Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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

From My Shelf

A Fearless Exploration of the Human Body

Writer, critic and essayist Carmen Maria Machado's first collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf Press, reviewed below), was recently longlisted for the National Book Award. Shelf Awareness spoke with her about the book.

photo: Tom Storm Photography

Pondering the process of putting together her debut short story collection, Machado had much to say. "Once upon a time, I didn't believe story collections had to be organized or curated; wasn't it enough that it was a collection of stories? But, of course, since then I've realized the collections I've read that are the most powerful, memorable and vibrant are collections that chew on interesting and complementary ideas; collections that possess a sense of purpose and focus. So I looked at all of the stories I'd written and began to see themes emerging between particular ones. I gathered those stories into one place and realized I had a book's worth--and not just in terms of length, but in completeness of conversation."

As to how she went about killing her darlings: "When my editor Ethan Nosowsky came in, he suggested I cut a couple of them, and I realized he was right--a few of the stories were slight and repeated certain themes without expanding on them. So out the door they went! The result is a tight, lean collection curated to reflect my current obsessions with the oppressed body, gender, sex and sexuality."

"I am both terrified and thrilled to see my book out in the wide world," Machado admitted. "I've been publishing stories and essays for a few years, so I'm already 'out there' in one sense, but it is an entirely different animal to have a published, print book of just your work. The stories are now fixed, and no longer my own--they belong to the readers who read them. That process of letting go has been very intense." --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Book Candy

Visual Vocabulary Test

"Name that thing. Merriam-Webster challenged wordsmiths to "test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!"


Inspired the PBS series The Vietnam War, IndieWire featured a "recommended reading list: from The Things They Carried to The Sacred Willow.


"The acronym OMG goes all the way back to 1917." Buzzfeed shared "17 facts about words that'll low-key blow your mind."


Tasha Terenina, creator of the Archico bookcase, has "always delighted in the monumentality of the past architecture and simplicity of the new, their grace and lightness."

Good Day, Good Night

by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Loren Long

The collaboration of Margaret Wise Brown's never-before-published text and Loren Long's (Nightsong, Of Thee I Sing) illustrations begins with a double-page spread featuring a familiar-looking bunny watching the sun rise. "When the sun came up the day began./ Who saw the first light of the sun?/ 'I,' said a bunny, 'the only one.'" Atop his hobbit-hole-like burrow, the bunny, in his red-and-white striped shirt and little blue shorts, leans toward the rising sun, the first colors of dawn creeping in around the edges of the illustration.

"Good morning, world!
Hello, daylight
Good day, everyone
Good-bye, night"

Long's rich illustrations show the rabbit neighborhood waking up: one bunny delivers rolled-up copies of the newspaper, the Daily Warren; our red-and-white-clad bunny picks wildflowers bigger than himself; the Harey Dairy milkman makes the rounds; the proprietor of the Bonbunnyrie pastry shop sweeps the area in front of the store.

With every turn of the page, the morning progresses and the sky behind the animals lightens. Leaving the rabbit warren briefly, the reader says hello to a mother bird bringing breakfast to three peeping baby birds and "good day" to bees buzzing out of their hives.

"Good morning to you!
Open your eyes
For every day
Is a new surprise
Go live your day!"

Now full day, the rabbit town bustles with activity: bunnies on bikes and mopeds zip around the streets, young bunnies play soccer and there's even a tired-looking jogger heading up a hill.

Then, as night starts to fall, the background begins to darken. "When the moon came up the night began," and our red-and-white-clad bunny can be seen once again sitting atop the burrow, gazing at the sky, accompanied by his kitten. The next few spreads show the birds and ladybugs bedding down and the adult rabbits returning from work; our bunny is now dressed in his pajamas, getting cozy in a very familiar-looking room. A teddy bear sits on the yellow-and-green rocking chair, the fire blazes in the fireplace and the night peeks through the red windows. On the side table, next to the green bed with the green-and-yellow bedspread, a number of children's books can be seen, including another classic Harper title, The Carrot Seed.

Good Day, Good Night has much for a young reader to discover: mushrooms and flowers are the same size as the bunny inhabitants, two holes are punched in every vehicle roof for the bunny ears, and there are a ton of rabbit puns. There are also plenty of nods to Brown's original Goodnight, Moon. The trim size of the two books is the same, the bunny's room is illustrated in the same color palette as the classic and on one page, a very sleepy bee parent can be seen inside the hive, reading Goodnight, Moon to a very awake young bee.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Goodnight, Moon, which has sold 32 million copies in various formats worldwide. Good Day, Good Night is being published not as a sequel, but as a companion to this beloved children's book. While Goodnight, Moon is perfectly designed to lull a child to sleep, Good Day, Good Night allows children to wake up with the same things they go to bed with--it is a "good morning" story as much as it is a "goodnight" story.

Loren Long, a New York Times bestselling picture book author, began his career illustrating greeting cards. Since then, he has written and illustrated his own series of picture books (Otis) and illustrated works for many authors, including President Barack Obama, Madonna and, now, children's literature great Margaret Wise Brown. His colorful acrylic illustrations bring vibrant life to Brown's book with bold, bright colors, vast landscapes that narrow down to bustling animal cities and sweetly rendered animal characters.

Long's illustrations also add their own stories to the text, enhancing and expanding Brown's work. The story itself begins on the endpapers--before a single word appears--with the tiniest hint of sunrise coloring the sky above rolling green hills (the same goes for the book's end: a darkened, night sky over those same hills). And, just as the rhyme and rhythm of the text bring about a feeling of comfort due to their similarity to Goodnight, Moon, the illustrations work to give the reader an immediate familiarity with this title. Long's attention to detail and use of the same color palette as Clement Hurd's result in illustrations that will remind the reader of the original book but make the work solely his.

From the title page, featuring our bunny waking up to the first light of day, to the final spread with our bunny cozily tucked into bed, Good Day, Good Night welcomes the reader into the world of the "great green room" and imaginatively expands it into a great big world. --Siân Gaetano

HarperCollins, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780062383105

Loren Long: Good Day, Loren

Loren Long is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling picture books Otis, Otis and the Tornado, Otis and the Puppy, An Otis Christmas and Otis and the Scarecrow. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of President Barack Obama's picture book Of Thee I Sing, the re-illustrated edition of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna. Long's Little Tree is a picture book for all ages. Good Day, Good Night, a never-before-seen Margaret Wise Brown text, is being published with Long's illustrations on October 3, 2017 (Harper).

How did you get involved with this project?

In terms of the nuts and bolts, Nancy Inteli from HarperCollins called me and offered me the opportunity. I was instantly interested because of my personal connection with Margaret Wise Brown. Well, not her the person, but with Goodnight, Moon. When I was a young father reading picture books to my children, I was also a young illustrator trying to figure out how to make a living. I was not yet in children's publishing--I was working for magazines and in the editorial markets, doing greeting cards, never really thinking I was going to be a picture book illustrator or author. But I remember not understanding what was so amazing about Moon until I read it to my sons for about the 100th time. The pattern, rhythm, rhyme and poem were amazing, crafted to connect the child to the real world. The reading of this book allowed a special connection with my child and there is such love that comes from that experience. I always tell this to young parents (or anyone who will listen): yes, you're giving your child the gift of creativity and development, but you're also giving them yourself. Forget about all the great literature that Brown gave the world--she gave a lot of that. She bottled up that for a lot of parents and families and teachers and librarians and caregivers. And that's what picture books should do.

As a young father, I felt very strongly connected to Moon. That connection will never leave me and I believe it will never leave my sons.

Good Day, Good Night immediately intrigued me because it had never been published. From what I understand, that story was almost like a movie: the text was found by the estate's editor in a trunk in Brown's sister Roberta's barn attic something like 60 or 70 years after Brown's death. There were some notes that suggest Brown intended Day to be a companion book to Moon. And she loved this idea that, while children would go to bed with Moon, they could wake up and go to bed with Day. I just loved that. We don't want to limit Day to a bedtime story but it has all the makings of a great nighttime read, with that very simple classic feel: "When the sun came up, the day began. Who saw the first light of the sun? 'I' said, a bunny. 'The only one.' "

What was it like to illustrate something that works as a companion to a classic like Goodnight, Moon?

I was a little nervous about that. But that's where you bring in collaboration. Nancy and I discussed that very early on. Here we have this famous book and we are suggesting that Day might stand next to it on a bookshelf. But my work doesn't look like Clement Hurd's, so we decided that we weren't going to try to mimic his style. That would be foolish. We decided that I would illustrate this the best way I knew how, and we have some tributes to Night scattered throughout the book. We also made it the same trim size as the original.

What are some of the creative nods to Night?

Specifically, I was always struck with the color palette. Everybody is struck with the color palette! Why in the world this green room? Somewhat idiosyncratic color schemes. I used the green-and-yellow bedspread in my book to give a nod and a little love to Night. Two windows on either side of a fireplace; a really deep red carpet; on the bookshelf of the little bunny, I have The Carrot Seed (another Harper classic), and The Cow Jumping over the Moon is on the nightstand. And also, in one of the little beehives a really tired mother bee is reading Night to a really awake child bee.

What does your creative process look like when trying to bring a text to life through illustration?

You have to love the text enough to own it, because you will own it. It's not just that you have to spend time with it--that book becomes your book. And that's really a proud moment. It's exciting. Before you start sketching, that's when the book could be the best book you've ever created. Or the worst....

For me, this was kind of a hard text. I started with a little bit of baggage because this is Margaret Wise Brown. I asked myself, "Where does this take place? It talks about a bunny but is that a real bunny?" After asking those questions, I made the choice to break new ground in children's literature and feature a bunny. I thought, "I am going to be brave! I am going to do something that will rock the industry! I'm going to make a bunny book." And I did.

But then it's just starting to sketch. Those little thumbnail sketches feel like they can make or break how successful a book becomes.

What has been your favorite part of working with this book?

I've not yet read it to an audience as a final piece. What I really appreciate is having the chance to bring such a noted, beloved author's work to life. We created a book that we are proud of, and I believe Brown would be proud of it, too. I believe that, above all else, what we've done is put something very pure and noble and good into this crazy world. And that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. --Siân Gaetano

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Great Reads

Children's Books: Celebrate October Holidays

Summer is over, school has begun and Shelf Awareness can't wait for the holiday season, which in October includes Diwali, Sukkot, Halloween and the Day of the Dead. Celebrate, enjoy and learn with these outstanding picture books!

Although Herbert, a young pig, is "not sure" about his first Halloween, his wonderful father loves it. He explains about the costumes ("Can I be a tiger?" Herbert asks), the pumpkin carving (they call it Jack) and the candy ("On Halloween, it's everywhere," Dad says.) By the end of Herbert's First Halloween (Chronicle, $15.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 2-4), the piglet is quite sure that he likes Halloween after all. Cynthia Rylant (Missing May; Life; Little Penguins) and illustrator Steven Henry introduce readers to the mixed feelings that sometimes accompany Halloween in this adorable picture book.

Rebecca Green gives step-by-step lessons on befriending ghosts in her debut solo picture book, How to Make Friends with a Ghost (Tundra/Penguin Random House, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8). This thorough guide covers feeding (favorite treats include earwax truffles and spider web sushi), cauldron bathing and even trick-or-treating (everyone will think it's a ghost costume!). Green warns against hazards such as accidentally using your ghost as a tissue and describes ways to handle growing up together (she suggests a "take your ghost to work day"). Readers will love the cool, pale gray illustrations tinged with occasional red notes and chuckle at the straight-faced tone of the "guide."

Every year, a spooky old tree groans with the weight of gorgeous ripe--and forbidden--pomegranates. Neighborhood children covet the fruit but, alas, "there was a nasty hitch/ The tree was owned and guarded by the Pomegranate Witch!" For The Pomegranate Witch (Chronicle, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-8), Eliza Wheeler's (Wherever You Go; Miss Maple's Seeds) lovely dark silhouetted pictures of the massive tree, the spooky house and the witch herself, along with marvelous wordplay and invented words like "ripplesnaked," and "shivershook" by children's poet Denise Doyen (Once Upon a Twice), make this a Halloween winner.

Todd Parr is a master of the literary equivalent of comfort food. In The I'm Not Scared Book (Little, Brown, $11.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-6), now in paperback, Parr brings the same love, reassurance and understanding he brought to The I Love You Book, It's Okay to Be Different and many others. On each spread, Parr's quintessential yellow- and purple- and blue-skinned children express fears like "Sometimes I'm scared of monsters and ghosts." Opposite is the follow-up: "I'm not scared when I see that they aren't real." Serious and silly blend sweetly in this lighthearted and colorful book.

Playfully decorated black-and-white skeletons (esqueletitos) frolic across the pages of Susie Jaramillo's reversible board book celebrating Day of the Dead. Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos: Countdown to Midnight (Canticos, $19.99, board book, 22p., ages 1-4)--like Jaramillo's Los Pollitos/Little Chickies and Elefantitos/Little Elephants--features an accordion design board book with verses in Spanish on one side and English on the flip side. Young readers will enjoy moving the hands of the clock as they chant along with the traditional Mexican counting song: "When the old clock strikes the hour of one,/ out of the tomb-a skeletitos rumba./ Tomb-a-laca tomb-a-laca tomb-a tomb-a." A free sing-along app teaches reading, phonics, counting, telling time, music and rhythm.

Sukkot is a joyful Jewish harvest festival that also commemorates the 40-year sheltering of Israelites in the wilderness. Families build and decorate a temporary shelter called a sukkah to celebrate. In Is It Sukkot Yet? (Albert Whitman, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8), Chris Barash captures the anticipation leading up to the holiday with rhymes: "When the toolbox comes out/ and the hammers bang hard/ As we put up the hut that will stand in our yard.../ Sukkot is on its way." Alessandra Psacharopulo's autumnal-hued illustrations feature leaf piles, nut-gathering squirrels and happy families. A natural companion to Barash and Psacharopulo's Is It Passover Yet?, Is It Hanukkah Yet? and Is It Purim Yet?

Young Micah is thrilled to visit a pumpkin patch to find the The Best Sukkot Pumpkin Ever (Kar-Ben Publishing, $7.99, paperback, 32p., ages 4-7) to decorate his family's sukkah, but when he learns that the rest of the farm's pumpkins will be used to feed people who don't have enough to eat, he reconsiders his "perfect" pumpkin. Laya Steinberg and Colleen Madden capture the true meaning of he harvest festival of Sukkot in this gentle tale.

Diwali is the festival of lights for many Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh families. A little girl named Harini is excited to share her Diwali story at circle time, and is happily surprised to discover that several of her friends have similar and different Diwali stories to tell. In Let's Celebrate Diwali (Bharat Babies, $19.95, hardcover, 38p., ages 5-8), Anjali Joshi (Sarla in the Sky) and illustrator Tim Palin simply and gracefully describe some of the wonderful legends and history associated with the Indian holiday. --Emilie Coulter, freelance editor and reviewer

Book Review



by Lily Tuck

Sisters is another literary wonder by National Book Award winner Lily Tuck (The News from ParaguayThe Double Life of Liliane). It explores the often awkward, sometimes obsessive relationship of a second wife to her predecessor. The narrator hears about the ex-wife (only named as she) in her husband's reminiscences, looks for the woman's features in her two teen step-children, and sees early years of their marriage in old family photos in her husband's apartment. In time, she increasingly sees her predecessor in person--when dropping off the kids at her Upper East Side apartment ("she was not looking her best... I was glad to see her looking older and in slight disarray"), at her local Fairway grocery, even accidently crossing paths in the ladies' room at her daughter's wedding.

Tuck's 40-year-old narrator was once a free-spirited, occasional drug-taking young woman trying to make it in the city. She remembers all of her lovers and becomes obsessed with her husband's sexual past, particularly that with his ex-wife. When he travels frequently for his job, she develops closer ties with his children, especially the strapping math prodigy son. She rekindles a relationship with a former lover visiting the city: "For old times' sake, I told myself. No regrets." An educated woman and amateur photographer, she frequently quotes from works triggered by what catches her interest: Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa, Václav Havel.

Sisters is a novel about marriage, family, sex, jealousy and vanity. Its narrator makes her way through entanglements and digressions as her life moves toward a surprising but fitting outcome. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Sisters is a spare, stunning story--of a marriage, a former wife, a husband, stepchildren and a woman finding her way among them.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $20, hardcover, 176p., 9780802127112

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado subverts the known world and its expectations in her ingenious debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties. Reading it is a heady and unnerving, sometimes horrifying, experience that opens up human identity as if it were a flower. From the dark corners of existence, from the cracks between pretensions, Machado conjures monsters and angels that, in the light of her deft yet sensuous prose, become painfully recognizable.

Eight stories make up the collection, and many contain elements of magical realism. Machado melds folklore and fabulist images with the raw realities of love, sex, queerness and alienation. There are also satirical elements in these stories, ironies embedded in the dreamy plots like shards of glass. Nowhere are these shards sharper than in "Especially Heinous," a novella-length send-up of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that summarizes every episode of the long-running television show. Few writers can successfully blend trenchant wit aimed at machismo and misogyny with truly creepy gothic imagery. In "Eight Bites," a woman is haunted by the blob-like ghost of her former body, which she tried so hard to lose. And in "The Resident," the alienated protagonist finally understands that knowledge "was a dwarfing, obliterating, all-consuming thing, and to have it was to both be grateful and suffer greatly."

Her Body and Other Parties has so many beautiful lines and sophisticated passages that it would be hard to highlight them all. More importantly, though, it demonstrates that literature, when forthright and brave, can simultaneously dig deep within the self and reframe the greater world. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: In her first story collection, fabulist Carmen Maria Machado brilliantly explores the bondage of the human body and the redeeming powers of love and sexuality.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 248p., 9781555977887

For Isabel: A Mandala

by Antonio Tabucchi, trans. by Elizabeth Harris

There's a reason Antonio Tabucchi's For Isabel carries the subtitle A Mandala. Structured in a way that mimics Buddhist iconography, the novel is an investigation, a journey and a prayer. Much like diving into a dream, or walking into a church, For Isabel has an aura of holiness as it moves toward its center: Isabel, a mysterious figure the narrator once knew.

The plot, such as it is, follows the narrator, a Polish author who awakens from death, as he interviews (and sometimes threatens) associates of Isabel in order to find her whereabouts. Each interview makes up a ring of the Mandala, and each one leads further along, providing more clues as to who Isabel is, and who the narrator was. If the spiritual element was removed, For Isabel would read like a crime novella: Isabel has a checkered past, working with revolutionaries and spending time in prison. But the spiritual element is indelible. Planes of existence are crossed, and the dead brought back to life, in order to reach the center of Tabucchi's project.

Luckily, that center is worth its intrigue. Isabel's path through life, and the narrator's path following her, is filled with brilliant twists and turns, spanning continents and lifetimes. Even a clever reader won't be able to guess every direction the story takes, though it would be wrong to say For Isabel has twists. Instead, it invites you into the life of a complicated woman, and a man doing anything to find her. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: For Isabel is an elegiac novel that treats the solving of a mystery with the logic of dreams.

Archipelago Books, $16, paperback, 144p., 9780914671800

Mystery & Thriller

The Western Star

by Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson takes readers on a gripping rail journey into his Wyoming sheriff's past for the 13th novel of the Walt Longmire series (after An Obvious Fact). A photograph of 24 sheriffs--and one deputy--in front of a locomotive triggers a dark memory for Walt. As the lone deputy, he accompanied then-sheriff Lucian Connelly for the 1972 Wyoming Sheriff's Association junket aboard the train The Western Star. The itinerary took the passenger puller from Cheyenne to Evanston and back--but not everyone returned alive.

The decades-old image kindles Walt's memory, and the flames are stoked by a parole hearing in Cheyenne, for which he's en route. Usually just a required formality resulting in denial of parole, Walt attends to fulfill a promise. So word that the mysterious convict's attorneys are petitioning for compassionate release douses Walt's memory fire with lighter fluid.

Offering glimpses of Walt's relationship with his late wife, Martha, and the onset of his career in Absaroka County, The Western Star peels back complex layers that define the beloved sheriff. Series devotees will delight in new pieces to Walt's puzzle while those discovering the series should easily jump right into the man's life. At a baker's dozen of Longmire novels, Johnson shows no signs of skimping on quality. The Western Star combines a thrilling plot, colorful characters, exceptional dialogue and, of course, Johnson's signature humor. Johnson even includes a clever literary tie-in with Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.

All aboard! The Longmire train is in the station, and you don't want to miss this one. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A highly personal case early in Walt's career haunts him as he battles attorneys petitioning for compassionate release of a mysterious convict.

Viking, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780525426950

The King of Fools

by Frédéric Dard, trans. by Louise Rogers Lalaurie

Though the late, astonishingly prolific author and playwright Frédéric Dard wrote hundreds of novels, stories and plays, he isn't well known in the English-speaking world. But some of his classic noir titles are finally being translated from French into English, and are sure to appeal to fans of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.

The King of Fools opens in the Cȏte d'Azur, where the blasé Jean-Marie Valaise is vacationing alone, having broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Denise. Jean-Marie becomes entranced with an Englishwoman named Marjorie after an accidental meeting, and begins to obsess about her, even after Marjorie departs for England. The reappearance of a repentant Denise distracts Jean-Marie for a few days, but when Marjorie writes him that she'll be heading to Edinburgh, he leaves on a whim to find her.

Dard's beautiful sense of place--contrasting the sunny south of France and the dark rain of Edinburgh--reflects Jean-Marie's shifting mood. It plummets from elation and love into bewilderment and fear as circumstances in Edinburgh come to a dramatic head. With blood on his hands, Jean-Marie is trapped in a nightmare in this unfamiliar city, leaving the reader hanging on Dard's every word, to see how it will resolve.

A slim novel with laconic prose and a stunning plot, The King of Fools will keep many a mystery lover up too late--and waiting eagerly for the next novel of Dard's to be translated into English. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans

Discover: In this noir novel, a young Frenchman faces his worst nightmare in Edinburgh.

Pushkin Vertigo, $13.95, paperback, 193p., 9781782271970

Biography & Memoir

A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War

by Deborah Campbell

When Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell landed in Damascus in 2007, she was on assignment for Harper's magazine: charged with telling the story of the Iraqi refugees who had fled to Syria after Saddam Hussein's government was overthrown. Campbell soon met and hired Ahlam, an Iraqi refugee and "fixer" who worked with journalists and humanitarian groups to provide reliable contacts and information. The two women became friends, and Campbell began spending much of her time at Ahlam's apartment, which functioned as an informal neighborhood center. But when Ahlam was taken from her home and imprisoned, Campbell became determined to find her, worrying that her presence had put her friend in jeopardy.

In her memoir, A Disappearance in Damascus, Campbell paints a vivid portrait of Ahlam: a strong, competent woman who found herself in limbo when her country collapsed, waiting in Syria for the chance to build a new life elsewhere. Campbell traces the complicated politics of the conflict and the heartrending, frustrating plight of refugees, while acknowledging her own privilege and freedom of movement as a Westerner and observer. As she investigates Ahlam's arrest, Campbell uncovers more evidence of her friend's bravery and the shadowy tactics of the state. Ahlam offered Campbell, and now Campbell offers her readers, "a way to understand the foreign country that was the war, and how anyone could survive and yet remain human." Harrowing, well told and deeply compassionate, Campbell's narrative illuminates the hidden consequences of war and the tensile strength of an unlikely friendship. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A vivid, compelling memoir by a Canadian journalist of her friendship with an Iraqi refugee and "fixer" in Damascus.

Picador, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9781250147875

Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant

by Shrabani Basu

Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu recounts with intimate and fascinating detail the ascension of Muslim Indian servant Abdul Karim from serving at Queen Victoria's table to becoming her closest friend and teacher, much to the resentment and jealousy of the rest of the royal household.

As a young clerk at the time of British colonial rule in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, Abdul Karim's good looks, height and regal bearing earned him the position of a royal servant at the Golden Jubilee celebrations. Here Queen Victoria, as "Empress of India," hosted bejeweled Indian princes and princesses. The queen showed no race or class barriers, and protected her Indian servants from the prejudices of the Royal Court. She asked Abdul Karim to teach her Urdu, his native tongue, because she wanted to communicate with her Indian subjects and understand them better.

In this much-anticipated second edition of Victoria and Abdul, Basu includes excerpts from Abdul Karim's diary, which until recently was considered lost with the rest of his royal artifacts. His family smuggled it out of England to India and then to Pakistan during the British partition of India. Everything else pertaining to his relationship with the queen was destroyed by her heirs. Upon her death he was banished from England, a final victory for members of the royal household keen on sabotaging the relationship.

Basu's storytelling is rich and sumptuous, capturing England in its glory, and the sights, sounds and smells of Agra. Victoria and Abdul has been made into a recently released film directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: A historical account of Queen Victoria's controversial relationship with her Indian Muslim servant and teacher, Abdul Karim, enriched by the recent discovery of a missing diary.

Vintage, $16, paperback, 352p., 9780525434412

Political Science

Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in an Age of Crisis

by George Monbiot

The problem with current left-wing politics and politicians, according to British author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot (How Did We Get into This Mess?) is in part due to the failure of their worldviews, or what he calls "stories." An inspiring, easily understood political story may overwhelm any factual argument. It can be defeated only by a new, more appealing one. Out of the Wreckage is his ambitious attempt to construct such a story.

"Our challenge is to produce one that is faithful to the facts, faithful to our values, and faithful to the narrative patterns to which we respond." Monbiot writes that the two most successful stories of the 20th century were those of the social democrats and neoliberals. Both, though, have failed, he says, and need to be replaced. He describes the historical rise of these approaches, and the problems they have confronted in more recent years. The values of individualism and extreme competition have been found lacking. We need to expand government services, build inclusive community life, restore respect for each other and the planet, and revive democracy and our confidence in institutions. He analyzes the 2016 U.S. Democratic presidential campaigns (he is a Bernie Sanders fan), and provides a concise four-page summary of ideas that reads like a draft of a party platform. This is a clear, broadly informed and well-presented contribution to the discussion of where our societies need to go next, and how we can make them work for all of us, together. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot lays out his ideas for a fresh and hopeful left-wing political narrative in this short, well-organized book.

Verso, $24.95, hardcover, 9781786632883

Essays & Criticism


by Kim Adrian

In Sock, part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series, which probes the depths of everyday items, essayist Kim Adrian takes a closer look at a consistently overlooked, nearly essential article of clothing: the sock.

Starting with the invention of the hay sock in the Ötztal Alps around 3,300 BCE, and moving through time to the fetishized, cozy slipper-socks worn today, Adrian delves into the history of an object that is donned daily around the globe. Her narrative swells from this pure historical account into a series of related musings on the fragility of the human form as she considers the physical awkwardness of a foot. Adrian also explores how the foot and the sock are connected to desire and human compassion. She uncovers revelatory facts such as how the nerve endings in our feet may explain the prevalence of foot fetishes, and how images of discarded shoes can be emotionally resonant.

Through a discussion of the footwear's material, social and cultural evolution, Sock reflects on the brilliance present in the minutiae of our lives. With piercing wit, idiosyncratic humor and sharply insightful moments of personal examination, Adrian uses the most domestic of items as a lens through which to view the inelegance and wondrousness of humanity. Encompassing the utility of protecting an essentially vulnerable, uncomfortable body and the bonds mothers form with the objects that cover the delicate toes of their babies, Adrian's warm, insightful investigation will give this common object new prominence in any reader's mind. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Sock delivers a detailed exploration of human nature through whimsically astute commentary on a common, closely held object.

Bloomsbury Academic, $14.95, paperback, 144p., 9781501315060


The Dogs of Avalon: The Race to Save Animals in Peril

by Laura Schenone

Laura Schenone had good reason to fear animals: she was bitten twice by canines in childhood. To her, "Animals... meant meat, milk, cheese, eggs, fish. I believed they should be treated humanely, but they were food, nonetheless." Therefore, it made sense for Schenone (The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken) to focus her writing career on cooking and food for many years. However, a chance encounter with a woman advocate for--and rescuer of--Irish greyhounds and lurchers, which are mixed-breed sight hounds, sparked Schenone's interest to learn more about the lives of these gentle, graceful, aerodynamic working dogs that are the fastest dogs on earth. When Schenone adopted an abandoned lurcher from County Cork as a companion for her nine-year-old son, she was further inspired to research a network of dedicated animal activists--a small, fervent band of women proponents from Europe and the U.S. The group began by finding homes for street dogs and later broadened their efforts to offer rehabilitation, re-homing and ultimately create a sanctuary for these and other animals.

Captivating personal stories about the rescuers and the challenges and risks of their plight are woven around a history of greyhounds. Schenone explores how the breed emerged and evolved in prominence in England, Australia and Ireland, where the Emerald Isle became the leader in breeding and exporting for the dog racing circuit. This thorough, well-presented narrative investigates animal injustice and abuse and is sure to offer compelling inspiration for animal welfare devotees and advocates worldwide. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This is the inspiring story of dedicated activists who gained prominence by rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing former racing dogs.

W.W. Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 336p., 9780393073584

Children's & Young Adult


by Francisco X. Stork

"Maybe in other cities in the world, a young woman can be one hour late and it isn't a cause for worry. In Juárez, that is simply not possible." Sara Zapata's best friend, Linda, went missing--she's now one of the Desaparecidas (Disappeared). Using her position at a local newspaper to tell Linda's story, Sara is badly shaken when a threat comes in to her bosses: "If you publish anything of Linda Fuentes we will kill your reporter and her family." For the first time, Sara realizes her journalism may put her mother and little brother, Emiliano, in danger. Still, Sara hasn't published a story about Linda in four months. Why threaten her now?

After a brush with the law, Brother Patricio saved Emiliano from jail. Channeling his anger into healthier outlets, Emiliano worked with Brother Patricio to found the Jiparis, "a Mexican version of the Boy Scouts." Through his Jipari work, Emiliano has his own business; he hopes the money he earns can help his family and help him win over crush Perla Rubi's wealthy family. But a chance meeting with Perla's father leads to a business proposal of which Emiliano isn't sure he wants to be a part. "There's no way to be successful in Mexico without getting dirty," Mr. Esmerelda reasons. "The best one can do is control the degree of dirt."

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World; The Memory of Light) is a gripping, timely tale of trafficking and the risks one must take to uncover truth. Juárez, alternately glittering and gritty, is "like a spiderweb. Every thread is connected directly or indirectly to every other thread." As Emiliano tentatively steps into the web and Sara desperately tries to stay out of it, readers will wonder whether either can escape. --Kyla Paterno, former children's and YA book buyer

Discover: In Juárez, Mexico, a journalist searching for her missing best friend finds her life threatened while her younger brother learns the cost of joining Juárez's upper class.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 14-up, 9780545944472


by John Lennon, illus. by Jean Jullien

John Lennon's opening chords are unmistakable, and the lyrics are familiar worldwide: "Imagine there's no heaven./ It's easy if you try." Countless artists have covered the haunting utopian anthem, and now human rights organization Amnesty International joins the ranks with a picture book illustrated by French graphic artist Jean Jullien.

In the first scene, the earnest-looking gray bird steps off a crowded subway and embarks on a journey. Along the way, it encounters a variety of birds, all of which seem to need comfort. Seagulls stop their squabbling over a fish when the pigeon shares its message ("Nothing to kill or die for"). A rainbow of songbirds find shelter under its wings ("I hope some day you'll join us"). And a pair of fighting hummingbirds make peace after it dive-bombs them with love ("Imagine no possessions").

A robin's-egg blue background predominates in Imagine, making the childlike depictions of birds and flowers pop. The boldly outlined pigeon is appealingly evocative of Mo Willems's pigeon. Jullien (Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise; Before & After; This Is Not a Book), whose work includes illustration, photography, video, costumes, installations and books, also created the Peace for Paris symbol after the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.

Repackaging the beloved song in a picture book format is a brilliant way to bring much-needed attention back to the simple goal of "living life in peace." After all, Lennon reminds us, music, art and peace have the power to change the world. The sentiment comes at a time when it is needed more than ever: released on the International Day of Peace, Imagine will likely be welcomed by people of all ages and backgrounds. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A city-dwelling member of the dove family brings comfort to others in this picture book version of John Lennon's "Imagine."

Clarion, $18.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-7, 9781328808653

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