Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Building Your Cookbook Shelf: Regional Cuisines

As much as I'd love to travel around the world trying local cuisines, à la the late, great Anthony Bourdain, my budget just doesn't allow for it. So instead, I travel on the plate whenever I can, exploring different regional foods with a stack of carefully selected cookbooks.
I can go to France for an evening or two with Julia Child's masterpiece collection, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I have an antique two-volume set from my grandmother, and the spine cracks open to her favorite recipes). Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, like his restaurant of the same name, highlights French-style bistro cooking (think steak frites and escargot instead of Child's boeuf bourguignon or chocolate souffles). And Rachel Khoo's My Little French Kitchen collects newer food trends from around the "mountains, market squares and shores of France."
Indian Cooking Unfolded breaks down traditional Indian plates in a cleverly designed book with fold-out recipe spreads for key dishes. Author Raghavan Iyer simplifies complex spice blends and techniques into recipes that can be easily adapted and combined to make any number of dishes and meals; the same can be said for Rasika: Flavors of India, from the chefs behind the Washington, D.C., restaurant of the same name.
When the weather is cold and grey, and I long for a tropical vacation I can't take, I look at dishes in Caribbean Potluck from Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau. When I'm craving an immersive experience, as much centered on food as on the experience and history of a place, I'll page through Jose Pizarro's Catalonia: Spanish Recipes from Barcelona and Beyond, or Marcus Samuelsson's The Red Rooster Cookbook, which embeds stories and essays about Harlem with recipes inspired by Mexico, Ethiopia, the Caribbean and other cultures found in that New York neighborhood. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

David Shannon: 20 Years of No, David!

photo: Blue Trimarchi
David Shannon was born in Washington, D.C, in 1959 and grew up in Spokane, Wash. He graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., sold his pickup truck and moved to New York City in 1983 to start a career in editorial illustration. Shannon's work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, as well as on numerous book jackets and posters. In 1988, he illustrated his first children's book, How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have? by Julius Lester. After illustrating several books by other authors, he was encouraged to try writing his own stories. His first book was How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, which was named a New York Times Best Illustrated book in 1994. In 1999, the semi-autobiographical No, David! received a Caldecott Honor. Shannon has written and/or illustrated more than 35 books for children. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. Grow Up, David! (Scholastic, $17.99) is the fifth book in the David series and a celebration of the 20th anniversary of No, David!
Grow Up, David! is the fifth David book in the 20 years since No, David! was first published. How do you feel about having such a long-running series of children's books?
I feel extremely fortunate that David has had such longevity. I had a mom and daughter come up to me recently with a book I'd signed to the mom when she was little. She wanted me to re-sign it to her daughter this time! Pretty cool.
Why did you want to come back to David now, seven years after the last David book?
Well, I wasn't going to make any more David books, but my amazing editor, Bonnie Verburg, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her imprint at Scholastic, the Blue Sky Press. She really wanted one to celebrate both birthdays, and I'd been kicking around an idea about brothers. I realized if I did it with David, it could take him in a new direction that would still fit in with the other books.
When you wrote No, David!, did you expect it to become a series?
Yeah, I started making the second book, David Goes to School, before No, David! even came out. I had so much fun with the first one that I wanted to go to the next level of authority: teacher! I've always been grateful to Bonnie and Scholastic for trusting and supporting me with that.
Do you always use the same artistic medium? What do you do to make each book with a new subject stand out artistically from the rest?
I try to vary the drawing and painting to reflect the story. I used to mainly use acrylics, but I switched to oils a few years ago when my daughter got old enough not to eat paint. There are many different ways to use paint that will vary the look and feel of images--thin paint, thick paint, washes, glazes, rubbing it on, wiping it off. There's usually some colored pencil or crayon in there, too. I just finished a book that is mostly ink. It was a little weird doing Grow Up, David! There were a few places I had to go back and figure out how I did something!
You're celebrating another anniversary: the first children's book you illustrated was for Julius Lester, now 30 years ago. What is it like to be looking back at a few decades of really wonderful, successful work? What is it like to have people repeatedly ask you how you feel about your decades of work?
Ha! I don't get asked that very much, but thank you! It's pretty awesome--I mean, who knew?! I try to never forget how lucky I am to be able to make books--even when I'm complaining!
What are you looking forward to in your next 20 years of creating books for kids?
More fun, seriously.
Can we hope for more David books?
No plans right now, but I guess you never know. He just keeps coming back!
Is there anything else you'd like to share with Shelf Awareness readers?
Oh, I'd just like to thank everyone who's made David's 20 years such a blast. That's really been the best part for me--seeing how much fun everyone has with the little troublemaker! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

'Book Rules' to Break

Bustle shelved "11 book 'rules' that everyone should just give up on for good."


Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic for the New York Times and author of The Death of Truth, tweeted a link to the late Senator John McCain's 2017 "list of his all-time favorite books."


"You might be a slightly odd book nerd if you've done 15/20 of these things," Buzzfeed warned/promised.


" 'Pie for a doubting husband': how to cook like a suffragette." The Guardian explored the Suffrage Cook Book, first published in 1915.


CBC Books featured "24 works of Canadian fiction to watch for this fall."


"Where do we go when we read?" The Paris Review Daily shared evocative photos of some tempting alternatives.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Robert H. Ferrell

American historian and author Robert H. Ferrell died on August 8 at age 97. Ferrell was best known for his scholarly work on American involvement in World War I, United States diplomacy and several 20th-century presidents, particularly Harry S. Truman. Ferrell served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II and was an Air Force intelligence analyst during the Korean War. After earning a doctorate from Yale in 1951, Ferrell spent several decades as a history professor at Indiana University. He wrote or edited 60 books, including 11 about President Truman, beginning with Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman (1980) and including the bestseller Dear Bess (1983), a collection of hundreds of letters Truman wrote to his wife between 1910 and 1959.

Harry S. Truman: A Life (1994) is Ferrell's definitive, single-volume work on the 33rd president. As noted in a New York Times obituary, Ferrel "had an abiding fascination with World War I--in which his father fought--and with the diaries of statesmen and soldiers. But once initiated into Truman's world, Mr. Ferrell kept returning. He spent so much time at the Truman library that he rented an apartment in Independence [Missouri]." Unfortunately for Ferrell, his Truman biography was somewhat overshadowed by David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning Truman, published just a year earlier. Still, Ferrell's opus is available in paperback from the University of Missouri Press ($29.95, 9780826210500). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Late Bloomers' Club

by Louise Miller

Louise Miller returns to the bucolic setting of her first novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, for her second, The Late Bloomers' Club. Since her father's death, Nora Huckleberry has been mostly happy running the Miss Guthrie Diner, the small-town Vermont gathering place that was his dream. She's used to taking care of everyone, including her regulars. But when Peggy the town cake lady dies unexpectedly, Nora and her sister, Kit, discover that they've inherited Peggy's farmhouse, her land, some significant debt and the question of whether to sell the land to a big-box developer.
For Nora, caring for folks and being dependable aren't simply good choices: they're fundamental to her identity. A self-effacing, capable eldest child, she increasingly took on responsibilities during her mother's illness, Kit's childhood and their father's slide into Alzheimer's. Kit, a freewheeling, exuberant filmmaker always in search of a home (and ready cash), returns to Guthrie to film her latest project and urge Nora to sell the land. As the townspeople argue over the sale, the sisters must reckon with the deep love and resentment that are part of their bond.
Miller's narrative is full of big life questions, but also joy: Guthrie's annual tomato and corn festival, the diner's mouthwatering omelets and Peggy's luscious cakes and gestures of support from friends and neighbors. As Nora wrestles with her difficult inheritance, she starts to believe she might have the chance for some new possibilities: even autumn, after all, has its flowers. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A small-town Vermont restaurateur faces an unexpected inheritance and the return of her freewheeling filmmaker sister.

Pamela Dorman Books, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781101981238


by Talley English

Gertrude Claytor Poetry Prize winner Talley English's first novel, Horse, takes place in rural Virginia, where Teagan French lives with her brother and parents on a farm with a menagerie of horses, dogs, barn cats, occasional adopted geese and other stray critters. In this seemingly idyllic family life, Teagan struggles to find her place in the world, taking long horseback rides on the old pasture horse Zepher.
No surprise, the French family is not as mellow as it seems. Teagan's father is a high school principal nursing a midlife hankering for a fast horse, a sports car and an erotic fling--until he leaves abruptly. Her mother is a preschool teacher, horsewoman and the rock of the family. Obsidian (nicknamed Ian) is her father's impulse buy: a 16-hand thoroughbred gelding trained for freewheeling fox hunt jumping. Charlie is the typical older brother, with his first driver's license and an attitude.
When Zepher has to be put down, Teagan begins to ride Ian even though he is too much horse for her. If she can't have her father, she can at least have his horse. Sensing Teagan's increasing detachment, her mother agrees to send her and Ian to a nearby boarding school with a highly regarded riding program. Together, Ian and Teagan become a working team, "removed from the turmoil of her house." Horse is no National Velvet. It is a sensitive story of a young girl coming to grips with her broken family--and yes, a horse helps her find her way. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In an accomplished debut novel, a family coming unraveled leaves its teen daughter to find her way with the help of a stalwart thoroughbred.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 336p., 9781101874332

Mystery & Thriller

The Sinners

by Ace Atkins

Wedding bells are ringing for Sheriff Quinn Colson in Ace Atkins's eighth installment of his crime fiction series set in Tibbehah County, Miss. But before he can walk down the aisle with his fiancée, Maggie Powers, Colson has to discover who killed a young black man and left his dismembered body stuffed in a tool box in the Big Black River.
Meanwhile, Colson's pal Boom Kimbrough is driving a semi for Sutpen Trucking. On a routine check of his cargo, he discovers electronics where his manifest says avocados should be. Growing suspicious of the company, Kimbrough examines all of his trailers more carefully--and on another run he finds drugs. That's enough to convince him to cooperate with the DEA to trap Sutpen in their dirty business dealings.
As the two friends' investigations barrel toward each other, a weed-growing family of race car drivers and the Gulf Coast syndicate jump into the mix, threatening not only Colson's wedding, but the lives of people he loves.
With the Quinn Colson series (The Innocents), Atkins draws a flawed hero with a strong sense of morality, and he consistently delivers complex relationships, rich internal conflicts and suspenseful action. He's also a master of dialogue, often mining Southern aphorisms for distinctive humor. The Sinners rolls all that into its timely, intense and enthralling plot. There are many sins in the novel, but the greatest would be missing it. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Days before his wedding, Tibbehah County sheriff Quinn Colson investigates a case with ties to deadly local drug dealers and the Gulf Coast syndicate.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780399576744

The Boy at the Door

by Alex Dahl

Cecilia Wilborg, an interior stylist, is married to a banker and lives with him and their two daughters in an enviable home in Sandefjord--"the Hamptons of Norway, they call it." The easily agitated Cecilia, whose narration drives The Boy at the Door, doesn't handle disruption well, and she faces a major one the day eight-year-old Tobias goes unclaimed at the pool where her daughters swim. The facility's receptionist, whose phone calls to the contact number on file for the boy go straight to voicemail, asks Cecilia to drive Tobias to the address on record. Cecilia reluctantly ferries him to the house and finds it abandoned. Grudgingly, she takes Tobias home with her, intending to grant him only an overnight stay.
When the body of a woman named Annika Lucasson washes up in a harbor, the police suspect that she is Tobias's mother. The woman's journal entries, which appear throughout the novel, describe her drug-addled existence with her physically abusive boyfriend and attest that Tobias was in the couple's care before he met Cecilia, with whom, as it happens, Annika has a connection.
Alex Dahl's literary debut offers one of the payoffs of good psychological thrillers: a cagey narrator whose reliability is both the reader's and the police's job to determine. The Boy at the Door is Scandi noir for fans of Big Little Lies, whose denizens are likewise hell-bent to convince the world that pretty on the outside means pretty on the inside. (It doesn't.) --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: In this Nordic noir, a pampered woman finds her manicured life marred when she's asked to take temporary custody of an eight-year-old boy whose parents seem to have disappeared.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 368p., 9780451491794

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Ball Lightning

by Cixin Liu, trans. by Joel Martinsen

Cixin Liu (The Three Body Problem), a nine-time winner of China's Galaxy Award and a Hugo Award winner, explores the ontological consequences of unrestrained scientific inquiry in Ball Lightning, translated by Joel Martinsen. A quantum physicist chases ghosts while studying a little-understood natural event after its devastating display of power changes his life forever.
Ball lightning, an inexplicable phenomenon that destroys specific objects with bursts of deadly energy, strikes Chen's home one night and incinerates his parents. This event drives him to dedicate his life to studying it. While on a graduate study trip, he meets the beautiful and ambitious army major Lin Yun, who dreams of harnessing ball lightning's deadly energy for military weaponry. She enlists a dubious Chen, post-graduation, to work on ball lightning research alongside the morally ambiguous Ding Yi, a brilliant theoretical physicist obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge. Together, they unravel the secrets behind this mysterious energy source, but as Lin Yun and Ding Yi become consumed with its awesome power, Chen struggles to reconcile his own values against the self-serving interests of his co-conspirators.
Liu nimbly explores the ethical conundrums facing unrestrained scientific research and its consequences to humankind's survival. The single-minded and headstrong Lin Yun shuns moral considerations in her relentless pursuit of knowledge; philosopher Ding Yi acts as the mode-alternating "quantum wave" between good and evil; and Chen serves as the trio's moral compass.
Ball Lightning is a cautionary tale about the dangers of total technological reliance and unchecked ambition, an all too real issue that continues to haunt the modern world. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Cixin Liu examines what happens when unrestrained scientific inquiry and ambition combine to create the world's deadliest weapon.

Tor, $28.99, hardcover, 384p., 9780765394071

Biography & Memoir

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago

by Max Allan Collins, A. Brad Schwartz

With movies, TV shows and countless books written about him, it's hard to justify yet another biography of notorious mobster Al Capone. But crime writer Max Allan Collins and historian A. Brad Schwartz are up to the task in Scarface and the Untouchable, a history that weaves Capone's life together with that of the man popular culture calls his nemesis: Eliot Ness.
History is far more complicated, and the two men met only once. But the "battle for Chicago," as Collins and Schwartz call it, was exemplified by Capone and Ness. Both were the sons of hardworking immigrants, and they combined intelligence and ambition to change the face of a city--and country. While Capone was at the forefront of modern business practices used for shady purposes, Ness's work helped usher in a new era of crime-fighting, using ballistics and other new tactics to solve cases. Capone's flamboyancy was matched by Ness's reticence. Yet the mob boss rarely got his hands dirty, while Ness personally raided criminal sites across Chicago.
Ultimately it's Ness who proves the more interesting of the two, probably because his story is usually told under Capone's shadow. Collins and Schwartz bring out the real person behind the inaccurate depictions from Hollywood, showing a thoughtful, courageous man who had not yet turned 30 when Capone was put behind bars. By telling the two men's biographies together, the authors paint a large picture of Chicago during the '20s and '30s and throw into broad relief the more interesting aspects of each man's personality. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Scarface and the Untouchable gives a thrilling account of the battle between Al Capone and Eliot Ness.

Morrow, $29.99, hardcover, 736p., 9780062441942

Social Science

American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis--and How to End It

by Ryan Hampton

Ryan Hampton's personal, decade-long opioid addiction and recovery led to his tireless campaign to break down barriers and educate others about the epidemic in the United States. In American Fix, his first book, he details what the crisis entails, why it is happening and the scope of who it affects and how. He also offers a well-considered plan to help combat and win the war.
Hampton, a former White House staffer under President Obama, shares how he first became addicted to pain killers: he originally received a prescription for an ankle injury, and that led to his heroin habit. A high-functioning addict, Hampton landed multiple senior-level staff positions in the Democratic Party. Yet, even as his career was taking off, he was sinking deeper into secret addiction until his dependency wreaked havoc on his life. After treatment and recovery, he was determined to help others.
Through Hampton's story--and those of other addicts, especially those he encounters on an extensive research road trip across the U.S.--he explores the bias, stigma, prejudice and injustice associated with addiction. He outlines challenges addicts face, the pitfalls of treatment and recovery and the role of politics and Big Pharma. Meanwhile, he gives insight and strategies for better communication, harm reduction and feasible pathways to reform. For the more than 45 million Americans and their families who are directly impacted by addiction, Hampton's thoroughly presented, unflinching and deeply personal book will offer understanding, enlightenment and practical solutions. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A former Obama White House staffer shares his story of addiction and presents practical ways to combat the American opioid epidemic.

All Points Books, $27.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250196262

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

by Kwame Anthony Appiah

"I aim to persuade you that much of our contemporary thinking about identity is shaped by pictures that are in various ways unhelpful or just plain wrong," writes Kwame Anthony Appiah (As If: Idealization and Ideals), a professor of philosophy and law and a prolific author. In The Lies That Bind, he challenges and debunks popular ideas about identity. "We are living with the legacies of ways of thinking that took their modern shape in the nineteenth century, and... it is high time to subject them to the best thinking of the twenty-first."
We are led astray, says Appiah, by our willingness to attribute essential qualities to groups of people based on whatever unexamined generalizations we have heard. He limits himself to five categories of identity often discussed as if they can be pure, or have fixed definitions: creed, country, color, class and culture, with a substantial nod to gender as well. With erudition and clarity, he demolishes them all. He analyzes historical disagreements within religions, the relatively recent invention of race and of nation states, the destructive inherited hierarchies of class; he describes culture as innately fluid, a "process you join, in living a life with others." Identities are inescapable, he says, but "the problem is not walls as such but walls that hedge us in; walls we played no part in designing... walls that block our vision and obstruct our way." Rather than use identities to separate ourselves, we can use them to "give contours to our freedom... connect the small scale where we live our lives alongside our kith and kin with larger movements, causes, and concerns." --Sara Catterall

Discover: A philosopher debunks stale and destructive popular ideas of social identity, and offers new ways to think about ourselves and each other.

Liveright, $27.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781631493836


If You Have to Go

by Katie Ford

Katie Ford's ruminative poetry collection If You Have to Go transforms a failed marriage into soul-searching art.
Ford (Blood Lyrics) divides her collection into four parts, with parts one and three containing a single poem each. The first poem, "In the Hearth," sets the tone of the collection: "I am everywhere and the fear/ when it desires/ to grow, grows continental, drifting." What follows in part two is a long sequence of sonnets plumbing the poet's emotional devastation. Thirty-nine sonnets in total use sere metaphor, rhyming couplets and linked first and last lines to stretch out and interrogate the sense of loss when a relationship fails. The traditional poetic form proves useful--and gravely succinct--in locating the floor of the poet's grief. These are poems of profound introspection, paring down one's voice to a skeleton of perception.
After the austerity of the sonnet sequence, parts three and four open with more breadth and air. Not offering easy solace, these later entries nonetheless provide clarity and a more modern tone, in contrast to the sonnets. In "Iridescent Lake," the poet alights on "some form of yourself you love best because it survived the pain." The collection's last poem, "All I Ever Wanted," provides a mirror-like reflection of desire bereft of its object: "that all I ever wanted/ was to sit by a fire with someone/ who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting."
The sadness permeating If You Have to Go can be overwhelming, but by Ford's sheer insistence to map painful experience, and by no shortage of poetic skill, a sense of resilience emerges. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: This collection of sonnets and other poems addresses loss with an introspective but tenacious voice.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 72p., 9781555978112

A Memory of the Future

by Elizabeth Spires

What do our memories really mean? By reflecting on our past, how do we affect our present and future? These are some of the philosophical themes Elizabeth Spires (Worldling) broaches in her seventh collection of poetry, A Memory of the Future.
The influence of Japanese culture is evident throughout the meditative and spiritual collection in its methodology and topics--a squat bottle of sake, a wooden shrine or a historic statue brought from Japan after the attack on Hiroshima. Spires ponders the natural world of pomes, clouds and their hidden meanings and the sound of the sea in a shell. She reflects on the accidental death of a child, the sorrow one experiences as a child grows older and the incessant demands of cell phones. Written in a variety of poetic and visual styles, each piece is a lesson in zen, a way of being one in body and mind.
Spires considers the shape of an inky brushstroke on the page and the warm light of a March day. Each poem calls the reader to pause and contemplate the connection of the words on the page with the imagery that leaps to mind: "everything ravaged, burned, cracking in a godless desert heat"; "the white peacock spread its rippling tail, the sound/ like a sibilant wind rushing through many leaves." Quiet and forceful, Spires has taken random moments and created a book full of memories through her words, altering the future for those fortunate enough to read her work. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A meditative and talented poet reflects on many aspects of life and memory.

Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 96p., 9780393651058

Children's & Young Adult

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

by Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by R. Gregory Christie

With Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Alice Faye Duncan, the author of several children's books, takes as her subject Martin Luther King's last campaign, and she makes clear that, while he didn't live to see its outcome, his work was not in vain.
Duncan's text is narrated by a nine-year-old black girl named Lorraine Jackson, whose father is a sanitation worker. In February 1968, Lorraine's dad returns to their Memphis home reporting that two of his coworkers were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck. There has been talk of a strike--the overwhelmingly black sanitation crew makes outrageously low wages in abysmal working conditions--and these senseless deaths spur action. When 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers strike on February 12, 1968, Lorraine's father is among them.
Organizations including the NAACP show support for the strike, and so does Lorraine's mother: "In her right hand she carried her boycott sign. In her left, she held my hand." Spirits soar when news spreads that Dr. King will be joining the struggle in Memphis. When the march turns violent, King leaves the city and promises to come back; it's after his return that he's killed on April 4. But this doesn't end Lorraine's story.
A memorial march takes place on April 8 to honor the fallen leader, and this time, they're accompanied by King's widow, Coretta Scott King. R. Gregory Christie, whose innumerable illustrator credits include Freedom in Congo Square, displays his unmistakable style: he sets elaborately tended faces and forms against less worked-over slabs of color; in his ennobling art, humanity is always paramount. King's death isn't the main story in Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop; it's a tragic part of an inspiring account in which a heroic campaign lost its leader but nevertheless marched on to victory. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: This fictionalized account of Memphis's sanitation strike of 1968, relayed by a child witness, makes Martin Luther King Jr.'s death a tragic part of the story but not its last word.

Calkins Creek, $17.95, hardcover, 40p., ages 9-12, 9781629797182

Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood

by James Baldwin, illus. by Yoran Cazac

To his New York City nephew and niece, iconic author and civil rights activist James Baldwin was mostly known as "Uncle Jimmy," although the siblings would realize soon enough that he was also "a famous writer" of world renown. "When you gonna write a book about MeeeeEEE!?" nephew Tejan Karefa-Smart once asked. This book, Little Man, Little Man, was his answer.
Four-year-old TJ runs up and down his street playing ball. His two most constant companions are an older boy and girl--seven-year-old WT, "who like a brother," and eight-year-old Blinky, who "[l]ook like she do everything she can to be a boy." Around their Harlem neighborhood, Mr Man, the building janitor, "always try to act like he mean. He ain't mean." TJ runs errands for Miss Lee, who's married to Mr Man, and for Miss Beanpole, who lives behind multiple locks and observes the outside world only from her window. Baldwin presents TJ's personal microcosm, describing the "little store" run by a Puerto Rican man, front steps and fire escapes, the local bar and churches.
Originally published in 1976, Baldwin's only children's title did not initially fare well. Four decades later, Duke University Press resurrects Baldwin's self-described "celebration of the self-esteem of black children." The new edition retains the original illustrations created by Yoran Cazac, a Caucasian French artist with whom Baldwin chose to collaborate. At 42, Little Man, Little Man has aged well. What might have been permanently dismissed as a "book [that] lacks intensity and focus" has instead matured into a timely representation of an urban African American childhood, presented in "the black vernacular style of [Baldwin's] Harlem neighborhood," made accessible once more to eager new audiences.  --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: James Baldwin's only children's book--written to fulfill a promise to a young nephew--re-emerges in a new edition enhanced with illuminating familial and academic context.

Duke University Press, $22.95, hardcover, 120p., ages 10-up, 9781478000044

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