Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014: Maximum Shelf: We Are Not Ourselves

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 4, 2014

St. Martin's: Five by Ursula Archer

St. Martin's: Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner

Good Hart Publishing: After the Wind by Lou Kasischke

Poisoned Pen Press: Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh

Weinstein Books: Who Knows Tomorrow by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

St. Martin's: Saving Grace by Jane Green

Broadway: Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement

 

Quotation of the Day

'What a Time to Be a Bookseller!'

"The independent booksellers that survived the past decade realized that to make it, they must be tirelessly innovating, constantly engaging their communities and building their clientele, and offering an experience and expertise that cannot be found anywhere else. They've passed this knowledge down to the newest generations of booksellers, which has made the current independent bookselling community more engaged and vibrant than ever before....

"What a time to be a bookseller! But best of all, what a very wonderful time to be a book buyer."

--Lizzy Boden of Open Books, Chicago, Ill., in a Tumblr post.

Little Simon: Rudolph by Robert Lewis May

News

Amazon vs. Hachette: Authors, Times, Shatzkin

John Green, whose publisher is Penguin Random House, has joined the chorus of authors protesting Amazon's treatment of Hachette Group. A frequent critic of bullying, he told the AP: "What's ultimately at stake is whether Amazon is going to be able to freely and permanently bully publishers into eventual nonexistence....

"The breadth of American literature and the quality of American literature is in no small part due to the work that publishers do, and it's very unfortunate, in my opinion, to see Amazon refuse to acknowledge the importance of that partnership."

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In a piece in the Sunday Times of London called "Stay Silent and Soon Amazon Will Be Telling the World What It Can Read," historian and author Amanda Foreman (Georgiana, The Duchess, A World on Fire, etc.) compared Amazon's power with "one of the greatest monopolies in history... the medieval Catholic Church. Its religious and temporal power was absolute until confronted by an even more potent rival: the printed book. Today, print is once more at the centre of a cultural revolution. Only this time it is not the challenger to a global monopoly but its most successful weapon....

"What the public does not know is that the real fight is about kickbacks. How can Amazon make up for the fact that it sells almost all its books at a loss?

"The money has to come from somewhere--and it does so in the form of 'fees' that the publishers must pay to have their books listed. It is the fees, not consumer choice, that drive nearly every aspect of how a book is displayed and recommended on Amazon.

"In most economic and political situations this practice is called 'pay to play' and is banned....

"Amazon's real attitude to the book industry was revealed in its public statement last Tuesday. This referred to books as 'demand-weighted units.' They are not. A customer looking for Tolstoy's War and Peace won't buy Talshoy's Peace and War because it is cheaper. Despite what Amazon would like us to believe, Tolstoy's book has value, the other simply a price."

Foreman called for market regulators to break up Amazon as they did with banking monopolies, for the big five publishers to stand firm against Amazon, for customers to take Amazon's advice and buy books from independent outlets and for writers to speak out and "stand alongside our fellow authors at Hachette and Bonnier. Their fate is our fate; we can help them win or watch them prepare the way for the destruction of all of us."

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A New York Times editorial today revisits the basics of the Amazon-Hachette battle, saying that "this dispute appears to be the kind of hard-nosed negotiations that always take place when distributors and producers try to figure out how to split the profits from a relatively new business, in this case e-books....

"But when a company dominates the sale of certain products as Amazon does with books, it has the power to distort the market for its own benefit and possibly in violation of antitrust laws.... There may be grounds to investigate Amazon if its squeezing of Hachette drags on for months or if it engages in similar actions against other publishers."

The editorial ends with an unlikely recommendation to Amazon: "It would be best if Amazon simply dropped its bullying tactics and spent its energy reaching agreements with Hachette and Bonnier. The longer this dispute drags on, the more likely it is that some readers will reconsider their relationship with Amazon and start buying books from other retailers. That would surely damage Amazon's goal of becoming the seller of everything to everyone."

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In response to the Amazon-Hachette battle, the Washington Independent Review of Books, which has long been an Amazon affiliate, will no longer run Amazon ads on the Review's homepage or link the books it reviews to Amazon.

"Although we appreciate Amazon for all the things it does well--such as providing a vibrant marketplace for out-of-print books--we can't abide its strong-arming of the Hachette Book Group. Aggressive business practices are one thing; coercion is another....

"Instead, we encourage readers to purchase books from their local booksellers, from Barnes & Noble, and from independent bookstores such as Oregon-based Powell's or Washington, D.C.-based Politics and Prose, both of which are also affiliates of ours.

"It may be a small gesture, but it's an important one. And while it will surely cost us revenue, it's the right thing to do."

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On his Idealog blog, Mike Shatzkin offered some background to the battle over e-book pricing and explored "some critical points that I think have not been made as often or as emphatically as their importance warrants." These include:

Amazon's business is so big and doesn't depend on books anymore, making competition with it "very hard, perhaps impossible, for somebody retailing books alone to compete with them."

Amazon "pretty much single-handledly created" the e-book market and is "just about every trade publisher's largest and most profitable account." Amazon has created "a distribution and revenue-source imbalance that publishing has never had before...

"In some ways, the die for a reshaped publishing business was cast when Jeff Bezos had the vision to get Wall Street to finance an 'everything store' (hat tip to author Brad Stone) built on a foundation of book-buying customers. Amazon has plenty of internal justification for believing that their investment and risk-taking has been a huge benefit to publishers for most of the 20 years of their existence. But that doesn't change the fact that an imbalance exists that will feed on itself. Amazon will grow at the expense of all other book and e-book retailers and Penguin Random House will grow at the expense of all other trade publishers. Smaller publishers have already felt the pain and self-published authors will in the future. That's what will happen naturally and organically from now on, unless a stronger force intervenes, and on the right side instead of the wrong side the next time."

Work at the Shelf! Reviewer positions available.

Mysterious Galaxy: Expanding One Store, Closing the Other

Noting that it "has weathered many changes, including changes in our industry, the economy and in our physical locations," Mysterious Galaxy co-owners Terry Gilman, Maryelizabeth Hart and Jeff Mariotte announced that two more significant changes are now in the works for the San Diego and Redondo Beach stores.

In San Diego, "business continues to grow and prosper" and Mysterious Galaxy has become "increasingly involved in community events outside the store." The result of this success is that the bookstore has "outgrown our physical location and we are in conversation with a new landlord for a new, larger space in a location... not so very far away. This new space will enable us to have larger events in the store, and accommodate our need for a warehouse to support our many outside events."

While Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach plans to expand its events business, the owners have decided to close the physical store on June 15. For the foreseeable future, the Redondo Beach warehouse will be retained at its current address to support the growing events business.

"We know that many of our loyal customers and friends in the South Bay will be saddened by the news that we are closing our bookstore, but we will be actively looking for opportunities to serve them in other ways. We plan to create and host events at local venues, enabling readers and authors to come together to share their love of books and conversation. We will continue to reach out to our community to tell them what we are doing and hope that this new format will engage the enthusiasm of readers in Southern California."

Gallery Books: Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

Crowdfunding Turn of the Corkscrew

Carol Hoenig and Peggy Zieran, long-time friends and former Borders Books and Music employees, have launched an Indiegogo campaign for a new bookstore in Rockville Centre, N.Y., on Long Island, called Turn of the Corkscrew. The pair is looking to raise $150,000 by July 26 and hopes to open the store in time for the holidays at the latest.

Hoenig and Zieran have known each other since 1994, and they've talked about opening an independent bookstore for ages. For a time, it seemed an impossible dream to them--if a chain like Borders couldn't survive, how could just two women with a small bookshop make it? But in recent years they started reading about indies making a strong comeback, the apparent leveling-out of the e-book market, and Hoenig had a very encouraging author event at an indie after the publication of her second book.

"Let's call it a romantic notion, a bucket list kind of thing, but it's now or never," Hoenig said. "And we knew from the beginning that it has to be more than just a bookstore."

Although Hoenig and Zieran haven't settled on a final location in Rockville Centre, they're looking for an approximately 1,600 square foot space to turn into a general interest new bookstore. And as the name of the store implies, they're also acquiring a tavern license, which would allow them to sell both beer and wine. Their general plan is to have most of the space reserved for books, a small bar area with stools, and a smattering of chairs and tables around the store, so that customers who go browsing with their wine and beer in-hand don't leave their drinks on the bookshelves.

The pair was drawn to Rockville Centre, called "Little Manhattan" by some, because of its vibrant, bustling community and strong local business scene. The town's proximity to New York City--it takes 40 minutes to get to Penn Station via the Long Island Rail Road--also doesn't hurt.

"There are some really nice, local shops there," explained Zieran. "It's very heartening to go into an area that has a lot of shops. We went to town, ate at local restaurants, talked to other shop owners. They said it was a great place."

Zieran joined Borders in 1992 as a children's bookseller, and by 2000 was the general manager of the Borders in Syosset, Long Island. She stayed with Borders until 2007. Since then she's managed a bowling alley and a Starbucks, respectively, and currently works from home as a daycare provider.

Hoenig started at Borders in 1994 as a part-time bookseller. Over the years she was promoted to a national events coordinator, and although she held a corporate position, planning events for Borders stores nationwide, she worked in Borders's Lower Manhattan stores. Hoenig is also an author, and the day her first novel came out in 2005 was the day she lost her position at Borders.

"It was actually an awesome thing--I had time to promote the book," remarked Hoenig, who has also been a publishing consultant, ghost writer and publicist.

The owners plan to tweak their inventory as they get a better sense of what books the Rockville Centre community wants to read, but at opening they plan to have the staples. Both women are also lovers of literary fiction. Hoenig is particularly passionate about working with midlist authors, as well as introducing up and coming writers. Zieran, meanwhile, is a big fan of children's and young adult literature, and her favorite books are The Lord of the Rings and Jane Eyre.

Hoenig and Zieran have already become provisional members of the American Booksellers Association and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, and have sought advice from Henry Zook of Book Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of Greenlight Bookstore, also in Brooklyn. They both attended BookExpo America last week.

Though they're still a long ways from opening, the pair has garnered a great deal of support. They've received pro bono help for making videos and other materials for their Indiegogo campaign, and organizations in Rockville Centre are already talking about working with them to hold workshops. "We're getting a lot of people who are really into the idea," said Zieran. "They want something like this in their community." --Alex Mutter

Overlook Press: Heap House by Edward Carey

Iconoclast Books Tops Fundraising Goal

The Indiegogo campaign launched last month by owner Sarah Hedrick to save Iconoclast Books, Ketchum, Idaho, from eviction on June 6 has exceeded its $85,000 goal. The Idaho Mountain Express reported that "donations have come from far and wide. Iconoclast has not only garnered public and celebrity support from all over the country, but it has devotees from abroad."

"I've had donations from people as far away as France, England and South Africa," said Hedrick. The Mountain Express noted that her campaign "has raised attention throughout the valley for its focus on the debate as to whether healthy communities need brick-and-mortar bookstores."

Bookbaby: Bookbaby.com

Grand Opening for Prairie Path Books

Prairie Path Books, Wheaton Ill., held its grand opening Monday at the 1,500-square-foot space within Toms-Price Home Furnishings. Co-owners Sandy Koropp and Heather Janiak, who had previously been hosting book-based discussion events in restaurants and homes, launched a soft opening of the store at 303 Front St. earlier this spring

Koropp, who is also a lawyer, told Crain's Chicago Business: "I think the world has enough lawyers and not enough bookstores, and while I can, I want to give that a go. The magic of having someone say to you, 'What are you reading?' and 'Ooh, you have to read this'--that's the adrenaline that makes me go."

Obituary Note: Jay Lake

Writer Jay Lake, "who published over 300 short stories and nine novels, with more forthcoming" and who had "long been a beloved member of the Tor family," has died, Tor.com reported. He was 49. Lake's final story collection, The Last Plane to Heaven, will be released in September.

#BEA14: "Ramp Up" the Common Core Connections

"Ramp up" the connections to parents and educators, and share your expertise, recommended the panelists of Thursday's "Common Core Update for Booksellers and Librarians" at BEA. Marc Aronson, author (The Skull in the Rock), editor and adjunct professor at Rutgers University, said "the driver for change comes from outside of education," and cited the lasting effects of the Common Core Standards on three significant subject areas: English and language arts; math; and next-generation science.

(l.-r.) Marc Aronson, Melissa Jacobs-Israel, Neil Jaffe, Becky Anderson and Eric Heidemann.

Melissa Jacobs-Israel, coordinator of library services for the New York City Department of Education said that, for her, the biggest positive was the emphasis on critical thinking. "I'm thrilled to see process all over it," she said. "There are misconceptions that we're bailing on Common Core. We need to focus on critical thinking and students' ability to function in a global society." 

What does Common Core mean for booksellers? "It's a big opportunity to implement Common Core with the things we do every day," said Fujii Associates' Eric Heidemann. Becky Anderson, immediate past president of the ABA and head of Anderson's Bookshops (Naperville, Ill.) concurred. She pointed out that most booksellers already have connections with parents, kids and the educational community, but Common Core provides a chance "to ramp up those connections, and to alleviate their fears," Anderson said. "Trade books are the way in."

Aronson pointed out that the Common Core Standards emphasize evidence, argument and point of view. "We used to be afraid of point of view in texts," he said. "Common Core says, 'no, let's examine the issue from a number of points of view.' " Nonfiction was once considered "the stepchild," Aronson added, but "Common Core has taken an area that has been popular in the adult world and opened a window for children." Anderson suggested pairing fiction and nonfiction, and using those pairings to get kids who read fiction into reading nonfiction and vice versa. "We used to define lists by scope and sequence," said Aronson. "It's January, it must be Lewis & Clark. Common Core does it by the thinking [with the three sides to its triangle]: qualitatively, quantitatively, reader and task."

Early on, educators glommed onto Appendix B (a list of trade titles attached to the Standards), but the books were meant to suggest the kinds of titles teachers and librarians could consider, not the definitive list, Aronson pointed out. He recommended Sue Bartle's Common Core Lens as a way of "analyzing any book in terms of the Common Core Standards, and the Engage New York site as another strong resource, as well as a recent article by Nina Lindsay about the role of the public librarian in reaching out to parents, which could also serve as a model for booksellers. He also recommended Kathy Odean's Great Common Core Nonfiction (for grades 6-up).

Anderson recommended talking to publishing partners and with schools at the district level, and having direct contact with parents. Anderson added, "Mock Newbery and mock Siebert discussions in your stores also help students think critically about what makes a great book." During the q&a section, audience members repeatedly cited teachers who tend to stick with their tried-and-true texts, rather than more recently published titles. "Talk to the classroom teachers," Anderson recommended. "There's power in numbers. Many of them are stuck in the mud." She and Jacobs-Israel both mentioned the importance of educator nights, with food served. "Wine helps," Anderson added. --Jennifer M. Brown

Notes

Image of the Day: A Churchill Visits Chartwell

As part of a promotional tour of all the major Churchill sites in England, author Celia Sandys (second from right), granddaughter of Winston Churchill, is pictured in the book and gift shop of Chartwell, Churchill's former family home, with two of her books that were recently republished by Texas A&M University Press. With her are (l.-r.) Davis Ford, past chairman of the press's Advancement Board, Chartwell's retail manager Nicola Watson and Charles Backus, press director.

Tampa's Inkwood Books: 'Meet the Owner'

Stefani Beddingfield, who purchased Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla., from longtime co-owners Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner last year, was profiled by Creative Loafing, which noted that "the independent bookstore, housed in a 1923 mint green bungalow, is onto its next chapter."

"Some people say 'Wow, you're living my dream of owning a bookstore.' But for me it wasn't like that. It was just something at the right time in my life," she said, adding: "I wanted Inkwood to feel like my book club--warm and welcoming, with good discussion, good books, good people, food, and drinks. I wanted it to have a warmness--that's what I was envisioning."

Beddington described the typical Inkwood customer as being like anyone who shops independent businesses: "It's someone who is seeking something unique and different in their community, whether it's a bar, restaurant, bookstore, retail--whatever it is they're looking for. It's somebody a little quirky, who has an independent spirit, an interested and curious mind. They are seeking something else they do not know."

Book Trailer of the Day: Third Rail

Third Rail by Rory Flynn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a debut mystery set in Boston.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nell Bernstein on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison (New Press, $26.95, 9781595589569).

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Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Lynn Sherr, author of Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476725765).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Lydia Davis, author of Can't and Won't: Stories (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374118587). As the show put it: "Lydia Davis's new collection of short stories, Can't and Won't, is full of startling sentences, moments of perception, and enunciations. When reading her, we are aware that we are examining the world through her eyes. She says she likes to lose herself in the state of observation: whether she is absorbing strangers on the train, the advertisement on a bag of peas, or cows out the window. Her observations make their way onto the page in a crystallized perfection that departs from the redundancies and sloppiness of conversational speech. We discuss the relationship between conversation and the written word and how she considers and reconsiders her art."

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Peniel Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life (Basic Civitas, $29.99, 9780465013630).

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Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: John Waters, author of Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374298630).

Movies: Walk Among the Tombstones; Two Faces of January

Universal has released a trailer for A Walk Among the Tombstones, based on Lawrence Block's bestselling mystery novels, Deadline.com reported. The film, directed by Scott Frank, stars Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens. It will be released September 19.

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A new clip and featurette have been released for The Two Faces of January, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel and starring Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst. "Intrigue comes in all sorts of packages, but there will probably be few movies this year more glamorous than" this one, Indiewire noted. Directed by Hossein Amini, the movie has opened abroad, but no U.S. release date has been set thus far. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Lambda Literary; Wolfson History

The 26th annual Lambda Literary Awards, celebrating excellence in LGBT literature, were presented in 24 categories at a ceremony held in New York City this week. See the winners on Lambda Literary's website.

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The winners of this year's Wolfson History Prizes are Cyprian Broodbank for The Making of the Middle Sea and Catherine Merridale for Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History. Each author receives £25,000 (US$41,862).

Book Brahmin: Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a mental-health counselor in private practice in Portland, Ore. She teaches assertiveness and self-esteem workshops as well as classes on goal-setting, decision-making, overcoming anxiety and finding the right career. Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them (Viva Editions, May 13, 2014) is about how to master anger, resentment and other hard feelings by moving toward instead of away from them. 

On your nightstand now:

I'm usually the last person I know to read any given bestseller. Eventually I do like to find out what the hoopla was about, but I do it long after everyone else has moved on and all the library copies are back on the shelves. Right now I'm working my way through A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. My favorite character is Arya Stark, Ned's youngest daughter. She's a little girl in a world owned by men--and not just ordinary men, but brutes who'd sooner take a life than a bath. She knows who she is, and against the odds she wants to take control of her own destiny. I'm also reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn--a departure from my usual fare, but I'm finding it addictive. All the other reading material on my nightstand, apart from the three physics tomes that belong to my partner and hold up my lamp, is nonfiction related to my profession.

Favorite book when you were a child:

That's easy. Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World was a constant draw throughout my childhood. I loved the color and bustle in the illustrations and the fact that all the characters were animals. Very occasionally I'd spot a detail in the artwork that I hadn't seen before, like a ladybug hurrying away from the scene of a crash (to make up an example). It was endlessly entertaining. I loved it so much I snuck it to school with me one day and got in trouble for reading it in class. College professors can be so bossy!

Your top five authors:

As a psychotherapist, I'm exposed every day to real-life stories that are epic, dramatic and tragic, so when I'm reading for pleasure, I gravitate toward the pure entertainment of thrillers. I regret that I seem to spend the majority of my life sitting in a chair; I'm an adventurer at heart. For years, my go-to authors have been Ken Follett, Lee Child and Dean Koontz because of their masterful storytelling and vital characters. Recently, Michael Palmer's The First Patient and Tess Gerritsen's Ice Cold introduced me to the world of medical thrillers, which I've discovered I have an appetite for. It's great fun to have a new interest to explore. This one's not surprising, given my interest in physical as well as mental health.

Book you've faked reading:

I might have skipped over a few lines--like, four out of every five--in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness when I tried to read it in my 20s. At the time, I was on a mission to read every book I could get my hands on that was considered a classic, and I did pretty well. I bought most of the books from garage sales and amassed quite a collection, which I schlepped with me every time I moved. I couldn't quite muster the will to slog through to the end with Conrad, but to my pleasant surprise I did sail through William Thackeray's Vanity Fair.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm not a parent myself, but as a therapist I applaud Heather Shumaker for her counterintuitive guide It's OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids. I love the way she helps parents deal with their children's emotions with this pithy motto: "All feelings are okay. All behavior isn't." It's a useful lesson for kids and a good reminder for adults.

Book you've bought for the cover:

You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day by Scott Dikkers of the Onion. From a distance it looks like a feel-good self-help book, pale yellow with a script font and a photograph of flowers in soft focus. But when you get closer you realize it's an outrageous parody, a collection of negative affirmations like "Don't try anything bold or innovative. It will never work," and "Your kids are ugly." It never ceases to intrigue and amuse guests who spot it on the bookshelves in our living room.

Book that changed your life:

Emotional Resilience by David Viscott was an early inspiration. I think it was Viscott who first convinced me that feelings don't go away just because we try not to think about them. Also, come to think of it, Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World had a lasting impact. Whenever I get into a taxi in another country, I check to see if the driver is an animal.

Favorite line from a book:

"You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn't and you're not." It's the first line of There Is Nothing Wrong with You by Cheri Huber. I think this is one of the most healing messages for our time. I keep Huber's book on the bookshelves in my office with the spine visible to clients when they sit down for therapy. In everything I say, teach and write, I want to convey this: "Yes, it's true that you don't get everything right all the time, but it's not because you're inherently flawed as a person." Baseless shame is the scourge of society.

Character you most relate to:

I feel a bond with my alter ego, Jack Reacher, created by Lee Child. He's resourceful, principled, doesn't back away from a fight and likes his own company but still manages to read people well and enjoy close relationships (if only for a short time). He's the perfect complement to my actual bumbling, squeamish, needy self. Together we make one well-rounded, interesting person.

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

I had an unusually good time reading Whiteout by Ken Follett. For some reason, I'm drawn to stories that include potential deadly virus outbreaks--possibly because they usually have a happy ending, and that's important to me when reading for pleasure. The story takes place during a snowstorm and I read it during a snowstorm, which cast a kind of spell on me. Snuggled up with a cup of tea by the fire, I got to experience the adventure while staying safe and warm.

Book you've bought for the title:

Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar. Regardless of whether it's true, I've always found that message irresistible. Also, Daniel Goleman had me at Emotional Intelligence and Elio Frattaroli's Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain was like catnip when I saw it. The latter is a wonderful book that's particularly timely because of the escalating medicalization of emotions like sadness and anger. Normal emotional responses to difficult life events are too often treated with drugs instead of compassion, rest and time. I find it depressing--and not because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain!

Book Review

Review: Ashley Bryan's Puppets

Ashley Bryan's Puppets: Making Something from Everything by Ashley Bryan, photos by Ken Hannon, photos edited by Rich Entel (Atheneum, $19.99 hardcover, 80p., ages 4-up, 9781442487284, July 8, 2014)

This beautifully designed picture book opens a window into how author-artist and craftsman Ashley Bryan (Can't Scare Me!) resuscitates found objects as expressive puppets. 

"Ashley, what will you name me when my garment is complete?" the book begins, as Bryan holds high a puppet draped in a texture that resembles fur, its head a metallic gold. Stained glass scenes of flowers and people dangle from the top of a pine window frame, and bundles of fabrics, yarn and other artistic ingredients top his workspace in orderly disarray. On the next page, we see "treasures, washed in from the sea" that surround Bryan's island home: shells, driftwood, animal bones and glass polished by hundreds of waves. "I cannot rest till I create a life that we may celebrate," says the accompanying text. Next, Bryan introduces eight puppets made from his treasures, lined up as if for a curtain call on a double-page photo spread. This is the first of four such spreads. (Readers get the answer to the opening question with the final line-up.)

Bryan presents storytellers--Spider ("I'm Spider Anansi./ I spin without rest/ A close web of stories/ For cradle and nest") and Jojo, fashioned of three gloves and a quilt gown ("In every finger of my glove/ I tap tall tales of peace and love"). Creatures of the sea--Pepukayi, a frog wedded to a mermaid--appear with creatures of the land, such as Kwesi, with shoulder bones as perfect ears, and rib bones for a tusk ("I'll journey now to Africa/ A proper elephant"). Plus leaders such as Abayomi: "Ruler of People," with a crest of branches "like antlers/ that stick up for me," who delivers a heartwarming message: "I stick up for others/ So all may live free;/ I'm grateful for antlers/ That stick up for me."

The elegant design features the figures in their best light, sometimes in close-up on the left, other times on the right. A band of color behind the poem sometimes separates the close-up from the full-figure view, other times it creates a bookend. The characters' placement in the book creates symmetry, such as Kitaka the "Good Farmer," whose limbs are made of forks, followed by Changa ("Strong as Iron"), with limbs made of spoons.

Bryan ends with inspiration. Says the Spirit Guardian, "When you close this book/ And look up,/ You'll see puppets everywhere." Readers will be on the hunt for their own found objects, and will return to these pages over and over to see how Ashley Bryan breathed life into these marvelous characters. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: The resourcefulness and imagination behind Ashley Bryan's puppets, whose personalities come through in his poems and costumes, will inspire children to create their own characters.

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