Also published on this date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013: Maximum Shelf: Five Days at Memorial

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Penguin Press: Win a collection of some of this fall's best nonfiction

Scholastic Focus: Scholastic is proud to introduce a new imprint of beautifully written and carefully researched MG and YA nonfiction—coming Fall 2018

Other Press: Something Great and Beautiful: A Novel of Love, Wall Street, and Focaccia by Enrico Pellegrini

Canongate Books: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Katherine Tegen Books: Time Castaways #1: The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl Shurtliff

News

BEA Buzz Books Part I: The Inside Scoop from Booksellers

For the second year, BookExpo America will be opening its doors to the general public on the last day of the show; and while some of us in the business might say, "Let them hear packing tape," we also know that one of the enduring benefits of getting all the players in the book industry under one roof is the B2B action that helps a book break out of the cacophony head onto the path to the bestseller list. B2B? That's bookseller-to-bookseller buzz about the offerings for the late summer and fall.

At the very top of that buzz list is Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux by Boris Kachka (Simon & Schuster, August). There are no galleys, but S&S sent manuscripts to a handful of booksellers, like Paul Yamazaki at City Lights in San Francisco, who said, "I thought it was tremendous." Kachka, who has covered the book beat at New York magazine for years, apparently had very good access to FSG archives and insiders, judging by the amount of research that went into Hothouse. "It's a huge amount of fun, very informative, and very fair," said Yamazaki.

Geoffrey Jennings at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Kan., named Hothouse as one of his favorite reads going into BEA--and not just because it will appeal to industry insiders, although he did stress how delightful book people will find its juicy bits. "It's like walking into a massive epic," said Jennings, noting that Hothouse spans up to the present day. "Farrar, Straus and Giroux were the Mad Men of the book business." In fact, Jennings, who called the book "laugh-out-loud funny," was so eager to share Hothouse that he e-mailed a few pages from the manuscript with the warning: "go pee before you read this."

This year the American Booksellers Association organized a promotion called "Celebrate Debut Authors," picking up on an similar promotion that was popular this spring, essentially harnessing the power of bookseller buzz to promote new writers. ABA asked a baker's dozen of booksellers from across the country to read publishers' submissions of debut books and then select the titles that would be part of the promotion with independent booksellers this fall. Betsy Burton from the King's English in Salt Lake City, Utah, served as chair of the committee of booksellers in the adult category.

"It's what we do best, finding new books by new authors and then introducing them to the world," said Burton. Publishers submitted manuscripts for review and the jury of booksellers read them and had many phone calls to debate them before coming up with its final list for the Fall Celebrate Debut Authors promotion. The promo's details will be available at the ABA booth.

Jenn Northington at WORD in Brooklyn, N.Y., served on the committee and was abuzz about The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct.), a debut that depicts the Jewish community in Johannesburg, South Africa. "It's most impressive," she said. "The voice is like a close third person and you get inside the cadence of the characters in a special way."

Several booksellers called The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy (Liveright/Norton, Oct.) an "accomplished" debut. In the story, a man leaves Nova Scotia to search for his missing brother-in-law on the front lines of World War I, promising his wife that he will serve only as a cartographer, but gets pulled into the war. Perhaps it is not polite to mention a woman's age, but aside from telling a very compelling story, it is worth noting that Duffy is making her debut in her 60s.

Cathy Langer, adult book buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colo., observed that there were a few good World War I books on the fall lists. Also from Norton, she noted, is The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco and Adam Hochschild, a meticulous illustration of the battlefield in a 24-foot-long panorama. "It's the number one, coolest thing I am excited to see at BEA," she said. Langer also noted a nonfiction Random House title, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan (Oct.), who wrote Paris 1919, and Thomas Keneally's new novel, The Daughters of Mars (Atria, Aug.), which is about two sisters who are nurses at Gallipoli and on the western front during the Great War.

For a good story and a good laugh, Burton--not speaking as the head of the debut committee as much as a reader--recommended The Rosie Project, a debut by Graeme Simsion (S&S, Oct.). The dialogue between a brilliant geneticist who has Asperger's and decides he needs to find a wife (which becomes his project), his friend Rosie (whose project is seeking her birth father) and two other friends, a couple of psychologists in an open marriage, is "some of the funniest I have ever read."

A debut on the other side of the spectrum is Burial Rights by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown, Sept.), which is based on the true story of an Icelandic woman convicted of murder who is sent to live on a family farm (because there is no prison to house her) as she awaits her execution. Mark LaFramboise from Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., said, "It's a tough book, but told in an understated, beautiful way."

LaFramboise suggested people not be turned off by a book that can be called brutal: The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom (Grove/Atlantic, May), an American frontier epic that booksellers have been talking about since it debuted at Winter Institute. "I don't like brutal books, but I couldn't stop reading it," said Sheryl Cotleur from Copperfield's Books in northern California, who compared the experience to watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. "It's gritty, visceral and extremely memorable. It is a portrait of a time and era that is worthy of our attention."

Of course, booksellers also love a good follow-up book and none is more anticipated than Paul Harding's Enon (Random House, Sept.); "anyone who loved Tinkers is going to love this even more," said Yamazaki.

Early word on the new Wally Lamb novel, We Are Water (Harper, Oct.), is that he has returned to his She's Come Undone form. And Elizabeth Gilbert's return to fiction in a multigenerational historical novel, The Signature of All Things (Viking, Oct.), might surprise readers who only know her memoirs. Langer gave Gilbert's novel a thumbs up and also said she was looking forward to getting her hands on new books from Andre Dubus III (Dirty Love, Norton, Oct.) and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch, Little, Brown, Oct.).

Luisa Smith at Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco observed that, with new books by some great authors--Amy Tan, Thomas Pynchon, Jonathan Lethem, Ann Patchett, Jumpa Lahiri and Martin Cruz Smith among them--the fall looks like a "bookseller's dream."

Speaking of Book Passage, co-owner Bill Petrocelli is making his BEA debut as a novelist with The Circle of Thirteen (Turner, Oct.), set in a future world threatened by a terrorist sect; the identity of its misogynistic leader will call everything the protagonist believes into question as she races to prevent a bombing. The buzz from booksellers who have read galleys of The Circle of Thirteen they picked up at Wi8: "It's a really good read."

Tomorrow we report on the children's and YA buzz books, and indie presses and sleepers on Friday. --Bridget Kinsella


World Editions: You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben, translated by David Doherty


Publishing Hackathon Finalists Named

Last weekend's Publishing Hackathon at the AlleyNYC in New York, during which digital designers, engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs were invited to spend 36 hours together in teams to develop new approaches to digital book discovery, narrowed the field to six finalists.

"It's hard to come up with a book discovery idea that is not similar to Goodreads in some way, though the finalists... did a good job," paidContent reported. "Many of the teams built ideas on Goodreads data or pulled other information from it."

The Hackathon finalists are BookCity, Captiv, Coverlist, Evoke, KooBrowser and
LibraryAtlas. The winning project, which will be announced at BookExpo America May 31, receives a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to pitch the idea at a breakfast meeting with Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor.


Disney-Hyperion: I Lost My Tooth! (Unlimited Squirrels) by Mo Willems


Canadian E-Book Sales Hit 'Plateau'

The Canadian market for e-books remains steady, according to a new report from BookNet Canada that found e-books accounted for 15% of all purchases in 2012, with paperbacks (including mass markets) making up 58% and hardcovers 24%.

"The research suggests that the e-book market in Canada may have reached a plateau,” said Noah Genner, BookNet Canada president and CEO. "Early 2013 data backs this up. So far, we're seeing the same pattern repeating itself."

The report also noted that Canadians prefer to buy books in physical stores, with 34% of book purchases made in non-book retailers, 37% in bookstores and 25% online. Pamela Millar, director of customer relations, said BookNet Canada "found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience. Great location, what's in stock and the opportunity to complete more than one errand--they all come down to convenience. Pricing comparison isn't as big a factor as we might have guessed."

Showrooming may not be a widespread issue for the book industry in Canada, the report suggested, noting that 55% of respondents indicated they rarely or never compared book prices between stores.


Mandevilla Press: Assassins by Mike Bond


Bowker Launches SelfPublishedAuthor.com

Bowker has launched SelfPublishedAuthor.com, an online guide offering industry advice and perspective, marketing tools, referrals to partners who can help independent publishers and a calendar of events specifically for self-published authors. It is designed to complement the company's MyIdentifiers website, where publishers can purchase ISBNs.

"Bowker has tracked extraordinary growth in the number of self-published works over the past five years," said Beat Barblan, Bowker director of identifier services. "There are thousands of authors who need access to advice, guidance and resources. SelfPublishedAuthor.com is designed to be their partner, helping them bring their books to market in the most effective way."


Obituary Note: Louis Strick

Louis Strick, who co-founded the "pioneering quality paperback line, Meridian, publishing Philip Roth among others" in the 1960s and purchased Taplinger Publishing Co., "bringing out works of literary fiction as well as volumes on modern art" in the 1970s, died earlier this month, Westport Now reported. He was 87.


Notes

Image of the Day: 'Tom Chalk'

On his website SneezingCow.com, Michael Perry, author most recently of Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace, shared a special visual treat that greeted him at his reading Monday: "What I saw when I arrived at the event last night. Thank you Weyenberg Library, and thank you Nick of Boswell Books (Nick did the chalk)."


Bookstore Breakfasts for Khaled Hosseini

Display at Malaprop's in Asheville, N.C.

In celebration of the publication of Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed (Riverhead), 19 bookstores across the U.S. opened early yesterday and invited customers to come in for a breakfast party and be among the first to buy copies of the novel.

The first customer at Octavia Books in New Orleans.

BEA: Gatsby's New York

When F. Scott Fitzgerald penned The Great Gatsby, he may not have approved of the roaring excess to be found in 1920s New York, but the era did leave behind stunning architecture, delicious cocktails and a vintage shopper's dream. Here, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and DK travel author AnneLise Sorensen have donned their fedoras to bring you the best spots in New York City to walk in Jay Gatsby's wing tips.

1. The Plaza (768 Fifth Ave.)
This lavish hotel figured prominently in Fitzgerald's life, prompting Ernest Hemingway to advise him to "give his liver to Princeton and his heart to the Plaza." Fitzgerald and wife, Zelda, were Plaza regulars, and key scenes in the novel played out here. The hotel has embraced the Jazz Age with an Art Deco-style Fitzgerald suite and 1920s treats, such as curried lobster salad, served at the Palm Court. Toast the night with a Moët Imperial Gatsby cocktail at the Rose Club, which also hosts Gatsby Hour on Wednesday and Thursday nights, featuring a Jazz band.

2. 21 Club (21 W. 52nd St.)
The 21 Club has appeared in so many films that it could practically apply for its own Actors' Equity card. As a speakeasy, the bar was equipped with a set of levers and chutes, and a secret vault held the private wines of the famous, from John F. Kennedy to Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe. In a nod to its history, the 21 Club is celebrating The Great Gatsby film with special cocktails, including the Beautiful Fool, named after a Gatsby quote, and made with gin, chamomile syrup, lemon juice and grapefruit.

3. Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave.)
The Great Gatsby pays homage to the grand style of Art Deco. One of the finest examples in Manhattan is the soaring Empire State Building. Take a ride to the top or, if you want to skip the lines, head instead to the bar on the ground floor, the Empire Room, which is also done up in Art Deco style, with brushed steel, velvet banquettes and vintage cocktails like the Prohibition Punch, with rum, passion fruit and champagne.

4. Tiffany & Co. (5th Avenue & 57th St.)
Tiffany & Co. created most of the jewels for the film The Great Gatsby, from sparkling headpieces to silky strands of pearls. The celebrated store also launched a Great Gatsby collection, which includes a Tiffany Jazz diamond bracelet, a Ziegfeld Collection silver daisy ring and a Great Gatsby Collection headpiece in platinum with diamonds and freshwater pearls. The price tag: $200,000.

5. Minetta Tavern (113 Macdougal St.)
Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald all once warmed the barstools here. Relive those days (and nights) over a stiff cocktail and juicy strip steak at this clubby restaurant, which has lots of gleaming dark woods, black-and-white checkered tiled floors and murals of the West Village through the eras.

6. Mansfield Hotel (12 W. 44th St.)
The dashing bootlegger and bachelor Max von Gerlach was supposedly the inspiration for Jay Gatsby. He lived at the Mansfield Hotel for a time, and the hotel offers a Live Like Gatsby package, which includes classic cocktails for two at M Bar, like the Gatsby-inspired Owls' Eyes gimlet, made with gin and lime juice, plus your own copy of The Great Gatsby.

7. Bathtub Gin (132 9th Ave.)
Gin was the alcohol of choice during the Gatsby era, and at this low-lit speakeasy, you can try it in a rainbow of cocktails, from the Slow Gin Ginger Sling (gin, cherry heering, apricot liqueur, lime juice and ginger) and the Clover Club (gin, vermouth, lemon juice, egg white and raspberry liqueur). Like all good speakeasies, Bathtub Gin is hard to find. Look for the unassuming facade of the Stone Street Coffee Company, and then walk through the secret door to a bar crowned with chandeliers, with a giant copper bathtub in the center of the room.

8. Prohibition Era Cocktail Cruise (departs Chelsea piers; during BEA, the cruise sails on Saturday, June 1)
The only thing better than kicking back with a potent Gin Rickey is doing so under the stars. Classic Harbor Line invites you to "channel your inner bootlegger and live the life of the Great Gatsby" on this Hudson River Cruise. Learn how to mix classic cocktails, like the Vesper, made with gin, vodka and lillet, while shimmying to Jazz Age tunes.

9. Grape & Wine (52 W. 13th St.)
The Jade Hotel opened earlier this year, but the decor looks out of 1923. This swank Greenwich Village hotel, inspired by 1920s Paris, features an Art Deco lounge, a library stocked with books by Greenwich Village scribes like Kerouac, cozy rooms with the cute amenity of old-fashioned rotary phones and the Grape & Vine bar, named after a former local speakeasy. Bartenders serve up 1920s-themed cocktails with a flourish, including Bee's Knees (gin, honey, lemon) and the Prankster (gin, absinthe, soda and lime).

10. Vintage Shops
Go back to the days when men wore fedoras and women were called dames at New York City's superb array of vintage stores, including the Family Jewels in Chelsea and Old Hollywood in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, with wonderfully retro jewelry, from 1920s cufflinks to a ring in the shape of the NYC cityscape. Their motto is a good one to live by: Get moxie, kid.


Personnel Changes: Abrams and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Elisa Garcia has been promoted to director of trade sales at Abrams and will direct the company's U.S. commission trade sales force and the Canadian commission sales group Manda. She will also be Abrams's lead contact with trade booksellers and continues to sell to Scholastic book clubs and fairs.
 
Jody Mosley has been promoted to director of special markets at Abrams.
 
Erica Warshal has been promoted to director of national accounts at Abrams and will be responsible for national book retailers, mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and the national distributors servicing these accounts. In addition, she will manage and sell to Barnes & Noble and Barnes & Noble College. She formerly managed American Wholesale Book Company in the U.S., as well as Amazon, Indigo, Wal-Mart, Target and Costco in Canada.
 
Erin Hotchkiss has joined the adult marketing department at Abrams as senior marketing manager, overseeing all adult categories and directly managing the marketing of books in the lifestyle, interior design, architecture and cooking categories.

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James Phirmam has joined the special sales team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as national account manager, selling to the wholesales clubs and grocery chains. He was formerly senior sales manager in special markets at Lonely Planet and before that he worked at BTMS as a product manager buying for the cookbook, travel, regional and sports categories for Costco and Sam's.

Jessica Gilo has joined the culinary team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as a marketing specialist. She was formerly an assistant manager on the special sales team at Hachette.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jennifer Gilmore on NPR's Fresh Air

Today on NPR's Fresh Air: Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers: A Novel (Scribner, $26, 9781451697254).

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Today on Bloomberg TV's Street Smart: Pamela Ryckman, author of Stiletto Network: Inside the Women's Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business (AMACOM, $22.95, 9780814432532).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Pura Lopez-Colome and Forrest Gander, author and translator of Watchword (Wesleyan University Press, $24.95, 9780819571182). As the show put it: "Does poetry have a metabolic dimension? Pura Lopez-Colomé's Watchword, translated from Spanish to English by Forrest Gander, envisions the body as a mystically rich reservoir of experience and language. She and Gander read poems from this bilingual edition while reflecting on poetry and translation, intuition and abstraction, and metaphor and illness."

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Khaled Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed (Riverhead, $28.95, 9781594631764).

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Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Martha Stewart, author of Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others (Clarkson Potter, $27.50, 9780307462886).

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Tomorrow night on Conan: Steve Schrippa, co-author of Big Daddy's Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look (Touchstone, $25, 9781476706344).


Movie Visuals: As Cool As I Am; Catching Fire; Divergent

IFC Films has released a trailer for As Cool As I Am, the film adaptation of Pete Fromm's novel starring Claire Danes, James Marsden, Sarah Bolger and Thomas Mann, Deadline.com reported. The movie hits theaters June 7.
 
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"Katniss vs. Tris." A new poster has been released for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that "eschews the costumed pageantry of the earlier posters and instead leans on the only image the studio will ever need, Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss with a bow and arrow," Indiewire reported. The movie hits theaters November 22.

There's also a new poster for Divergent "to get your hearts pumping faster." The movie, based on Veronica Roth's series, is directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless) and will be released March 21, 2014.



Books & Authors

Awards: Amazon Breakthrough; Foreign Fiction; James Tait Black

Five finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award have been named. Each of them will receive a book contract from Amazon Publishing, and the online retailer's customers are voting until May 29 to determine a grand prize winner who will be awarded a $50,000 advance in addition to the publishing contract. That winner will be revealed June 15. The remaining four finalists each receive a $15,000 advance. The shortlisted books are:

General fiction: It Happened in Wisconsin by Ken Moraff
Mystery/thriller: The Hidden by Jo Chumas
Romance: A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce
Science fiction/fantasy/horror: Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn
Young adult fiction: Timebound by Rysa Walker

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Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his novel The Detour, translated by David Colmer. The £10,000 (about US$15,257) award is shared equally by the author and translator. Judge and Independent literary editor Boyd Tonkin called the winning book "swift-moving and apparently straightforward, but with mysterious hidden depths."

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Finalists have been named for the £10,000 James Tait Black Prizes, which are given annually by the University of Edinburgh Two for the best work of fiction and best biography. The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Fiction
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
The Deadman's Pedal by Alan Warner

Biography
Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra
The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture by Tanya Harrod
Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea by Thomas Wright


Book Brahmin: Bill Cheng

photo: Joe Orecchio

Bill Cheng received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Baruch College and is a graduate of Hunter College's MFA program. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife. Southern Cross the Dog (Ecco, May 7, 2013) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Most of my reading I don't do in bed. My books are scattered all over the place like the work of some mad geocacher. On the fold-out stool next to my writing desk is Claire Vaye Watkin's collection, Battleborn and The City of Devi by Manil Suri. On my bookshelf in the hall is Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Waiting for me at the office is the anthology Fire and Forget, which was put together by members of the NYU Veterans Writing Workshop. On my iPod is the unabridged audiobook of Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle and some Chekhov short stories narrated by Stephen Fry.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Science fiction and fantasy has always been such a gateway drug for kids, hasn't it? For me, it was always The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. We had to read it when I was in fourth grade. Even now, I find myself a little breathless thinking about Riddles in the Dark. Inside the front cover, I'd drawn all 13 of the dwarves. In the end I gave my copy away to my best friend on his 13th birthday. It was the best gift I ever gave anybody.

Your top five authors:

Five is not enough. I think there are books you meet at the wrong time in your life that you circle back to when you're older. Similarly, there are probably books that you miss your chance with. This is probably the most compelling argument I have for why we should read all the time--the fear of missing something you never knew you needed. But saying five authors is like saying there are only five things that can happen in a lifetime. Because it'll seem like shameless sucking up (even though it isn't only that), I won't include any of the people I've studied with. The best criteria I can think of in selecting my five is to think about which author I've had the best percentages with in terms of reading and admiring their overall oeuvre. In which case I'd have to say Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Michael Ondaatje, Haruki Murakami and P.G. Wodehouse all rate tremendously highly. I think together, you can pretty much re-create the entire range of human existence.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm pretty upfront about the books I haven't read. It's my hope that the shame of it will spur me on in trying to reduce their number.

Book you're an evangelist for:

In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt. At least in the circles I travel in, I don't really see a lot of writing like this--stories about Egyptologists, and sentient space satellites, and the end of the world. The way Holt writes about science is so assertive and intelligent and imaginative. And if my use of the word "imaginative" conjures up the image of a five-year-old holding up a drawing of a t-rex jumping over the Empire State Building on a flaming motorcycle--then you'd be right. This is what the world of letters needs: more writing that is unabashedly comfortable in how awesome it is.

Book you've bought for the cover:

X-men #25: Fatal Attractions. It had a hologram of Gambit on the cover. It's also the one where Magneto leeches all the adamantium out of Wolverine's skeleton!

Book that changed your life:

My freshman year of college, I was an intern at a business magazine. At the time, one of my friends recommended I read Raymond Carver so on my lunch break I took the train to the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue. I started reading Cathedral in the store. Then in the street. Down into the subway. Before I knew it, I had missed my stop. I haven't made it back to business journalism since.

Favorite line from a book:

It's probably this part from Hamlet, Act V Scene 2:

"We defy augury. There's a special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be
not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come--
the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows,
what is't to leave betimes? Let be."

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

I guess I would say Illywhacker by Peter Carey. It's the kind of book that reminds you that even in the most serious literature, there has got to be some element of fun. This stuff is supposed to be joyous, people!

Book that should be required for every head of state:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. I'm probably overly naïve in thinking any one book can convince anyone to be better than what they are but Charlotte's Web may be our best shot at it. Can you imagine air-dropping that over someplace like North Korea or the Gaza Strip? That book will explode you in a vastly different, sorely needed way.


Book Review

Children's Review: The Pig on the Hill

The Pig on the Hill (Cameron & Company, $16.95 hardcover, 48p., ages 4-8, 9781937359393, June 18, 2013)

In this uplifting tale of unlikely friendship, a pig, seeking solace and a breathtaking vista in his home high above the valley, is crestfallen when a duck moves in to spoil his view--until he realizes what he'd been missing.

Author-artist John Kelly shows the wide-open space on the title page, where Pig has built his home atop a grassy crest. The white smoke wafting from his chimney matches the snowy peaks of the mountain range and the cumulus clouds adrift over a river that winds its way through the peaceful scene. Pig bakes cakes, makes model planes and reads books while nibbling on chocolate: "His life was perfect." But one day, Pig opens the curtains, and a duck is standing there. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" says the duck. "Pig agreed, but secretly wished the duck would just go away." Out of all the places in the vast valley, the duck takes up residence right in Pig's line of vision.

Kelly plays with elements of the comic-book format to nicely pace the flow of the events and to play with perspective. Pig's new neighbor, who visits with a bottle of champagne, regales his host with tales of his travels, which appear in thought balloons of him hiking, snorkeling and waterskiing. "The duck seemed to have been everywhere and done everything. Things Pig had only read about in books." On a full-page image of the duck playing drums, Kelly pictures an inset of Pig holding up a clock that reads 2:00a.m. and picking up the phone ("There were the normal disagreements"). Even though the humor borders on adult sophistication, both characters present a universal dynamic of opposites that--eventually--attract. They help each other out, and eventually build a bridge--literally and figuratively--between their houses, in a full-spread illustration.

Pig turns down an invitation to a winter party Duck hosts ("Pig didn't like crowds"), then complains when "the music seemed to go on and on and on and on." (Kelly adds a whole new dimension to the phrase "darken my door" when Pig stomps over to halt the party.) When Duck disappears the next day and does not return, day after day, Pig tries to return to his old routines. Kelly expertly contrasts the before-and-after scenes to convey the way that Pig's former tranquility now escapes him. He misses his friend. When Duck returns, Pig determines not to be without him (and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "when pigs fly").  Children who enjoyed Cecil Castelucci and Sara Varon's Odd Duck will likely glom onto this likeminded tale of eccentric individuals who thrive as joined forces, and will also appreciate the way both books play with illustration and design elements. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: John Kelly uses comic strip elements in this humorous picture-book depiction of an unlikely friendship of an adventurous duck and a stay-at-home pig.


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