Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Traveling by the Book

Travel books tempt many of us. Occasionally, a writer's evocative rendition of a place inspires us to visit it. Travel writers Patrick Leigh Fermor, Paul Theroux, Wilfred Thesiger, Eric Newby, Freya Stark, Bruce Chatwin and Ian Frazier all have the unerring ability to do this.

Friends and fellow travelers have mentioned a few books that led to trips. After a two-day marathon of watching the DVD of Jewel in the Crown, and having read Paul Scott's marvelous Raj Quartet on which it was based, four friends made a 26-day trip to India. They traveled to all the must-see tourist destinations but, in deference to Scott, capped their trip with a three-day stay at the Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling, truly the last of the Raj.

Another group set out to go up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis after reading Lee Smith's The Last Girls, that marvelous story of four friends (out of 12 who originally made the river trip on a makeshift raft) who gather to scatter a friend's ashes at the mouth of the Mississippi. Once they were girls, carefree and adventurous, now they're women, making all the important stops that bring the history of the South--and Southern women--to brilliant life.

A book that nobody expected to become a hardy perennial is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story. The story, which revolves around the tale of millionaire Jim Williams, is irresistible. After four trials, Williams was eventually acquitted of the murder of a male prostitute in his home, built by songwriter Johnny Mercer's great-grandfather. (The magnificent Mercer Williams House on Monterey Square is still the destination of many Savannah tours, 18 years after the book's publication.) In the company of entertainer/drag queen Lady Chablis, author John Berendt brings us along as he explores the culture and visits local haunts.

What have you read that makes you reach for your suitcase? --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Cannon Beach, Ore.

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Sara Benincasa

Sara Benincasa is a comedian, writer and host of the podcast Sex and Other Human Activities. Her comedy has won praise from the Chicago Tribune, CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times, and has earned her an ECNY (Emerging Comedian of New York) Award and a Webby nomination. Her memoir, Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom (Morrow), is based on her solo show about panic attacks and agoraphobia. She speaks about mental health at colleges around the country.

On your nightstand now:

I've got a few, all in electronic form: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, because it's required reading among my tribe of comedian fellow-travelers; Cool, Calm, and Contentious by the divine Merrill Markoe, who is a comedy goddess; my friend Amanda Hocking's Virtue: A Fairy Tale; and Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark by Jane Fletcher Geniesse. The through-line here is "rampant unchecked bad-assery."

Favorite book when you were a child:

Without a doubt, it was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It probably saved me from a lifelong fear of New York. I grew up frightened of New York City because I had panic attacks in the tunnels and during Broadway shows--I think it was the lack of control over my surroundings. Plus, I was raised out in the country in Jersey and I felt suffocated by all the tall buildings on either side of each street in Manhattan. But From the Mixed-Up Files turned New York City into a magical wonderland and ensured I would forever love the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Your top five authors:

Oh, jeez. You're only letting me pick five? What sort of crazy mind games are you playing? WHAT'S YOUR ANGLE, SHELF AWARENESS? Okay, fine. I adore Neil Gaiman, who I once had the pleasure of interviewing in a bathtub (this momentous occasion in journalistic history is available for your viewing on YouTube). I am a big fan of Francesca Lia Block, who made this agoraphobic traveler fall in love with Los Angeles as a young woman. Frederick Reiken's The Lost Legends of New Jersey cemented him as a favorite for me; I'll read anything he writes. And Jon Kabat-Zinn's work helped save my life. I dig the Torah author known as the Elohist, or E, because he has a relatively abstract view of God when compared to the Jahwist, or J, who is totes into anthropomorphism, which is not my favorite flavor of god. I'm not Jewish or anything; I'm just a huge fan of their work. Especially their early stuff.

Book you've faked reading:

In order to impress a boy in high school, I pretended to read all of A Prayer for Owen Meany. I understand it's magical, life-changing, spiritual, quintessentially American and deeply moving. I still haven't read it. And now that guy from high school is married with a baby, a sweet apartment and a promising career in finance. I've had multiple nervous breakdowns and enjoy telling filthy jokes to crowds of strangers. Who won, huh? Who frigging won?! (Don't answer that, Shelf Awareness.)

Book you're an evangelist for:

Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living, which outlines the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. It's great, and it has CDs that go along with it! All books should have CDs that go along with them. Mine doesn't, but I highly suggest using Liz Phair's Whip-Smart or Exile in Guyville as your soundtrack to Agorafabulous!

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Jersey Shore star JWOWW's autobiography, which is at least as soul-stirring as Malcolm X's. And did he pay for his own fake boobs? I think not. Then JWOWW's photographer, Jan Cobb, also did my cover! Fate or happenstance? You decide, Shelf Awareness. You decide.

Book that changed your life:

Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living taught me that it's possible to breathe your way through most of life's everyday difficulties. His book also introduced me to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a wonderful tool for anxious folks.

Favorite line from a book:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the combination best of times and worst of times." This is both a line from Dickens and a line from the song "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" by Brooklyn-based rap group Das Racist.

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

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. Magical and adorable and addictively hopeful.

Why any human should plunk down cash money for your book:

Because it's funny and smart and real and not full of self-pity like so many crappy memoirs. It has bad words, strange characters and one very awkward sex scene. Who doesn't love very awkward sex scenes?

Deborah Coonts: My Vegas Inspiration

Fishing for a story in Las Vegas is like shooting crappie in a barrel. Take the other night. There I was, at a Strip bar, swilling local spirits and wallowing in inspiration, when a gaggle of young women noisily crowded into the bar. Shrink-wrapped in Spandex, teetering on impossibly high heels and juking to the beat, they turned every head in the room. Men jumped up, proffering chairs, which the women eyed warily.

With skirts that ended just below their butts, they had precious little fabric to protect their dignity much less their choochilalas. First one, then another, would sink daintily, only to shoot upright again--cold metal on exposed "lady parts" having the same effect as a cattle prod on a balky beast.

The whole show reminded me of a dignified version of the Whack-A-Mole game I used to play at the State Fair. Although no one hit these women over the head with a bat--a stupid stick maybe. Of course, from the looks of it, they were part of a bachelorette party--so all bets were off. Finally collective intelligence prevailed and they clustered in coveys at the bar... standing. A few broke from the pack and headed to the ladies' room.

Like a fox, I slunk in trail--belly to the floor, ears pricked for the hint of a story. At the sink, I sidled in next to the sweet young thing wearing a veil. Her Lady in Waiting, or whatever they call them, clung to the bride's elbow as she bemoaned her difficulties with her fiancé.

"How long have you known each other?" I asked, casually, as if I'd just happened to overhear.

"Three months," came the tearful reply. "And I think he slept with a bartender last night."

With a sympathetic hand on her arm and a knowing look of complicity, I said, "Men."

And I asked myself, "What would Lucky do?" --Deborah Coonts, author of So Damn Lucky, the latest in the Lucky O'Toole Las Vegas adventure series. She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Candy

Work Bookcase; Oprah Book Club Fight Club?; Kesey Mixtape

"Ever wondered how a massive bookcase can become part of a working space?" asked Freshome before offering the stunning example of a round bookcase hovering above the work space of anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer Wade Davis. The challenge was "to convey a feeling of enthusiasm and knowledge, so Travis Price Architects imagined a cave-inspired design that would capture natural light and bring it inside."


The first rule of book club is you do not talk about book club. On Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Academy Awards Sunday night, Kimmel offered to help Oprah Winfrey come up with some new show ideas for her OWN network, including "Oprah's Book Club Fight Club (starts around the six-minute mark).


Nirvana's "Lithium," of course. Flavorwire gave Ken Kesey's novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest some musical treatment with a literary mixtape for Randle McMurphy, imagining what "he would harass Nurse Ratched, lead fishing trips and school everyone at cards to."


Magical Books for Adults; Worse Movies from Books; Crash

To celebrate J.K. Rowling's announcement that her next novel will be for adults, Flavorwire "compiled a list of wonderful and magical books for adults to inspire the great Ms. Rowling (and tide us over!)."


"It's a cliché that great books make bad films. But which are the worst?" asked the Toronto Globe & Mail to introduce its look at "Great books, awful movies: A brief history."


Noting that the 50th anniversary of the first printing of Saul Bass's only children's book, Henri's Walk to Paris (which has just been reprinted by Rizzoli), "got us to thinking about other children's books illustrated by famous designers who are more noted for their other work," Flavorwire showcased "children's books illustrated by famous designers."


For NPR's Three Books series, Tim Wu, author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, recommended books that predict "The Crash," observing: "It's like a good disaster movie--the crash is the best part."

Book Review


Me and You

by Niccolo Ammaniti, trans. by Kylee Doust

Fourteen-year-old Lorenzo tells his mother he's been invited to join a group of school friends on a week's vacation of skiing. But Lorenzo doesn't really have any friends, and there is no skiing trip. Now he has to figure out how to convince his mother not to drive him there, because Lorenzo is going to disappear--for one week he is going to hide out downstairs in his building's storage room, enjoying his PlayStation, three Stephen King novels and a couple of Marvel comics. He's stashed enough food and supplies to get him comfortably through the seven days without his parents ever suspecting. And no one ever goes down there.

As Niccolò Ammaniti begins his very short novel, it's 10 years later, and Lorenzo is a young man sitting by himself in a restaurant in a little town, staring down at a cup of coffee and about to re-read a short letter written 10 years earlier by his half-sister, Olivia.

The context of the letter is the basis of the novel. How the lives of Lorenzo and Olivia converge and change each other, each one filling the gaping hole in the other's life, creates a touching alliance, providing a brief respite from the alienation of their lives. As Lorenzo pieces together the tragic past and miserable present of his half-sister, the two reach out and almost heal each other.

This is the third novel by Ammaniti to be translated since his brilliant little masterpiece, I'm Not Scared, became an international sensation and a popular foreign film. In Me and You, Ammaniti's spare style becomes so lean the tale is hardly more than a short story, but don't discount it for its brevity. It's a literary experience that packs an enormous emotional wallop. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A 14-year-old boy tries to fool his parents into thinking he's been invited by school friends on a skiing trip, while he's really hiding in the basement storage room.

Black Cat, $14, paperback, 9780802170903

Land and Blood

by Mouloud Feraoun, trans. by Patricia Geesey

Mouloud Feraoun, a friend of Albert Camus, was murdered by right-wing paramilitary terrorists in 1962 during the last days of French colonial rule in Algeria. His 1953 novel, Land and Blood, takes place in the 1930s in the Algerian village of Ighil-Nezman, in a corner of Kabylia.

Amer is a prodigal son returning after 15 years to the village where he was born. With him is his beautiful wife, Marie, a poor Parisian starting a new life. The Kabyles are a poverty-stricken people; many of the men go to France to work in the coal mines, where Amer caused the death of his uncle in a mining accident. Marie is that uncle's suspected love-child. The man's brother is waiting for Amer in his home village, planning vengeance.

This ancient village is thick with secrets, and Feraoun reveals them one by one: wives who have covered for impotent husbands with secret lovers, husbands who have sidestepped infertile wives with convenient cousins, the land-swapping, the power alliances. The villagers are wary of a couple with no children. Amer and his French wife are childless; so are the dead man's brother and his young wife, Chabha. Four childless people, with an unresolved murder between them.

Feraoun lyrically reveals the intricacies of Kabylian life. Part anthropological re-creation of a lost way of life, part tragic love story of a village nearly ripped apart by ancient codes of honor and conflicting allegiances, Land and Blood is a dense, richly rewarding novel memorializing a little-known world in transition. --Nick DiMartino

Discover: A novel from pre-independence Algeria about a blood feud and adultery ripping apart a small village.

University of Virginia Press, $22.50, paperback, 9780813932217

The Healing

by Jonathan Odell

In the pre-Civil War South, Master Ben Satterfield's plantation has been ravaged by cholera. He refused to have his daughter treated for a "slave disease," so she died, and his opium-addicted wife, Amanda, will make him pay for this for the rest of his life. On the day her daughter dies, she takes a newborn slave from her mother, names the girl Granada and keeps her as another pet (alongside a monkey named Daniel Webster).

For $5,000, Master Ben buys a woman named Polly Shine, reputed to be a healer. Polly is a force of nature, who singles out Granada to live with her in the "hospital" Ben has built, insisting that the young girl has "the gift." Granada doesn't want any part of Polly or her hospital, being perfectly happy to dress in silk and enjoy special privileges. Her wishes are not considered; she becomes Polly's shadow, learning to keep still, watch and listen.

Granada, 70 years later, is Gran Gran, recounting past history to calm an abandoned child who has been brought to her care. Gran Gran recalls the influence Polly had on the plantation and its occupants. She does, indeed, heal bodies and souls; insists on improved housing and diet for the slaves; and aids at the births of more "stock" for Master Ben. That isn't all she does, though, and the way she accomplishes her ends is at once horrifying, compelling and too clever for words.

Jonathan Odell finds the right words, using the language of the day, its idiom and its music to great advantage in a compelling work that can stand up to The Help in the pantheon of Southern literature. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A plantation owner purchases a reputed healer who unexpectedly influences generations of slaves and free people.

Doubleday, $26, hardcover, 9780385534673

Mystery & Thriller

The Technologists

by Matthew Pearl

After The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow and The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl gives us a historical thriller without a writer's name in the title: The Technologists is set in 19th-century Boston, and the author draws readers into another stylish mystery surrounded with some real people and grounded in fact.

Early April morning, 1868, in foggy Boston Harbor, compasses on ships go crazy with disastrous results. Directionless vessels strike others, crash into piers. Many boats sink and passengers are injured. A day later in downtown Boston, the "windows of the buildings suddenly come alive," and the melting glass leads to death. The police, baffled, turn to renowned scientist Louis Agassiz for help.

Professor Agassiz is not the star of Pearl's story, though. That distinction belongs to a group of students at Boston's newest university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As local citizens wonder if the college's scientifically inclined students might be behind the disasters, four students, led by Marcus Mansfield, create a society dedicated to solving the mystery with science: the Technologists. They discover a chest in Boston Harbor that may have contributed to the first disaster, then come across a lab that may have been used by the person who caused the second catastrophe. And when the case heats up, and Marcus is kidnapped, could the faculty of Harvard Medical School be involved?

It all may sound rather melodramatic--it is, but in Pearl's hands, the story threads come together in a quite believable manner. He sets the post-Civil War scene effectively, with labor unions worried about being replaced by machines and religious activists who have their own concerns about scientific progress. The Technologists is a vintage period mystery-thriller, and good fun. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A team of young MIT students use science to investigate mysterious goings-on in post-Civil War Boston.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9781400066575

The Case of the General's Thumb

by Andrey Kurkov, trans. by George Bird

It's 1997, and a retired general has risen up into the sky over Kiev, hung from a huge Coca-Cola balloon. The corpse vanishes from the forensics lab, only to reappear--missing the right thumb. Though the murder of this important government official warrants a full team of investigators, it's assigned to Viktor Slutsky, a mere lieutenant whose usual case load consists of petty street crimes. The narrative flips back and forth between Viktor and Nik Tsensky, a young interpreter trying to earn enough money for his wife and son to join him in Kiev. Nik is hired by a mysterious colonel to rescue a man from an arranged fake attempt on his life--a man disconcertingly dressed just like Nik.

The bodies pile up rapidly, one of them in Viktor's car. Both protagonists receive mysterious orders over the telephone as the plot thickens, and everyone seems to know more about what's happening in The Case of the General's Thumb than the hapless pair.

So what does the general's thumb have to do with all this? You won't find out till the very end. For Kurkov, the ending is less important than the fun of leading us through a world of deaf blondes driving hearses and revolvers that fire backwards, where bugs are planted in the walls and security cameras trained on the doors. Kurkov employs a subtle magic that pulls you in until you realize you're actually starting to care about these helpless, violent men trapped by economic circumstances into a grim dance of death. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A frenetically paced international crime novel with a touch of Russian surrealism about a military general hung from a Coca-Cola balloon and the corpse-strewn cover-up that follows.

Melville House, $14.95, paperback, 9781612190600

Bleed for Me

by Michael Robotham

Joe O'Loughlin is a semi-retired psychologist struggling to hold his marriage and family together while coping with Parkinson's disease. After moving from London to a quiet small town to find some peace, Joe is trying to teach part-time at the local university, make up with his wife and be a good father to his teenage daughter, Charlie. But then Charlie's best friend Sienna shows up one night covered in blood. She can't remember what happened, but her father, a decorated ex-cop, has been murdered and it's his blood on her hands. Joe is reluctantly talked into helping out with the investigation.

The mystery begins with the murder of Sienna's father, but it quickly gets more complicated, until Joe is investigating decades-old crimes, a neo-Nazi gang and a schoolteacher's past--all while trying to understand Sienna's wounded psyche. Of course, he's also still trying to patch things up with his wife and Charlie.

Bleed for Me, Michael Robotham's fourth novel featuring Joe O'Loughlin, is fast-paced, disturbing, gritty and complex, with a highly charismatic narrator and hero. As the well-meaning and earnest Joe turns rogue investigator, puts his own life at risk and battles Parkinson's all at the same time, he easily earns the reader's compassion. His unlikely friends (including a bitter but loving ex-cop) make for surprising moments of humor, and the suspense keeps the reader ducking surprise blows. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at Pages of Julia

Discover: A darkly entertaining thriller with a surprisingly lovable hero.

Mulholland Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9780316126380

Before the Poison

by Peter Robinson

Before the Poison starts, very simply, with the purchase of a house. After 25 years abroad, successful Hollywood musician Chris Lowndes has decided to return to the Yorkshire countryside of his youth. He purchases Kilnsgate House sight unseen, trusting his real estate agent to handle the transaction. Upon arriving at the house, however, Chris discovers that its former owner, Ernest Fox, was poisoned to death in his bedroom nearly 50 years earlier; his wife, Grace Fox, was found guilty of his murder and sentenced to hang. Chris is quickly captivated by this story of domestic distress and execution; convinced of Grace's innocence, he sets out to learn what really happened all those years ago--and finds a story of romance and war he never would have expected.

Peter Robinson, best known for his police procedural series featuring Inspector Alan Banks, recounts the hidden story of Kilnsgate House through imagined histories, letters and diary entries of the 1950s, interspersed with Chris's first-person narration of events. Though the style results in somewhat uneven characters, it ultimately succeeds in providing important insights into the thoughts and actions of both Grace Fox and Chris Lowndes.

These insights carry the reader through Grace's often harrowing experiences as a wartime nurse and Chris's efforts to cope with his own wife's death to a well-imagined, if somewhat tidy, conclusion. The result is an intriguing mystery that draws on the classic trope of the haunted old country house, but does so in such a way that it feels newly invented. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A standalone novel of murder and intrigue from the author of the Alan Banks police procedurals.

Morrow, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062004796

Food & Wine

Sticky Fingers' Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes

by Doron Petersan

Don't be deterred by the word "vegan" in the subtitle: Sticky Fingers' Sweets is a delightful, user-friendly cookbook for anyone with a sweet tooth who also hopes to become a healthier and more compassionate baker. Doron Petersan begins by analyzing the science of baking and explains how "mixing, temperature, moisture, air, and chemical leavening agents work together to form the structure and texture of your treats." Can't imagine baking without eggs? "The secret to the egg is in its chemical and nutritional makeup," Petersan explains. "Eggs are not the only ingredients that contain these magic components or achieve these results." Fortunately, the replacement ingredients and techniques are easy to find and execute.

Beyond the fascinating peek into the science of vegan baking, Petersan provides many recipes from her 10 years at her Washington, D.C., bakery Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, including the recipe she used to win the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. These recipes all come with simple-to-follow directions and ingredients common to most kitchens, making the book a lovely gift for anyone new to the world of baking.

In addition, reading Sticky Fingers' Sweets is like having Petersan sitting at the counter with you. Throughout, she includes "Love Bites"--fun facts that extoll the health benefits of the ingredients--and the chatty accounts of her first whoopee pie or why anisette reminds her of her grandmother are amusing and engaging, yet never detract from the heart and soul of this cookbook: delicious, accessible recipes that do not harm animals. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A fun foray into a world of sweets without harm.

Avery, $27.50, hardcover, 9781583334638

Political Science

Redefining Black Power: Reflections on the State of Black America

by Joanne Griffith, editor

The 2008 election of Barack Obama as president was a watershed moment for many African-Americans, including those who thought such an event unimaginable in their lifetimes. Redefining Black Power, a collection of interviews conducted by Joanne Griffith, considers the extent to which Obama's rise to the White House was a true game changer that helped to redress the political status quo in the U.S.--or else window dressing for a political system that has been known to disenfranchise its poorest whether they are of color or not.

Griffith's stellar introduction places Obama's rise in the historical context of previous generations' struggles for equality and a seat at the table of American power, recounting the emotional heft she and other African-Americans felt at Obama's victory. The interviews that follow are never less than fascinating; they are lively, engaging give-and-takes on the Civil Rights Movement, poverty and under-employment in America and on Obama's place in history. Assessments range from Ramona Africa's view of Obama as a cold careerist--too beholden to the people who elected him and to his own desire to retain power--to Dr. Vincent Harding's more empathetic view, seeing Obama as a force of cohesion for various groups long marginalized by the American political system.

This book displays a full, rich range of responses from America's black intelligentsia, cultural icons, artists and activists who at times question the meaning and the motives of the president rather than simply assume he offers a panacea for issues that have plagued this country since its inception.  --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: Lively, thought-provoking interviews that examine the myth and meaning of Barack Obama's presidency.

City Lights, $16.95, paperback, 9780872865464


This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

by John Brockman, editor

John Brockman, the founder of, is back with another collection of answers from the foremost minds of our time--leading figures in science, the arts, journalism and business--to a single provocative question. (See This Will Change Everything and What Is Your Dangerous Idea?for previous examples.) This time around, the question is: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

Some contributors believe that a "cognitive toolkit" should incorporate the scientific method to educate our minds to think critically and rationally, overcoming bias and uncertainty and encouraging experimentation in the context of everyday life. Others, like biologist P.Z. Myers, advocate an acceptance of human mediocrity and a recognition that life occurs as a consequence of natural circumstances. J. Craig Ventner stresses the need for humans to accept they are not the center of the universe. For Kathryn Schulz, the realization that human truths today become falsehoods tomorrow should force us to consider contradictory viewpoints. Neuroscientist Robert A. Provine gets his universal truth from Robert A. Heinlein's TANSTAAFL: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Brockman's collection demonstrates that our futures depend on our abilities to take classroom lessons that can stretch the limits of intellectual capabilities and apply them to the patterns of life. The principles of lifelong learning and social conscientiousness his panel of experts advocate would do much in improving everybody's cognitive toolkit. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer

Discover: Science can sharpen our mental capacities as we face the economic and social challenges of tomorrow.

Harper Perennial, $15.99, paperback, 9780062109392

Children's & Young Adult

Crafty Chloe

by Kelly S. DiPucchio, illus. by Heather Ross

In this uplifting picture book, Kelly DiPucchio (Zombie in Love) and Heather Ross (Weekend Sewing) prove that a gift made by hand often has more heart.

Chloe may not be good at sports or video games, but she is "very good at making stuff." A series of funny vignettes shows her resourceful use of "Dad's old shirts" (though it looks like he still finds at least one of them current) and coffee filters (much to the dismay of a sleepy mom in dire need of coffee). Chloe's dog serves as fashion model for her skills as a seamstress. While she reaches for a doll to buy as a birthday gift for her best friend, Emma, classmate London gets to it first. Chloe shrugs it off. "I'm going to make her something special," she tells London. But what?

DiPucchio and Ross's approach shows examples of Chloe's inventiveness in ways that invite young readers to try their hands at the crafts. We see Chloe's blueprint and "ingredients" (markers, a box of patterns, glitter and glue) for her projects. And though DiPucchio and Ross depict doodling as a way into her project ("Doodling helps her think"), they don't give away Chloe's gift for Emma until the very end. When London trips on her sparkly heels on the way to Emma's party and nearly ruins her gift, Chloe helps her out. Author and artist model excellence and kindness without ever getting preachy. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A resourceful and talented girl whose handmade projects are full of heart.

Atheneum, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781442421233


by Lauren Oliver

In this sequel to her heart-wrenching Delirium, Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall) will leave readers applauding the daring routes Lena travels in a dystopian, loveless America.

Here Lena leaves her old self "behind a wall of smoke and flame," having escaped from Portland, Maine, where she saw Alex--the boy who "infected" her with amor deliria nervosa, love--shot down at the border. Reeling with grief, Lena is reborn in the unregulated territory of the Wilds. Raven, a leader of the rebellion against the DFA (Deliria-Free America), rescues Lena and enlists her in their cause. Lena agrees, in honor of Alex's memory ("He believed in the resistance, and now I will believe in it for him").

Raven teaches Lena to forget the past ("There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next"), and prepares her to infiltrate the DFA in order to observe 18-year-old Julian Fineman, son of the DFA's founder. Julian has not undergone the cure because of previous surgeries to correct a recurring brain tumor. But he is daring to "excise the sickness" of love, even if it kills him. On Julian's cure day, chaos ensues in Times Square, Lena and Julian end up imprisoned together, and they form a bond.

Pandemonium alternates between "Then" and "Now" chapters, the action spaced six months apart. Oliver cuts back and forth seamlessly, and creates a mystery around Raven's past and the reason she's assigned Lena to Julian. The tension and twists leading up to the end of this volume will certainly build anticipation for the trilogy's finale. --Adam Silvera, assistant coordinator, Books of Wonder, New York

Discover: The stirring sequel to Delirium, which takes love-lost Lena from the Wilds into the heart of an exciting rebellion.

HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 14-up, 9780061978067

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