Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 24, 2018

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

From My Shelf

Surgery or Summer Reading

A friend just had knee surgery, it's in the 80s here, and she has a shade garden with a hammock. All she required was more books, which I happily delivered. Whether recovering, or just in need of some good summertime reading, check out her (partial) reading list:
Tin Man (Putnam, $23) by Sarah Winman is physically perfect for a hammock: compact and short, yet, as our reviewer wrote, "epic in its portrayal of friendship, love and loss." Following the intertwined lives of three friends--Ellis, Michael and Annie--for 40 years, shifting through sex, marriage and tragedy, Winman deftly limns gentle joy and abiding love. "Plan to read it twice: first for the story, then to savor the beauty of the poetic symbolism threaded throughout the sparsely crafted prose."
After a devastating flood washes away much of his Tennessee town, Pentecostal preacher Asher Sharp attempts to shelter two gay men, but his wife turns them away. In Silas House's Southernmost (Algonquin, $26.95), this sets the stage for Asher to think about Luke, his estranged gay brother. Regret and a reconsideration of his religious judgments render a sea change in him, and when he preaches a message of tolerance, he loses his church, his wife and his beloved son, Justin. Heartbroken, Asher absconds to Key West with Justin, in search of Luke, hoping for reconciliation and redemption.
There is no joy or redemption in Codename Villanelle (Mulholland Books, $25) by Luke Jennings but there are thrills galore. Fans who have discovered the mind-bending BBC adaptation called Killing Eve will know who Villanelle is--a brutally inventive and efficient assassin. Beautiful, scarily intelligent and totally amoral. Former MI-5 officer Eve Polastri is recruited to hunt her down; at first, they seem wildly mismatched, but Eve becomes increasingly obsessed with Villanelle and good at their cat-and-mouse games, while Villanelle becomes obsessed with Eve. --Marilyn Dahl, reviewer

The Writer's Life

Parker Posey: From the Window Seat

photo: Clement Pascal
Parker Posey has been dubbed "the queen of the indies" for her extensive film credits, which include Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, Zoe Cassavetes's Broken English and Christopher Guest's mockumentary Best in Show. Her memoir, You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir (out now from Blue Rider Press, $28), is full of intimate reflections on Posey's life, from her premature birth to the roller coaster of show business, with asides for turban tying and yoga instruction, all complemented by the author's own illustrations and a few family recipes.
Your memoir is framed like a conversation between two people seated together on a flight. Did you imagine it being an airplane read?
There's a certain kind of conversation, a way of sharing that happens when you know you'll never see that person again. I really wanted to write something light, but intimate as well. And it started out like those coloring books that you used to get at airports: relax and meditate and color on your trip. I loved that idea because you do get into a certain kind of mindset. The book could be in the kitchen, it could be in the garage, it could be in the back of the car. A kid might like it. I wanted kind of like a hodgepodge and a self-published feel.
Like a conversation, the book moves more organically, not exactly chronologically, so I could pick it up and read about your childhood or your pottery or the chapter about learning yoga or about Nora Ephron or about....
Or about Shirley MacLaine. Yeah, it's a kaleidoscope. I guess that's probably why I wanted images to color, too. Remember when you would have books as a kid and you'd always go to the pictures first? You'd kind of circle around the book before reading it. It's me: an actor playing with paper. How much can I go with myself in this process and be as free as I want to be and then try to find a certain order? My editor helped me with that in the beginning.
You call the book a self-mythologizing memoir--how does that form work?
Every memoir is self-mythologizing. I thought there was something funny and true about titling it that. This is me playing with the mythology of my childhood. I also love that Aristotle quote: "Give me a child by the age of seven, I'll show you the man." Here are things that come up inside our psyches. No matter how mundane they seem, they repeat themselves. Like, why are you an actor? I always loved going into old people's homes and sitting on their couches. It's storytelling and it's listening.
This book was written, I guess, pretty quickly. And intensely. I wanted to be playful with it. I loved The Power of Myth. I loved Joseph Campbell. And I was going through my family photographs and taking pictures myself and making collages and seeing how images dance with text. You can rip out a picture and put it on your wall. It's very 1990s fanzine DIY, which felt really true to my generation and to me.
When you fly places, do you talk to people next to you on the plane?
Of course. If they seem open. I'm always interested in that connection. I think it's a part of being a twin. You know it is this real desire to connect. You just have to have faith that in a time when we're talking less and less to each other, you'll connect. And it just feels like you're at the right place at the right time and not in this other zone where you're creating your reality from your social media or whatever.
Have you shared the book with your family?
My brother just came to visit, so I was able to show some of it to him and that was really great. Maybe I'll write something with him next, go down south. The south is so rich for storytelling. I mean it is really to be believed. My Aunt Peggy really did shoot my dad in between the eyes and the BB stuck and a teacher squeezed it out.
I'm sure the [family] will also have opinions, like that didn't really happen, or something, which really isn't the point. This is what I remember. They're southern Catholics, they're very religious. They loved and accepted me even being, what would you call it, the whore of Babylon? I think that's a good ending. --Kristianne Huntsberger, writer, storyteller and partnership marketing manager at Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

Literature-Inspired Drinks

Chantal Tseng, the "mixologist behind a D.C. bar's 'Literary Cocktails' series, shares some of her favorite literature-inspired drinks" at Electric Lit.


The "literary roles of Benedict Cumberbatch" were showcased by Quirk Books.


Check out "the best notes Atlas Obscura readers found in used books."


"A literary map of the United Kingdom" was offered by Quid Corner.


"Get rid of books you no longer need with this easy 3 step process," Bustle advised.


"Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient tablet engraved with 13 verses of The Odyssey in the ancient city of Olympia, southern Greece," the Guardian reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Wuthering Heights

July 30, 2018, marks the 200th birthday of Emily Brontë, poet and author of Wuthering Heights. Emily (1818-1848) belonged to a family as gifted by literary talent as they were struck by tragedy. Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, died at age 38; Anne Brontë, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, died at age 29; brother Branwell Brontë, poet and painter, died at age 31; two older sisters and the Brontës' mother also died young. Emily, Anne and Charlotte first appeared in print under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell to avoid prejudices against female writers. The first edition of their collected poetry sold only two copies but spurred the sisters to complete their novels. The success of Charlotte's Jane Eyre made later reprints of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell far more widely read.

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the name Ellis Bell. It was released in the first two volumes of a three-volume format, the last of which was taken up by Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey. Early critics found Emily's gothic tale of passion and tragedy on the moors of Yorkshire alarming in its dramatic intensity and baffling in structure. Still, the work has endured in the literary canon. After Emily's death, Charlotte released a second edition with her own minor edits. Wuthering Heights is available from Penguin Classics (9780141439556). Earlier this month, Oxford University Press released an anniversary edition of The Oxford Companion to the Brontës (9780198819950). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Lido

by Libby Page

A public, outdoor swimming pool in Brixton, a small enclave of south London, forms the bedrock of The Lido, a feel-good first novel by British author Libby Page. The tight-knit community is changing. The local library has closed and has since been transformed into a bar. A Starbucks and a TJ Maxx chain store have moved in. And the public pool--the lido--in Brockwell Park, is being threatened with closure by a powerful, local land developer who wants to buy the property.
Rosemary Peterson, who has spent all 86 years of her life in Brixton, hates to see her beloved lido close. She worked in the town library before lack of funds shut it down, and she regrets not having done more to save it. While much has changed over the years in Brixton, the lido has served as a unifying, reassuring constant in Rosemary's changeable life. As a result, she feels powerless when she learns that the pool will close, until loner Kate Matthews--a shy, insecure reporter in her mid-20s, new to Brixton and the local paper--interviews her for a story. The two women are worlds and generations apart. However, as Rosemary regales Kate with stories about the lido and what it has meant to her--and to the history of the town--a bond of friendship grows between them, transforming both of their lives.
Page assembles a lively, diverse cast and heartwarming remembrances about the pool and how it sustained and enriched the town over time. Readers diving into this hopeful, tender story can emerge refreshed by the meaningful depths of community and the bonds of indelible friendships. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A community rallies to save a South London pool facing closure, and a friendship is sparked between an 86-year-old resident and a 20-something rookie reporter.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 320p., 9781501182037

The Shades

by Evgenia Citkowitz

Evgenia Citkowitz's first novel (following a short story debut, Ether) is a captivating, mysterious tale of family, love and grief. The Shades centers on Catherine and Michael, a year after their teenage daughter, Rachel, died in a car wreck. Their son, Rowan, insisted on going away to boarding school immediately after losing his sister.
Catherine has withdrawn to the country, to the apartment in a subdivided manor where she and Michael had hoped to retire. Meanwhile, Michael continues to work and live in the city, where he fails to find comfort in architecture--his passion--and tries to reconcile himself to his troubled marriage.
The estate where Catherine has retreated is a focal point--this historic house whose design elements enchant her husband, but whose empty rooms, with both children gone, haunt her. When a young woman shows up at the door saying she used to live there, Catherine grasps at her like a drowning woman to a lifeline. But this visitor, whom Catherine calls simply "the girl," may not be what she seems.
Catherine's career as a tastemaker in the fine arts, and Michael's in architecture and real estate, provide just a few of the many threads that combine for this story's lush tapestry. Strangely, the plot involving the mystery girl is less sharply executed, less beguiling than the details that render this family so realistically. The meticulous portrayal of characters, the flaws and struggles in their relationships and a gloomy, atmospheric tone are the greatest accomplishments of The Shades, a novel rich with pathos and agony, but also simple humanity: love, loss, grief, hope and deceit. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: In this atmospheric story, a stranger comes to visit a grieving family's mysterious old house and throws them off-balance even more.

W.W. Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 208p., 9780393254129

Nevada Days

by Bernardo Atxaga

Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga turns his attention toward the American West in Nevada Days, a rapt and thoroughly entertaining work of autobiographical fiction. It is beautifully translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and revolves around Atxaga's time (2007-2008) as a writer-in-residence at the University of Nevada's Center for Basque Studies in Reno. While Nevada is famous for its Basque immigrant community--and many U.S.-born writers who make pilgrimages to the European homeland--Nevada Days makes its mark by reversing this order. Atxaga is like a modern-day Tocqueville seeing the deserts of America, both physical and spiritual, with fresh insight.
The book walks a pleasant, meandering line between fiction and nonfiction. Most of it reads like a travel memoir, structured in short chronological entries, but the pages wander, loaded with tangential stories, intermittent dreams and stubborn memories. Atxaga ruminates on his father's death and the strange congruities of history. For instance, he recalls his father's stories of Basque fascist boxer Paulino Uzcudun, then later visits the nearby site where Uzcudun trained for his stateside fights.
A critic of supernatural belief, Atxaga nonetheless creates some uncanny moments. When learning of his close friend's death, for example, he dreams of the desert in which endless lines of trucks and containers are used in the eternal "loading and unloading of metaphors." Nevada Days pulls many threads together to make a rich and captivating tapestry. Atxaga is a persistently sharp writer, crossing boundaries and bringing different worlds closer. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: In this inviting mix of memoir and fiction, Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga interprets the American West and its relations to his own storied life.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 352p., 9781555978105

Orchid and the Wasp

by Caoilinn Hughes

With Orchid & the Wasp, Irish poet Caoilinn Hughes (Gathering Evidence) ventures into fiction for the first time. The novel's protagonist is an intelligent, complex young woman making a daring entry into adulthood amid the economic certainty of the 21st century's first decade, and the novel showcases Hughes's talent as both a shrewd student of character and an astute observer of contemporary life.
Beginning in 2002, the story follows Gael Foess, then age 11 and living in Dublin, over nearly a decade, as her life takes her first to London and then New York City. Gael shares her childhood home with a younger brother, Guthrie, a talented artist who suffers from somatic delusional disorder, which manifests itself in epileptic seizures that seem frighteningly real, but aren't.
Gael is ingenious, if not always wise, and resourceful even in the direst circumstances. All of those qualities coalesce when she hatches a scheme to market some of Guthrie's artwork without his knowledge in a Chelsea gallery. Moreover, Guthrie finds himself the accidental father of twins and needs the money for their support.
Hughes persuasively portrays some of the obstacles facing a modern young woman who decides to take on the world armed with little more than her wits and noble intentions. She also chooses not to bring Gael's story to a neat end. Perhaps that's because Gael is one of those literary characters whose life is so vividly depicted it's easy to imagine it continuing beyond the last page of this refreshingly honest novel. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: In Caoilinn Hughes's debut novel, a young Irish woman faces the challenge of making her way alone in the modern world.

Hogarth, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9781524761103

Mystery & Thriller

Baby Teeth

by Zoje Stage

Debut novelist Zoje Stage delves into a parent's worst nightmare in her depiction of  a gripping power struggle between an isolated mother and a relentless tormentor--her own child.
Suzette Jensen is no different from most mothers; she loves her only daughter, worries over her and makes sacrifices to give her the best life possible. Parenting has brought plenty of stress since Hanna is now seven and has yet to speak a single word. Medical tests reveal no physical disability. Hanna seems highly intelligent, but also acts out so much that several schools have expelled her. Suzette homeschools Hanna while her husband, Alex, works. When the girl finally starts to speak, she speaks only to Suzette and insists she is Marie-Anne Dufosset, burned as a witch in 17th-century France. As Hanna's strikes against her escalate toward violence, Suzette agonizes over her parenting style but also grows increasingly more frustrated and angry with the child.
Baby Teeth is a taut, wicked thriller. Stage challenges the notion that a parent's love must be unconditional, showing a mother whose patience and love prove finite, then daring readers not to feel sympathy for her when faced with cruel, devious Hanna. Unlike most horror films or novels featuring the creepy child trope, Baby Teeth digs beyond the saintly mother trapped with the demon-ridden child to craft an allegory for the unspoken regret and resentment parents may feel but are not allowed to express.
A revealing commentary on the martyrdom of mothers wrapped in a suspenseful story, Baby Teeth packs a sharp bite. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A stay-at-home mother tries first to save and then to escape the violent tormentor who hates her--her own young daughter.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250170750

Biography & Memoir

Jell-O Girls: A Family History

by Allie Rowbottom

"We come from Jell-O," writes Allie Rowbottom in Jell-O Girls, her memoir detailing her family's intertwined legacy with "America's Most Famous Dessert." In 1899, her great-great-great uncle Orator Woodward bought the Jell-O patent for $450 ($4,000 today). Twenty-six years later, the patent was sold for $67 million.
Woodward's marketing and advertising savvy shaped the sugary, gelatinous product into one of the world's most successful brands. His family's wealth transformed LeRoy, N.Y., where Jell-O was manufactured: "just down the street from Orator's house, the river outside the factory running colorful and sweet, changing color weekly depending on the flavor."
However, Jell-O stained more than the town's water. Some of the Woodwards--especially Rowbottom's mother, Mary Jane Fussell--believed that their wealth was responsible for "the Jell-O curse," an explanation used for "all manner of familial misfortune." Many Woodwards suffered from some combination of mental and physical illnesses, abuse, alcoholism and financial ruin; several died by suicide.
With candid and unflinching descriptions connecting the history of Jell-O, feminism and her mother's unpublished writings, Rowbottom makes a case that the curse wasn't physical, emotional or confined exclusively to their family. Instead, the curse was a repressive societal attitude "reflected by the messages about women and their worth that her family sold with each box of Jell-O." Even the product's advertising depicted women and girls fitting into a perfect mold and stifling their voices.
Jell-O Girls is a fascinating family history combined with an examination of an iconic brand. Through it Rowbottom shows the interconnectivity among women and the continued need for amplification of their voices. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

Discover: This captivating memoir connects a family "curse" to Jell-O, feminism and changing societal norms.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 288p., 9780316510615

Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back

by Melissa Stephenson

Some memoirs come with a timeline tagged by favorite songs. Melissa Stephenson's Driven comes with a Craigslist of used cars that ferried her through a life of ambition tempered by a troubled family, especially her brother Matthew--who at age 29 put a Glock to his head, leaving her his red '79 Ford F-150 and a mutt named Early Times. The first book from Texas State University MFA graduate Stephenson, Driven shows a woman tangled in frayed family ties with an itch to bust out and become a writer, despite the devastating loss of her alcoholic brother, her divorce and two young children in her charge.
Born middle class in Columbus, Ind., Stephenson fondly recalls the family cars of her youth. When she is old enough to win a scholarship to Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, she gets to choose her own whips: an '80 rust-brown Toyota Corolla and an '84 Saab 900, her gateway ride to college in Missoula, Mont. If the town was good enough for her writing idol Jim Harrison, she figures it might be the place for her.
College opened more doors for her than just academics--road trips to San Francisco for Grateful Dead shows, hanging out with a boyfriend in Alaska and finally marriage to a musician. Car by car, Stephenson tracks the hills and valleys of her life as she finally comes to grips with her grief and a marriage that runs out of gas. Driven is a restless road trip of a memoir that ends with some contentment as Stephenson and her son tinker with the engine of their family '84 VW Westfalia Vanagon. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In a passionate memoir, Melissa Stephenson finds comfort and freedom in the cars that grounded the turbulence and restlessness of her life.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23, hardcover, 256p., 9781328768292


The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

by Nelson Mandela, Sahm Venter, editor

Much has been documented about the unfailing humanity of Nelson Mandela even as he faced the most inhumane conditions during his 27 years in captivity. The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter (A Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrade's Notebook From Robben Island), powerfully illuminates the dignity and grace of Mandela through his own words--tender words of support for his wife, words of strength and determination for his friends, advocacy for the human rights of fellow prisoners and, most poignantly, brave words of hope and guidance for his children.
Mandela's long absence from his children haunted him, and in his letters, he accepts full responsibility for their compromised childhood. One of the most heartbreaking reminders of the sacrifices he made as a father is a loving letter to his 19-year-old daughter, which was never delivered to her. Despite uncertainty as to whether or not his missives would reach their intended audience, Mandela remained undeterred. He wrote thousands of letters and eagerly waited to hear back from family, friends, attorneys and supporters.
Venter's introductions and annotations provide vital context for the reader. As a journalist, he covered Mandela's prison years and now serves as a senior adviser to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. One might reasonably expect Mandela's prison correspondence to be gloomy or despondent but, instead, it is full of hope and inspiration, elevating one's comprehension of the human spirit's capacity to endure hardship for the sake of a higher cause. For Mandela, this higher cause was his simple belief that no human being is superior to another human being. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: The letters the late Nelson Mandela wrote during his decades in captivity give a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the world's most respected leaders.

Liveright, $35, hardcover, 640p., 9781631491177

Social Science

Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live and Love

by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Television historian Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted and Seinfeldia) takes an in-depth look at how four single women in New York changed the pop-culture landscape and countless lives across gender and sexuality spectra. In Sex and the City and Us, Armstrong examines Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha, their creators, the city they invigorated and the emergence of the brunch table question "Which Sex and the City lady are you?"
New York Observer column that catapulted Candace Bushnell to superstardom formed the basis of Sex and the City. Premiering in 1998, when HBO was heavy on "guy" television (boxing, The Larry Sanders Show), creator Darren Star used Bushnell's columns and personal guidance to tap into the fascination with single women's lives and craft a global juggernaut.
Riding the "third wave" of feminism, seeking to reconcile femininity, sexual power and equality, "the girls" were unabashedly open about their lives and desires. They proved the "sex plot" could be more interesting than the marriage plot and opened eyes to the idea that women could want something other than what tradition obliged. Being single was no longer a disease.
Armstrong digs deeply into the show's unparalleled reach, including its ability to launch a business or raise real estate values seemingly overnight. An exceedingly engaging writer, Armstrong's introductory personal connection with the show is no less fascinating than the celebrity profiles that follow. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A detailed look at the history of the hit HBO show Sex and the City and how it changed the cultural landscape, particularly for single women.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9781501164828

Essays & Criticism

Tonight I'm Someone Else

by Chelsea Hodson

Chelsea Hodson's debut essay collection examines youth, sexuality and the transactional nature of desire. Mostly, she examines these things in herself.
In the first entry, "Red Letters from a Red Planet," Hodson describes two failed missions in two deserts: the Phoenix Mars Lander, which she worked on during a college job at NASA, and her relationship with Cody, whose nights in Tucson were spent brawling and spraying graffiti. "I'm Only a Thousand Miles Away" perfectly captures the all-consuming adolescent desire for a person--whether a pop star or older friend--who won't return the feeling. In other essays, Hodson stacks images, aphorisms and anecdotes on each other, constructing her life and worldview with disparate parts. "What's the end of longing?" she writes. "More longing." There's a dreamy quality to this writing, both smooth and surprising, and in these pieces she can tell an entire story in just a few lines: "I put my hand on the shoulder of my high-school boyfriend when I saw him twelve years later. It was my turn to startle him."
Throughout, Hodson layers the notions of love, sex and violence, so that they become inextricable from each other. "How about the texture of a hand on my face versus my forearm versus my thigh," she writes, "how about the heat of a slap meant as a placeholder for love or harm, you decide." Her prose is tightly crafted, which makes her simple, sharp truths--about herself and her world--that much more cutting. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and bookseller

Discover: This is a lyrical and electric essay collection about youth, sexuality and desire from a bold new voice.

Holt, $17, paperback, 208p., 9781250170194

Children's & Young Adult


by Fiona Woodcock

One morning ("Cock-a-doodle-doo!"), a sister and brother eat breakfast ("food"), get dressed ("boots") and a grab a ride ("zoom") to the zoo, where the double O words ("kangaroo," "cockatoo," "baboon") just keep coming. It's not all smooth sailing: the kids' longing ("drool") for ice cream ("scoop") turns into an "Oops! (boohoo)" when a boisterous dog comes on the scene ("Woof woof"). Upon the kids' return home, it's time for a bath ("bathroom," "shampoo") and bed ("book," "snooze"), after which the reader journeys outside ("moon") to take in the sound of an owl ("hoot") and the sight of fireworks ("look"). Here an attentive reader might wonder, "Where's the 'boom'?"
A picture book that takes as its text more than 30 words containing two consecutive Os sounds like breezy entertainment, but Fiona Woodcock's art is worth a close inspection. Her bag of tricks includes rubber stamps, stencils and BLO pens; after she gives each of her compositions a digital rinse, the result is two dozen illustrations resembling woodblock prints, with their own moods and color schemes. A two-page spread devoted to "balloons" and "cool" has the siblings standing against a wallpaper-like backdrop of overlapping multicolored balloons, the sister wearing Jackie O shades and doing a pointy-fingered pose; the next spread has the sibs unselfconsciously enjoying a garden ("bloom"; "Achoo!") full of red and pink flowers that call to mind a Marimekko print. How else to say it? Look is a toothsome and groovy book. Understood? --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: Too cool: A picture book about a day at the zoo uses only words featuring two consecutive Os.

Greenwillow, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780062644558

Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women

by Kate Schatz, illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes--including six-year-old-girl size, as Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women reminds us.
Writer Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl, who collaborated on Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History, have produced a logical follow-up with Rad Girls Can. Schatz supplies profiles of 50 or so girls from around the globe who, alone or in groups, did truly great things before they hit age 20. Anchoring the book's well-chosen subjects are historical figures--Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges--but there's no shortage of alive-and-kicking young upstarts, among them Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, feminist fashion writer Tavi Gevinson and transgender rights activist Janet Mock. Some profiles read like tales of suspense; when the featured girls (ballet dancer Misty Copeland, novelist S.E. Hinton) persevered despite a lack of parental support, their stories are heartbreakers. Stahl's customary blunt, black-and-white cut-paper art suggests how these young artists, athletes, innovators and activists will look when statues are erected in their likenesses.
Rad Girls Can's back matter includes a spread meant to spur the reader to action ("Start a blog! Make a zine! Write an essay, a slam poem, a song!") and a compendium of thumbnail biographies of bubbling-under contenders for the book's main text. A fine, fitting touch: on a page headlined "YOU!," readers are encouraged to fill in biographical information about their own accomplishments--present and/or future. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: The team behind Rad American Women A-Z returns with an edition devoted to game-changing girls.

Ten Speed Press, $16.99, hardcover, 112p., ages 8-12, 9780399581106

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