Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, September 29, 2017

Dutton: Sunderworld, Vol. I: The Extraordinary Disappointments of Leopold Berry by Ransom Riggs

From My Shelf

Louise Penny: Questioning One's Judgment

Glass Houses (reviewed below), the 13th installment in the Armand Gamache mystery series, is "both a title and warning," according to author Louise Penny. "We might not think people see who we really are, but they do, because our actions give us away. And in case any of us feel superior, the warning goes a step further. We all live in a glass house. We are all visible and vulnerable. We are all being judged." 

Louise Penny

Penny continues: "This book examines, among other things, that judgment, and uses as its theme a quote from Gandhi: "There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts." This is something that has long troubled Penny. "It seems obvious that a conscience is a good thing, and the thing to most fear are people without one. And that is, I believe, in broad strokes, true. But I also wanted to explore what happens when we come face to face with someone whose conscience is not in agreement with our own. After all, how many vile deeds, truly terrible acts, are justified by people saying, 'I was just following my conscience.' " 

Penny admits that such individuals "don't see them as terrible acts at all. They see what they do as justified, and our own actions as vile. And then there are people in power. Politicians. Judges. The police. It appeared to me that Gandhi's quote was both a call to action, an agent of change, but also danger. What happens when cops take things into their own hands? When they know that the courts cannot do what is necessary. Armand Gamache is faced with just such a decision. And, as a man of powerful conscience, he is aware that whatever he chooses to do will follow him, haunt him, for the rest of his life." --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

John Allison: On Mastering Snarky Language and Other Teenage Concerns

John Allison is an English comics writer and artist and one of the early pioneers of webcomics. He is the creator of Bobbins, Scary Go Round and, now, Bad Machinery. The newest entry, Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside, which was nominated for a 2017 Eisner Award in the category of Best Publication for Teens, continues the adventures of six high school crime solvers who obsess about young love and the usual problems of school and family. Shelf Awareness caught up with Allison to talk about what this nomination means to him, what the future holds for the teens of Tackleford, and how it feels to be able to cross Comic-Con off his bucket list once again.

You recently tweeted that "to celebrate 10 years of not going to San Diego Comic-Con, I am going to San Diego Comic-Con." Was it the Eisner that finally got you to come out to sunny Southern California?

As the old saying goes, "if you want to lure a recalcitrant European to a far-flung comic-con, flatter his fragile ego."

Congratulations on the nomination, by the way. How are you enjoying Comic-Con?

It's very strange to be back in the convention center after a decade, because it all feels so familiar. The city has changed, though. That's where you can tell that the Con has gone from bananas to super-bananas in the last decade. It's like a celebrity version of Pokémon Go.

Let's talk a little bit about your background. You definitely have the gift of the gab when it comes to the snark of teenage dialogue. How did you get into writing and drawing comics for young audiences? And was that your goal from the get-go?

When I started writing comics, they were for people my age, which was my early 20s. But I was always able to reach people who were older. Twenty-somethings are deeply self-obsessed, but I found that the more I varied the ages I wrote, the more I enjoyed writing. Basing the Bad Machinery series around kids was an experiment--I had no idea if it would work. But it opened up lots of areas that have been interesting to work in.

You have been considered a pioneer of the webcomic format. How did you get into this medium and how has it changed in the course of your career?

I started making webcomics before they were a thing, because I knew how to make a website. I took my failed efforts to get syndicated in newspapers and made a little website for them. A few years later, this turned out to be a sustainable way to make a living--via ads, merchandise, doing cons and through work leads and commissions that came via the webcomic. It's harder for people starting out now. The delivery systems for content are splintered by social media, people don't make the same habit of visiting websites, and it's harder to grab people's attention with long-form works--though obviously some still do--but web to print is often the aim for people working that way.

Which comics artists or writers have influenced you?

I'm influenced by so many people that it's hard not to write a laundry list of people I love that offers no clues at all to what my comics are like. Chris Onstad's Achewood was a big influence on my writing, and I have spent a long time trying to be as good an artist as Meredith Gran and Bryan Lee O'Malley. I'm influenced by the greats--Posy Simmonds, Alex Toth, Mike Allred--they're called greats for a reason!

Bad Machinery is being released as a pocket series by Oni Press. Have there been significant changes to the original stories?

No changes at all beside new covers, they're just smaller books.

Some of the situations in which the kids find themselves--and I recall Volume 2's anamorphic animals--are terrifically crazy and whimsically inventive. Where do you get your plot ideas?

This will sound terribly prosaic but I wait for something that seems half-useful to occur to me, write it down, think about it for a couple of months, and wait for the story to emerge from my subconscious. It's like a tree; it emerges from the ground as a straight line, then expands into a taxonomy of ideas. If I'm lucky.

Which character in Bad Machinery do you identify with most?

They're all a little slice of me mixed with things that aren't me. Charlotte is the part of me that is a natural show-off, Sonny is the part of me that is eager to please, and so on.

Will the release of the Oni books mark the end for the Bad Machinery kids, or are there any more mysteries for the Tackleford gang to come? Like maybe a Bad Machinery: The College Years?

My other series, Giant Days, is as deep a look into the college years as I think it's possible for me to go, so I don't think we'll see the Bad Machinery kids there. The 10th case, which has recently finished online, is the last for the time being, but who knows when and where these characters might return. I'm very fond of them. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Book Candy

10 Classic Banned Books

In honor of this year's Banned Books Week, Mental Floss explored "10 classic books that have been banned."


"From octupuses that might be thinking with their arms to early humans' blind obedience to gods," Adrian Owen chose his "top 10 books about consciousness" for the Guardian.


Pop quiz: "How much do you actually remember from American Literature?" asked Penguin Random House.


Unmentionables! Bustle showcased "7 Shakespeare-inspired lingerie sets if you're in the market for something to make Hamlet blush." And Bustle noted that the "underwear of Jane Austen's time will make you seriously grateful for modern conveniences."


Bookshelf featured "London's smallest library at London Design Festival."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The John Carlos Story

On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos entered the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City to accept their medals for first and third place finishes in the 200-meter sprint. They were joined on the podium by Australian silver medalist Peter Norman. As "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised their gloved fists in a Black Power salute that shocked spectators in the stadium and the world at large. The photograph of their protest, with both men in socks and sharing a pair of gloves (hence the opposite fists), has become an iconic image in sports and civil rights history.

All three men on the podium faced backlash. Peter Norman, despite his somewhat befuddled look in the famous photograph, actually supported Smith and Carlos, and encouraged them to don the human rights badge he also wore that day. Norman was kept off Australia's 1972 Summer Olympics team despite repeatedly qualifying (Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral in 2006). Smith and Carlos were ejected from the Olympic Village, denounced by International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage--who had voiced no objections to Nazi salutes during the 1936 games--and ostracized from the American sports community.

Smith went on to play in the NFL before becoming an assistant professor of physical education at Oberlin College. Carlos played in the Canadian Football League, helped the U.S. Olympic Committee organize the 1984 games and is a social activist and track and field coach. In 2011, with sports journalist Dave Zirin, he co-wrote The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World (Haymarket Books, $15.95, 9781608462247), which includes a foreword by Cornel West. Tommie Smith's autobiography, Silent Gesture, was published in 2007 (Temple University Press, $23.95, 9781592136407). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Golden House

by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses) is a writer who takes the spirit of the age and splays it in a million dazzling ways. In his novel The Golden House, the zeitgeist is terrifyingly familiar. Americans, their bigotries, their horrors, as well as their aspirations and humanity, are deconstructed and reconstructed in this grand and sweeping tragedy. The narrator, René, is an aspiring filmmaker who theorizes on history, art, cinema, literature and the nature of the auteur. In a modern nod to The Great Gatsby, René relays the story of his neighbor Nero Golden, an Indian immigrant and widower with a mysterious past and ostentatious amount of wealth. René earns the man's trust, befriends his three sons--Petya, Apu and D--but becomes dangerously entangled in family affairs when Nero's new wife, Vasilisa, makes an offer he can't refuse.

Throughout the novel, René is making a probing film about the Golden family. At the heart of his endeavor is the question of identity, particularly American identity. Nero Golden builds a new persona for himself in the U.S., but his past life and business dealings with the criminal underground in India catch up to him in a series of tragic reckonings. His story unfolds against the 2016 presidential election, which Rushdie satirizes to devastating effect.

The closest Rushdie gets to answering questions of identity--of reality versus caricature--is a refreshing humanism found in the story's final moments. "Humanity was the only answer to the cartoon," René surmises. "I had no plan except love." The Golden House is a literary and philosophical tour de force. It is a new classic born of troubled times. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Legendary writer Salman Rushdie takes on American identity and politics in this tragic novel that reads like a postmodern update of The Great Gatsby.

Random House, $28.99, hardcover, 400p., 9780399592805

Tales of Falling and Flying

by Ben Loory

Ben Loory (Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day and picture book The Baseball Player and the Walrus) is a whimsical fabulist, with an occasional dark streak. His stories are quite short; his second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, includes 39 stories arranged in a triptych of 13 each, plus a tribute to Elmore Leonard. In typical Loory ("rhymes with story") fashion, the approach to the tribute comes in low and sideways, with a spin.

His stories often feature loss, dissociation, dreams of death, the agony of not being seen. In "The Dodo," one dies but gets back up, running around insisting he's a dodo but is ignored, until he makes a stand for his true self. One of the sweetest stories is "The Sloth": the creature decides to get a job, and after being turned down by various animals, heads into the city. He tries so hard, "but the fact was, he was just very slow." His solution is both practical and delightful.

Old age and regret is succinctly summed up in "The Candelabra"; a man begins to lose parts of his body in "Missing" until he becomes pure spirit in search of himself; in "Zombies," finally, the undead are seen as the idiots they are; "The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun" (and longs to reach it) is magical.

Ben Loory's stories can be poignant, lyrical, witty or puzzling--sometimes all in the same tale. Whatever they are, they're strange and strangely moving. --Marilyn Dahl

Discover: Ben Loory's stories are short and elegant, enigmatic and droll, and always compelling.

Penguin, $17, paperback, 224p., 9780143130109

Kiss Me Someone

by Karen Shepard

In Karen Shepard's short story collection Kiss Me Someone, characters stabilize and combust, rage and love, display gentility and brutality--revealing the dichotomies of identity.

Focusing on young women and individuals of mixed race, Shepard's stories delve into the lives of those who feel most vulnerable and analyze their unconscious, impassioned acts of strength. Through time, geographic space and cultural identity, Shepard's heroines echo each other's frustrations and desires as they proclaim the importance of individual experience. The protagonist of "Jerks" summarizes this paradoxical connection best when she acknowledges that being alone "may have been the perfect punishment, the ultimate self-indulgence, the thing I loved the most."

In the tradition of Susan Minot and Rebecca Lee, Shepard's writing is breathtaking in its ability to capture minor but revelatory personal insights. With her crisp prose and sharp observations, she views characters with devastating and unflinching clarity. And while the conflicts can sometimes seem extreme, Shepard deftly avoids ever delving into melodrama. In fact, throughout the collection, the simple act of recognizing and declaring one's feelings serves as both castigation and absolution, an act of violence and grace. Most empowering, there is a certain challenge in Shepard's assertion of the individual, exposed woman, best captured by the mantra of her second-person perspective in "Popular Girls": "We're loved. We're protected. Do with us what you dare. Do with us what you can." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A daringly written dissection of raw emotion through short stories about women on the edge and what they long for most.

Tin House Books, $19.95, hardcover, 288p., 9781941040751

Mystery & Thriller

Glass Houses

by Louise Penny

Louise Penny's fans will not be disappointed by Glass Houses, the 13th entry in her Armand Gamache mystery series. With compelling back-and-forth plotting and only a few casual references to the previous books, including 2016's A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses reads almost as a standalone.

As the novel opens, Gamache, the newly appointed head of Quebec's Sûreté, is testifying in a murder trial on a blisteringly hot July day. The reader is kept unaware of the victim's and the defendant's identities, as Gamache slowly unfolds the events that led to a death in Three Pines, the village where he resides. Then the story flashes back to the previous November, when residents of Three Pines are shocked by the presence of a figure in black who stands menacingly on the village green.

Penny's poetic style of writing and her deeply realized characters, with their mix of flaws and heroism, make her novels irresistible. In Glass Houses, the taut, woven plotlines show Gamache, his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and many other characters at their best and worst.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi that will come to haunt Gamache during the course of this investigation, "There is a higher court than the courts of justice and that is the court of conscience." Penny delicately explores the tension of an officer who may be sworn to uphold the law, but who feels compelled to do something else, in a fascinating novel that is sure to appeal to a variety of readers--whether they typically enjoy mysteries or not. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans

Discover: In this Quebeçois mystery, Inspector Armand Gamache is on the witness stand, testifying in a murder trial that hits all too close to home.

Minotaur Books, $28.99, hardcover, 400p., 9781250066190

The Essence of Malice

by Ashley Weaver

After weathering a turbulent period in her marriage, British socialite Amory Ames is enjoying a peaceful holiday with her husband, Milo, on Italy's Lake Como. Despite Milo's penchant for death-defying activities (such as piloting a seaplane), all is well in the Ameses' world, until a cryptic letter from his former nanny, Madame Nanette, summons the couple to Paris. There, the two must use their wit and charm to investigate the mysterious death of Madame Nanette's employer, Helios Belanger, a wealthy parfumier with many enemies. Ashley Weaver blends the worlds of perfume, Parisian society and (potential) murder in another Amory Ames mystery, The Essence of Malice.

Keen-eyed and strong-willed, though surprisingly vulnerable where Milo is concerned, Amory again proves herself a capable amateur sleuth, gaining entrée to the Belanger family's good graces by requesting an expensive custom scent. Meanwhile, Milo uses his native charm and the knowledge gleaned from his bad-boy past to investigate a few unsavory connections to the case. Amory and Milo spend much of the novel pursuing leads at cross purposes, but their insights benefit one another when shared. The tangled relationships of the Belanger family and the return of appealing minor characters such as Amory's flighty maid, Winnelda, add dimension to the novel, and the ending may surprise even seasoned mystery readers.

With top notes of dry wit, a solidly plotted base and a subtle but rich portrayal of a complicated marriage, Amory's fourth adventure is as satisfying as her bespoke Belanger scent. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: British socialite sleuth Amory Ames and her playboy husband, Milo, investigate the mysterious death of a Parisian perfumer.

Minotaur Books, $24.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250060464

Graphic Books

Park Bench

by Christophe Chabouté

Moby-Dick and Alone introduced English-language audiences to award-winning artist Christopher Chabouté's striking black-and-white illustrations. Park Bench builds upon the artist's distinctive storytelling depth as he depicts a community through the seasonal comings and goings that take place around a solitary bench.

The graphic novel opens with two youngsters carving "I ♥ u" into the wood, which sets the scene around how individual groups in the community use, abuse, ignore and partake of this one object. There is the dog marking his territory on the same corner of the bench, an elderly couple who sit and share a treat, a skateboarder who uses it as a ramp, the homeless man seeking respite every night and getting shooed away by an annoyed patrolman, and the maintenance worker charged with the bench's upkeep. A man who passes it on his daily trek to work eventually takes a moment to sit down, take off his shoes and enjoy the views unfolding before him. Through the passage of time the bench, and this particular scene, comes to symbolize love lost and found, desire and pain, happiness and suffering.

Chabouté's artistic prowess lies in the details. In the space of three to six panels per page, he portrays the slices of life he observes in that singular, wordless scene, adding power and philosophical depth evoked through black-and-white illustrations. Where Alone was a case study on how imagination sustains the soul, Park Bench emerges to represent a pantheistic everyone's story, where each page explores a moment in time that will at once be recognizable and familiar. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: This quiet and introspective graphic novel describes how a park bench comes to represent the experiences of the community it serves.

Gallery 13, $25, paperback, 336p., 9781501154027

Biography & Memoir

David Bowie: A Life

by Dylan Jones

David Bowie lived many lives. Born David Jones and enamored of fame, he assumed the name of a knife renowned for its cutting edge. Then came Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke. Each new incarnation sent fans running back to their bureaus to change. A shape-shifter baptized in new trends at every turn, he followed his fascinations with remarkable doggedness. His pursuits, though, regularly benefited from the people who surrounded him--early mentor Lindsay Kemp, eccentric first wife Angie, relentless manager Tony Defries, longtime collaborator Tony Visconti, protégé Iggy Pop and, especially, Bowie's schizophrenic older brother, Terry, who introduced him to jazz.

Those who knew the artist best are among the many included in British GQ editor Dylan Jones's (no relation) kaleidoscopic oral history, David Bowie: A Life. Jones seldom interjects amidst the fascinating monologues. After a touching introduction, he smartly steps back and lets others do the talking. Their stories are clever, funny, inspiring, heartbreaking and cautionary. Many marvel at the monumental effect supermodel Iman, his second wife, had. Understandably, the bulk of the biography gravitates to the '70s, the artist's wildest era. As the Berlin period of the late decade transitions to his acting in the '80s and his art collecting in the '90s, the music takes a backseat--until 2013's muscular comeback, The Next Day.

There is always more to say about Bowie, not all of it glowing. He was a flawed man who exuded cool. Dylan Jones has crafted an irresistible pastiche of his life, conversations that form a glittering constellation outline of the Starman. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A legion of voices shape Dylan Jones's enthralling oral history of music legend David Bowie.

Crown Archetype, $28, hardcover, 544p., 9780451497833

Social Science

Dirty Kids: Chasing Freedom with America's Nomads

by Chris Urquhart

Sixty years after the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Canadian journalist Chris Urquhart explores America's underground tramp culture in her compelling memoir Dirty Kids: Chasing Freedom with America's Nomads.

The memoir starts as a freelance assignment. In 2009, Urquhart writes an article in the Italian magazine Colors about a gathering of "Rainbows" in New Mexico. In Rainbowland, as the festival is called, she discovers a vibrant subculture of traveling hippies as well as "homeless folks, crusty punks, and inner-city youth who come for the sense of community." Nomadic, anti-consumerist and mystic, the Rainbows inspire Urquhart to immerse herself in similar subcultures for the next three years. She attends Burning Man in the Nevada desert. She visits the House of Ill Repute, "a rotted, sagging structure, an itching punk house sunk in the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan." She connects with Rainbows all over the United States.

Urquhart writes of her adventures with a clear style and a keen journalistic eye. As much as she finds a sense of belonging with the underground, she resists romanticizing it. She reports the mental health issues, the drug abuse and sporadic violence that plague many of the scenes she visits. At the same time, she does uncover an ethos of freedom and resilience born of "the blazing wildness" of living outside the mainstream. After three years on the road, reintegrating into a sedentary life, Urquhart concludes that her travels have taught her how to be "fully present--profoundly present." "Anyone, and everyone, can become family," she writes. "I do not overlook how important Rainbowland is in holding this space of possibility."

With a thoughtful foreword by Micah White, co-creator of Occupy Wall Street, Dirty Kids is an enlightening and entertaining read. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: A young journalist takes to the road in a memoir that explores nomadic subcultures in the U.S.

Greystone Books, $16.95, paperback, 208p., 9781771643047

Essays & Criticism

Shopping Mall

by Matthew Newton

Part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series, which highlights the ordinary objects and structures in modern life, Shopping Mall is both history of and paean to the once-ubiquitous American shopping centers. Essayist Matthew Newton combines his fond memories of his local mall, outside Pittsburgh, with anecdotes about the first one built in the United States, the Mall of America and others, using the specific to pull out the larger story of late-20th-century suburban commercialism that these edifices represent.

Renowned Austrian architect Victor Gruen designed the first shopping mall, hoping to emulate the feeling of the bustling city squares in his hometown of Vienna. That Gruen would publicly disavow shopping malls two decades after he built the first one is a testament to how their structures were bent toward the simple functions of materialism, not the community spaces that he had envisioned. Shopping Mall doesn't track much of the metamorphosis between Gruen's plans and the modern iteration, assuming readers can fill in the blanks as to why the architect's utopian vision was ultimately undercut. But, interestingly enough, Newton doesn't entirely agree with Gruen, either. His own experience of the mall gives proof to its importance in community life, both good and bad, and he elucidates this importance through stories of his childhood and retrospectives on how malls are used today. That perspective gives Shopping Mall a much-needed position beyond "malls are perversions of community life through capitalism." He isn't interested in defending shopping malls, but in showing how his--and many other people's--lives would be entirely different without them. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Matthew Newton's Shopping Mall is a retrospective on a once-ubiquitous part of American life.

Bloomsbury Academic, $14.95, paperback, 176p., 9781501314827



by Marcus Wicker

Ruth Lilly Fellow and Pushcart Prize-winning poet Marcus Wicker (Maybe the Saddest Thing) is influenced by the hip-hop of Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest and DC's MC Oddisee. Their sounds and rhythms kick along beneath the poems in Silencer, underscoring the collection's broad look at the continuing challenges of being a black man in the United States. He muses on life in academia: "Pretend/ as if I'm one of the gang, given over to rigorously lazy readings/ of Foucault, Foster Wallace." And on Midwest suburbia: "chemical lawns, tender-/ skinned children, its Uzi sprinkler heads...? Flame Buicks & midlife crisis sports bikes." But Wicker can't escape race and racism, and he finds trouble on the Internet: "an endless intangible/ stumbling ground of false deities,/ dogma & loneliness, sad as a pile of shit/ in a world without flies."

If these poems are often cool and conversational, they are also combative and political. In one of the strongest, "Watch Us Elocute," the narrator notes: "yesterday,/ some simple American citizen--throwback/ supremacist Straight Outta Birmingham, 1963--/ aimed his .45 & emptied the life from nine/ black believers at an AME church in Charleston." His lines bear a disciplined cadence and form, and the hip-hop influence drives Silencer's startling and unsettling power. Wicker covers it all in the conclusion to the bling poem "Blue Faces, after Kendrick Lamar": "Cashier holding my twenty up to the light to see if it's real money. Like I'd be shopping at Wal-Mart if I could counterfeit money." These are in-your-face poems that also make you want to bounce. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: To the sounds and cadence of hip-hop, Marcus Wicker's Silencer goes to the heart of being black in the United States today.

Mariner Books, $15.99, paperback, 96p., 9781328715548

Children's & Young Adult

You Bring the Distant Near

by Mitali Perkins

Taking readers across four continents, Mitali Perkins (Tiger Boy) celebrates the dazzling beauty of diversity in culture, behavior and thought. More than the story of the Das family through three generations of women, Perkins relates the power of their souls.

Sonia and Tara were born in India, spent most of their childhoods in London and moved to New York City as teenagers. Tara is beautiful, a natural flirt and loves acting, while Sonia is a feminist, reads voraciously and excels in school. The girls' mother, Ranee, holds steadfast to her Bengali traditions though she has no desire to return to India. When Sonia meets the love of her life, only to have Ranee denounce their relationship, mother and daughter become estranged.

Time has a way of healing even the deepest of wounds, and so the Das family reshapes itself through the scars of the past and the promises of the future, which prominently include Sonia's daughter Chantal and Tara's daughter Anna. Three generations, five women and a panoply of talent, beauty, accomplishments and values, the Das family embodies the proudly determined and independent spirit of immigrants forging their way in a new land and exhibits the universal qualities of family. As Sonia's husband points out to Ranee, "Hyphens, for better or worse, are everywhere now. And the good ole U.S.A. makes space for lots of identities."

With wisdom and wit, You Bring the Distant Near illustrates the beauty in diversity. Perkins's striking imagery and deep, heartfelt insights illuminate the darkest corners of ignorance, providing a bright path to understanding and embracing differences in all their many splendors. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Three generations of Indian women struggle to find their identities, battling cultural beliefs, personal values and each other.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-18, 9780374304904

Come with Me

by Holly M. McGhee, illus. by Pascal Lemaître

A little girl, unnamed, is frightened by relentless news stories of "anger and hatred--People against people." She asks first her father (whose skin is white), then her mother (whose skin is brown), what she can do "to make the world a better place." Both parents wisely avoid lectures or pie-in-the-sky schemes, instead inviting their daughter to "come with me" on regular, everyday outings where they encounter a diverse collection of people "because one person doesn't represent a family or a race or the people of a land." The girl's papa tips his baseball hat to the people he meets, so the little girl does, too. The mama takes her to a busy multicultural market for their groceries. And at the end of the day, when the girl asks to walk the dog by herself, "[h]er parents looked at each other, and they looked at their child. They let her go, and sent a message to the world. They would not live in fear."

For adults who worry about how to keep the ugliness of daily news from seeping into the younger generation's spirits, yet also hope to instill them with a sense of responsibility to their world, there is no better place to start than Come with Me. Holly M. McGhee (Matilda, Bright & Tender) writes a parable about a family pushing back against powerlessness with bravery and friendship. Pascal Lemaître's (Do Not Open This Book!) ink and watercolor artwork is spare and affecting, capturing the sincere, kind expressions of the people in the girl's neighborhood. A balm for sore souls. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A child overwhelmed by hate-filled news stories learns that openness and small measures of kindness can start to change the world in this lovely picture book parable.

Putnam, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-8, 9781524739058

An Enchantment of Ravens

by Margaret Rogerson

Seventeen-year-old Isobel lives in the town of Whimsy with her Aunt Emma and her two younger sisters. Unruly and ill-mannered, March and May aren't Isobel's blood relations--"[t]hey'd begun life as a pair of goat kids before a fair one had too much wine and enchanted them on a lark." Now, they are members of Isobel and Emma's patchwork family; Emma became Isobel's guardian after a fairy beast brutally killed Isobel's parents.

As Whimsy's physician, Emma maintains a stable home for the three girls and Isobel adds fair folk enchantments to the family's fortunes by using her Craft: portraiture. Craft is, quite simply, the ability to make something, be it clothing, art or even food. The humans of Whimsy "could transmute substances as easily as [they] breathed, but for fair folk, such creation did not exist." In fact, "it is so contrary to their nature it had the power to destroy them." But the fair folk covet human Craft, and Isobel, as Whimsy's best portrait artist, has no shortage of magical patrons. When Rook, the autumn prince, returns to Whimsy for the first time in hundreds of years, he commissions a work. Isobel paints him as she sees him--with deep sadness in his eyes--not truly understanding that the other fair folk will see this human emotion as weakness. The autumn court moves to strip Rook of his crown and, desperate to save himself, Rook drags Isobel to the autumnlands to "stand trial" for her crime.

As the two run from the Wild Hunt, fairy beasts and the house of winter, it becomes clear that more is amiss than the painting; something is rotten in Rook's homeland. An Enchantment of Ravens offers a beautifully built world and swiftly paced adventure with exactly the right amount of danger, heroics and romance. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A talented young human and a tortured fairy prince find themselves fighting to save the fairy world.

Margaret K. McElderry/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9781481497589

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