Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 6, 2015

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

From My Shelf

Veterans Day: My Father's Book

Each year when Veterans Day approaches, I think again of my father, who landed at Utah Beach two months after D-Day with the 243rd Field Artillery Battalion and died in 1971, taking his memories with him. He wasn't much of a reader, but there is one book that connects me to that hardworking kid from a small Vermont town who shipped out for England when he was 23.

Battle Diary: The 243rd Field Artillery Battalion in World War Two by Frank Smith was self-published in 1946, and a copy sent to everyone in the battalion. It is really no more than an edited version of daily after action reports, though I've read and re-read it over the years. My father didn't talk about his war, but in Battle Diary I follow his shadow as he moves across France to the Rhine.

When I first read Battle Diary many years ago, I approached cautiously, at first assuming it was the enemy, then surprised gradually to discover an ally. I didn't read it as Captain Smith had intended, but more as a fogged window with an obscure view of the past that might yield hints of my father's mysterious life at this precise moment in his, and the world's, history. Something beyond his name and address, which are on a list in the appendix. That's what a book can do.

In this brief piece, I've consciously resisted the temptation to cobble together a Veterans Day reading list--too many vets, too many wars, too many books. I will, however, end by recommending just a few titles that have resonated with me in recent years: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes; After the Flag Has Been Folded by Karen Spears Zacharias; Brian Turner's memoir My Life as a Foreign Country and poetry collection Here, Bullet; Those Who Remain by Ruth W. Crocker and David Abrams's Fobbit.

We all commemorate Veterans Day in our own ways. I do so by remembering my father and his book. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

Sleeping Bear Press: When You Go Into Nature by Sheri M Bestor, Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The Writer's Life

Kate Gavino: Bookstores Are a Second Home

photo: Dustin Coates

Kate Gavino moved to New York City seven years ago to attend the Pratt Institute, where she studied Creative Writing. After graduating, she worked in publishing, and began to attend author readings regularly. In 2013, she started, where she began posting the illustrated chronicles of her bookstore adventures; she has now compiled them into Last Night's Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors (Penguin Books, $16 paperback). When not busy writing, drawing and attending readings, Gavino works for the Brooklyn Public Library.

Did you have any goals for the Last Night's Reading blog when you first started it? Are you surprised that it's come this far?

I didn't have many expectations when I started the blog. One of the main reasons I started it was to get over my fear of posting my art publicly. Because I went to art school but also studied creative writing, I had always considered myself a writer before an artist but I had always drawn, too. This my way of practicing my drawing, as well as just showing my love for the authors I was seeing. But I didn't have any goals beyond that. I definitely never thought about turning my blog into a book, but after it started becoming more popular, someone at Penguin reached out to me and asked me if I would consider it. And I was fortunate enough to work with an editor who really gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted with the book. So I was able to turn it into kind of a narrative about why I go to readings, why I love bookstores so much--that was a lot of fun. Something I'd never really expected!

Many book lovers seek out readings by favorite authors, but your passion for them is clearly beyond that. How did you become someone who has been to so many author readings that you've now published a book about it?

I've gone to readings regularly since I moved to New York. After graduating from Pratt, I worked in trade publishing for a few years, and while I was doing that I obviously went to a lot of readings. They're usually free, and there were a lot of authors I loved, and I would just sit in the back and doodle pictures. After I finish a book I love, I have a habit of gobbling up every review and interview about it I can find, and seeing an author in person is an extension of that. It adds another dimension to the solitary reading experience--being in a bookstore with a group of like-minded readers. So many authors come to New York, which is how I've ended up going to so many. By now, it's like a ritual: I'm familiar with all the bookstores, I have my favorite places to sit, I see a lot of the same people in the audience. It's comforting.

Are you going to do readings for Last Night's Reading?

Yeah, they have a book tour planned for me. I'm quite excited!

What are your criteria for choosing a reading to attend?

I go to readings of authors I've read, but I also check out new ones who interest me. I read pretty widely, so I'm also fascinated by specific subsets of readers. Romance readers always have great wine or champagne; Stephen King fans have prolific knowledge of his entire body of work; and I love the infectious enthusiasm of sci-fi and YA fans.

Do you consider yourself part of any particular fandom? Is there a group of readers who are really "your people?"

I can't think of any fandom in particular that I really see myself as a part of, but I do read widely, so I can find my own part in a lot of the groups I mentioned. I think that's why I love readings so much--I can always find something that interests me.

I take notes and sketch throughout the reading, and I often record longer events on my phone in case I miss anything. I draw the final portrait when I get home, after I've looked over all my notes and doodles from the night.

Tumblr has many fandom communities, which tend to be slightly younger, and you have a quote from Neil Gaiman--a big deal to that audience. Have you had much interaction with that world directly?

There's a lot of crossover between fandom and YA, so the YA authors I post usually get a pretty big response, like John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

Do you think the YA culture is changing the makeup of literary audiences?

I think there've always been individual authors who have a huge audience, but I think it's changed the way that people interact about the books they love. Tumblr is such a great place to find people who like the same books that you do, in a way that you couldn't before the Internet. It builds a super strong sense of community that may not have existed before, which I think is important to building all the enthusiasm for books and authors.

How do you feel about the idea of authors as celebrities? Do you feel there is a fundamental difference between a high-profile writer and, say, a famous musician or actor?
In a way, I started my blog because I see authors as celebrities. I'd freak out more over seeing Donna Tartt than a movie star. But most writers, even particularly famous ones, do get to keep a sense of anonymity, which is important for being a good observer. I've been to great readings by authors who are charismatic extroverts or low-key introverts, but the thing they all seem to have in common is that they're perceptive observers.

Readings can be anything from hundreds of people packed into a major theater to an audience of two awkwardly drinking cheap wine in folding chairs. Do you have a favorite place to attend readings? A favorite type of author event?

I like independent bookstores because you can always see how much thought goes into these events, from the authors they choose to the arrangement of the chairs to the artful stacking of books. I consider bookstores my second home.

Has an author ever totally surprised you? Was there anyone who turned out to be completely unlike the version of them you had in your head?

I don't read a ton of poetry, but I occasionally see poets who I've heard of before or who seem interesting. I never fully appreciated the form until I started going to readings regularly and heard poetry read out loud. The past few readings I can recall that have deeply affected me have all been by poets: Elizabeth Alexander, Tracy K. Smith and Rita Dove.

When can we expect the next Kate Gavino book, and will it be more of the same?

I've been very busy working on promotional stuff now that the book is finished, but I am working on a graphic novel right now. It's still in the very early stages. --Emma Page

Book Candy

Word of the Year; Fictional Addresses

"Binge-watch" was named word of the year by Collins, where lexicographers "monitor word usage across all media," the Guardian reported.


Pop quiz: "Do you know these literary addresses?" asked the Reading Room.


Watch LeVar Burton demonstrate "problems only book lovers understand."


Literary fashion tip: Quirk Books "rounded up some well-known scarves that have graced the necklines of favorite fictional characters."


"How to judge a person by their subway read." Bustle shares "what you can find out about a person based on their choice of literature for the commute."

Book Review


Slade House

by David Mitchell

David Mitchell, well known for strange and distinct novels like The Bone Clocks, offers Slade House as a story of a haunting. The book's brevity may invite comparisons with Henry James's classic novella The Turn of the Screw, but its cyclical, time-hopping, plot-dense structure is pure David Mitchell.

The story begins in 1979, as a possibly autistic boy named Nathan accompanies his mother to a strange house filled with upper-crust English partygoers. Their visit takes a turn for the worse as the house starts to reveal its surreal nature, and Nathan eventually finds himself introduced to the (literally) soul-sucking twins who serve as the antagonists in the novel. Four more chapters introduce four new main characters to the house and its constantly morphing inhabitants at an interval of nine years. Slade House finds its horror in the plot's repetition, summoning up a helpless feeling of inevitability fended off only by its slight variations in each chapter and Mitchell's devilish wit.

Each new character becomes well rounded and familiar in a short amount of time thanks to Mitchell's fantastically nimble first-person narration. Mitchell is the rare kind of genius who can insert what amounts to a thesis statement into the mouth of a character without violating that character's integrity. It's exactly the sort of neat trick that Mitchell fans have been raving about for years, and with good reason. Cliché or no, Slade House reinforces the notion that there really is no one out there like David Mitchell. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Slade House is David Mitchell's snack-sized take on the haunted house genre.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9780812998689

Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit

by Jessica Tom

In Jessica Tom's first novel, Food Whore, her experience as a restaurant reviewer for the Yale Daily News Magazine and her work with food truck, restaurant and culinary program initiatives is put to good use. The story revolves around Tia Monroe, who finds herself working as a coat checker at Madison Park Tavern, a position that doesn't fit her true desire to be known for food writing. One of her essays, however, on making a special kind of cookie for her ailing grandfather, lands her a feature story in the New York Times. Through a twist of fate, Tia collides with Michael Stalz, a Times restaurant critic, who confides to her that he's lost his sense of taste. He decides to hire Tia to taste the food for him and become his ghostwriter.

Gourmet food descriptions--"The waiter returned with a pre-appetizer amuse-bouche, a soup spoon filled with diced radishes, shortbread crumbs, and a black pepper gastrique"--and the haute couture fashion scene of New York City are deliciously blended into a story of intrigue and double cross. Tom obviously knows her way around the kitchens and high-fashion stores of New York City--her writing has a knife-edged precision to it. She understands the complexity and psychology behind the creations her imaginary chefs produce, as well as the inner desires and fears women experience as they navigate the fine line between being true to themselves and projecting an air of power and sexiness to those who matter in the fine dining world. If book reviews gave out Michelin stars, Food Whore would rate three stars. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An aspiring food writer agrees to be the secret taste tester for a New York Times restaurant critic.

Morrow, $14.99, paperback, 9780062387004

The Early Stories of Truman Capote

by Truman Capote

The Early Stories of Truman Capote contains 14 stories, most previously unpublished, written in Capote's teens and 20s, and only recently unearthed among his papers in the New York Public Library archives. Presented with a foreword by Hilton Als of the New Yorker, these are short pieces, studies of subjects Capote would continue to favor in the later works for which he is known: sensitive young children, fractious ladies, the poor and the disenfranchised. They are set in the Deep South, in New York City, in swamps and in small towns.

The talents of the author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany are evident in this early work. His descriptions are simple but strongly evocative: "curly, wig-like grey hair" and eyes "bright, like bubbles of blue glass." His characters tend to be laconic but expressive, with interjections speaking as loudly as words. In "Swamp Terror," a boy chases a convict into the woods and gets a bigger taste of adulthood than he bargained for. In "Louise," a schoolgirl lets her petty jealousies do irreparable harm. "Traffic West" presents a remarkable collection of characters and events, in experimental form. In other stories, a young boy finds the dog of his dreams in a park, but the dog belongs to another child; and two wives muse on the hypothetical murder of their husbands.

These easy-reading, alternately amusing and haunting stories offer a fresh, new glimpse of Capote's genius, and simultaneously feel intimately familiar. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: These previously unpublished stories written in Truman Capote's youth are instantly recognizable.

Random House, $25, hardcover, 9780812998221

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne Valente's epic space odyssey Radiance bears resemblance to many a story of adventure, danger and voyages far from home: it centers on a beautiful woman. At the dawn of movies and interplanetary travel, the blue-skinned, mercurial Severin Unck is a beloved director, partner and daughter, and her disappearance during a shoot in a Venusian village is the spark that propels this novel into its suspenseful terrain.

Before the first sentence, Valente (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) establishes a 100-year alternate-history timeline--from the first ship bound for space to Severin's father's attempts to eulogize his daughter in the 1960s. The deliberateness with which she navigates bloodlines, locations and films evokes García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, as does the prose, with lushness occasionally bordering on the flowery. Still, every character is enchanting, even minor players like aging soap opera star Violet El-Hashem. The empathetic cast ensures that the reader cares about more than just stars, both literal and cinematic; a subplot about whale-like beasts speared to extract callowmilk, which enables humans to live outside Earth, imbues the story with gravity other epics lack.

Dig through layers of talkies, love affairs and trips across the galaxy, and Radiance's pulse is its meditation on the stories we tell: Is anyone really the author of their own fate? Is there such thing as an ending, or even a clean beginning? When it comes to something this beautifully made, it's hard to protest when one story inevitably ebbs into another. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: In this alternate-history galaxy, the silver age of film and the human settlement of other planets dawn side by side.

Tor, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765335296

Food & Wine

Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing

by Sandra M. Gilbert and Roger J. Porter, editors

"Nature," said Plutarch, "disavows our eating of flesh." "Man," wrote Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, " omnivorous." "Eating is an agricultural act," says Wendell Berry. "The first spoonful of panna cotta is so startling," Diana Abu-Jaber recalls, "I want to laugh or sing or confess my sins. It tastes of sweetness and cream and even of the tiny early flowers the cows have eaten to make the cream."

The rich literature of passionate emotions, experiences and opinions about food is well represented in the new Norton anthology, Eating Words, edited by English professors Sandra M. Gilbert (The Culinary Imagination) and Roger J. Porter (Bureau of Missing Persons). Most of the writings sampled are from the 19th and 20th centuries, though 11 earlier ones go back as far as Leviticus.

Eating Words collects short works and excerpts of longer works, each with an informative headnote by the editors. Common themes include the pleasure of eating, the labor and enjoyment of cooking, and the emotional power of food. Authors argue for and against all kinds of dietary theories and practices. Others consider revulsion, privilege, poison, taboos or cannibalism. Some pieces focus on a single food or an extraordinary meal, as in Seamus Heaney's poem on eating oysters: "Our shells clacked on the plates,/ My tongue was a filling estuary,/ My palate hung with starlight." The breadth and depth of this anthology and the quality of the writing should appeal to anyone interested in food and its culture through the centuries. --Sara Catterall

Discover: In this rich collection, great writers past and present contribute their thoughts on food and cooking.

W.W. Norton, $35, hardcover, 9780393239843

V Is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks--from Artichokes to Zucchini

by Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony's inspiration behind V Is for Vegetables is found in the opening lines: "And here's what I believe: I celebrate local foods grown close to home; I like to share the backstory of the foods I cook, the people who grew them, where they're grown, and how they got to our kitchens." Although Anthony (executive chef at restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Untitled, and author of The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook) is a James Beard Award-winning chef, the recipes he presents in this cookbook are designed for all levels of ability "to share, not to show off."

As the title implies, Anthony's offerings are presented by ingredient, in alphabetical order, and highlight produce (vegetables, fruit, fungus, herbs and legumes). Anthony knows that in our meat-centric society, creating entrees out of vegetables can be daunting, so each ingredient is presented with identifying photographs, suggestions for preparation, and then recipes that showcase the ingredient, like Whole Stuffed Artichokes, Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Sunny-Side-Up Eggs, Carrot (or Chilled Corn) Soup with Coconut Milk, Braised Leeks & Yellow Lentils with Anchovy Dressing, Ramps and Spaghetti, and Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Sun Gold Tomato Sauce. The section on Herbs includes Parsley with Brown Butter Croutons, Chimichurri on Steak and Chive Matzoh Brei. While many of the vegetables are familiar (corn, iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.), produce that could be intimidating to inexperienced cooks (artichokes, daikon, Jerusalem artichokes, rutabaga) are tamed with Anthony's clear explanations and tantalizing photographs. By the end, the entire alphabet is represented in a cornucopia of technicolor glory. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Famed chef Michael Anthony offers "a celebration of vegetables in their greatest glory."

Little, Brown, $40, hardcover, 9780316373357

Biography & Memoir

My Life on the Road

by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem, founder of New York and Ms. magazines and many women's organizations and a noted leader of the women's movement, shares her stories from along the way in My Life on the Road. As she sees it in hindsight, Steinem inherited a love for constant motion from her father, who lived for most of her life out of his car, with little Gloria keeping him company for her first 10 years. As a young woman not ready to settle down to marriage and motherhood, and then as an organizer, she kept moving. One chapter is dedicated to her choice to travel communally rather than use an automobile of her own, because it offers increased opportunities for contact.

My Life on the Road is not a history of the women's movement, although of course it contains many references to that history, as well as to the U.S. political climate and events of the second half of the 20th century. Instead, Steinem's memoir is a glimpse into one remarkable woman's life and philosophies of the road. It includes profiles of Steinem's immediate family and friends like Bella Abzug, Wilma Mankiller and Florynce Kennedy, and briefly addresses the conflict between Steinem and Betty Friedan. Steinem's writing style is personal, warm, approachable and straightforward. Her fans will be satisfied by this personal view, one that combines a love for people and places and stories and change with a love for movements--in both senses. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Gloria Steinem's memoir is rich with personal anecdote, political history and a fervent love for living on the go.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 9780679456209

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

by Carrie Brownstein

As one third of the '90s alt-rock staple Sleater-Kinney and half of the creative team behind the hit show Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein has been a respected, if under the radar, force in pop culture for the last 20 years. On the heels of Sleater-Kinney's reunion, she's turned her sizable talents to autobiography. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl documents Brownstein's adolescence through the formation, then dissolution, of Sleater-Kinney, exploring her parents' broken marriage, her father's homosexuality and her own identity (sexual and otherwise). It also charts the rise of a rock band from the inside, eschewing typical stories of bacchanalia and artistic triumph in order to focus on how tough it is to create art, then tour across the world promoting it.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is best when discussing music, whether that's the genesis of some of Sleater-Kinney's songs or Brownstein's interest in Madonna at an early age. She brilliantly illustrates her working relationship with bandmates Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss, describing how her and Tucker's guitars work in unison and how Weiss's distinctive drumming grounds their sound. Readers can easily pick up a Sleater-Kinney album and understand exactly what Brownstein describes. The book is knowledgeable without being technical, and one does not need to know Brownstein's music to appreciate it. Unfortunately, not all of her writing works so well. Particularly when describing herself, she has a tendency to overwrite, providing three metaphors or adjectives when one would do. Still, even with some stylistic missteps, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is an enlightening window into Brownstein's history and creative output. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Carrie Brownstein offers insights into the creative beginnings of Sleater-Kinney and the minds behind the hit show Portlandia.

Riverhead Books, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594486630


The First World War: Unseen Glass Plate Photographs of the Western Front

by Carl De Keyzer and David Van Reybrouck, editors

"Can the First World War still disturb us? Can a war that has been caught in pictures still affect us, dislocate us?" asks historian David Van Reybrouck in his introduction to The First World War: Unseen Glass Plate Photographs of the Western Front. This collection of 100 images, taken in Belgium and France during and shortly after World War I, answers with an unequivocal yes.

Glass plates do not suffer the same decay of detail inflicted on aging prints. Thus, with some minor restoration by Carl De Keyzer, the photographs in The First World War have, considering their age, an almost unreal clarity. Even details the photographers themselves meant to omit, like workers herded to the far edges of staged factory photos, or helpers holding up dead Belgian soldiers for identification, become visible on these massive pages. Many of the images are in color thanks to the autochrome process, in which glass plates were coated with potato starch. But, as Reybrouck writes, "the battlefields themselves remain monochrome, even in color."

For a collection chronicling an infamously bloody war, surprisingly few of the images are grisly. There are scenes with dead bodies--splayed in shell holes, posed for pictures, even a horse being autopsied--but the most dramatic photos show little violence: an armless veteran selling souvenirs in the ruins of Ypres, a soldier's wife and child beside his deathbed in an American hospital, French children staging mock executions. These pictures bring the war into the modern day, erasing the 100-year gap that disconnects us from historical horrors. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Restoration yields a breathtaking collection of photographs from World War I.

University of Chicago Press, $65, hardcover, 9780226284286

Essays & Criticism

The Uncollected David Rakoff

by David Rakoff; edited by Timothy G. Young

Essayist, actor, humorist and frequent contributor to This American Life, David Rakoff (Half Empty) died in 2012, at age 47, after a public, on-again, off-again struggle with lymphatic cancer. But "what a fabulous accessory," he thinks after coaxing a beautiful man at a party to feel the pea-sized lump in his neck. In "My Sister of Perpetual Mercy," which opens The Uncollected David Rakoff, he is just 20 years old, working for a publisher in Tokyo, and must return home to Canada, where there await family, doctors, chemo treatment and the long journey toward recovery--none of it tolerable without the patience and care of his sister, Ruth.

Timothy G. Young has collected playful, friendly and touching essays Rakoff wrote over the years. In "The Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name," written for Salon, Rakoff drolly queers the text of Stuart Little by suggesting that the boy who looked like a mouse seemed "somewhat like myself, pretty gay," with his tiny costumes and props, feeble and ill-fated love affairs, and iconic work as a sailor. Amid the heaping irreverence, the catharsis of the essay offers a tender look at what it can be like to grow up different.

Rakoff's strength has always been his sincere blend of humor and pathos, on brilliant display in his short novel Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, which is reproduced in its entirety here.

A heterogeneous collection of essays, journal entries, blog posts, radio transcripts and fiction, The Uncollected David Rakoff presents a full, shining complement from a jack of many trades. It's hard to accept that it will be the last. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Humorist David Rakoff's miscellaneous pieces and interviews are finally corralled into one fine, posthumous volume.

Anchor, $15.95, paperback, 9780307946478

Children's & Young Adult

The Lightning Queen

by Laura Resau

Sparks fly when cultures collide in the fantastical, cross-generational novel The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau (Star in the Forest).

In the 1950s, on the Hill of Dust in rural Mexico, life takes an unexpected turn when a Roman--"Gypsy"--caravan rolls in. Enchanted by these colorful strangers, the Mixteco Indian villagers welcome the Romani and their "Traveling Cinema." Eleven-year old Teo is mourning his twin sister's death, but a girl who calls herself Esma, Gypsy Queen of Lightning, jolts the boy out of his grief. She crackles with the lightning she claims struck her--and Teo can feel it. Esma's grandmother Roza, the Mistress of Destiny, foretells that Teo and Esma will be loyal friends for life--and ultimately will save each other--but it's a longshot. Esma's people are nomadic, and her culture forbids friendship between boys and girls. Despite the odds, the unlikely pair sets out to prove that nothing is impossible. Bold Esme, who dreams of being a famous singer, is as determined as "the head of a lion" and Teo, a natural healer and friend to injured animals, lifts others up like "the wings of a bird." When the narrative shifts to the 21st century, an elderly Teo recounts their story for his grandson Mateo from Maryland, and it becomes clear the younger generation still has a role to play in Teo and Esma's destiny.

A celebration of culture and history, The Lightning Queen is a heartwarming, lyrical and inspiring tale of love, redemption and overcoming adversity. --Kyla Paterno, reviewer

Discover: A Mixtecan boy and Romani girl learn they are destined to be lifelong friends in this moving novel--the perfect blend of magic and realism--set in rural Mexico.

Scholastic Press, $16.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 8-12, 9780545800846

Space Dog

by Mini Grey

"Can sworn enemies work together to save the Spooniverse?" asks the cover of Space Dog. Yes, yes they can, in this giddy and hopeful outer-space adventure by British author-illustrator Mini Grey (Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, Toys in Space, Hermelin: The Detective Mouse).

It's the year 3043 and it's time for Space Dog to go home after "a long mission sorting out planetary problems in the Dairy Quadrant," such as moving milk from a flooding planet to the dry and crunchy Cornflake 5. (Thanks, Straw People!) Just as Space Dog is safely back on the SS Kennel, he gets a distress call. A space ship has crashed into thick cream, but when he rescues the victim, it's a dreaded Astrocat! Astrocat takes a moment off from drowning to point out that Astrocats and Space Dogs are sworn enemies, but Space Dog says, "But there's no time for that now!" Aboard the ship, Astrocat and Space Dog get along swimmingly, playing Dogopoly and eating cake, until they get a call for help. It's coming from a planet that's "collapsing under the weight of its own cheesiness." And it's coming from a Moustronaut, yet another sworn enemy. They do the right thing, and in the end, the three adventurers set their controls for the "Unknown Zone" where they can all be "sworn friends."

Fans of Grey's Traction Man series will recognize the artful, turbo-charged spreads that explode with comic strip-style panels, expressive characters, hilarious cartoon-bubble asides, and so many details to chuckle over that repeat readings are required. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Mini Grey takes Space Dog to the skies where he joins forces with his once-sworn enemies--the Astrocats and the Moustronauts--to save the Spooniverse.

Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780553510584

How Machines Work: Zoo Break!

by David Macaulay

Necessity is the mother of invention... and sleepy Sloth and little Sengi, an elephant shrew, need to escape the confines of their zoo enclosure. The furry friends construct various scrappy but clever escape contraptions in this funny, interactive book by Caldecott artist David Macaulay (Black and White; The New Way Things Work).

How Machines Work: Zoo Break! lucidly explains the workings of simple machines in a delightfully elaborate way. Readers can peer into the clear plastic window of the cover itself and see a tunneling gear mechanism, then turn the gear to make the sloth go up and down. The first spread explores the efficiency of an inclined plane, as Sloth and Sengi stack a bunch of junk up against the zoo fence as a makeshift escape ramp. It might have worked, if Sengi's tail hadn't twitched, causing the napping sloth to swat him, causing the ramp to collapse! (A pop-up section reveals an angry zookeeper--he has to clean it up.) Each spread is a colorful visual feast of Macaulay's appealing pen-and-ink drawings, with insights into wedges, zippers, seesaws, catapults, levers, wheels, pulleys, cranes and more--all infused with the comical antics of Sloth and Sengi and at least one interactive element. Endearingly shameless puns abound, from "Living on the Wedge" to "A Wheely Bad Idea." Some of the escape attempts are quite nerve-wracking, such as when they try to pull down the fence using an upside-down cart, and the fence lands on Sengi.

This ingenious, entertaining, sturdily built book is sure to get the wheels turning for young engineers-in-the-works. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: David Macaulay explains the mechanics of simple machines--and Sloth and Sengi escape the zoo!--in this gear-turning, pop-up, lift-the-flap extravaganza.

DK, $19.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 7-10, 9781465440129


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Dragon Kings! I'm thrilled to bring you DRAGON KISS. The world of the Dragon Kings keeps expanding, and this story brings us Alasdair and Lotti, a powerful couple who have overcome all odds to find love. But a deadly enemy intends to rip them apart.

I can't wait for you to fall in love with Alasdair and Lotti as I have.


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Dragon Kiss (A Dragon Kings Novella) by Donna Grant

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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