Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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

From My Shelf

Ivan Doig, 1939-2015

Our hearts are breaking at the news of Ivan Doig's death on Thursday, April 9. We in the West first discovered Doig with his acclaimed memoir, This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind; the rest of the country soon followed. Doig defined a time, a place, a people, with crystalline prose and dry, gentle wit. His words could soar. In This House of Sky he wrote, "The spaces between stars are where the work of the universe is done." That line--written by a man bewitched by Big Sky country--is breathtaking.

Doig wrote 16 books, including Last Bus to Wisdom, which will be published on August 18 by Riverhead. The Center for the American West honored him with the prestigious Wallace Stegner Award in 2007, and he received the Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award in 1989. He garnered more awards from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association than any other writer. Thomas Keneally said, "Ivan Doig has been, from This House of Sky, his first grand entry into literature, one of the great American voices, full of grace, abounding in humanity, easeful in narration, hypnotic in pace, grand in range."

Doig was a sweet, generous man. He could be rascally, but his default setting was kindness and warmth. He was beloved, as booksellers can attest. Author Lance Weller recalled, on the NW Book Lovers blog, "I once did a reading at a bookstore where Ivan Doig was scheduled to read later the same day. There was a sea of empty chairs arranged in a semicircle before the podium. I filled six. About a year later, I had the opportunity to actually attend one of his readings and immediately understood the need for all those chairs. And, even then, there weren't enough."

His first book provides an epitaph: "There is more time than there is expanse of the world and so any voyage at last will end." Dear Ivan, you are missed. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Kevin Kruse: The Invention of Christian America

photo: Etta Recke

Kevin Kruse is a professor of History at Princeton University, and was named one of the country's top young innovators in the Arts and Sciences by Smithsonian magazine. His first book, White Flight, explored the history of white resistance to desegregation in Atlanta in the 1960s and '70s, and he has co-authored three other histories. His new book, One Nation Under God (reviewed below), traces the history of religious nationalism in the United States in the 20th century.

One Nation Under God is a big, complex book. How would you describe it?

The book tries to trace the origins of the religious culture in the United States that we take for granted today. There's so much debate in recent decades between liberals and conservatives over what seems to be a pretty simple question: Are we a Christian nation?

Instead of trying to dig back into another round of what the Founding Fathers believed, I simply wanted to try to figure out why so many Americans in the modern era came to believe that we are a Christian nation in the first place.

That led me back to the 1950s. In a span of just about five years, we saw the creation of the annual National Day of Prayer and National Prayer Breakfasts; the adoption of prayers at inaugurations and cabinet meetings; the addition of "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance; and the adoption of "In God We Trust" (first on stamps, then on paper money, and finally as the nation's first official motto in 1956).

So all of these things that Americans today point to as proof that we are a Christian nation only came about in the 1950s. I wanted to explore why, to understand where that all came from.

Is the book you set out to write, or did the research change your theories and ideas?

When I started the project in 2005, I planned for it to be a lot like my first book, White Flight, which was a grassroots study of race in Atlanta. With One Nation Under God, I set out to look at the grassroots of religious conservatism. My original plan was to look at the communities that made up the founding basis of the Moral Majority in 1979 to see what was going on in terms of the grassroots mobilization of religious conservatives in the 1960s and '70s.

As I started my research, specifically on the issue of school prayer, I was struck by how many of the letters sent to local politicians and to Hugo Black [the Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1962 decision in the case of prayer in public schools, Engel v. Vitale] invoked those well-known symbols of public religion: "Aren't we 'One Nation Under God?' " "Isn't our motto 'In God We Trust?' " "How can school prayer be wrong if the president is praying at this prayer breakfast?" That went against everything I'd been taught--that, according to the courts and the lawyers, these items don't matter because they are "ceremonial deism," purely ornamental.

But what came out in these letters was that they really do matter. So then I wanted to look at where this culture came from. The more I looked at this national story of the 1950s, the more I found threads that led me back to the New Deal.

Even though the common proof points of America's history as a Christian nation were born in the 1950s, not with the Founding Fathers, there is an argument to be made that God is referenced in some of the earliest documents of the United States.

There's a reason that Christian libertarians continually referred to the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution--the Declaration of Independence does mention the Creator. There's no mention of God in the Constitution except in the framing of "the year of our Lord" in the signing. The only references to religion there are in the First Amendment, and the ban on making religious tests for office-holding.

One of the early moments that can be used to track the change in thinking between the founders' time and Eisenhower's time is the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796. That document very clearly states that the government of the United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian religion. This is a treaty that was begun by Washington, signed by Adams, passed unanimously by a Senate whose members were half-filled with signers of the Constitution. In that sense, I think it's clear that the founders did not intend to create a formal Christian nation.

What was most surprising in your research?

I naively assumed this would be a story of religious leaders pushing for public religion, and atheists and secularists pushing back. What was surprising as I dug into the issue of school prayer, in particular, was how many leaders of mainstream religious groups were opposed to it. It makes sense once you get into the arguments and really think about it: religious leaders felt they were the best choice to lead religious instruction, and didn't want that handed over to the state.

One Nation Under God is not the story of the religious against the irreligious, but rather people who take their religion very seriously and didn't want to see it flattened out into a one-size-fits-all-space. It's very powerful to see religious leaders holding the position that now we'd think only secularists would hold.

Given the tense and polarized political climate now, how hard was it to write a neutral account of this political history?

I'm not trying to be polemical, I'm trying to relate the past as it happened and give all sides. Maybe I was well-prepared for this by my first book, which was an attempt to understand the case of segregationists in the civil rights movement--which I don't agree with, but wanted to present on its own terms in its own arguments.

So here, I was trying to lay out the arguments on both sides and show their complexities. Any kind of moralizing gets in the way of that. A history book can also be dated if it speaks too much to a moment in the author's own life rather than as how the participants understood it. It's a very difficult line to walk.

There are an astounding number of books on the intersection of politics and religion, particularly in the United States. How do you see your book fitting in with varying other histories on this subject?

Any historian's goal is try to speak to a seemingly familiar topic from a fresh angle, and I hope I've done that here. People have written about this moment in the 1950s before. The general literature has emphasized the role of the Cold War, so I think I'm bringing something new to the discussion by focusing on the role of domestic politics. A lot has also been written about the Moral Majority and the religious right from the '80s onward, and I hope that this can give a little bit of the back story for that, though it's not a perfect correlation.

It's a big, active and bustling field, full of terrific books, and I'm excited to be part of the new conversation. –Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Book Candy

Fault in Our Stars at the MTV Movie Awards

At the MTV Movie Awards last weekend, The Fault in Our Stars actress Shailene Woodley's speech "brought John Green to tears," Buzzfeed reported.  


For book-to-TV adaptation fans, Bustle listed "10 books you'd probably find Outlander's Claire Fraser reading if she snuck into a bookstore in 2015."


"Can you match these homes to the poets that lived in them?" asked the Guardian in its latest quiz.


To help celebrate her recent 99th birthday, Flavorwire showcased "25 beautiful vintage Beverly Cleary book covers."


Francesca Haig, author of The Fire Sermon, chose her "top 10 twins in children's books."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Longbourn

In her 2013 novel Longbourn (Vintage), Jo Baker takes the periphery characters from Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice--the servants who cook, clean and care for the Bennet family--and puts them center stage. Sarah, an orphaned housemaid, is hardly even mentioned by Austen, but she's the protagonist of Longbourn. She spends her days toiling for the Bennets while dreaming of something more. Her world is upended when a mysterious new footman arrives at Longbourn, and a romance begins to blossom.

"It hasn't been very long since this book was a very popular, brand-new hardcover, but now that it's in paperback it should be on everyone's night table," said Carol Spurling, the co-owner of Bookpeople of Moscow in Moscow, Idaho. "Downton Abbey has popularized the upstairs/downstairs genre, but this story stands apart. Longbourn's downstairs is every bit as interesting, or even more so, than the upstairs." --Alex Mutter

Book Review


Whiskey & Charlie

by Annabel Smith

As kids, Charlie and Whiskey learned the NATO phonetic alphabet to communicate with their walkie-talkies. Cleverly structuring her novel with chapters using each of the 26 words, from Alpha to Zulu, Annabel Smith (A New Map of the Universe) tells a story of love, regret and self-discovery.

Identical twins Charlie and Whiskey were inseparable as young boys. But by the time Whiskey is involved in an accident that leaves him comatose, he and Charlie have been estranged for years. Whiskey's prognosis is uncertain, and the longer he remains unconscious, the less likely it is he will ever recover.

While Whiskey lies unresponsive in the hospital bed, Charlie examines how he and his brother grew so emotionally distant. His soul-searching leads him to truths he was unable to acknowledge through his anger and jealousy, but it also leads to a paralyzing remorse--likely he'll never be able to make amends. How will he live with that for the rest of his life?

Alternating between Charlie's perspective of the past and the present, Whiskey & Charlie tickles readers' funny bones with the rebellious childhood antics of Whiskey and the innocent ignorance of Charlie. Smith then steals their hearts with the raw, intimate pain Charlie endures as he awakens from his emotional unconsciousness. Keep the tissues close for Whiskey & Charlie; beautifully written and delivered with a compassionate genuineness, this is a book that touches the soul. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A young man struggles with overwhelming regret when his twin brother ends up in a coma with little chance of survival.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, paperback, 9781492607861

On the Way: Stories

by Cyn Vargas

Cyn Vargas's debut collection, On the Way, is marked by a sense of universal heartbreak and hope. In a dozen stories that quietly and considerately follow the lives of displaced, alienated Central Americans whose lives revolve around immigration, expatriation and escapes, Vargas shows how deeply many of the world's upheavals affect individuals.

In the first story, Selma is barely a teenager when her mother takes her to Guatemala to meet her relatives for the first time. When her mother goes missing, it is only after the family sends Selma back to the U.S. that her willful blindness clears like a storm and she sees, finally, that her mom is gone forever.

In another story, a jaded driving instructor falls in love with his exotic student during a 10-minute driving test. In another, a girl grows up burdened with a truth no one else thought she knew. In the final story, a girl tortured by her dad's absence waits desperately for her mother to come home from work after her dad reappears. Vargas's stories are not connected by character or plot but by an emotional thread that swells beyond the book's sparse style.

Vargas deftly uses a candid, unadorned voice to frame an often unkind world. Her hopeful conclusion in these tales, though, is that nobody is ever truly alone. --Josh Potter

Discover: In this story collection, Central Americans are almost overwhelmed by forces beyond their control.

Curbside Splendor, $14.95, paperback, 9781940430478

Inside the O'Briens

by Lisa Genova

In her fourth novel, Inside the O'Briens, Lisa Genova (Still Alice) introduces a traditional Irish Catholic family who have to cope with a neurological disease.

Over several years, Joe O'Brien, a proud, hardworking Boston cop, has been increasingly irritable and quick to anger, and has trouble concentrating on his paperwork. He starts stumbling and dropping things; there are murmurs of drink or drugs. When they finally see a doctor, the O'Briens learn about Huntington's disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disease that over the course of 10 to 20 years will rob Joe of his ability to move, speak and eat on his own. It's been causing his short temper and confusion. And there's a 50-50 chance that each of his children has it.

Each of these young adults has a decision to make: they can be tested for the gene marker that predicts Huntington's or they can live with uncertainty. The eldest has been trying to conceive; a baby would be at risk, too.

Sympathetic, absorbing, multifaceted characters compel the reader's compassion. While Genova's background in neuroscience allows her to portray medical issues accurately, the heart of the O'Briens' story is human: how each member of the family copes with the news of Joe's pending mortality; whether each child chooses to be tested; how knowing or not knowing guides how they live their lives. Their insular Irish Catholic community is likewise evoked with sensitivity and precision.

Poignant and painful, warm and redemptive, Inside the O'Briens displays Genova's established strengths in bringing neuroscience to the lay reader, and portraying the power of love. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A diagnosis of Huntington's disease shakes a traditional family.

Gallery Books, $26, hardcover, 9781476717777

Martin Marten

by Brian Doyle

Fourteen-year-old Dave is one of the protagonists of Brian Doyle's Martin Marten. He lives with his delightful, precocious six-year-old sister, Maria, and his wise, funny parents in a cabin on an Oregon mountain. Dave prefers to call the mountain Wy'east, which is the name given it by the people who lived there for thousands of years, rather than Hood, "which is what some guy from another country called it."

Also in his adolescence on Wy'east--in the same season that Dave enters high school and tries out for the cross-country team--is Martin, who likewise is exploring his world, venturing farther from home and contemplating separation from his mother, and who will discover the females of his species around the same time that Dave does. A marten is a small, brownish mustelid with a diverse diet and a large territory, and Martin is as individual an example of his species as Dave is of his.

Doyle (Mink River) follows the coming-of-age of these two young males, and to varying degrees examines the lives and struggles of other inhabitants of Wy'east. These include the woman who runs the general store, Dave's family and his best friend Moon, a schoolteacher and the dog who adopts him, a massive elk, an elderly bear and a retired horse, and each of their stories is deep and rich with humor and wisdom. The result is a lushly textured, loving, sensitive and whimsical symposium of trees, insects, birds and beasts. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A rich, wise tale of two creatures from different species whose lives run parallel to each other.

Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250045201

Food & Wine

The Lebanese Cookbook: Delicious and Authentic Recipes from a Top Lebanese Chef

by Hussien Dekmak

Lebanese food is well known in the United Kingdom, where chef Hussien Dekmak lives, and The Lebanese Cookbook makes delicious Lebanese cuisine approachable for home cooks everywhere. With pictures so gorgeous the reader might get sidetracked into ogling instead of cooking, it displays both photographs of the delectable food described and glimpses at the Lebanese way of life.

Lebanese food is generally served up family-style, with lots of dishes and flavorings on the table, allowing guests to make their own meals. So The Lebanese Cookbook is full of recipes that are mostly a cinch to prepare and combine. A few require ingredients available online or in specialized Middle Eastern stores (such as grape leaves, the leafy green Jew's mallow and sumac), but many boast common and easy-to-find ingredients, such as cilantro, cumin, nuts and garlic, assorted legumes, eggplant, fish and lamb. 

Including simple salads such as the salatit malfouf abiad (white cabbage salad), Lebanese classics such as moujadara (lentils and rice with crispy onions) and more time-consuming challenges such as moulokhia bil dajaj (Jew's mallow with chicken), The Lebanese Cookbook offers a variety of recipes that are generally easy enough for even beginner cooks but provides a few challenges for those already familiar with Lebanese cooking.

The cookbook's slim size means it will fit easily on any bookshelf, but its cheerful, bright cover won't let it be forgotten. The Lebanese Cookbook will be a welcome addition to the cooking libraries of home chefs looking to expand their culinary horizons. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A gorgeous cookbook introducing delicious, authentic Lebanese recipes.

Kyle Cathie Limited, $19.95, paperback, 9781909487239

Biography & Memoir

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

by Rebecca Barry

Rebecca Barry assumed that following her dreams would be simple, if not easy: make a plan and stick to it. For Barry and her husband, Tommy, Plan A meant moving to a small town in upstate New York, buying a charming fixer-upper house and earning enough income from their various writing jobs. Barry (Later, at the Bar) wanted to write a novel while paying the bills with freelance magazine assignments; her husband wanted to launch a green-living magazine. In her memoir, Recipes for a Beautiful Life, Barry chronicles their pursuit of this dream, and the messy, uncertain, luminous reality they ended up with instead.

In short, hilarious chapters she calls "journal entries," Barry explores the challenges of pursuing the life she wants. She loves her children, but longs for time away from them; she wants to support her husband's dreams, but is constantly worried about money; she loves living near her parents and sister, but family tensions flare up frequently. Barry's mounting anxiety about her novel doesn't help matters.

As she goes to yoga, tries to meditate or takes refuge in venting to good friends, Barry begins to realize that her Plan B (or C, or D) life may just be beautiful after all. "All our lives are small, really, and it's the smallness that makes them tender and bright," Barry writes. This book will bring a welcome dose of brightness--leavened with acerbic wit--to those who, like Barry, are simply trying to do worthwhile work and care for the people they love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Rebecca Barry offers a wry, insightful memoir about home renovation, life with young children and the slow realization that following your dreams is hard work.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781416593362

Michelle Obama: A Life

by Peter Slevin

In 2011, while discussing the role of First Lady, Michelle Obama noted, "None of us chose the position. You get it because of who you're married to and you don't get a paycheck or a title, but you feel like you want to make the most of it and do some good things." In Washington Post political correspondent Peter Slevin's biography of the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama: A Life, he depicts a determined woman working tirelessly to "do some good things" not only in her official capacity but throughout her life.

Slevin outlines the legacies of Obama's grandparents, who lived in highly segregated, Depression-era Chicago, worked hard and believed that once a person achieves success, she must "reach back and help others as they climb"--a philosophy Michelle Obama espouses. Slevin uses his subject's own words, actions and initiatives, as well as insights from those closest to her, to add color and dimension to his portrait of this tenacious, accomplished woman. Michelle Obama is packed with humorous anecdotes and revealing quotes. Readers experience her trials and tribulations on the campaign trail in 2008 and 2012, then move on to life in the East Wing of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Slevin depicts Obama's foibles and flaws, along with her courage and personal sacrifice, creating a stunning profile of an inspirational role model. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A comprehensive look at the inspiring woman who has made history as the United States' first African American First Lady.

Knopf, $27.95, hardcover, 9780307958822

Men in Green

by Michael Bamberger

Just in time for golf's annual rite of spring, the Masters, comes Men in Green, Michael Bamberger's celebratory, personal meditation on aging and golf. In 2012, while covering the Ryder Cup outside Chicago, Bamberger, a writer for Sports Illustrated, sat down in a restaurant and wrote "Living Legends" and "Secret Legends." He listed nine names under each. The former were all players, while the latter included a club pro, a teaching pro and a tour caddie. Inspired by Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer, Bamberger (The Green Road Home) concocted a plan to try to see each of them.

To accompany him on his road trip, he brings along his good friend Mike Donald (on his second list), famous for his playoff loss to Hale Irwin in the 1990 U.S Open: "Another lunch-bucket pro trying to knock off a legend in the most demanding event in golf."

Jack Nicklaus--Bamberger's golfing hero, the "one I admire most"--talks to them with a casual, genuine intimacy. Bamberger describes the famous 1977 British Open duel between Nicklaus and Tom Watson as "some kind of artwork." He and Donald then travel to Jackson, Miss., seeking out "caddie-yard legend" Dolphus Hull (aka "Golf Ball"), who caddied for Raymond Floyd and two of the great black players, Calvin Peete and Lee Elder. They find Hull in failing health in a nursing home.

Bamberger's book reads like a diary--conversational, funny and easy-going, filled with great golf stories and anecdotes, as well as fine mini-portraits of his Legends. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A thoughtful, wistful, personal story about one man's love of golf and some of the special people who play it at the highest level.

Simon & Schuster, $27, hardcover, 9781476743820


One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

by Kevin Kruse

When asked to provide proof of the claim that the United States is a Christian nation, most people will point to public religious traditions: prayers at presidential inaugurations, the "under God" language in the Pledge of Allegiance, the "In God We Trust" motto. A closer look, however, reveals their roots not in the language of the Founding Fathers, as many believe, but in the push for public religion during Eisenhower's presidency--two terms remarkably influenced by an even earlier movement promoting Christianity, as businessmen and clergymen used the ideology of "freedom under God" to push back against the New Deal.

One Nation Under God "seeks to challenge... assumptions about the basic relationship between religion and politics" in the United States. Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse (White Flight) starts his exploration and analysis of Christian America with the 1930s and that era's influence on Eisenhower's presidency in the 1950s. From there, he examines the many cases for and against prayer and Bible reading in public schools in the 1960s and '70s. Kruse argues that understanding these religious traditions as stemming not from the Founding Fathers, but from a more recent generation, "need not diminish their importance... [but] if they are to mean anything to us now, we should understand what they meant then." This kind of balanced assessment of the facts is characteristic of Kruse's work overall, which strives to offer a careful analysis of all sides as he explores the intersection of religion and politics throughout the 20th century--no small feat given the polarized debate about it in 21st-century America. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A detailed history of the roots of the campaign arguing that the United States is a Christian nation.

Basic Books, $29.99, hardcover, 9780465049493

Current Events & Issues

It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia and Winning True Equality

by Michelangelo Signorile

SiriusXM Radio host and longtime gay political journalist Michelangelo Signorile warns the LGBT community in It's Not Over not to fall prey to "victory blindness" (i.e., complacency and apathy) after some great strides forward in gay rights. The 2011 repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allows gays and lesbians now to serve openly in the U.S. military, and when the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in 2013, gay and lesbian couples gained legal rights as spouses. But, at the same time, violence against LGBT people has surged, and although LGBT teens are less than 10% of the teen population, they account for between 30% and 40% of teen suicides.

Signorile (Queer in America; Hitting Hard) reminds readers that the same victory blindness occurred in the women's movement--triumphs in women's rights in the 1980s were undermined a decade later with setbacks on such issues as abortion rights and the ERA. Signorile believes that, along with complacency, internalized homophobia also makes many gays and lesbians fearful of rocking the boat instead of pushing further for full equality.

Signorile's chronicle of the ongoing struggle for gay rights surveys Washington, D.C. (criticizing some top gay organizations that don't fight hard so as to maintain access), the entertainment industry (where even an out gay director tells young actors to stay in the closet) and state battlegrounds (where opponents to equality are rebranding themselves and recalibrating).

This persuasive and impassioned manifesto is filled with illuminating anecdotes and facts. It ends with a rousing seven-step call to action to stop accepting mere "tolerance" and push for full civil rights. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: A fiery, compelling reminder that full civil rights for LGBT people still requires action that includes an empowering map for the future.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, hardcover, 9780544381001

Children's & Young Adult

The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each Other)

by Geoff Rodkey

Geoff Rodkey (The Chronicles of Egg) delivers an engaging mash-up of history, gaming, social media and family dynamics in this launch of a planned four-book series starring 12-year-old twins Claudia and Reese Tapper.

Claudia, the more academically minded of the twins, explains in the prologue that "Wars are terrible things. I know this because I've read about a lot of them on Wikipedia." The book serves as Claudia's oral history about "the war" with Reese. Rodkey sets up the narrative like a screenplay, and events unfold through the voices of the twins themselves. The innovative format also includes photos and screenshots, and text messages between the twins' two working parents. These juxtapositions allow for a great deal of humor, as readers fill in the gaps between the various--sometimes contradictory--points of view. Claudia offers nuggets about real war history--e.g., a photo of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which she likens to the "sneak attack" start of her "war" with Reese. Reese--who's not malicious, just a bit focused on other things, like his online gaming--dismisses Claudia's characterization: "[I]t's not like anybody died," says he. "Except on my MetaWorld account." As tensions escalate between the twins, online paybacks result in unintended consequences.

Rodkey's format results in a multi-layered, complex exploration of families, school and social mores. The antics fall away to reveal a more serious side to pranks gone awry. Beneath it all, the author reveals the underlying affection between Claudia and Reese, and a credible, likable family. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Claudia and Reese Tapper, very different 12-year-old twins, star in an engaging mash-up of history, gaming, social media and family dynamics.

Little, Brown, $13.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 8-12, 9780316297790

Moving Blocks

by Yusuke Yonezu

Illustrations of primary and secondary colored blocks in geometric shapes teach toddlers about the possibilities of play and imagination.

A child gets the answer to the question posed on every spread by turning the page; a die-cut opening reveals the answer. "What are you building? What can it be?" appears on a two-page spread of what resembles a puzzle. Small red squares, yellow rectangles and blue circles in thick black outlines appear within the white frame of the double-page spread. With a turn of the page, children learn "It's a car." Sound effects ("Beep, beep!") provide an additional clue. The image of a vehicle, camouflaged on the previous page by the surrounding blocks, now appears starkly outlined against a white background. Children will flip the page back and forth to see how the die-cut in the page at first hides the car, then reveals it. A bus, a train, a ship, a plane and an out-of-this-world surprise all take shape through Yusuke Yonezu's (Yum Yum) deceptively simple configurations of triangles, rectangles and circles.

Yonezu leaves children with a question--"What else can you build?"--reinforcing the idea that imagination is infinite, and the possibilities for play endless. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An ingenious visual puzzle of a board book that will send toddlers to their blocks to create their own inventions.

Minedition, $11.99, board books, 26p., ages 2-5, 9789888240708

Powered by: Xtenit