Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mariner Books: Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real about the End by Alua Arthur

From My Shelf

Children's Books: Yellow Time

Those who read for a living often encounter certain words, themes or subjects that pop up repeatedly in a publishing year. About a decade back, I had an eerie number of run-ins with the word "chrysanthemum." In 2016, I've seen multiple children's books on Ada Lovelace, eggs, squirrels, squids, and playing hide-and-go-seek with elephants. Recently, while sifting through stacks of Nutcracker collectibles and YA books about death, I spotted another micro-trend in picture books: the color yellow.

Yellow Time (Beach Lane /S&S) by Lauren Stringer is a joyfully illustrated, lyrical picture book about the fleeting days before the wind blows the fall leaves into a "symphony of yellow." It begins, "The squirrels are too busy to notice./ And the geese have already gone./ Other birds have left, too,/ but not the crows./ Crows love yellow time." Yellow Time is a celebration of autumnal leaves, captured in swirling watercolor and acrylic paintings of children and other busy creatures.

The Moon Inside (Groundwood) by Sandra V. Feder, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro, is a cozy bedtime book about a little girl named Ella who is afraid of the dark. She says, "The sun makes me happy. Yellow is my favorite color." One lovely evening, when Ella's mother takes her daughter outside, she realizes the golden moon is her favorite color, too, "only quieter." Sicuro's stylish gouache and ink artwork, at first awash in daytime yellows, deepens and darkens with the setting of the sun.

The yellow is dandelion-yellow in Samson in the Snow (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook) by Philip C. Stead. When Samson, woolly mammoth and dandelion gardener, wakes up to a snow-buried world, his beloved yellow flowers help him locate and rescue a little red bird in danger. Stead creates a lonely, yearning mood in richly textured prints and friendly pencil sketches.
--Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Sleeping Bear Press: A Kurta to Remember by Gauri Dalvi Pandya, Illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Leonard Marcus

photo: Elena Seibert

Leonard S. Marcus is a writer and lecturer about children's books and the people who create them. He was born and raised in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and holds degrees in history from Yale and poetry from the University of Iowa Graduate Writers' Workshop. His award-winning books include Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; Golden Legacy and The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Weston Woods has released a video based on his illustrated biography Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing. Candlewick will publish his next interview collection, Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box (September 27, 2016).

On your nightstand now:

The stack of books by my desk is more like it. Dear Life by Alice Munro, for her fine eye for detail and mastery of tone. The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth: a Viennese Jewish journalist's observations of daily life during the powder-keg years between the First and Second World Wars. Roth, a miniaturist, was in effect writing the obituary of a fabulous culture that was about to perish. Theodore Roosevelt in the Field by Michael R. Canfield, because Roosevelt was an ornithological child prodigy and our most literary president, which makes him a rare bird worth reading--and writing--about. El Deafo by Cece Bell, because I am completely smitten with the graphic novel as a mixed-media narrative form.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Laddie and the Little Rabbit was my first favorite book. It's an obscure Little Golden Book from 1952 with photographic illustrations by William Gottlieb. The brother and sister in the photos have a pet rabbit and a pet springer spaniel, and I had neither. I would dream about the pictures and project myself into them, just like Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr. Many years later I met Gottlieb's widow and learned that he had made his living primarily by photographing jazz musicians. Look at any photo of Billie Holiday or the young Louis Armstrong. Chances are, it's by him.

Your top five authors:

E.B. White, Elizabeth Bishop, Margaret Wise Brown, Graham Greene, Michel de Montaigne. Masters of clarity, arch-enemies of cant.

Book you've faked reading:

As an eighth grader, I enrolled in an after-school speed reading course and applied what I learned to one of the novels on the English class syllabus that year, A Passage to India. I read E.M. Forster's book so quickly that I missed one of the three main characters altogether. As you might imagine, I did not do well on the exam that followed. My poor performance came as such a surprise to my teacher that she pulled me aside after class on the day our exams were returned and asked in a concerned voice if I was having "problems at home." "No," I replied, "I've been taking speed reading." She urged me to go back to my old reading method, and I did.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I would say just about any book illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. The Provensens' books are funny, urbane, unpretentious, toweringly ambitious, elegant, nuanced and down-to-earth. The Glorious Flight, which won the 1984 Caldecott Medal, is one of the easier ones to find. But what about their Shaker Lane? Or their The Iliad and the Odyssey? Or Alice's solo The Buck Stops Here? The Provensens kept reinventing themselves, and much of what they did is perfect of its kind.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Maira Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty. The title did not especially grab me but the cover image made me feel I needed the book. The elegant figure in black is shown in a skater's pose but is more likely just slipping and sliding on very thin ice. Is something terrible, or ridiculous, about to happen? It's a beguiling blend of Franz Kafka and Charlie Chaplin.

Book you hid from your parents:

Summerhill by A.S. Neill. I was about 14 when I read this memoir by the founder of a British experimental boarding school that still exists. Neill let young people shape their own educations and defined education much more broadly than usual to include emotional development and sexuality, among other tricky subjects. I was bowled over that an adult could be so radically non-prescriptive and supportive, and in that regard so different from my parents. This was not a book to be left casually on the breakfast nook table.

Book that changed your life:

Goodnight Moon. I was about 28 when I happened to read it for the first time in a bookstore one evening. (It seems I have always read below my age level!) When Margaret Wise Brown's picture book sent a chill up my spine--as Emily Dickinson said only a real poem would--I was intrigued, and the timing could not have been better. I had a boring day job and was looking for a project with which to jumpstart a writing career. I had done an independent history project at college on early American children's books, was currently writing poetry, and had always read biographies. That evening I decided to look into the possibility of writing a biography of the poet I had just stumbled upon--a real poet for children. Writing Awakened by the Moon, my book about the author of Goodnight Moon, took 10 years but it opened every door to the work I have done since--books, interviews, articles, exhibitions, all of it.

Favorite line from a book:

A line that I have enjoyed quoting for friends, and which I find applies to a great many situations, comes from Departures, a book of poems by Donald Justice: "After the overture, the opera seemed brief." Another favorite line is from a book by John Cage. It goes something like this: "If you don't know what to do next, do something boring and ideas will flock to you like birds."

Five books you'll never part with:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (nothing works better to clear my head); my copy of I Saw Esau signed by Iona Opie and Maurice Sendak (two heroes in one); Barbara Bader's American Picturebooks from Noah's Ark to The Beast Within (I refer to it so often that I think I really would miss not having it around). This is very hard, though I seem to have a few thousand books that I have not been able to part with so far.... 

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

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I have always loved the way Lewis Carroll toys with logic and upends language, using both as though they were his own inventions. When I read Alice for the first time, at maybe 12, I had the thrilling feeling of being taken to the extreme edge of what words--and pictures--could do. The only comparable experience I have had was my first time in New York City, which has never stopped seeming magical to me in pretty much the same way.

Book Candy

Teachable Lines from Pride and Prejudice

The Independent offered "10 of the best lines from Pride and Prejudice and what they can teach us."


Absquatulate is one of "28 underused words you really need to start using," Buzzfeed advised.


Quirk Book showcased "Men (of literature) with cats."


"The American foods Mark Twain craved while traveling abroad" were revealed by Mental Floss.


"From manuscript to bookshelf: How a book gets published." The Chronicle Books blog explains it all for you.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Edward Albee

Legendary playwright Edward Albee, who died last week at age 88, launched his career with The Zoo Story, a one-act play written in three weeks that premiered in Berlin after being rejected by New York producers. Albee's most famous play, and his Broadway debut, opened in 1962. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? follows a dysfunctional husband and wife who embroil a younger couple in their marital turmoil. Three of his plays won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: A Delicate Balance in 1967, Seascape in 1975 and Three Tall Women in 1994. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1963, as did The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in 2002.

Mel Gussow (1933-2005) spent 35 years with the New York Times as a theater and movie critic. He wrote some 4,000 reviews and articles, including in-depth interviews with playwrights Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard. The first review Gussow ever wrote was for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which launched a lifelong friendship with Edward Albee and a biography, Edward Albee: A Singular Journey, published by Simon & Schuster in 1999. In 2000, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books released Gussow's book in paperback ($18.99, 9781557834478). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Children of the New World

by Alexander Weinstein

In the title story of the collection Children of the New World, the narrator and his wife raise digital children in a computer simulation as immersive as real life. The couple's system, however, has contracted a virus, and they must reboot it, deleting --killing--their loving offspring. "If it's any consolation," says tech support, "they won't feel a thing; they're just data."

It's precisely this uncomfortable edge between the real and digital that Alexander Weinstein plays with in these poignant short stories. Themes of parenting and family dominate. The big brother android in "Saying Goodbye to Yang" must be decommissioned after a fatal malfunction, his voice box relocated to a framed photo, his synthetic body buried in the backyard. The rebellious boy in "Migration" refuses to stay indoors and online like a good child; meanwhile, his father learns a valuable lesson outside. The peacemaker in "Ice Age" must manage his neighbors' brutal, selfish interests while struggling to survive with his family in an igloo atop a Midwestern town now buried under thick, frozen ice.

Weinstein explores catastrophic climate change, the spiritual ramifications of digital/body interfaces, sexuality unfettered by the human body, and how over-sharing thoughts and dreams digitally could profoundly change how people experience reality. His worldbuilding is subtle and virtuosic. The characters and stories in Children of the New World will continue to affect readers deeply long after the final page. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A heartbreaking vision of the future feels all too real in this slim volume of imaginative stories.

Picador, $16, paperback, 240p., 9781250098993


by Teddy Wayne

It's pretty easy to poke fun at Harvard and the overachievers and privileged who make it down its narrow admission funnel to walk through the Johnston Gate. Teddy Wayne--New Yorker contributor and Whiting Award-winning author of the novels Kapitoil and The Love Song of Johnny Valentine--has his way with the Cambridge, Mass., educational icon in Loner, but with enough respect for the institution and empathy for his unsettling characters to temper his sharp tongue and skewers.

Narrated by first-year student David Federman, Loner is a love letter to Veronica Morgan Wells, who catches his eye at the first get-to-know-you dorm party and becomes his increasingly tumultuous obsession. More than a loner, David's a quiet, awkward New Jersey suburbanite who nailed his SATs and surprised his classmates with his Harvard acceptance--as he describes himself, "an inveterate mumbler in the final, shaky throes of puberty." Veronica is an Upper East Side Manhattan princess with a posh pedigree, alluring sway, cosmopolitan savvy and plenty of manipulative smarts. She's a far cry from his lunch table pals with their only-at-Harvard Jacques Derrida jokes and bong-hitting grip-and-grope parties. Still, David imagines her to be his Beatrice, his Juliet, his Helen of Troy--even as his fixation propels him over the edge. Wayne pins these young strivers to the wall but is also sensitive to their insecurities and ambitions. He captures the linguistic swagger of Harvard's progeny and strips away their elite veneer to reveal confused young people finding their ways and looking for love. Loner is comic and chilling campus coming-of-age at its best. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With wit and style, Whiting Award-winner Teddy Wayne strips away the elite veneer of the overachieving denizens of Harvard.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 224p., 9781501107894

Fates and Traitors

by Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini (Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule) turns her historical fiction spyglass on the women connected to another famous Civil War-era name. However, this time she's chosen one of the most hated rather than admired men of the period. Fates and Traitors is the story of four women intimately connected to John Wilkes Booth. Through the eyes of Booth's mother, sister, love interest and fellow Southern sympathizer, Chiaverini sketches a passionate young man determined to fight for his adopted state of Virginia.

His mother, Mary Ann, and sister, Asia, illuminate Booth's childhood. A mediocre student with a somewhat skewed view of life, young Booth is nonetheless happy and optimistic. When he meets Lucy Hale, the daughter of a senator from New Hampshire, he strives to win the approval of her parents so he can one day marry her, despite the chasm of difference in their ideologies. And, finally, the widow Mary Surratt, arrested as one of Booth's co-conspirators, serves as a confidante in Booth's plan to save the South from what they saw as Lincoln's tyranny.

In Chiaverini's depiction of the notorious assassin, each of the four women is independent, smart and admirable, but they are also victims blinded by their love. Fates and Traitors is well researched, and readers will likely be motivated to learn more if they don't already know these key figures from Booth's life. The Shakespearean connections and quotes create a theatrical atmosphere, while the plot is highly suspenseful even when one already knows the outcome. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The story of John Wilkes Booth is told from the perspectives of four of the women most intimately connected to President Lincoln's assassin.

Dutton, $27, hardcover, 400p., 9780525954309

Mystery & Thriller

The Reckoning on Cane Hill

by Steve Mosby

When a woman claiming to be the previously deceased Charlie Matheson shows up in a U.K. town, it's not just her outrageous claims of identity that have the police bewildered, but also the healed ritualistic scars that have been carved into her face. She's disoriented but insistent that she is who she says she is. Detective Mark Nelson, an experienced, perceptive criminal interviewer who started his career on an unsolved serial killer case years earlier, is brought in to discover the truth behind it all.

Meanwhile, Detective David Groves keeps putting one foot in front of the other, relying on pure faith in God and his police job to keep him going after the abduction and death of his young son years ago. A birthday card arrives for his son unexpectedly, however, and sets him on a path to uncover the identity of the killers.

It's up to Nelson to push past the objections of his team to find out how Charlie's reappearance is connected to the deceased serial killer from his past. Groves, too, must go beyond his training to find who killed his son.

The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby (The Murder Code) feels creepy from page one, never letting up on the alarming possibilities that haunt the detectives' every step. The journey to the terrifying conclusion is a pleasurably frightening one, filled with solid characterization, jigsaw puzzle plotting and a thorough sense of evil. Fans of horror and police fiction will find plenty to enjoy in Mosby's unsettling brand of crime thriller. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer/editor

Discover: Steve Mosby brings a surreal, horrific realism to a terrifying story of identity, memory and loss.

Pegasus Books, $25.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781681772080

An Obvious Fact

by Craig Johnson

For the 12th novel in Craig Johnson's highly addictive mystery series, Absaroka County sheriff Walt Longmire and his best friend Henry Standing Bear are in Hulett, Wyo., during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It's August and bikers from around the world are pouring into the area when one of them is run off the road and left in a coma. The investigating officer calls on Walt to help solve the crime.

While following the clues, Walt encounters hostile biker gangs; an undercover ATF agent; Lola, the namesake for Henry's '59 Thunderbird; and a 15-ton, military-grade MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. Meanwhile, Walt's undersheriff, Vic Moretti, shows up in a bright orange Dodge Challenger, adding to the vehicular mix. The suspense ratchets to nosebleed levels, and the action races nonstop. Paying homage to what is arguably the most famous orange Dodge, albeit a Charger, Johnson includes a rip-roaring car chase complete with a field full of hay bales. The Dukes of Hazzard would be proud.

Rounding out a dozen novels (A Serpent's Tooth, Dry Bones) with his beloved sheriff, not to mention short stories and novellas, Johnson hasn't lost a step. An Obvious Fact is fresh and exciting, while retaining the attributes that make this series so popular. It's witty and complex with pop culture weaved into clever Sherlock Holmes literary references. The brilliantly colorful, snappy dialogue remains second to none. And dynamic characters surprise and delight readers with their charm, authenticity and depth. The most obvious fact is not deceptive at all: Craig Johnson writes a mighty fine story. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Amid the world's largest motorcycle rally, Sheriff Walt Longmire investigates a suspicious hit-and-run motorcycle accident that leaves a young man comatose.

Viking, $28, hardcover, 336p., 9780525426943

Biography & Memoir

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs

by Robert Kanigel

Jane Jacobs "was not a man. She was not rich. She did not reach public recognition of any magnitude until she was pushing fifty." She did not court publicity, dress well or speak in a thrilling voice. She "wrote seven books, saved neighborhoods, stopped expressways, was arrested twice, basked in the glow of legions of admirers, and had a million discussions and debates around the kitchen table, which she always won." Her influence in urban planning circles continues to this day. In the comprehensive and entertaining Eyes on the Street, Robert Kanigel (On an Irish Island) tells us about Jacobs's background, what she accomplished during her years as a writer and activist in New York City, and how she built another life for herself in Canada, where she wrote her most famous and influential work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Kanigel admires Jacobs and he handles her story with respect, humor and scrupulous scholarship, unearthing the solid foundation for her status from the "heaping-up of adulation."

Jacobs was born in 1916 into a loving, enthusiastic, nonconformist family and had an independent, forceful personality even as a little girl. She took full advantage of the professional opportunities for women during World War II and built a rewarding domestic life with a handsome, creative, intelligent man, who proposed one week after he met her at a party and was entirely supportive of her career. Anyone interested in cities or who loves a good biography will enjoy this first-rate story of one of the great independent thinkers of the 20th century. --Sara Catterall 

Discover: This is a comprehensive and evocative biography of the charismatic and influential urbanist, journalist, activist and author.

Knopf, $35, hardcover, 496p., 9780307961907

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

by Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson shot to fame when she was five years old, after playing Robin Williams and Sally Field's daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire. That led to her stepping into Natalie Wood's shoes in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. At seven, Wilson landed her dream role: the titular character in the film adaptation of Matilda, the Roald Dahl classic that Wilson and her mother loved.

Then tragedy struck. Wilson's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and would not live to see the release of Matilda. After her mother's death, Wilson started having anxiety attacks and OCD symptoms. As she entered puberty, casting directors stopped calling.

Where Am I Now? contains engaging, poignant accounts of the actress-turned-storyteller's struggles to find her identity after losing her mother and Hollywood's adoration: "I didn't want to stop acting because I had to, because I was too ugly." Wilson covers difficult topics but can leaven a painful anecdote with incisive wit. Remarking on a harsh review in which a movie critic expresses a desire "to shake [Wilson] by her tiny adorable shoulders until her little Chiclet teeth rattle," Wilson writes: "What better way to show one's edgy coolness than hypothetical child abuse?" When fans ask for a picture with her, she panics: "I don't photograph well, and... they're going to put it on the Internet, where not everyone knows I'm funny and charming and generally a decent person." And that's exactly how she comes across in this memoir, with a sense of self-acceptance that indicates she knows where--and who--she is now. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Child star Mara Wilson shares stories about her life in and after Hollywood.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 272p., 9780143128229


When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends

by Mary McAuliffe

The unstated and subtle thesis of Mary McAuliffe's When Paris Sizzled is that the romanticized Paris of the 1920s was a reaction to the end of World War I. She considers the decade following the Great War through the lives of the artists who flocked to Paris, revitalizing Western culture for generations to come: James Joyce's friendship with Sylvia Beach, the owner of the English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company; Coco Chanel's development from couturier to global phenomenon; and Maurice Ravel's making and remaking of his career alongside Stravinsky and Satie.

But despite the plethora of artists and literati that populate her book, McAuliffe (Dawn of the Belle Époque) manages to build her central theme by beginning in the laboratory of a scientist. McAuliffe uses Marie Curie as a silent backdrop throughout the book as a way to frame all the romance and idealism of Jazz Age Paris against the coming, brutal modernism of World War II and its fallout.

On the day the allied forces announced the end of the Great War, Curie was wondering how she would afford uranium for her research. When Paris Sizzled eventually moves to the cafes and opera houses of Paris, but it never departs from the haunting idea that, despite cultural and artistic breakthroughs, humanity was also at the cusp of another type of cataclysm and the trajectory was irreversible.

McAuliffe's detail is staggering; she seems to mention every possible person important to the decade. But what's most impressive is the way she shows both how and why the 1920s in Paris served as a magnificent interlude between two of the century's most iconic disasters. --Josh Potter

Discover: This cultural history of 1920s Paris avoids romantic myths of the Jazz Age, focusing on how artists struggled against a backdrop of anti-Semitism, poverty and the rise of fascism.

Rowman & Littlefield, $29.95, hardcover, 344p., 9781442253322

Social Science

The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs

by Léna Mauger, Stéphane Remael, trans. by Brian Phalen

Every year in Japan thousands of individuals just disappear, motivated by shame, hopelessness and debt. They are called johatsu, the evaporated. Some commit suicide, some go into hiding, some change their names, others just don't expect to be pursued. But Léna Mauger and Stéphane Remael set out to pursue them in The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs

The search proves difficult for the author and photographer, as they even have difficulty in securing translators. The taboo surrounding the johatsu is great; the shame their families feel is greater still. Nonetheless, in powerful vignettes, readers meet some of the evaporated whose narratives are compelling, tragic and revealing. The Vanished serves not just as a story of those who have disappeared and those they left behind, but is also an exploration of a country struggling with multiple economic collapses; the power of the yakuza (organized crime); and a traditional culture unable to keep step with modernity.

Family pain is especially poignant: "We simply want to hear from him, he doesn't have to come home. If he needs money, we'll send it to him," says one johatsu parent.

Remael's photographs add significantly to Mauger's prose. They are atmospheric, haunting and disruptive, just like the evaporated. The loss both the johatsu and their family members feel is etched in their faces and even in their environments. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

Discover: The Vanished is a painful, powerful personal and cultural study of the thousands of Japanese who disappear every year and the families they leave behind.

Skyhorse Publishing, $22.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781510708266


A Sense of Wonder: The World's Best Writers on the Sacred, the Profane, and the Ordinary

by Brian Doyle, editor

Four times a year, Portland magazine (produced by the University of Portland in Oregon) publishes, among other pieces, eclectic and luminous essays by a range of writers. The magazine's editor, Brian Doyle (an accomplished essayist and novelist), draws on its rich archive to assemble a collection of 36 essays on the theme of wonder. The pieces in A Sense of Wonder are sometimes odd and often provocative, but all of them nudge their readers to pay attention to the quiet, luminous depths beneath the surface of everyday life.

The authors address subjects as diverse as their backgrounds: the erasure of Native American history, the state of rivers and wetlands in the U.S., religious experiences both inside and outside of churches. Robin Cody writes with wry honesty about driving a bus full of "at-risk" teenagers to school and back each day. Pico Iyer remembers dozens of chapels he has visited all over the world, from airports to the mountains of California, saying, "A chapel is where you can hear something beating below your heart." Heather King, describing her loud, colorful neighborhood of Koreatown in Los Angeles, concludes, "Maybe I need their noise and they need my silence; maybe the song we make together--all of us--is the closest to love we ever get." This quietly stunning collection may also move readers to love, but it will first prod them to pay attention--and as Mary Oliver notes in her essay, "attention is the beginning of devotion." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A luminous, eclectic collection of essays first published in Portland Magazine celebrates the wonder of everyday life.

Orbis Books, $20, paperback, 192p., 9781626982086

Children's & Young Adult


by Raina Telgemeier, Braden Lamb, color

In this buoyant graphic novel, Raina Telgemeier (Smile; Drama; Sisters) invites her readers to a northern California town and tells a story inspired by her cousin who died from cancer. Like the irresistibly openhearted character Maya Allende-Delmar, Telgemeier's cousin was a Latina girl who was, as described in the author's note, "spirited, joyful, and not interested in letting her illness define her or slow her down."

Maya has cystic fibrosis and the doctor has said cool ocean air would be better for her lungs than the dry heat of her family's southern California home. But when they get to Bahía de la Luna, there's more than moisture in the air... there are ghosts. Real ghosts. And the ghosts--who look like transparent vertical gummy worms with eyes--are as much a part of the fabric of the community as the fog. When Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) rolls around, Maya builds an "ofreda,"--a small altar--to her late Mexican American grandmother, and her older sister, Cat, works on her "La Catrina" costume, that of a fashionable lady skeleton. Telgemeier skillfully, lovingly, paints a world where death is an active part of life.

As ever, her comic-strip-style paneled illustrations are expressive and expertly paced. Dramatic scenes capture the whoosh of the coastal wind and Cat's classic preteen eye rolls; Maya's wince-inducing cough and her no-holds-barred smile; and the benign, leech-shaped, orange soda-drinking spirits that laugh and cry with the living. Ghosts is a fun, riveting, inventive and heartfelt look at love, life and death. Telgemeier's light touch lets her story breathe and, ultimately, sing. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel, a young Latina girl with cystic fibrosis moves to a northern California town and befriends the ghosts.

Graphix/Scholastic, $10.99, paperback, 256p., ages 8-12, 9780545540629

Plants Can't Sit Still

by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illus. by Mia Posada

"Planted" often means stuck in one place, but author Rebecca E. Hirsch jostles that perspective in this eye-opening picture-book exploration of how "on the move" plants really are.

The dandelions on the endpapers of Plants Can't Sit Still are a fine example of the dynamic nature of plants, as flying fluffy white seeds anchor in the dirt, grow roots, push up leaves, bloom into yellow flowers and then transform into puffballs that send their seeds soaring. Leaves, petals, tendrils and flowers morph organically in appealing cut-paper collage and watercolor, and the text, while factual, bends toward the poetic: "Plants can wiggle./ As seeds start to grow, they squirm out of the spring soil,/ unfold their leaves,/ and reach/ for the warmth/ and the light." Morning glories climb fences and ivy walks up walls. Dreamy starlit illustrations reveal that "Some plants sleep at night,/ leaves nodding,/ flowers folding"; interestingly, the concluding notes say scientists are uncertain as to why plants do that at night. Readers will marvel at light-seeking moonflowers, bouncing tumbleweeds and adventuring seeds: "A seed is a plant built for travel./ Seeds can whirl like helicopters/ or float on parachutes/ or glide on papery wings./ But they can't sit still."

Mia Posada's (Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg; Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks) terrific illustrations will have kids suspiciously eyeing the climbing, snapping, even squirting weeds, vines and flowers they once saw as still. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Children will never look at vegetation the same way again after reading this lively picture book about how plants never stop moving.

Millbrook Press/Lerner, $19.99, library binding, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781467780315


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

"What if…?" is my favorite question to ask myself when I start writing a book. The answers that Cassie and Leo's story delivered were unexpected and heartwarming. Adding a heist and serendipitous reunion into the mix took my tried and true favorite trope, second chance, to a whole new level. Theirs is a classic case of right person/wrong time. Whether you're a Rivers Wilde newbie or expert, watching them overcome some pretty steep hurdles is a wild, thrilling, feel good ride.

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Wild Card (A Rivers Wilde Novella) by Dylan Allen

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons
illus. by Ruth E. Harper

Dear Reader,

My newest and latest in a three-book series, Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night?, came from seeing the fascination so many kids have with the ocean and ocean creatures. How do a whale, octopus, dolphin, clownfish, great white shark and so many other undersea animals get their rest?

After all, they need to get their rest and sleep, just like all of us. So dive into this rhyming STEM picture book to encourage a love of nature and the environment--and under the covers for a great bedtime story.

"What do animals do when children are sleeping? Featuring creatures young children are likely to know, this book has the answers....[and] unusual nighttime facts are a plus." --Kirkus

Steve Simmons

KidsBuzz: Charlesbridge: Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons, illus. by Ruth E. Harper


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

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