate moments are wars and news stories: a drowning New Orleans, a burning Paris. A throbbing dance floor welcomes his trysts in "Ketamine & Company" and leads into the staccato blows of "Thralldom II": "Good hurt, hurts good, his lap, smack./ Fishnets, lips pursed, knife wound--red. First pose, third pose, head thrown/ back." Queerness, blackness, violence, resilience, longing and sex roil over every exquisite syllable. Prelude to Bruise proclaims "if you ever find me,/ I won't be there" with the same electrical charge as Audre Lorde announcing, "I am deliberate and afraid of nothing." Saeed Jones's kinetic, shining prelude is one hell of a beginning. -- Dave Wheeler, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A powerful debut collection of poems that wrestle over the intersections of identity, sex, politics and family.

Coffee House Press, $16.95, paperback, 9781566893749

The Best American Poetry 2014

by David Lehman and Terrance Hayes, editors

Series editor David Lehman offers up his 27th sterling anthology of Best American Poetry with this year's guest editor, Terrance Hayes, who Lehman says has undertaken his daunting task with vigor and inventiveness. Hayes's introduction is in the form of a playful, fictitious conversation between himself and Charles Kinbote (the fictional narrator of Nabokov's Pale Fire). Besides commenting on some poems in the collection, the witty banter touches on a key matter Lehman also addresses: is there too much poetry? Does anyone care about or buy it? Hayes's 75 choices--"gifts"--salute the form and, he hopes, transform the reader.

Many are marked by literary inventiveness: prose poems, ad hoc forms, a "script" poem, poems displaying a swashbuckling use of form and meter. Hayes has chosen poems by established and emerging poets, even some poems he "literally" can't understand--Rae Armantrout's "Control" or Kiki Petrosino's "Story Problem"--but loves the "hunch" each sparks. There's even an irreverent piece from the cutting-room floor that he sneaks in via his introduction, Alan Dugan's "Priapus": "I am the only man in the world/ because I have no t*ts."

The surprises continue with Sherman Alexie's prose poem "Sonnet, with Pride"; Jon Sands's fragment-filled piece about Trayvon Martin, "Decoded"; and Rita Dove's "The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude." Patricia Lockwood's controversial and lengthy high-wire act, "Rape Joke," puzzles, jokes and shocks: "The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry."

Enjoy, and be transformed. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Another winner in a poetry series that offers up rich poems galore and new poets to explore.

Scribner, $35, hardcover, 9781476708157; $18.99 paperback, 9781476708171

Children's & Young Adult


by Misty Copeland, illus. by Christopher Myers

Ballet dancer Misty Copeland (Life in Motion) makes her children's book debut with this inspiring love letter to young people, containing breathtaking illustrations of airborne dancers by Caldecott Honor artist Christopher Myers (H.O.R.S.E.).

An aspiring young ballet dancer in yellow leotards marks "the space between you and me," as she watches an adult dancer in white tutu, leaping New York's East River in Myers's collage. Author and artist portray the girl's interior life: "me? I'm gray as rain/.../ I could never hope to leap/ the space between," she thinks, sitting on a curb, oblivious to the bright colors behind her. Even while stationary, the adult dancer suggests grace and movement. "Darling child," she says, "don't you know you're just where I started," describing her own beginnings, "before the fireworks of costume." Myers pictures the ballerina as the Firebird (Copeland's most famous role) gazing at her younger self in a mirror; icicle-like collage partitions foreshadow what's to come--electrified lights in gold, and the blue nighttime skyline at performance time. She speaks of hard work ("a thousand leaps and falls") with images of elastic, elegant moves. As she coaches ("each position one through five/ stair steps to the sky?"), her student demonstrates her moves, the blue collage background recalling that of the Firebird gazing at her younger self.

Words and pictures spotlight the journey from novice to professional, and the final image of the duo's pas de deux in matching white tutus closes the space between them. Brava! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A renowned ballet dancer and a Caldecott Honor artists's picture-book rendering of a young dancer mentored to follow her dream.

Putnam, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 7-10, 9780399166150

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illus. by Gilbert Ford

How do you top the star attraction of the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, the Eiffel Tower? That is the burning question for George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. in this picture book, which packs suspense and information in a story about the race to mount a showstopper for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Ferris, an "ambitious" mechanical engineer based in Pittsburgh, had designed some of the U.S.'s biggest bridges and tunnels. When he presents his idea "for a structure that would dazzle and move" to the construction chief of the World's Fair, the man tells George his structure is "so flimsy it would collapse." Finally, with "no star attraction," and only four months to the fair's opening, the judges go with George's "far-fetched idea," but offer him no money to build it. Kathryn Gibbs Davis takes readers through "one of the most brutally cold winters" in Chicago history, as Ferris breaks ground and races against time to build his giant wheel.

Davis peppers the story with tantalizing facts: the workers hit solid ground at 35 feet down and lower a 70-ton axle into the ground. The structure measured 834 feet in circumference and rose 265 feet above the ground. It cost 50¢ per ride. Gilbert Ford's palette of predominantly reds, blues and purples evokes the freezing temperatures, and his artwork nicely balances the human and mechanical developments. The illustration of the riders rising up on "the Queen of the Midway," erupts into full color in celebration of their endless view. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An entertaining and fact-filled story of the mechanical engineer who created a giant wheel for the 1893 World's Fair.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-9, 9780547959221

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

by Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell (Rooftoppers) once again demonstrates her ability to weave a story with a strong, determined female character.

Wilhelmina Silver has grown up the daughter of an English caretaker on a farm in Zimbabwe. On the farm, Will developed a talent for making friends with both humans and animals. She liked to be dusty and wet ("Dust and rain made mud. Mud was full of possibilities"). Will and her best friend, Simon ("a stretched-catapult of a boy, the scourge of the stables"), go on daily adventures with monkeys, horses and other animals. When her father dies, Captain Browne, the owner of the farm, is convinced by his new wife that it's not a proper place for a girl and Will is sent off to the Leewood School in London. Her parting from Captain Browne (and Simon) will break readers' hearts. At school, Will can't make sense of her new surroundings or the rituals ("where girls sat two by two in rows of spite"). She runs away, using her skills to navigate London, and makes a new friend. Eventually, she finds herself back at school, learning to build a bridge between her life in Zimbabwe and her new life in London.

Rundell's storytelling is magical. She creates a feisty, resilient female character who could have walked right out of a Dickens novel. This one's for readers who appreciate the classic elements of storytelling with a twist. --Susannah Richards, associate professor, Eastern Connecticut State University

Discover: An engaging, well-paced and adventurous story of a girl who learns to navigate two worlds.

Simon & Schuster, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 8-12, 9781442490611

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