Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 20, 2017

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

From My Shelf

Magic Mirrors

These shadowy, atmospheric novels for young readers find their inspiration in Snow White, the 19th-century German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. These aren't just "fractured" fairy tales, they've been bludgeoned in cold blood in a dark alley.

An international bestseller, here translated from the original Finnish, Salla Simukka's As Red as Blood (Crown) will chill and thrill. The debut of the As Red as Blood trilogy stars the tough-as-nails 17-year-old Lumikki, named after the Finnish Snow White. She stumbles into a real mystery: a stash of 30,000 euros, once blood-soaked but now washed and hung to dry in the darkroom of her "elite magnet school for the arts." As Lumikki gets pulled in to the murder-mystery by three "money-laundering" classmates, the narrative unfolds in a distant, observational, detective-novel style that suits both the story and the frigid Scandinavian setting. Readers are tossed only tantalizing morsels of Lumikki's own mystery--why she's living on her own and why she's become ninja-level-skilled at self-preservation. Greed, cruelty, crime, corruption, lust, secrets and betrayal run amok in this suspenseful YA trilogy debut.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel (Candlewick) by Matt Phelan (Bluffton; The Storm in the Barn) begins in New York City's Central Park in 1918 when the young Samantha "Snow" White's dying mother coughs bright red drops of blood into a handkerchief. Her father, the "King of Wall Street," remarries a vain, gold-digging, indeed evil Broadway star who eventually kills him and wants his daughter dead too. A band of street kids called "the Seven" save Snow just in time--more than once. How Phelan manages to tell this nail-biter of a story with so few words in comic-strip panels is a testimony to his great talent, and his murky pencil, ink and watercolor artwork elegantly captures the ominous mood. Dark, gorgeous and ultimately heartening. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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

The Writer's Life

Erica Ferencik: Just Tell the Story

photo: Kate Hannon

Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and the Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio. The River at Night (Gallery/Scout Press; reviewed below) is a thriller that chills: four women, friends for 15 years, embark on a whitewater-rafting trip in the wilds of northern Maine. What could possibly go wrong? They find out rather quickly, after a rafting accident, about "things that lurk in the woods" as Ferencik "[drops] readers into pitfalls, unseen dangers and bubbling cauldrons of backstory." Our review is below.

You sold real estate in Boston, far from the vast Maine woods.

I did sell real estate for a living for many years. Hey, a girl has to live. However, I only sold locally, the Metrowest Boston area, never in Maine. In my other life--my writing life--I am a stickler for getting every detail of a story right, especially settings. So I made it my business to see first-hand what I intended to write about, as well as interview those who might give me a flavor for some of the characters I was trying to create.

The farthest north in Maine I had ever been was Portland, so it was time to plan a trip up into the hinterlands--into the storied Allagash Wilderness, over 5,000 square miles of rivers, lakes, and forest. My goal--one of them--was to interview people who live off the grid. But I didn't know a soul up there.

I called the chambers of commerce in towns from Orono to Fort Kent, as far north and west as you can go, until the road ends and the forest begins, which is a little town called, of all things: Dickey.

Everyone I spoke to on the phone said: Well, these folks don't want to be contacted. That's why they live off the grid... but I do know someone who knows someone... soon I was able to line up half a dozen interviews with people who had decided to disappear.

Even though I made hotel reservations for nine nights, I only needed them for the first and last, because everyone I met offered me a place to stay.

I crashed in two cabins, a teepee, a yurt, a rehabbed school bus and a boat (on land, not water.) In November. Sometimes a good mile from anything resembling a road. In the end, I was able to get a great feel for the vastness of the place, and land some great interviews as well.

You did standup and wrote jokes for Letterman, but your novel is so dark. Where does that come from?

Mark Twain said: "The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven."

Yes, you are right! The River at Night is quite dark, and I am also quite funny (see my satiric novel, Cracks in the Foundation). Lots of people find this dichotomy hard to reconcile, which is understandable, but the fact is, most (good) humor comes from some kind of dark place. It's impossible to make a good joke without some kind of wicked twist. In fact, the best humor is equal parts dark and light. As a standup, you risk being pretty toothless--as well as not that funny--if everything is kept light, and let me tell you, being not that funny on stage is no fun at all, for anybody.

As a comedian, you hold a kind of power over the audience, similar to what you do when you write a suspense novel. As an author, you are withholding something that you reveal in your own time, in your own way, in order to elicit some sort of reaction from the audience. Same with a joke.

Part of being a good storyteller is projecting a sense of realism in your work. Since humor is a part of life, it's great to make it a natural part of the narrative, when appropriate in the story. Have you ever read something that is absolutely humorless? There is something unrealistic about it, as if the author was blind to some elements in his or her own story. Not the most satisfying thing.

Is this an homage to Deliverance?

In a big way. I read and fell in love with James Dickey's 1970 novel a couple of years ago. Most people have seen the movie--cue the banjos--but I'm not sure the book has gotten the love it deserves.

Dickey was a poet, but he also wrote this fabulous, propulsive, first-person novel about four male friends who go whitewater rafting in the Georgia wilderness. The book was utterly terrifying to me--this series of bad decisions and bad luck that led to disaster. It was so unpretentious, just an author telling a story that felt as if it could happen to anyone, a story that became more and more horrific as it unfolded. Before I read the book, I had come off a spate of reading novels that tried too hard to be scary or suspenseful, when life itself--even just barely tweaked--can be so much more frightening and edge-of-your seat. So Dickey really inspired me to just tell the story. There was something so simple and wonderful about that freedom.

I am also fascinated with the joys and terrors of female friendship, and about the natural world, so it all fit together for me to write The River at Night. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Book Candy

How to Host a Book Club

Bustle offered advice on "how to host a book club in the new year, because 2017 is the time to actually do it."


"Essential reading: nine experts on the books that inspired them" were featured in the Guardian.


"This professor bought a book that she'd previously owned years ago," Buzzfeed reported.


Cats! "This 19th-Century book chronicles Victorians' strange cat fears and fascinations," Atlas Obscura reported. And American Libraries explored reasons "why the number of library cats in the United States has declined drastically in recent decades."


For the Lightbridge bookshelf, "red pillars of the Golden Gate bridge and radial cables of the Rio Antirio bridge are the basic elements forming this wall lighting installation with a bookshelf use."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Presidents Club

The end of Barack Obama's presidency marks his passage into one of the most exclusive and influential groups in domestic politics: living ex-presidents of the United States. Their relationships with sitting presidents have ranged from cordial and cooperative to less-than-helpful. The coming administration's ties with President Obama may fall on the antagonistic side of this spectrum although since the election, the two have been publicly cordial.

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs (managing editor for Time magazine) and Michael Duffy (Time's deputy managing editor) chronicles the history of ex-presidents and their sitting counterparts. The book runs from the Truman through Obama administrations, including the former's use of Herbert Hoover to deliver food to Europe after World War II and the latter's complicated ties with Bill Clinton (the book was published just before Obama's reelection). Clinton's bonds are surprising--he became close friends with George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and had regular late-night phone conversations with Richard Nixon before his death in 1994. These stories of cooperation, advice and congeniality, sprinkled with some blame-gaming and conspiratorial maneuvering, seem now like high-water marks of modern presidential politics. The Presidents Club was released in paperback by Simon & Schuster in 2013 ($18, 9781439127728). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Fever Dream

by Samanta Schweblin, trans. by Megan McDowell

Samanta Schweblin's first novel, Fever Dream, is part contemplation, part living nightmare. Amanda lies in a dark hospital room, accompanied by a boy who is not her son. David walks her through the story of their meeting, as two very different mothers care for their two children in a dusty small town. Amanda worries over what she calls the "rescue distance": "that's what I've named the variable distance separating me from my daughter, and I spend half the day calculating it, though I always risk more than I should." He presses her for details, because the two have an unnamed riddle to solve, but at the same time repeatedly chides her, "that's not important." This paradoxical sense of urgency combined with immobility evokes a classic bad dream. With relentless tension and steady pacing, the mystery of what has happened to Amanda, and to David, unfolds. This is a story about a parent's need to protect her child; unnatural elements cannot obscure a cautionary tale about the pressures of parental love.

Fever Dream may be contagious: the reader should beware the compulsion to read it in a single sitting, pulled helplessly along by the power of the story. Though brief, its stream-of-consciousness style and absence of chapters emphasize a sense of inexorable forward momentum. Megan McDowell's translation from the Spanish expertly delivers every atmospheric moment and line of near-panicked dialogue. A sense of foreboding hangs over this story that is at once a dark fairy tale and a realistic expression of everyday danger. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A woman and a boy sit in the dark, probing a shared story of love, danger and "the invisible thread that ties us together."

Riverhead Books, $25, hardcover, 192p., 9780399184598

Lucky Boy

by Shanthi Sekaran

Nothing is easy for undocumented Mexican immigrant Solimar "Soli" Castro Valdez in Shanthi Sekaran's second novel, Lucky Boy (after The Prayer Room). Nor is it a piece of cake for Indian American Kavya Reddy, who at 35 is a Cal-Berkeley sorority cook whose husband, Rishi, works at the Bay Area dotcom Weebies. Kavya and Rishi seem to have it knocked, except for Kavya's desire to have a child.

Two thousand miles south, Soli is desperate to escape her tiny Oaxaca farm town. She arrives at her cousin's house in Berkeley after a harrowing ride on Mexico's informal immigrant express train "The Beast" and a gang-rape by bandits. A disheartened and pregnant brown woman without papers among the privileged who prowl farmer's markets, Soli takes a housekeeping job to pay board at her cousin's, send a little home to her parents and save something to seed the American dream for her expected son--her lucky boy.

As the Reddys work through the social services adoption bureaucracy, Soli delivers her healthy son, Ignacio, and for a year she carries him everywhere. When Immigration discovers that she is in the country illegally, however, Ignacio, a U.S. citizen by birth, is taken to social services while Soli is put in a detention center to await deportation. No surprise in who become Ignacio's foster parents. But that is not the end of the story. There are few easy solutions to life's toughest problems, but Sekaran's Lucky Boy goes a long way toward putting a humanizing face on them. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Shanthi Sekaran's ambitious Lucky Boy captures the street-level reality of the issues of immigration, motherhood and class.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 480p., 9781101982242

The Antiques

by Kris D'Agostino

The Westfall family in Kris D'Agostino's The Antiques is headed by Ana and her dying husband, George, owners of an antique shop in a gentrifying upstate Hudson River village. Their oldest son, Josef, is a hotshot entrepreneur in Manhattan, desperate to sell his precarious company to cover his debts, pay support to his ex-wife and teen daughters, and avoid having to take a job "back schlepping around some soul-draining hedge fund." Charlotte ("Charlie") lives in Los Angeles with a disappointing adjunct film professor and their toddler son, Abbott. Charlie works as a handler for a Paris Hilton-like actress in a string of vampire movies--"Policing YouTube videos.... Making sure Melody always wore panties when she went out."

The youngest, Armand, lives in his parents' basement and crafts wood furniture, moping after a sweet young woman from his mother's church. The siblings rarely talk; George and Ana resignedly live with each other's idiosyncrasies; and a hurricane is bearing down on the East Coast and Manhattan. Should the storm destroy their store's inventory, all George has to leave his family is his prized "lesser Magritte" hanging over their fireplace--appraised once for insurance purposes at a half million dollars.

The Antiques takes place as the hurricane strikes, George dies and the Westfall children return home to sort out how to honor the life of a man who was a distant and difficult father. It is an often funny, often poignant portrait of a quirky family on the skids, but as Ana reflects: "Nobody ever said, 'Here's your family. What do you think?' You just got them. Or you didn't get them." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The Antiques portrays the surprisingly strong bonds holding together a disparate family who gather after the death of its patriarch.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781501138973

Enigma Variations

by André Aciman

One of classical music's greatest mysteries is the secret theme that connects the 14 variations of Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations." He claimed that, in this work, a "larger theme 'goes' but is not played." Love, one could argue, has something in common with Elgar's masterpiece: a fiber connects each person's attractions, but its nature may not be immediately evident. André Aciman no doubt had the same insight when he borrowed Elgar's title for a portrait of the various loves of Paul, a New York editor whose desires are more complicated than even he seems to realize.

The novel opens when Paul is a boy. He spends his summers on the island of San Giustiniano and falls in love with Giovanni, a cabinetmaker who restores an antique picture frame and two folding desks for Paul's parents. Later sections chronicle the adult Paul's relationships with his girlfriend Maud, who works for a firm that conducts cancer research and whom he suspects of cheating on him with a foreign correspondent; Manfred, a gay man he sees at his tennis club; Chloe, a college friend he bumps into at a book party and has an on-again, off-again romance with over many years; and Heidi, a young woman who wrote an essay that middle-aged Paul rejected about the mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran. The Heidi section feels tacked on, but Enigma Variations is otherwise an elegant, episodic tale of longing that manages the difficult trick of being both cerebral and sensuous. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: André Aciman's novel spans three decades in the life of a New York City editor coming to terms with his sexuality.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 288p., 9780374148430

Mystery & Thriller

The River at Night

by Erica Ferencik

For 15 years, Wini and three friends, Pia, Sandra and Rachel, have gotten together for a week's vacation, time they've spent sharing stories, laughing, drinking and generally enjoying life. But when Pia calls and presses the idea of a camping and river rafting trip in the wilds of northern Maine, rather than venturing to some exotic spot to lie in the sun, Wini is less than enthusiastic. The idea of battling whitewater, of fighting off hordes of hungry bugs, of even simply peeing in the woods, is less than appealing, yet Wini is also afraid to say no.

Despite her instincts, Wini musters enthusiasm for an adventure she doesn't feel adequate to face. Like the others, she follows Pia, who is the true leader of the group. Right from the start, though, it's obvious this will not be like other years when the four women have deepened their bonds by sharing tales of love and angst; Pia takes an extra interest in their young, good-looking male guide, instantly separating Wini, Sandra and Rachel from the new twosome.

The River at Night focuses on the five days the women spend on their vacation--a fast-paced race against nature and things that lurk in the woods that no one dreamed could be there, as well as a statement on the importance of friendship, tolerance and acceptance. The writing is taut and engaging, not overly melodramatic; readers are sure to forget the real world for several hours of chilling entertainment. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Four friends embark on a whitewater-rafting trip that provides them with far more adventure than they dreamed possible.

Gallery/Scout Press, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781501143199

The Beautiful Dead

by Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer (The Shut Eye) opens The Beautiful Dead with a deeply disturbing scene of a murder about to commence--from the victim's point of view. Afterward, TV crime reporter Eve Singer arrives on the scene to cover the story, and the murderer contacts her. Soon she deduces he has killed before and will do so again, and he wants Eve to have the inside scoop. But even with the clues he provides, she and the cops are unable to stop his murder spree. Then the killer makes his cat-and-mouse game very personal for Eve, and the next murder in the news might be her own.

To read a Bauer thriller is to be hypnotized by her writing. Despite the macabre subject matter, Bauer pulls readers in with insightful portraits of her characters, dark humor and creative descriptions. A forensics officer "had all the calm detachment of a psychopath, but none of the comforting iron bars between her and the rest of the world." When a rival reporter is talking while eating California rolls, "Eve could see it in there--tumbling around like a white wash with added spinach socks."

Eve takes questionable actions sometimes, and because the serial killer story gives her a career boost, she struggles with the murderer's decree that "I need people to die in order to live--and so do you." But she is a sympathetic character, trying to balance work with caring for her beloved, dementia-afflicted father. Eve is a lonely woman surrounded by death who discovers how fiercely she wants to live. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A TV crime reporter chases a serial killer who gives her exclusive information about his murders.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, hardcover, 320p., 9780802125330

Blood and Bone

by Valentina Giambanco

In chapter one of Valentina Giambanco's Blood and Bone, a woman is accosted in a parking lot at night by two men with nothing good in mind. Instead of being afraid, she gives them more than one warning to rethink their intentions and leave her alone, but like the knuckleheads who gang up on Lee Child's Jack Reacher, the men won't listen. Until the woman teaches them a painful lesson and introduces herself--to the attackers and readers new to the series--as Seattle PD homicide detective Alice Madison. It's a thrilling introduction.

Madison then catches a case involving a man savagely beaten to death in his own home. Clues indicate a possible link to a murder case from seven years earlier--one that was closed when the accused was convicted and imprisoned--and that may not be the only closed case connected to the new one. A serial killer may have gotten away with murder for years by always successfully framing someone else. Worse, the killer has no plans to stop.

Madison is an intriguing character who exudes strength without having to talk tough or behave like a man. Her complicated past and events from previous books are referred to but the details aren't hard to follow or distracting. Madison is no-nonsense, as is Giambanco's lean yet expressive prose: when Madison tells a friend about the murders, "Rachel did not jump in with a reassuring cliché. Madison thanked her for it in her heart." When the crimes are horrific, the understatement says more than enough. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Seattle PD homicide detective Alice Madison must solve recent murders while also investigating how and if they link to old cases.

Quercus, $26.99, hardcover, 384p., 9781681442976


The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

by Douglas Preston

Long before the Spanish landed in the New World, a civilization rich in culture blossomed in the Honduran jungle. Then, for some unknown reason, the area was abandoned, and the jungle reclaimed the acreage, leaving behind tantalizing tales of an ancient and sacred city that filtered down through history--the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God--a rich site, but one seemingly protected by a curse of death for anyone foolhardy enough to find it. In 2012, as part of a reconnaissance team using highly sophisticated equipment, thriller writer Douglas Preston boarded a plane and flew over the mountains of Honduras searching for this lost city. Thanks to the modern technology, the team discovered it tucked away in a valley ringed by high mountains, deep in a region full of drug traffickers and illegal logging operations, a landscape more reminiscent of paradise than anything remotely dangerous.

Despite torrential rains, numerous poisonous snakes and hordes of mosquitoes, chiggers and sand flies, the expedition wandered the dense ruins, finding more than they could have possibly imagined, including an incurable disease. Preston adroitly combines tension, anticipation and lush and vivid descriptions of the expedition with an examination of the Old World diseases the Spaniards unleashed on the indigenous populations of the New World. He discusses their horrific effect on ancient cultures and nature's frightening retaliation through the ages. This modern-day archeological adventure and medical mystery reads as rapidly as a well-paced novel, but is a heart-pounding true story. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Modern explorers find a hidden city in the thick jungle of Honduras and uncover a disease that's lain dormant for centuries.

Grand Central, $28, hardcover, 336p., 9781455540006


Letters to a Young Muslim

by Omar Saif Ghobash

What does it mean to be a good Muslim? How can observant Muslims help their children to understand the nuanced tenets of Islam, separate from the current messages of violence and extremism being perpetuated by ISIS and other radical groups? For Omar Saif Ghobash, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia and the father of two teenage sons, these questions are particularly pressing. In his first book, Letters to a Young Muslim, Ghobash shares a series of thoughtful, engaging, deeply personal reflections on his journey with Islam and what it means to be a Muslim in the modern world.

Ghobash draws on his own experiences to explore the issues facing Islam and the Arab world: the prevalence of violence (his own father died a violent death when Ghobash was young); the segregation of the sexes and discrimination against women; the conflict between radical Islamists and other Muslims. He asks the book's central question in several ways: "How should you and I take responsibility for our lives as Muslims?" While Ghobash always lands on the side of openness and critical thinking, he urges his sons to decide for themselves on all these issues. "Remember that knowledge does not consist simply of answers," he says. "Great knowledge consists of being familiar with the questions, the doubts, the possibility that things might be different."

In a time of global fear and upheaval, Ghobash's letters provide a vital glimpse into Islam and a wise, balanced series of questions for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: The United Arab Emirate's ambassador to Russia shares timely, thoughtful reflections on Islam in a series of letters to his teenage sons.

Picador, $22, hardcover, 272p., 9781250119841

Reference & Writing

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

by Manjula Martin

In 2013, Manjula Martin and Jane Friedman founded Scratch, an online journal dedicated to exploring the intersection between writing as an art and publishing as a business. For two years, they published work about the economics of writing by both well-known authors and authors who struggle to pay the rent. In Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, Martin continues the conversation with a collection of powerful essays and interviews.

Writers who need information on how to write a query letter or prepare an estimate for writing a white paper should look elsewhere. This is not a how-to book. (However, Choire Sicha's essay "Monetization" is a funny and informative look at how Internet sites make money, and Cheryl Strayed gives a clear description of how author advances really work--both useful to anyone with dreams of a writing career.) Instead this is a series of candid and generous discussions of the often problematic relationship between writers and money.

The essays are fundamentally personal and oddly transgressive. Writers share stories of debt and bad financial choices, as well as details of their publishing contracts. They consider the nature of financial security and the artistic value of having a non-writing job. They describe life in and after MFA programs. Several discuss the lie of "writing for exposure."

The collective lesson of these essays is that writing is work and should be treated as such, or as Susan Orleans put it, "I ran the widget factory and I was the widget." --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: Writers talk frankly about writing, money and making a living.

Simon & Schuster, $16, paperback, 304p., 9781501134579

Children's & Young Adult

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team

by Steve Sheinkin

When 19-year-old Jim Thorpe (1888-1955) joined Pennsylvania's Carlisle Indian Industrial School's football team in 1907, it was the fastest team in the country. Already the school's track star, Thorpe was, self-admittedly, "a scarecrow dressed for football" when he approached Coach "Pop" Warner, who promptly told him to take a hike. Thorpe persisted, demonstrating "a combination of power, agility and speed Pop Warner had never seen in one player--and never would again." History proved Warner to be football's "most innovative coach"; Thorpe, of the Potawatomi tribe of Oklahoma, would become "the greatest star the sport had ever seen."

Three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin (Bomb; The Port Chicago 50; Most Dangerous) deftly balances the exhilarating glory of Thorpe's story and early American football history with the inequity and inhumanity of the Native American experience. His outrage at these atrocities is most evident when he discusses Thorpe's double gold victory at the 1912 Olympics, for the pentathlon and decathlon. While Thorpe won under the U.S. flag, he was actually not an American citizen, despite his indigenous heritage: another dozen years lapsed "before Congress would pass a law extending citizenship to all American Indians."

With contagious excitement, Sheinkin enthralls readers with the Carlisle team's--and Thorpe's--stupendous feats. Abundant historical photographs enhance the story. If Undefeated seems overloaded with superlatives, Sheinkin meticulously supports his proclamations of "firsts, mosts, bests" with 30-plus pages of citations. Despite the bad and ugly, good triumphs here. Never excusing the adversity Thorpe and his community suffered, Sheinkin compels readers to learn, admire and bear witness to the "world's greatest athlete." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: In Undefeated, National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin tackles the unparalleled achievements of Jim Thorpe and the all-Native American team that helped shape modern football.

Roaring Brook, $19.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 10-18, 9781596439542

Flying Lessons & Other Stories

by Ellen Oh, editor

Flying Lessons--edited by Ellen Oh and published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books--is a top-notch, eclectic collection of stories by 10 powerhouse authors about everything from basketball ("The beautiful symphony of squeaking sneaks and grunts and the thud of body meeting body" from Matt de la Peña's story) to nervous young love to the legendary "Choctaw Bigfoot."

Middle-grade readers are in for a treat: this anthology's contributors are Newbery winners Kwame Alexander (The Crossover) and Matt de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street); Newbery Honor author Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon); three-time Newbery Honor author and National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming); Soman Chainani (the School for Good and Evil series); Lambda Literary Award winner Tim Federle (Five, Six, Seven, Nate); Pura Belpré Award winner Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass); three-time American Indian Youth Literature Award winner Tim Tingle (House of Purple Cedar); debut author Kelly J. Baptist (Young); and the beloved, award-winning author to whom this book is dedicated, Walter Dean Myers (Monster: A Graphic Novel).

The book's title story, Soman Chainani's "Flying Lessons," tells the funny and bittersweet tale of an academically ambitious Florida boy whose stiletto-wearing, 69-year-old grandmother takes him to Europe for three weeks, only to abandon him amidst a "dodgy parade" in Berlin and on a nude Barcelona beach in a tiny Chanel swimsuit. She explains, "Because when you're older, no one cares about how many awards you win, Santosh. People care if you have something to talk about." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This engaging collection of 10 stories for young people showcases the work of literary stars such as Matt de la Peña, Kwame Alexander, Grace Lin and Meg Medina.

Crown, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9781101934593

A Squash and a Squeeze

by Julia Donaldson, illus. by Axel Scheffler

A Squash and a Squeeze--based on a traditional folktale and originally published in the U.K. in 1993--was the first picture book written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the creators of The Gruffalo, Stick Man and Room on the Broom.
A little old lady is feeling hemmed in by her small house, even though she lives there all by herself. She asks for some advice: "Wise old man, won't you help me, please?/ My house is a squash and a squeeze." The white-bearded man suggests that she bring her hen inside. As the hen lays eggs, flaps around and knocks over jugs, the place feels even tinier. The lady returns to the wise man, who advises her to take in her goat: "The little old lady cried, 'Glory be!/ It was tiny for two and it's titchy for three./ The hen pecks the goat and the goat's got fleas./ My house is a squash and a squeeze.' " A pig and a cow move in next.

In the end, the wise old man tells her to evict all the animals. Suddenly, by contrast, her house feels "gigantic," and she has no more cause to grumble: "And now she's full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees./ It isn't a squash and it isn't a squeeze." Refreshingly, the madcap story does not end with her missing the disruptive animals and inviting them back in to live with her. This story-hour standout trips off the tongue in a way that's sure to tickle the wee-est of wee. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this rhyming British picture book, a little old lady feels that her house is too small until a wise man--and a bunch of farm animals--help her realize it's just right.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9781338052206


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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