Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 16, 2018

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Revisiting Many Waters

In the months leading up to the release of the A Wrinkle in Time movie, we're asking authors of middle grade and young adult to revisit a title in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. For February, Karuna Riazi (The Gauntlet) revisits Many Waters:

Karuna Riazi

I always wanted to be a twin.

There seemed to be a particular magic in seeing your own face outside of a mirror--passing back and forth secrets and deeply held sorrows with the warmth of shared confidences and determined unity.

I point an accusatory finger at Madeleine L'Engle and Many Waters for this desperate longing for a twin, just as I blame L'Engle for equally desiring a boy to admire both my bravery and my moon-boat eyes.

The ability to anchor the extraordinary within the commonplace is what I've always admired in the Time Quintet, and what really shines in Many Waters.

Sandy and Dennys are particularly magical twins. They finish each other's sentences and stumble into adventure almost as an afterthought. But they are grounded in reality in a relieving way. They casually welcome you into L'Engle's extraordinary tale: shifting time and space, awkward youth performing slightly less awkward acts of heroism.

And even the new world--populated with beautiful, blushworthy seraphim--is not all that unfamiliar. There are still large and teeming families, newfound friendships and painstakingly carved alliances.

"I'm homesick," Sandy says at the book's close. "We probably always will be," Dennys agrees.

This, too, is reality for me: pining for them, their worlds and their capriciously commonplace lives. Every year, I move forward without a twin, and with the sense that I am not as magical and brave and charmingly capable as I hoped to be.

But with every reread, I am able to share their secrets and be warmed by shared confidences and determined unity. And yes, I still don't have a twin, but I hold out hope for a boy who likes a girl with bookish bravery and not necessarily moon-boat eyes. --Karuna Riazi

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Chanel Cleeton: Community Outside of Cuba

photo: Chris Malpass

In Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. She is the author of 11 books, including Next Year in Havana (Berkley, $15), her first historical novel. Our review is below.

Your family's history was part of your inspiration for the book.

My father and my grandparents left Cuba in 1957, a little bit later than the family in the book. My grandparents always thought they would be able to return one day. From the time I was a young child, they would paint the picture of their life there for me. They lived with us, and we ate Cuban food all the time. They had that huge nostalgia for their homeland and they were never able to go back.

Some of my relatives had planned to return to Cuba for a family reunion when travel from the U.S. became possible. But my grandfather felt strongly about not supporting the regime by returning, and that opened up a series of family discussions. My dad told me a story about how, before they left, everyone came over to my grandparents' house in the middle of the night and buried their valuables in a box in the backyard. As a writer, that really inspired me: If you had a similar box, what would you save? They also buried items in the walls of their home, to try to preserve whatever they could.

I haven't been to Cuba, but I talked to friends and family members, people who lived there once or had been back recently. We also have photos and documents that were smuggled out, and my grandfather's hand-draws maps of Havana. It's one of his passion projects. So I was able to re-create some of the buildings, the neighborhoods, the city as it was then.

How did you decide to tell the novel's story through a dual-narrative structure, involving women from multiple generations of the same family?

I wanted to explore how the Cuban revolution is ongoing for so many exiles. In talking to friends who aren't as familiar with it, I was surprised to hear that people didn't understand why Cubans cling to their homeland so much. I wanted to explore what that meant for the exiled community--what it meant for my grandparents' generation and my father's generation, who left their home with nothing.

For my generation, we struggle with identity a little bit, because we don't have the same tangible connection. My mother is American and my father is Cuban, but I've never even been to the country. We have this unresolved sense of our place in the world, as Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

Many Cubans who immigrated to the U.S. right after Castro's rise to power expected to return soon, but ended up building lives in Florida and elsewhere.

I think when the revolution happened, people expected to return in a few months. That's still a toast we make at New Year's Eve: Next year in Havana, which became the title of my book. There have been so many moments where Cubans thought, "Okay, we'll go home soon." That makes it hard when you are building a life.

My grandparents were closer to their 50s when they came to the U.S.: later in their careers and their lives. How do you put down roots when you're always looking to another country? We were always waiting for Castro to die. There was definitely an expectation in the 1990s that Castro would pass away and everything would go back to the way it was. As I was writing the book, the U.S. was opening relations with Cuba, and we thought we might see a sea change there, but that has been dialed back. Castro died right as I was finishing up the manuscript, but things will never go back to the way they were before he came to power.

Can you talk about the Cuban community in the U.S.?

I tried to focus on the idea of Cubans helping Cubans, and the sense of community and sacrifice. That really impressed me about my grandparents' stories: they had a huge network of friends and family that they kept in touch with. It was a story of friends coming together and making sacrifices for each other. When my grandparents came to this country, they came as refugees, and family friends helped my grandfather get a job and helped my grandparents find an apartment. That's one thing that comes through: how much people have built their own community outside of Cuba. They've passed down the stories: most people didn't get to bring much with them in terms of possessions or documents, but that oral tradition and culture are still very strong.

Both of your protagonists fall in love with men who have radical ideas about how to reshape Cuba. Tell us about the differences and similarities between the two men.

I knew that, no matter how hard I tried, I was always going to be writing as the granddaughter of an exile. That's the genesis of this story, and my perspective. But I wanted to give a holistic portrayal, as best I could. With Pablo [Elisa's love interest], I wanted to show a good man who was trying to do the right thing, who was passionate about his country. A young girl like Elisa, from an affluent family, was not going to have access to that segment of society: he was a great foil to her. And she didn't have to agree with him about everything. As for Luis [Marisol's modern-day love interest]: there's a new generation of Cubans who are trying to use technology to demand change within the government and the country. I feel like the two male characters told the side of the story that I couldn't tell.

In my research, I listened to a lot of recordings of men who were involved in the 26th of July movement. I kept hearing what their goals were when they got involved, and how those goals didn't come to fruition. They were kids playing at revolution, and they didn't know how to build a government. They didn't really have a plan in place. All they knew was that they wanted to get rid of Batista. They didn't know anything about governance. I wanted to flesh out that idea of good intentions, being dedicated to your country and your beliefs, but maybe it didn't work out the way you wanted.

The novel explores the tensions, overt and subtle, between Cubans who fled to the U.S. and those who stayed. How do you see that?

In Cuba, there's a lot of diversity. There are diverse experiences both among the exiles and those who have stayed. Socioeconomically, for example, there were people who were doing well under Batista's regime. It was more of a European class: the big plantation owners, whose industries were threatened almost immediately. For that exile community, Fidel has done no good in Cuba. But for a lot of the people who stayed, there have been some improvements: healthcare access, the national literacy rate. Racism is obviously prevalent, both under Batista and Castro. The official position is that we've eradicated racism, but that's not true. For a lot of people, it's a question of: What did you lose? --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Book Candy

Books About the Olympics Host

Author Mary Lynn Bracht picked her "top 10 books about South Korea" for the Guardian.


For Presidents' Day weekend, Quirk Books elected to showcase "fictional female presidents and their rise to power."


Valentine's Day may be over, but it's never too late to celebrate "30 of the worst couples in literature," according to Lit Hub.


Brightly featured "the very best things about reading aloud with kids, according to parents."


"These 'yes or no' questions will help us determine if you'd survive the Hunger Games," Buzzfeed promised/threatened.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

President's Day provides plenty of potential reading material. For a look at Lincoln, see Carl Sandburg's classic compendium, for more current commanders-in-chief, The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy gathers living ex-executives--and there are many more options. The latest big book (literally large, at 1,100 pages) to highlight a man in the highest office is Ron Chernow's Grant, which gives a glimpse at the flawed but generally noble Union general turned president whose roughness of character is as well known as his advocacy for African-American rights. Grant hit the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list, marking another biographical bonanza for National Book Award-winner Chernow after Alexander Hamilton, Washington: A Life, and more.

An account of Grant's life is also available in his own words. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is a two-volume autobiography written as Grant was dying of throat cancer. By 1884, the former president had gone bankrupt thanks to financial fraud and desired something to leave his family. He made a publishing deal with his friend Mark Twain, and sometimes wrote 25 to 50 pages a day, in a race against his illness. He finished the manuscript five days before his death. Twain sold 350,000 copies by sending 10,000 canvassers across the North, many army veterans in their uniforms. Grant's widow received $450,000 (worth at least $10 million in today's dollars). In addition to financial success, The Personal Memoirs has been heralded as a concise, intelligent account of a storied military career written at a time when other Civil War memoirs were often bogged down by flowery Victorian language. In 2017, Belknap Press published an annotated version of Grant's Memoirs ($39.95, 9780674976290). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Frankenstein in Baghdad

by Ahmed Saadawi, trans. by Jonathan Wright

Baghdad during the 2003 U.S. occupation of Iraq is a city of soldiers, shortages and car bombings. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright, is a surreal, tragicomic look at people persevering through the random cruelty of war.

Hadi, a junk dealer, collects body parts after bombings and sews them together, creating a grotesque, human-like form. When his creation becomes sentient after prayers from a grieving mother, it takes on a mission to avenge those who caused the death of any piece of its body. The creature is "not exactly a living being, but not a dead one either," and this could also be said of many people surviving in war-torn Baghdad. The ensuing carnage creates widespread anxiety.

Brigadier Majid, head of the undercover Tracking and Pursuit Department, uses his team of astrologers, mystics and clairvoyants to find the killer. Journalist Mahmoud al-Sawadi, through whose eyes much of the story is seen, investigates the inexplicable deaths while trying to manage a career within the conflict zone. Citizens dismayed about the deterioration of municipal institutions and jittery about fatal bombings now add worry about a serial killer. Possibly, says one character, "all the security incidents and the tragedies we're seeing stem from one thing--fear."

Frankenstein in Baghdad won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014, with a cast of characters so interesting that they could each have a novel of their own. This important addition to literature about the nonsensical nature of war is a compelling and lively read. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Frankenstein in Baghdad is a darkly humorous allegory of the ways in which humans persevere amid the absurdities and horrors of war.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 288p., 9780143128793

Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton

Cuban American writer Marisol Ferrera grew up on her grandmother's stories: richly described tales of the Perez family's comfortable life in Havana before the revolution. The daughter of a sugar baron, Elisa Perez was forced to flee with her family when Fidel Castro and his men ousted Batista in 1959. Marisol loves her life in Miami, but has always dreamed of visiting her family's homeland. When Elisa dies, she leaves Marisol a letter and a final request: that her granddaughter travel to Havana and spread her ashes in the city she loved.

In the 1950s, Elisa and her sisters--protected and wealthy--are dimly aware of the rumblings of revolution in their city, though their brother has been caught up in the fervor. When Elisa meets Pablo, a young lawyer and compatriot of Fidel, she is torn between the family she loves and the man she can't stop thinking about. Half a century later, Marisol is drawn to Luis, the grandson of Elisa's best friend, for similar reasons. A history professor who writes anonymously online, Luis gives voice to his fierce love of his country and equally fierce hatred of the Cuban government. But his writings may have consequences for his family, and Marisol wonders if she can truly understand a man who shares her nationality but almost nothing of her life experience.

In Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton moves back and forth between her protagonists' narratives, evoking the glamour and danger of 1950s Cuba. Her novel explores the tangled reality of being Cuban: persistent despair, stubborn hope and flashes of defiant joy, as well as a deeply rooted love for a complicated home. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Chanel Cleeton's lush, compelling historical novel weaves together two stories of love, revolution and family secrets in Cuba.

Berkley, $15, paperback, 400p., 9780399586682

Still Me

by Jojo Moyes

After Me Before You and After You, Jojo Moyes's plucky heroine, Louisa Clark, seeks new adventures in New York City. She's the personal assistant for Agnes, beautiful second wife of the obscenely rich Leonard Gopnik. Lou's job includes accompanying Agnes to glitzy social events. Her life isn't all glamour, though. Lou's room in the Gopniks' apartment is tiny and she misses her paramedic boyfriend, Sam, with whom she's trying to maintain a long-distance romance.

Her situation is complicated when she meets a man who reminds her too much of her past, from which she's still recovering. Joshua Ryan makes her think about what-ifs, while transatlantic correspondence with Sam isn't going as well as she'd like. Sam gets an attractive new female partner at work, and suddenly seems less available when Lou tries to reach him. Then a misunderstanding puts her job at risk, and she must figure out what she wants before she loses everything she has.

Lou remains a sweetheart, though at times she's so naïve and nice that people take advantage of her, which might be frustrating. But finding her grit is part of her journey, which takes surprising turns. When her heart breaks, her pain may cause tears. And when she discovers her mettle, her fans will cheer, especially when she devises a touching way to keep a certain person's memory alive. Yes, Lou is still Lou, only better and wiser. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Following events of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark starts a new life in Manhattan.

Pamela Dorman Books, $27, hardcover, 400p., 9780399562457

Match Made in Manhattan

by Amanda Stauffer

In her first novel, Match Made in Manhattan, Amanda Stauffer captures the vibe of Sex and the City for the digital age. Serial monogamist Alison, who dated one guy all through college, and one more for the years since graduation, is suddenly single. Realizing she's never really been on a first date (both of her boyfriends started out as friends), Alison decides to take the plunge, and joins to find the man of her dreams.

For a year Alison, an architectural conservationist, goes out with "the New Testament of bachelors"--Matt, Marc, the Lukes, John, James, Paul and more. She dates needy men and nice men and kind men and full-of-themselves men. She becomes frustrated by men who represent themselves differently online, and pleasantly surprised by men who are more handsome in person than their profile pictures suggest. Finally, she meets a guy who seems perfect for her, but is he actually "the One?" All the while, as Alison agonizes over various men and what she likes and dislikes about them, her roommate and other girlfriends provide a bulwark of support and sympathetic listening.

Perfect for anyone who has dated their share of oddballs, this novel will make readers in relationships very happy not to be single, and will make single readers feel understood, as they read about Alison's triumphs and disasters. With some funny scenes and a few decidedly cringeworthy ones, Match Made in Manhattan is the modern dating scene encapsulated. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: Alison, a serial monogamist, enters the online dating world for the first time in this entertaining look at modern relationships.

Skyhorse Publishing, $15.99, paperback, 320p., 9781510728097

Mystery & Thriller

The Wife

by Alafair Burke

When Angela first meets Jason, a highly regarded professor at New York University, she's running a small catering business and living with her parents to eke by in East Hampton. They marry a year later, and Angela--with her young son, Spencer--grudgingly uproots and moves to New York City.

As Angela adapts to life in the city, Jason's career skyrockets. He writes a bestselling book, produces a popular podcast, starts his own business. He basks in a limelight his wife abhors. Angela is protecting a dark secret, and she intends to keep it safely buried at all costs; she fears Jason's fame increases the chances someone will start digging into her past. However, Jason's success doesn't threaten Angela; an accusation of sexual harassment that Angela believes is false jolts the couple from their comfortable existence.

In Alafair Burke's follow-up to The Ex, readers will likely recognize inspiration from several national news headlines. Burke, with her finger on the pulse of American culture, expertly melds these riveting details into a spellbinding novel that will keep her audience up into the wee hours of the night. Unveiling the tantalizing secrets is too tempting to wait. The Wife contains no shortage of plot twists; even seasoned suspense fans will find themselves caught off guard by Burke's zigs and zags.

As with Burke's previous novels, this standalone delivers strong dialogue, an authentic sense of New York City and a cast of charismatic characters, any of whom could inspire novels of their own. Don't let this one pass by; say "I do" to The Wife. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An accusation of sexual harassment could force a woman to choose between defending her husband and protecting her own dark secrets.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780062390516

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Senlin Ascends

by Josiah Bancroft

Imagine a tower so old and tall that no one knows how it was built or how far into the heavens it goes. Each floor is a city unto itself, with different power brokers, thieves, gangsters and lost souls. Now, imagine heading there for your honeymoon, only to lose your spouse right away outside the great ziggurat's walls. Senlin Ascends, the first of a series of books about this "Tower of Babel" by poet Josiah Bancroft, begins in just this way. The missing wife incites a journey upward--and into the fantastic.

Humble schoolteacher Thomas Senlin and his new wife, Marya, are separated almost immediately, and Senlin Ascends follows the former as he traverses the first four floors (known as "rings") of the tower. Babel is a sort of Babylonian-steampunk setting, where each ring is entirely different from the last (the second floor, for instance, is one giant theater where guests are obliged to take part, while the third is a sort of gigantic sanatorium). Only one thing is clear as Senlin moves onward and upward: no one can be trusted, and the rich will always profit at the expense of the desperate.

There isn't a much deeper social commentary than one of greed, but Bancroft's universe is so intricately populated it doesn't matter. Readers can enjoy how dense the different rings are, and their interconnectivity is a wonderful puzzle at the heart of Senlin Ascends. The prose can be a bit flowery at times, but that's a small price to pay for such an interesting, well-imagined world. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Senlin Ascends is the first of a vivid fantasy series about a mysterious and ancient tower.

Orbit, $15.99, paperback, 448p., 9780316517911


1947: Where Now Begins

by Elisabeth Åsbrink, trans. by Fiona Graham

In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, the world is still reeling from the effects of war. People are horrified at the discovery of the Nazi death camps and the mass murders that took place. Refugees, primarily Jewish, are on the move to and from all parts of Europe, yet love, literature and music begin to blossom from the ashes. Swedish writer Elisabeth Åsbrink details, month-by-month, in short snippets, a variety of important and cultural events around the world that took place during this one year, all of which were the forerunners for current events.

She writes about Thelonious Monk and the birth of bebop; the love affair between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren; and the isolated spot where George Orwell wrote 1984. She delves deeply into the Jewish plight--during the war and after, discussing the intense debates over whether the Jews had a right to claim a home in Palestine and how the Muslim Brotherhood was born. At the same time, Nazis from all over Europe fled to South America, where they maintained their Fascist views, while others stood trial for their crimes at Nuremburg. India claimed its independence from Britain, and Soviet communism gained strength. Åsbrink's focus revolves around a variety of people and their actions, making 1947 feel slightly disjointed. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating, horrifying and illuminating portrayal of circumstances that have impacted the present day, when many of the same feelings, thoughts and actions are, unfortunately, still in existence. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A look at the cultural, personal and political events that took place in 1947 and changed the world.

Other Press, $25.95, hardcover, 288p., 9781590518960

Essays & Criticism

Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Perils, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing

by Stephanie Stokes Oliver, editor

An expertly selected and edited sampler that features 25 of the best black writers to work in the U.S., Black Ink is also a chronological portrait of the conscious development of black literature in the U.S. by black writers, editors and critics. This is the third anthology by editor and writer Stephanie Stokes Oliver (Song for My Father), with an introduction by poet Nikki Giovanni.

Black Ink is the sort of book that opens doors to other books. Many of these pieces are tantalizing excerpts of longer works, and each is preceded by a brief biography of the author. Oliver has organized them into three sections: The Peril (19th century), The Power (1900-1968) and The Pleasure (1968-2018). The earliest pieces, beginning with Frederick Douglass, often deal with the authors' determined and dangerous pursuit of education, ending with W.E.B. Du Bois's 1913 survey of black literature. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marlon James and Jamaica Kincaid offer their perspectives on living both outside and inside the U.S. Many anecdotes feature supportive and inspiring teachers, as well as the thrill of success. Others describe the limitations imposed by having to please and placate white publishers, critics and teachers, and by the expectation that they always "write about the Race Problem." Authors discuss their reading and writing, what makes a classic, poetry, slave narratives and children's literature, and what it is to become themselves. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes: "These texts reveal the human universal through the African American particular." Black Ink is a first-rate introduction to some of the best in African American literary culture. --Sara Catterall

Discover: This is a tantalizing sampler of 25 brilliant black U.S. writers from 1845 to the present.

37 INK/Atria, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9781501154287

Travel Literature

The Monk of Mokha

by Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers (Heroes of the Frontier) enjoys seeking out and highlighting lesser-known stories. Through his founding of nonprofit 826Valencia and writing books like What Is the What, he uses his position in literary circles to shift his readers' attention. The Monk of Mokha is Eggers's biography of a courageous and somewhat naïve young man who began cultivating high-end coffee in Yemen during the outbreak in 2015 of the ongoing civil war.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali lives in the United States and drifts aimlessly through his 20s until he discovers his purpose: to revive the culture of coffee in his ancestral home. The modern process of roasting and drinking coffee beans originated in Yemen, where the plant was grown with great success for generations before global trade and political disorder nearly wiped out the practice. With internal strife and external competition, the idea of traveling to Yemen to convince farmers to begin growing coffee again seems like a fool's errand. This is especially so for someone who, at the beginning of his project, doesn't actually know the first thing about coffee cultivation, preparation or trade. The fact that Mokhtar succeeds in spite of this alone makes his story worth telling.

Eggers is always happy to explain to the reader aspects of Yemeni and coffee cultures. He's also never patronizing to Mokhtar, even as the young man makes foolhardy and risky decisions. Mokhtar has a vision, and through The Monk of Mokha, Eggers shows the power of belief. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Dave Eggers's The Monk of Mokha is the biography of one Yemeni American man building a flourishing coffee trade back in his ancestral country.

Knopf, $28.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781101947319

Parenting & Family

In Sickness and In Health: Love, Disability, and a Quest to Understand the Perils and Pleasures of Interabled Romance

by Ben Mattlin

Ben Mattlin, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair, has been married to his able-bodied wife M.L. for 26 years. Despite what strangers may tell them, their union is neither tragic nor inspiring. "In an age where interracial and interfaith marriages are common," he writes, "it seems odd that romances like ours still leave people perplexed and awestruck." Still, he recognizes that there are undeniable challenges to living with a disability, and sets out to examine why his and other "interabled" relationships work, despite--or perhaps because of--those challenges.

In In Sickness and In Health, Mattlin interviews more than a dozen couples of varying ages and backgrounds about their relationships--including sex, parenting, caregiving and monetary concerns, as well as larger issues of control and independence. He asks frank questions, and his opinions are often challenged by the answers. He also reflects on his own marriage and, as a former activist, he touches on disability rights in the U.S.

Mattlin's writing is conversational and often funny, and he doesn't shy away from sharing personal details, whether bodily, financial or emotional. Like him, most of the people he speaks with use a wheelchair, so while there are gaps in these disability experiences, Mattlin finds common points in the stories. These couples face many of the same issues as any other, and rely on the same tools to make their relationships work: honesty, communication and compromise. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer, bookseller and publicist

Discover: A frank and funny examination of love, sex and care between people with and without disabilities.

Beacon Press, $27.95, hardcover, 256p., 9780807058541

Children's & Young Adult

May I Come In?

by Marsha Diane Arnold, illus. by Jennie Poh

One stormy night, Raccoon shivers and quivers in his home, deciding finally that "[b]eing alone on a night like tonight is scary." Grabbing his umbrella, he heads to his friends' houses--"swish," "plish"--asking for shelter from the storm. One after another, these old friends deny him comfort. "What bad luck," each says as they explain how Raccoon is too big for their dens. When he knocks on Rabbit's door, however, he is welcomed with open paws, even though her burrow is leaping with her kits, "hop[ping] and bop[ping] to the raindrops." When three soggy friends show up at the door a little while later, will they be invited in, too? Of course! "There's always room for all our friends."

Whether in Scotland (Always Room for One More) or Ukraine (The Mitten), the idea of making room for just one more friend is well loved in folk tales. In May I Come In?, Marsha Diane Arnold (Waiting for Snow; Lost. Found.) embraces the classic storyline but leaves out the exploding house (or mitten) at the end. Jennie Poh's (Herbie's Big Adventure) woodland cast of characters also includes a possum, a quail and a woodchuck, all of whom are filled with personality, and covered in feathers and fur that readers will want to touch.

The lesson in this--as in every version of this delightful folktale--is gentle but clear: don't be stingy with your love. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Turned away from several friends' houses on a stormy night, Raccoon finally finds one friend who embodies the idea that "there's always room for a good friend."

Sleeping Bear Press, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781585363940

Between the Lines

by Nikki Grimes

"We live in the same city, go to the same school, but each of us has a different story," a student observes. "What we have in common is trying to figure out how to tell it." Welcome back to Mr. Ward's English class, introduced in Nikki Grimes's Coretta Scott King-winning Bronx Masquerade (2002), where high school teens learn to harness everyday words to create poetry, community and even their very selves. In Between the Lines, referred to as a "companion novel" to Masquerade, Grimes (The Watcher; Chasing Freedom) repeats her highly successful format, presenting multiple voices through a hybrid combination of revealing prose and affecting poetry.

Proud Puertorriqueño Darrian with his New York Times-aspirations turns his librarian/mentor's advice that "poetry, more than anything else, will teach you about the power of words" into action and transfers into Mr. Ward's classroom. As the weeks pass, Darrian witnesses how words transform his classmates: Chinese American Li tests her independence, blonde-and-blue-eyed African American foster child Jenesis learns trust, Marcel and Valentina release some of their injustice-fueled anger, Kyle strengthens his heart and spirit, Angela becomes brave and overwhelmed Freddie finally opens to friendship.

Poetry provides the medium through which these teens express, explore, declare, grow: "when a story is true, you have to tell it... to write it in a way that will force people to stop and read it"--and hear and feel it. With Mr. Ward's "Open Mike Friday" fast approaching, students get ready to showcase their revelations-in-verse before a live audience of family and friends--including a few familiar Masquerade poets who return to encourage and enlighten. Each will be "standing out, but standing together." Let the slam begin. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: In Nikki Grimes's companion novel to Bronx Masquerade, eight will-be poets reveal stories of loss, fear, challenges, courage and so much hope.

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, $17.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 12-up, 9780399246883

The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art

by Barb Rosenstock, illus. by Claire A. Nivola

As a boy, Nek Chand "played and planted, laughed and listened... [to] the ancient stories." "Season by season, Nek's head filled... until it overflowed" into a world of his own that he created on the banks of a nearby stream. "Until the men with guns came."

The 1947 Partition that violently cleaved the Indian subcontinent into Pakistan and India forced Nek's family to flee their remote village home. He eventually became a government road inspector in "India's first modern city, Chandigarh," but "[n]othing in [that] modern place tugged at Nek's village heart." Feeling lost in the "sharp-edged city of colorless concrete," Nek Chand found a hidden wilderness just north of the city where he could escape.

For seven years, with discarded, recovered items, Nek Chand began to re-create the memories of his faraway childhood, molding curving paths, carving niched walls, forging goddesses and queens from twisted bikes and rusty pipes, to construct an entire "secret kingdom." When the government discovered his illegal hideaway, officials threatened destruction--"Until the people of Chandigarh came." Curiosity turned to appreciation, support and preservation, and "[t]he people saved the secret kingdom."

A lover of true stories, author Barb Rosenstock (The Camping Trip That Changed America) clearly revels in Nek Chand's remarkable journey from village farmer to world-renowned folk artist. To comprehend the phenomenal scale of his achievement requires visuals, provided here with artistic accuracy and charming detail by Claire A. Nivola (Planting the Trees of Kenya). That Nek Chand never stopped building on his dream throughout his long life--he died in 2015 at age 90--remains an exemplary lesson in imaginative perseverance that will galvanize readers of all ages. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Folk artist Nek Chand's remarkable journey to create the phenomenal Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India, is an inspiring tale of tenacious creativity.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 7-10, 9780763674755

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