Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 31, 2018

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

There's Sand in My Beach Reads

"We breathe air and drink water, but pretty much everything else we do by using sand." --Nathan Gelgud

Beach reading season may be going out with the tide this Labor Day weekend, but I can recommend some fascinating "sand reads" to ease your withdrawal.

As Vince Beiser observes in The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization (Riverhead), "sand lies deep in our cultural consciousness. It suffuses our language. We draw lines in it, build castles in it, hide our heads in it.... Sand is both minuscule and infinite, a means of measurement and a substance beyond measuring."

"The desert is refashioning itself. Nod off in an exposed place and you will wake to find you have been partnered by a buttress of sand, laid down snug beside you," William Atkins writes in The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places (Doubleday), noting: "In any torch-beam, even on the quietest night, airborne dust is visible. Subtly the desert is in motion."

Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand, translated by Tim Mohr (NYRB Classics), is a mind-bending suspense novel set in North Africa: "Because the victims may all have been a bunch of drugged up hippies who ran an anti-imperialist pot business in the desert--but as soon as things got serious, the only thing that mattered to the First World was citizenship."

In the Saudi Arabian setting for A Hologram for the King (Vintage) by Dave Eggers, "the desert wind was strong, and the dust came up over the street like fog. Still, two men were sweeping the road. Yousef pointed and laughed.--This is where the money's going. They're sweeping the sand in a desert."

My favorite sand read is probably Edward Abbey's classic Desert Solitaire (Touchstone), in which he observes: "But we're getting accustomed to sand--sand in our food and drink, in our teeth and eyes, and whiskers, in our bedrolls and underwear. Sand becomes a part of our existence, which like breathing, we take for granted." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Maryanne Wolf: How We Read

photo: Rod Searcey
Cognitive neuroscientist, professor and dyslexia researcher Maryanne Wolf (Proust and the Squid) looks to the future of literacy in Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World (Harper, $24.99). Through insightful, inspiring letters, Wolf invites us to remember--amid the glow of iPads and e-readers--the fire lit by reading.
You chose the epistolary form for Reader, Come Home, writing short to medium-length letters to your readers. Did this approach feel like an acquiescence to modern attention spans? Or liberating? Or both?
How interesting that you connect the briefer form of the letter to my concern for the attention span of the reader! But, in reality, it had nothing to do with my worries about the reader's limits, but about my appreciation for their very different thoughts, bases of knowledge and ineluctable differences from my perspective on the potential for negative effects from digital devices. I wanted the reader to know we can both learn from one another. The letter gives author and reader the opportunity for a dialogue. If you remember, at the end of the first letter, I quote Thomas Aquinas (whom I have never respected more) as saying, "Iron sharpens iron." So will it be, I hope, for the reader of my letters.
You cite a vast array of writers, thinkers and readers. In the span of a page you might toggle between Emily Dickinson and David Eagleman--a titan of literature and a neuroscience rock star. How did you choose which voices to include?
My very dear friend, Heidi Bally from Switzerland, upon finishing my book, looked up, smiled and said that I always find a way of sharing my "friends" with the readers of my book.... Narrative theologian Fr. John Dunne, novelists Virginia Woolf, Marilynne Robinson and Toni Morrison, Parisian philosopher Bernard Stiegler and, perhaps most important to me in the last years, the extraordinary pastor of Nazi resistance Dietrich Bonhoeffer, each played a pivotal role in my writing of that last letter. I had to laugh. She was correct. I want all my readers to know these friends, only three of whom I ever met in life, but all of whom I consider friends of a lifetime.
Perhaps that is the real story of this book: letters of introduction or re-introduction to some of the people whom I have come to think embody the best of human thought across multiple disciplines and who individually and collectively contribute to our world's aspiration for the good. Tolkien wrote that his work was meant "to rekindle hearts in a world that's grown chill." My "friends" each do that.
You quote Toni Morrison: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." You also cite Aristotle on the contemplative life, and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates on the value of time. Where do you find the most value, personally? Where do you see the value of "doing language," or of taking action, intersecting or diverging?
This may be your most difficult and, perhaps, your most important question to me. I never thought that my work on the neuroscience of reading would lead me to the conviction that knowledge about the retreat of critical analysis and empathy in deep reading would have radical implications for a democratic society. But that is now what I believe. We need only begin by looking at ourselves. How many of us have begun to sacrifice critical analysis (and other time-demanding capacities) for being quickly informed because of the glut of information we consume? How many of us trade understanding another perspective to gain a little time to make decisions ultimately less informed? How many Americans retreat to the simplest, most familiar, silo-like sources of information that require less thought, less perspective-taking, less exposure to alternative viewpoints?
As readers, as parents and as citizens, we must ask collectively whether we have already begun the insidious skipping of the time and attention needed to analyze the truth and implications of what we read, leading everyone to be more susceptible to fake everything, fear induction and meaningless promises we know to be false.
There are many factors that contribute to the atrophy of critical analysis and empathy, the prerequisites of a good society. Indeed, we do not need the neuroscience of reading to understand the intellectual, social-emotional and ethical risks of short-circuiting thought and empathy--whether this results from the truncation of complexity through Twitter and/or the banishing of critical analysis through demagoguery in whatever its newest forms. But knowing that this is happening is my responsibility as a researcher, mother and citizen to resist through my work's emphasis on critical thought, empathy and, yes, wisdom. It is not about politics, it is about the preservation of the values of a good society.
In an interview about what he as a scholar should do in these difficult and divisive times, the 87-year-old philosopher Charles Taylor responded, "I shall jump into the fray." So, also, must we all, regardless of political parties or loyalties. We must think for ourselves, and we must feel for other human beings. That is my commitment to the most important uses of written language that I work to preserve in our society, from the youngest to the eldest. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Book Candy

Punctuation Mark/Character Quiz

"Tell us your favorite punctuation mark and we'll tell you the fictional character you most resemble," Buzzfeed promised.


Solace State, a "stunning 3D 'visual novel,' explores life in a future city-state circa 2039," Fast Company wrote.


CrimeReads revealed "9 novels that explore crime & mystery from a child's perspective."


From Joan Didion to James Baldwin, Ian MacKenzie picked his "top 10 books about Americans abroad" for the Guardian.


Russia Beyond served up the "alcoholic drinks that Russian literature characters preferred."


Wordplay: Merriam-Webster showcased " 'whole milk', 'British English', and 16 more retronyms."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Untethered Soul

In 1971, while working on a doctorate in economics, author Michael A. Singer experienced a spiritual awakening that would change his life. In 1975, he founded a yoga and meditation center open to all religions and beliefs called the Temple of the Universe. He has since written a variety of books about spirituality, inner piece, personal potential and additional esoteric topics. Singer's most successful book is The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, a New York Times bestseller first published by New Harbinger in 2007, which has been featured on Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday television and radio shows. He is also the author of The Search for Truth and Three Essays on Universal Law: Karma, Will and Love. Singer's most recent title is The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life's Perfection, published by Harmony in 2015, which is also a New York Times bestseller.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself advocates using meditation and mindfulness to find inner peace. According to Singer, by understanding our own thinking and emotions, we can challenge the habitual thoughts and destructive patterns holding us back in our lives. The Untethered Soul is available in paperback or as a deluxe hardcover edition published in 2013, which features a satin ribbon bookmark and a new preface by the author ($22.95, 9781626250765). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


French Exit

by Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt (Undermajordomo Minor) and his trademark irony return in a pithy tragicomedy touched by the absurd.
Bon vivant widow and devout cynic Frances Price and her codependent adult son, Malcolm, are out on the streets of Manhattan after their inheritance runs out. After the liquidation of their assets, mother and son quietly sneak out of their suites at the Four Seasons without paying their bill and skip the country on a passenger ship bound for France.
Malcolm leaves behind a fiancée who still loves him; Frances leaves behind a scandal surrounding her seemingly callous reaction to the death of husband Frank years ago. With them comes Small Frank, a housecat that houses Frank's spirit, according to Frances. Crashing at the vacant apartment of Frances's best friend, Joan, the Prices grapple with ennui and existential crises. When Small Frank goes missing, the resultant panic beckons a host of house guests including a private investigator, a clairvoyant and a doctor who brings his winemonger on house calls.
While their excesses of behavior frequently cross into the territory of the ridiculous, deWitt keeps mother and son from becoming unsympathetic by imbuing the pair with a tragic history. Frances hides heartache under a brassy veneer of caprice and money, while Malcolm lives in a state of adult adolescence that stems as much from genuine fondness for his mother as from her refusal to let him grow up. Named after a colloquialism for leaving a party without saying goodbye, French Exit provides laughter but finishes with a small, deep cut to the reader's heart. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this absurd tragicomedy of manners, a wealthy, eccentric widow and her codependent adult son escape to Paris after losing their fortune.

Ecco, $25.99, hardcover, 256p., 9780062846921

The Third Hotel

by Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg (Find Me) opens her second novel, The Third Hotel, in an atmospheric Havana. Clare has traveled from her home in upstate New York to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema. She is a sales rep in elevator technologies; her husband was a film critic, specializing in horror. Clare has come alone on this trip intended for the two of them, and it is here, in this jumbled city of many faces, that she sees her husband again, navigating Havana with ease, "like he had not been struck by a car and killed in the United States of America some five weeks ago."
The Third Hotel is part ghost story, part realistic portrayal of grief, part psychological thriller. What exactly Clare sees and experiences is up for debate. Her character appears on the outside to be ultra-normal: a boring salesperson with a suitcase packed neatly with toiletries for her work-related travels, and a content if distant marriage. But as the story develops, we see the fractures and skews in perspective.
Van den Berg's clean, descriptive prose brings full images and sensory detail to life without drawing attention to the writing. The shapeshifting city of Havana is a riveting character in itself, and contributes greatly to the atmosphere. The Third Hotel explores the oddities of travel and relationships; silence and noise; and the effects of past trauma. Like Clare, it is an engrossing, thought-provoking enigma. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This atmospheric novel involving a dead husband who turns up on the streets of Havana offers many possible explanations, and more questions than answers.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 224p., 9780374168353

The Reservoir Tapes

by Jon McGregor

Jon McGregor's collection of linked stories, The Reservoir Tapes, had an unusual genesis, beginning as a series of BBC podcasts in 2017. In these spare, elliptical tales, McGregor revisits the unnamed village in England's Peak District that was home to his critically acclaimed novel Reservoir 13. And though its setting and mood evoke the earlier book, this collection is a fresh reminder of his versatility and talent.
Save for the strikingly original first story, the 15 that compose the volume are set some time before 13-year-old Becky Shaw--visiting the village with her parents for the New Year holiday--disappears while hiking with them across the moors. That opener is the one-sided recording of the questions posed by an interviewer to Becky's mother. Daring in format, its accumulated glimpses flesh out some of the details of Becky's last hours with her family only hinted at in Reservoir 13.
From there all of the remaining stories focus on a single character. In "Liam," Becky leads a handful of the village's teenagers on a dangerous swimming expedition at the local quarry during a summertime visit. "Graham" is the frightening account of another girl who disappears on a hike over the same treacherous ground where Becky is last seen, land that's "featureless to the untrained eye, but in fact was teeming with detail."
By the end of The Reservoir Tapes we're no closer to solving the mystery of Becky Shaw's disappearance. Whether Jon McGregor chooses to reveal what happened to her in a work that will complete a "Reservoir Trilogy" or moves on to other material, he will remain a writer whose work will be well worth following. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: Jon McGregor returns to an English village touched by the mystery of a young girl's disappearance to delve deeper into its daily life.

Catapult, $22, hardcover, 176p., 9781936787913


by David Chariandy

Set in a housing project near Toronto, David Chariandy's Brother explores the lasting damage of racism and police brutality on a young brown boy, his family and his entire neighborhood. The story unfolds in two parts: Michael of the present, narrating the state of grief and despair in which he lives with his mother as an adult, and Michael of the past, a young boy who idolizes his brother. "Francis was my older brother. His was a name a toughened kid might boast of knowing, or a name a parent might pronounce in warning. But before all of this, he was the shoulder pressed against me bare and warm, that body always just a skin away." As Brother moves fluidly between past and present, the year of Francis's death comes into focus: an exceptionally hot summer in a neighborhood of immigrants and their bored, overheated children; a shooting in the neighborhood to which too many kids bear witness; the increased police presence in the area after it.
Chariandy (Soucouyant) packs a slim novel with an incredible amount of weight. Here are young boys hoping for a future--a specific one centered on music and the promise of hip-hop, but also a general one, the right simply to grow into adulthood. Here is a family wracked with grief, stuck in a neighborhood crowded with memories and still imbued with the prejudices that took Francis's life. Here are promises broken and dreams denied. And in the middle, perfectly captured by Chariandy's sparse and moving prose, one boy trying to make sense of it all. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm 

Discover: This is a moving depiction of a boy, a family and community, and the lasting impact of a brother's death on all three.

Bloomsbury, $22, hardcover, 192p., 9781635572049

Mystery & Thriller

They Won't Be Hurt

by Kevin O'Brien

Scott Singleton, former NFL star and current celebrity face of the Church of the True Divine Light, has a vacation home on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. He and his family are on the island celebrating Thanksgiving, until someone brutally murders all seven of them.
Joe, the property caretaker, is the main suspect, although he adamantly denies any involvement in the murders. Meanwhile, four hours away, in Leavenworth, Wash., Laura Gretchell has been following the murders, appalled to see such violence relatively close to home. She and her husband recently purchased a secluded vineyard in the small town, but he's in France doing wine research. When she hears that Joe has fled police custody in the company of a man named Vic, known to be mentally ill, Laura starts jumping at every little noise. She tells herself there's no reason to fear--until suddenly, Joe and Vic are in Laura's house, holding her children hostage, and she has no choice but to meet their demands. These demands send her on a crazy hunt across Washington, trying to placate the two men and keep her children alive.
Terrifying and fast-paced, They Won't Be Hurt is any parent's worst nightmare. Kevin O'Brien (Unspeakable, Killing Spree) has written a thriller that ratchets the tension high. Fans of Karin Slaughter or David Baldacci are sure to find it irresistible. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this intense thriller, a mother must cater to the whims of a suspected mass murderer to try to keep her children alive.

Pinnacle, $9.99, mass market paperbound, 544p., 9780786038855

A Double Life

by Flynn Berry

Claire is a young London doctor, living a solitary life that consists of work and little else. Then a detective inspector comes to her door and says simply, "There's been a sighting." Claire doesn't need to ask of whom or what; she knows the DI is referring to her father, who is wanted for an almost 30-year-old murder and has been missing since. While she braces herself for confirmation that the man in Namibia is her father, A Double Life moves back and forth in time to show what happened the night of the killing. The story also reveals that Claire can no longer accept waiting for the answers she feels her father owes her, and that she's willing to cross dangerous lines finally to get them from him.
Flynn Berry's follow-up to her Edgar-winning Under the Harrow is less a thriller than an examination of the psychological toll of violence on a family, specifically children. Claire doesn't date and has changed her name--from Lydia--to avoid being linked to her father, and her younger brother fights addiction. Even though he was only a baby when the murder happened, it occurred in their family home and who knows what he absorbed? "Robbie looks like our father. Sometimes I wonder if that's why he mistreats himself. It's the only act of revenge he can take." Readers looking for plot-heavy stories might find Life slow going in parts, but Berry's nuanced prose and complex characters leave a mark with their quiet suffering. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A London doctor might finally get to confront her father, an infamous murder suspect who's been missing for nearly 30 years.

Viking, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9780735224964

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett (City of Blades) kicks off an innovative fantasy series with the fast-paced Foundryside.
In Tevanne, a city not unlike Renaissance Italy, the rich members of the four merchant houses use devices "scrived" with magic code that tells the object to act against a law of reality. Scrived with sigils, bricks can bind together without mortar, weapons can strike with greater force and carriages can roll without horses. Former slave and first-rate thief Sancia Grado lives in Foundryside, one of the impoverished communities outside the houses. Her particular skills make her the natural choice to steal a valuable artifact for a wealthy, anonymous client. When the object, a skeleton key for scrived locks, turns out to have a voice and a personality, Sancia is reluctant to part with it. Meanwhile, the stiff but honorable Waterwatch Captain Gregor Dandolo sets out to catch the thief who set fire to the waterfront as a distraction. Though initially enemies, Sancia and Gregor soon find themselves in an uneasy alliance against a magical conspiracy that could destroy Tevanne.
Although the magical system is complex, with human beings essentially rewriting the code of reality to suit their own purposes, Bennett largely uses it to create entertaining action sequences in this series opener. Plucky Sancia makes a compelling heroine, and her interactions with her allies are infused with humor and carefully developed emotion. Fantasy readers will appreciate Foundryside for its balance of thoughtfulness and fun. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, main branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: The first book in a projected series, Foundryside introduces a world in which humans write magical code to change the laws of reality.

Crown, $27, hardcover, 512p., 9781524760366

Biography & Memoir

The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone

by Robin Green

In the preface to Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion wrote, "Writers are always selling somebody out." This sentiment undergirds Robin Green's bright but brief tenure at one of the most vaunted magazines in history, chronicled in her memoir The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone.
As a young Ivy League graduate, Green started out in New York City as assistant for Marvel's Stan Lee. But soon, boredom and a boyfriend took her across the country to the counterculture epicenter of the Bay Area, where she interviewed for what she assumed would be a secretarial job at Rolling Stone. To her surprise, co-founder Jann Wenner requested she write a story, promising five cents a word.
Green delivered. Her first piece to print--an excoriating interview with Dennis Hopper--put her on the map. Didion even had a friend call Green to compliment her on it.
At Rolling Stone, Green rubbed shoulders, etc., with rock stars, politicians and colleagues with growing celebrity: Hunter S. Thompson, Annie Leibovitz. Her stories are legendary, as was the career that followed: the Iowa Writers' Workshop and 25 decorated years in television, writing and producing for the likes of The Sopranos and Blue Bloods.
In this expansive, revealing self-portrait, Green packs in stories that are vivid, if at times vindictive. She takes inventory of words and memories, deciding what counts and ensuring it gets counted on her terms. Still ironic, wide-eyed, present, she's not selling anything other than good old sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Take a wild trip--with some bad trips, too--through the 1970s music scene and beyond with the first female writer to break the Stone ceiling.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780316440028

Social Science

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

by Maryanne Wolf

"What we read, how we read, and why we read change how we think," writes Maryanne Wolf in Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. In an age of constantly accessible information and ever-shorter attention spans, when substantive writing too often receives responses of "tl;dr," (too long; didn't read), literacy and dyslexia researcher Wolf seeks to understand the evolution of the reading brain.
Wolf (Proust and the Squid) has dedicated her career to the study of reading, but shifts her focus here to why it matters that reading increasingly happens via screens. At the heart of Wolf's research is the simple but critical notion that "human beings were never born to read." Yet we do--and, increasingly, on digital devices. The implications of this shift are various, vast and at times troubling. Wolf asks, "Do you, my reader, read with less attention and perhaps even less memory for what you have read?"
Feathers may ruffle with any questioning of technological advancement, but Wolf assures readers she is in no way against the digital revolution. Instead, she faces it head on, with wide eyes and a curious mind. She resists judgments of good and bad, citing writers, thinkers and philosophers the world over, in accessible language studded with approachable metaphors: see the reading brain as Cirque du Soleil.
Wolf wields her pen with equal parts wisdom and wonder. The result is a joy to read and reread, a love letter to literature, literacy and progress. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf explores literacy, probing how digital mediums impact the reading brain and why it matters.

Harper, $24.99, hardcover, 272p., 9780062388780

Essays & Criticism

American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

by William Giraldi

In American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring, William Giraldi shares his skepticism of multiculturalism, MFA programs and "the ceaseless yawp of social media." But he considers the biggest threat to the literary arts to be something not exclusive to the modern age: dullness.
There's never a dull moment in American Audacity--and that's just the sort of cliché that Giraldi calls out in the book reviews that speckle his pitilessly probing collection. These 38 pieces, all but one of which hail from periodicals of one type (Newsweek) or another (Kenyon Review), are grouped into three sections: topical essays (on the Boston Marathon bombing, Fifty Shades of Grey), tributes to great minds (Cynthia Ozick, Harold Bloom) and critical assessments (Harper Lee, Moby-Dick). Talk about quotes for every occasion: Giraldi pulls out the pertinent words of literary lions like pocket change.
The author of a memoir and novels (including Hold the Dark), Giraldi isn't stingy with praise, but criticism seems to come easier to him, whether he's moved by reason (Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" "lives several zip codes over from his best work") or irritation ("Nicholas Sparks is so chronically saccharine you can feel yourself getting diabetes as you read"). While reading American Audacity, in which Giraldi laments "the kindergartening of American letters," expect to encounter multiple uses of words like "Eliotic" and "postlapsarian," and anticipate taking a few trips to the dictionary. News of this might draw the rare dull word out of Giraldi: "Good." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: William Giraldi uses his talent for the pithy, apt turn of phrase to toast and roast literary and cultural giants.

Liveright, $30, hardcover, 336p., 9781631493904

Children's & Young Adult

The Day You Begin

by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López

National Book Award winner and national treasure Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) teams up with two-time Pura Belpré Award recipient Rafael López (Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics) to deliver an empowering message to any child who has ever felt too different.
Woodson's poem warns, "There will be times when you walk into a room/ and no one there is quite like you." Angelina, an African American girl, feels insecure that she spent summer vacation home reading to her little sister while "other students were flying/ and sailing and/ going somewhere." Glowing bursts of watercolor fireworks surround her classmates and their souvenirs, while empty-handed Angelina sits to the side against a background of dull gray. When she finds the words to explain her reading adventures, though, they trigger an image of Angelina and her sister flying in a sun-buttered sky over the ocean to a domed building, akin to the Taj Mahal. Other children in her diverse classroom, including a Venezuelan boy with an accent, a Caucasian boy who lacks athletic ability and an Asian American girl with kimchi in her lunch feel isolated by their differences, but when they open up to each other about their dissimilarities, they find unexpected common ground.
Woodson and López offer a needed message of comfort to preschool and early elementary students. Woodson's lulling free verse reassures the reader that the world will "make some space," while López's dreamy, near-translucent mixed-media illustrations thrum with playful joy. This gentle, powerful ode to diversity and acceptance belongs with all children. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: Powerhouse team Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López explore the isolation of feeling different and the joy of opening up to others.

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, $18.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780399246531

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude

by Josh Funk, illus. by Stevie Lewis

Patience and Fortitude are lion statues that have perched on plinths outside the New York Public Library for more than 100 years. Each day the two noble friends greet thousands of library visitors. But Patience, unbeknownst to Fortitude, has a secret nighttime life. One morning, as dawn approaches, Fortitude wakes to discover his friend is not at his post! Where is Patience, who tells Fortitude surprising "stories of ducklings and moons,/ Of wardrobes and buttons and fun"? Worried that Patience won't return in time for the building's opening, Fortitude ("lacking all patience") scampers into the building to find him.
What follows is a library tour to end all library tours, led by a curious (big) cat. On his quest, Fortitude encounters Astor Hall, the Rose Main Reading Room and a mischievous lion-head water fountain, each of which is explained at greater length in the endpapers. When the valiant lion eventually winds up in the Children's Center, he discovers not only Patience, but the answer to the mystery of where his friend's storytelling prowess comes from.
Josh Funk (How to Code a Sandcastle; the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series) tells this first-ever picture book tale of the New York Public Library lions--in verse! Stevie Lewis's (Prince & Knight; the Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventures series) simple but carefully accurate architectural details mesh wonderfully with her playful style: an almost Escher-like spread features multiple Fortitudes treading up and down staircases at various geometric angles. Not just for New Yorkers--any reader who loves libraries and gentle mysteries will enjoy getting Lost in the Library with Fortitude and Patience. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: The two library lion sculptures outside the New York Public Library come to life in this playful verse-tale about getting lost in a library... and in books.

Holt, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-7, 9781250155016

Brave Enough

by Kati Gardner

Debut author Kati Gardner details the heartbreak and triumphs of two teens battling cancer and its aftermath in this contemporary slice-of-life novel.
When high school student and aspiring ballerina Cason Martin's left leg fails her in a crucial audition, her dreams collapse. Cason has aggressive bone cancer, and her visions of moving to New York City to dance disintegrate right along with her femur. Her mother, Natalie, director of the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory, refuses to accept that Cason will not "be back at the barre by Christmas," but Cason knows survival may cost her not only her dreams, but her leg. Cason finds emotional support in Davis, a schoolmate completing court-ordered community service in her oncology ward. A former cancer patient himself, Davis struggles with addiction to prescription painkillers, and his former dealer harasses him at every turn. The couple's budding romance bows under the weight of Cason's treatment and Davis's efforts to remain sober, but a support system of peers and medical staff may help them find the strength to survive.
A childhood cancer survivor and amputee, Gardner writes with authority about the emotional challenges of living with a dangerous and debilitating disease. Cason's fears and Davis's consuming desire for a fix ring true, and Gardner shows the process of cancer treatment from diagnosis through recovery, with every emotional stage along the way. Taking a less romantic look at illness than The Fault in Our Stars, this quick read offers 8th to 12th graders plenty of drama and hope. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: Childhood cancer survivor Kati Gardner's debut novel focuses on two teens struggling with cancer and drug addiction.

Flux, $11.99, paperback, 320p., ages 13-up, 9781635830200

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