Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Red Lightning Books: Pence: The Path to Power by Andrea Neal

Experiment: Introducing My Big Wimmelbooks - These oversize board books invite kids to be the storyteller

Other Press: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Counterpoint: Silicon States: The Power and Politics of Big Tech and What It Means for Our Future by Lucie Greene

Bloomsbury Publishing: Visit Bloomsbury at BookExpo & BookCon (Booth #2439)!

Oxmoor House: Martina's Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life by Martina McBride

Quotation of the Day

Booksellers 'Have Chosen to Love & Worship Books'

"Everyone chooses something to worship in life--money, love, lust, beauty, nature--and they spend a lifetime chasing that, even if they don’t know it. Being a bookseller means I am surrounded by people who have chosen to love and worship books. We have hired many former Borders employees, for example. These are people who have spent an entire lifetime around books. I love watching them interact with the books in the same way they interact with friends and people. I love learning why they picked up a particular book. What they love about a story or protagonist. What they love about the physical object of a book itself.

Literati owners Hilary and Mike Gustafson

"Our manager, Jeanne, loves discussing book covers--what attracted her to that particular book, even if she had never heard about it before. Books are more than glued and bound pieces of paper. They take on greater significance for booksellers, and being a bookseller means I am surrounded by people who can see and value this. Being around people who have decided to love books as opposed to money or power, makes me feel good. Like I can absorb that passion, bathe in it."

--Mike Gustafson of Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., in a Tin House Bookseller Spotlight q&a

Mandevilla Press: Assassins by Mike Bond


Riffraff, a Bookstore Bar, to Open in Providence, R.I.

In November, Tom Roberge and Emma Ramadan, both of whom have backgrounds in the book world, plan to open Riffraff, a bookstore and bar in Providence, R.I.

Riffraff will have 1,500 square feet of space split 60/40 between bookstore and bar, stock 7,000-8,000 titles and offer a selection of specialty drinks that "play with the familiar classics," as Roberge put it. The bookstore's emphasis will be on literary fiction, crime, the social sciences, poetry, art and graphic novels. Riffraff will also have a small children's section.

Tom Roberge and Emma Ramadan

Roberge and Ramadan have signed a lease on space at 215 Dean Street in the West Side neighborhood of Providence and will begin the buildout in August. Like Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., they are setting up a community lending program to help finance the establishment of the store. On their website, they note that they have raised about 75% of their startup costs but need to raise another $50,000. "We are seeking loans of a thousand dollars and up from those in the Providence community, and beyond, who believe in bringing this kind of space to Providence's West Side, who value the role culture plays in a community, and who understand the importance of independent, locally-owned businesses to the vibrancy of a city." Return rates on the loans will be between 2.5% and 4%, compounded annually, and all lenders will receive a 30% employee discount on books.

Roberge has worked as a bookseller at McNally Jackson bookstore in New York City, managing editor at A Public Space, editor at Penguin Books, publicist and bookstore liaison at New Directions, and deputy director at Albertine Books in New York City.

Ramadan studied comparative literature at Brown University (in Providence), completed a master's degree in translation at the American University of Paris and was a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco, where she translated the late poet Ahmed Bouanani from French into English. Her translations also include the genderless novel Sphinx by Anne Garréta.

School of Life: Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person: A Pessimist's Guide to Marriage, Offering Insight, Practical Advice, and Consolation by The School of Life, edited by Alain de Botton

Nodine Picked for Bookshop Santa Cruz Writer Residency

Novelist Thad Nodine, author of Touch and Go, has been selected for the inaugural Bookshop Santa Cruz Writer Residency at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods. The residency provides Nodine with a room and evening meals for 14 days at the retreat, which hosts writers for residencies as well as month-long fellowships, and also publishes books under its Wellstone Books imprint.

Thad Nodine

"Bookshop Santa Cruz is thrilled to celebrate our 50th anniversary by connecting a great writer to the Wellstone Center, where they will have the space and environment to bring their book to fruition," said owner Casey Coonerty Protti.

Nodine said he was "blown away by this honor to be the first Bookshop Santa Cruz resident at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods. This residency will make a huge difference in advancing my work on my novel and my career as a writer. Bookshop Santa Cruz and the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods represent the best in supporting literature and writing, not just in Santa Cruz but for California and nationwide."

The residency was open to any author working on fiction, with an emphasis on fiction set in California, and more than 60 authors applied. Sarah Ringler, who operates the Wellstone Center with author Steve Kettmann, said: "We were amazed by the response, which made it quite challenging to decide between so many outstanding writers. But it was so much fun, and we're already looking forward to reading submissions for the next residency."

Soho Teen: Zen and Gone by Emily France

Amazon: Kindle Singles Classics; 10th California Warehouse

Kindle has launched Singles Classics, which Amazon describes as "a way to make iconic articles, stories and essays from well-known authors writing for top magazines and periodicals available in digital form, many for the first time." Singles Classics, which are priced from 99 cents or available free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, will initially feature more than 140 essays and stories. Amazon debuted Kindle Singles in 2011 to showcase fiction and nonfiction works between 5,000 and 30,000 words.


In other Amazon news, the company plans to open its 10th warehouse in California, in Sacramento. The 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center will handle smaller items, such as books, electronics and toys. This is the fourth time in the last four months that Amazon has announced plans to open a warehouse in California.

Roberta MacGlashan, chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, called the warehouse "welcomed news for the County. Amazon coming to Sacramento represents a big step forward as our community continues to grow. We have seen Amazon be a positive influence elsewhere in the state, and we are pleased that Amazon has chosen to invest in this region as well."

Board of Equalization member George Runner echoed her sentiments, saying, "Amazon's ongoing expansion is creating even more jobs and economic growth for California. This new Amazon facility will provide exciting new employment opportunities for Sacramento -area residents and even speedier service for customers."

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Between You and Me by Susan Wiggs

Bloomsbury Names Alexis Kirschbaum Publishing Director

Bloomsbury has appointed Alexis Kirschbaum, currently editorial director at Penguin Press, as publishing director for fiction and nonfiction, the Bookseller reported. Kirschbaum, who joined Penguin in 2008 as an editor for classics and modern classics, became editorial director in 2011. She will start at Bloomsbury September 13, reporting to group editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle.

Pringle said Kirschbaum "is a publisher to her fingertips: clever, imaginative, original and energetic. She will bring so much to Bloomsbury, not least her experience in publishing non-fiction bestsellers and her very fine taste which will be evident as she spreads her wings and builds a fiction list here. This is an exciting moment for Bloomsbury."

Obituary Note: Leslie Forbes

Canadian-born author, artist and broadcaster Leslie Forbes, who wrote the bestselling novel Bombay Ice as well as the Orange Prize-nominated Fish, Blood & Bone, died July 1 in her London home, BookBrowse reported. She was 63. Forbes appeared as a presenter on several BBC radio series, including many set in Italy. Her other books include Waking Raphael; Remarkable Feasts: Adventures on the Food Trail from Baton Rouge to Old Peking; A Taste of Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France; and A Taste of Tuscany: Classic Recipes from the Heart of Italy.


Image of the Day: The Lee Boudreaux Fan Club

After John Gregory Brown's (A Thousand Miles from Nowhere) event at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., last week, his editor, Lee Boudreaux of Lee Boudreaux Books, found herself surrounded by authors: (l.-r.) local author Matthew Guinn (The Scribe and The Resurrectionist, both Norton); John Gregory Brown; Michael Farris Smith from Columbus, Miss., author of Rivers (Simon & Schuster) and the forthcoming novel Desperation Road (Lee Boudreaux Books); Lee Boudreaux; local author Richard Grant  (Dispatches from Pluto, Simon & Schuster); and Jamie Kornegay, from Greenwood, Miss., author of Soil (S&S).

Happy 50th Birthday, Mesilla Book Center!

Congratulations to Mesilla Book Center, Mesilla, N.Mex., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Paul and Cheryll Blevins own the business, which was inherited from Cheryll's mother, Mary Bowlin, who for decades operated the store she and her husband "bought in 1966 after selling books at the World's Fair in New York for a couple of years," she told KRWG.

"At that time Mesilla was dirt streets, there wasn't much here. So it was kind of a leap of faith to take on the business," said Blevins, adding that the building, which was constructed in the 1850s, once housed a mercantile store that provided supplies to the Black Range during the silver boom. It also served as a pool and poker hall at one time.

She also shared a key to the longtime survival of the store: "Well basically, we're a nonprofit. We specialize in a lot of Western, Southwestern history, a lot of local authors, we have children's books. We've always tried to not carry what you can find at the mall."

Personnel Changes at Scholastic, Yale University Press

At Scholastic Trade:

Rachel Feld has joined Scholastic as marketing director. She was previously at Random House.

Beth Noble has been promoted to senior marketing manager, Teen. She was previously marketing manager.

Lauren Festa has been promoted to marketing manager, Teen. She was previously assistant marketing manager.

Brooke Shearouse has been promoted to associate publicist. She was previously publicity coordinator.


Courtney Andree has joined Yale University Press as publicist, focusing on art and architecture.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Salman Rushdie on Nightly Show

Meredith Vieira repeat: Jewel, author of Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story (Blue Rider, $27.50, 9780399174339).

Watch What Happens Live: Joanna Lumley, author of Absolutely: A Memoir (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $22.99, 9780297867609).

Nightly Show: Salman Rushdie, author of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel (Random House, $16, 9780812988208).

Movies: The Dark Tower; Based on a True Story

Entertainment Weekly featured images from The Dark Tower, based on Stephen King's novel series. They provide an early look at "Idris Elba as this spiritual warrior, a gunslinging knight, who has the devil in his sights. The landscapes of South Africa stood in for Mid-World, a dimension ravaged by loss but still bewitching in its tragic beauty."


Roman Polanski will adapt Delphine de Vigan's Based on a True Story from a script from writer/director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria, Irma Vep), Indiewire reported, adding that the novel "tells the story of a writer who goes through a rough time after the release of their latest book, and their relationship with an admirer who tries to impose influence on the writer."

Books & Authors

Awards: New England Book; RITA & Golden Heart; Palestine

The winners of the 2016 New England Book Awards, selected by members of the New England Independent Booksellers Association and honoring authors who live in New England and/or books set in New England, are:

Fiction: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Grand Central Publishing).
Non-Fiction: Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (Simon & Schuster).
Children's: Wolf Hallow by Lauren Wolk (Dutton/Penguin Young Readers)

The awards will be presented at the NEIBA Annual Awards Banquet, September 21, in Providence, R.I.


The winners of the 2016 RITA Awards, sponsored by the Romance Writers of America, are:
Best first book: Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn (Entangled Publishing/Teen)
Contemporary romance, long: Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates (Harlequin/HQN)
Contemporary Romance, mid-length: Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy (Self-published)
Contemporary romance, short: The Nanny Plan by Sarah M. Anderson (Harlequin/Desire)
Erotic romance: For Real: A Spires Story by Alexis Hall (Riptide Publishing)
Historical romance, long: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist (S&S/Howard Books)
Historical romance, short: It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long (HarperCollins/Avon)
Inspirational romance: A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Baker Publishing Group/Bethany House)
Paranormal romance: Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles (Self-published)
Romance novella: Nice Girls Don't Ride by Roni Loren (PRH/Berkley Intermix)
Romantic suspense: Flash Fire by Dana Marton (Self-published)
Young adult romance: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends)

Winners of this year's RWA Golden Heart awards, which recognize excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts, can be found here.


A shortlist has been released for the Palestine Book Awards, which honor books in English about Palestine. Winners will be announced November 18 in London. The 2016 shortlisted titles are:

A Curious Land by Susan Muaddi Darraj
Being Palestinian: Personal Reflections on Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora by Yasir Suleiman
Imperial perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times by Lorenzo Kamel
I Remember My Name by Ramzy Baroud, Samah Sabawi & Jehan Bseiso
Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine by Sherene Seikaly
Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities by Anaheed Al-Hardan,
War Against the People: Israel and Palestinians and Global Pacification by Jeff Halper

Top Library Recommended Titles for August

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 August titles public library staff across the country love:

A Great Reckoning: A Novel by Louise Penny (Minotaur, $28.99, 9781250022134). "Armand Gamache is back, and it was worth the wait. As the new leader of the Surete academy, Gamache is working to stop corruption at its source and ensure the best start for the cadets. When a copy of an old map is found near the body of a dead professor, Gamache and Beauvoir race against the clock to find the killer before another person dies. A terrific novel that blends Penny's amazing lyrical prose with characters that resonate long after the book ends. Highly recommended." --David Singleton, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, N.C.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Pamela Dorman, $26, 9780735221086). "This book is so full of twists and turns that my head was swiveling. Who took baby Cora? Marco and Anne decide to leave their baby home alone. After all, they share a wall with their neighbors, with whom they are partying. They would take turns checking in on her baby monitor. But when they return to their flat the first thing they find is an open door and no Cora. Who's to blame? Could it be an unlikely suspect that you won't see coming? If you like a book that keeps you guessing until the very end you won't be disappointed." --Debbie Frizzell, Johnson County Library, Roeland Park, Kan.

Watching Edie by Camilla Way (NAL, $26, 9781101991633). "Twisty psychological banter makes this book a thrill ride. Edie was the girl in high school who had it all. Heather was the awkward girl who wanted so badly to be accepted. That was high school and now Edie is a single mom caught in a dead end job. She is about to lose it when Heather comes to her rescue. While Edie loves being able to get her life back, the hold that Heather has on her and the baby is disconcerting. The story jumps back and forth between past and present and you will change your mind about their friendship right up to the last page." --Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, Tex.

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (Pamela Dorman, $26, 9781101981207). "Talented chef Olivia Rawlings didn't make the best decisions in her love life, but it takes an accident with a flambéed dessert to force her into a major life change. She flees to a small town in Vermont and takes a job at a small inn. She soon discovers that even though the town is small, the world she has known is about to get much bigger. Miller's writing is descriptive enough to imagine Olivia in this setting, smell her pastries baking, and hear the music in the story. Miller has captured the essence of a great character in a setting that could easily feel like home to many readers." --Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, Mo.

The Dollhouse: A Novel by Fiona Davis (Dutton, $26, 9781101984994). "This is the story of the women who stayed in the Barbizon Hotel in the 1950's. A reporter is tipped off about one of the women, who still lives in the building over 60 years later. As she tries to research a murder and a case of switched identities, she starts becoming part of the story. The narration switched between 2016 and 1952 and as I read the novel, I soon got caught up in the next piece of the puzzle. It had history, romance, and a way to view the changing roles of women. Enjoyed it very much!" --Donna Ballard, East Meadow Public Library, East Meadow, N.Y.

The Book That Matters Most: A Novel by Ann Hood (Norton, $25.95, 9780393241655). "A recently separated woman seeks solace and purpose in a local book group, while her daughter is dealing with her own life-changing problems that just might be resolved with a little literary assistance. The juxtaposition of the idyllic small town and the harsh reality of the seedier side of Paris, the weight of memory and regret, and the power of human connection, along with the engaging characters all work together to create an enthralling read. Readers will be carried away with the hope that these lovely and damaged characters can find their own happy ending." --Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, South Huntington, N.Y.

Arrowood: A Novel by Laura McHugh (Spiegel & Grau, $27, 9780812996395). "Arden Arrowood returns to the family home, a stately Second Empire mansion, after the death of her father. She is hoping to find some peace and possibly an answer to the decades old mystery of her twin sisters' kidnapping. Arden, at age 8, was the only witness to their disappearance, but memory is a tricky thing. The spooky old house, the setting on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River Bluffs, the small town atmosphere, a creepy caretaker, and many family secrets make this novel Un-put-down-able! Highly recommended." --Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, Tex.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250121004). "On the surface, Jack and Grace have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, and the perfect jobs. What lies beneath the surface is something so sinister yet so believable that it will horrify most readers. What happens behind closed doors and could, or would, you believe it? This is a superb story of psychological abuse that will have your heart racing right up to the end." --Marika Zemke, Commerce Township Public Library, Commerce Township, Mich.

First Star I See Tonight: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062405616). "First Star I See Tonight is a satisfying addition to the Chicago Stars series. Cooper Graham has just retired as the quarterback when he meets private investigator Piper. Their relationship starts off with a mutual dislike that quickly turns into one full of sparks. Watching them navigate the waters is fascinating. In the end Cooper lays it all on the line in order to win his biggest game ever…a happily ever after. I highly recommend the book." --Jennifer Cook, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire, Wis.

Die Like an Eagle: A Meg Langslow Mystery by Donna Andrews (Minotaur, $25.99, 9781250078551). "Meg and her family embrace America's favorite past time. It's the opening weekend for the Caerphilly Summerball baseball league and Meg finds a body in the porta-potty. Meg, her friends and family must catch a killer and figure out how to oust the petty league president before everyone's weekend is ruined. Reading Andrews' books is like a visit home to your favorite relatives, plus she weaves humor and fun while still penning an enjoyable mystery." --Karen Emery, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, Ind.

Reading with... Joshua Palmatier

photo: George Kurbaba

Joshua Palmatier is an epic fantasy writer with a Ph.D. in mathematics who has had eight novels published by DAW Books, including The Throne of Amenkor trilogy, Shattering the Ley and Threading the Needle (DAW Books, July 5, 2016). He is working on the third novel in the Ley series, Reaping the Aurora. In addition, he's published numerous short stories in various anthologies and has edited four SF&F-themed anthologies with co-editor Patricia Bray. Palmatier is also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains.

On your nightstand now:

I'm reading Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu, his first book from DAW, and I'm really enjoying it. The culture and setting is interesting and the main character is compelling. Next up is The Courier by Gerald Brandt, a debut novel that looks extremely interesting.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I'd have to say The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I'd read mostly Andre Norton novels before that and Elfstones took the fantasy worlds I'd been reading into a whole new realm of realism and complexity. It was a different style and it opened up my mind to the variety of what could be done with SF&F. I've read it multiple times since first discovering it and I enjoy it every time.

Your top five authors:

As always, picking five authors out of all of the ones I love is difficult. But I'd have to start with Terry Brooks, because of how his books changed the way I thought about fantasy at the time. For a similar reason, I'd pick Katherine Kurtz, who introduced me to yet another type of fantasy novel, one based far more solidly in a medieval setting. Not to mention that Katherine Kurtz's books were the first books I actually owned, a present from my dad. I still read and enjoy her books today. Both of those authors were formative in my youth. More recently, I'd have to select Tad Williams and Guy Gavriel Kay, because they introduced me to even more complex storytelling and what could be done with language to create new worlds, atmosphere and setting. And lastly, I'd have to say Stephen King. His ability to bring everyday characters to life in bizarre situations is awe-inspiring.

Book you've faked reading:

Okay, okay, so when I was in high school I had to do a book report on Watership Down by Richard Adams, and I have to admit that I totally faked it. I knew enough about the book that I figured I could squeak by, even though the book report was oral, in a one-on-one meeting with the teacher. It was the most nerve-wracking report I've ever given. And I felt guilty enough about it that, years later, I actually read the book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I don't generally read science fiction. Not for any particular reason, I just enjoy reading fantasy more and so rarely pick up SF. However, when I randomly ran across The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell, I was hooked from page one. I read the entire series immediately, in the space of days, and ever since, when someone asks for an SF recommendation, I leap in with this series and expound upon how great it is, even when it's obvious that the listener has gotten the point and would like me to stop talking. Definitely highly recommended for both SF and fantasy fans.

Book you've bought for the cover:

For some reason, the covers of Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series were extremely compelling to me. When I saw the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, at the bookstore, I had to have it, even though it was in hardcover and I didn't buy hardcovers at the time. The cover to the second book, Stone of Farewell, was even better. After buying the books, I ended up searching out the artist, Michael Whelan, and ended up buying prints of a bunch of his artwork, including the covers of Williams's books. The icing on the cake was that the books themselves were also stunning. It introduced me to a new author.

Book you hid from your parents:

For some reason, my mom was dead set against me reading Stephen King when I was in high school. She hadn't read his books herself, but she'd heard that they were violent and such, so she didn't want me reading them. However, after catching part of the movie Firestarter on television, but missing the end, I had to find out what had happened. So I picked up the novel from the library and hid it from my mom while I read it. Of course, after that I had to read all of Stephen King's books.

Book that changed your life:

Unfortunately, I can't be specific on the title here, but it was an Andre Norton novel. See, when I was a kid, about nine years old, I was reading only mysteries. Every trip to the library, I'd pick up a bunch of mystery novels and drag them home. At one point, my mom was going to the library without me and I was reading Mary Norton at the time, so I told her to pick up some more of the Norton novels. As you can imagine, she grabbed Andre Norton by mistake. I remember being pissed at the time, but decided to read the Andre Norton anyway. And from that point on I abandoned mysteries for SF&F. I only read Andre Norton for probably a solid year after that. And 90% of everything I've read since then has been SF&F. Probably 95%.

Favorite line from a book:

I'm going to cheat here and steal a line from a movie based on a book: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. At a crucial scene, with one of the characters dying after getting shot in the chest, he looks up and mutters, "I would like to have seen Montana." Then he dies. For some reason, this line strikes me as absolutely perfect for a last line for a character, summing up the heartbreak of death, the lost hopes of that person, the sadness of what could have been.

Five books you'll never part with:

I will never part with my battered mass-market paperback of The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Nor the Chronicles of the Deryni trilogy by Katherine Kurtz that my dad gave me as a gift. I wouldn't have parted with my hardcovers of Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, except they became victims of one of two floods that wiped out a good portion of my library. (DAW was kind enough to replace them though.) I'm also inordinately proud to have a first edition hardcover of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (the one with the silver cover and the image of a throne on it), which will never leave my library, because I bought it long before George became... well, George.

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

I would love to be able to go back and read The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks again for the first time, at the same age, with the same mindset of that time, so that I could experience the awe and wonder and excitement I felt back then. It so perfectly sparked my imagination, that world coming to such vivid life for me, that I know it set me on the road to writing my own stories. I didn't realize it at the time, but when I did finally sit down to write on my own, I know that I tried to emulate Terry Brooks because of this book.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Last Cherry Blossom

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw (Sky Pony, $16.99 hardcover, 240p., ages 11-13, 9781634506939, August 2, 2016)

Descended from a noble samurai family, 12-year-old Yuriko Ishikawa enjoys a privileged life in Hiroshima, Japan. While World War II rages on multiple continents, for now the seventh-grader exists in relative peace. Even when she's at school, with U.S. B-29s flying overhead, her legs wobbling "as if made of cooked ramen," she can't help approaching her teacher about her family history project; the teacher's praise just might impress her classmates and earn her a friend.

At home, Yuriko relies on books for company--the stories help her "forget about being lonely and about the war." Her mother died seven years ago, and she doesn't get enough time with her beloved Papa, whose newspaper publisher duties keep him away. She tries to avoid her critical Aunt Kimiko and annoying five-year-old cousin, Genji: "I had yet to understand why I had to be so delicate while he got to act like a monkey," she grumbles. Fortunately, just a short walk away is her best friend Machiko, with whom she can always share her deepest secrets.

In spite of the looming war, daily life continues as normally as possible, with family dinners, outings with Papa, and choosing special kimono fabric to make festive holiday wear. "I am not fond of change," Yuriko admits, but change proves inevitable. Plans commence for a double wedding to welcome two new family members, including a stepmother who Yuriko fears will steal even more time away from Papa.

The war draws ever closer as a neighbor's son is conscripted to fight, and Papa gets the real news about what's happening to the Imperial Army. And then a casual comment made by an acquaintance unsettles everything Yuriko has ever known about herself, her family, her history. Soon thereafter, the atomic bomb is introduced to the world with an "intense burst of white light" that, in just seconds, reduces Yuriko's life to rubble and ash. Somehow, she must live on.

Making her fiction debut with The Last Cherry Blossom, Kathleen Burkinshaw humanizes the face of the U.S.'s wartime enemy by adapting the experiences of her Japanese mother, who grew up in Hiroshima and was 12 when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. Writing the novel was an organic extension of years of school presentations about Hiroshima that Burkinshaw did at her own daughter's request. The result is a resonating narrative of hope, resilience and forgiveness, told in the thoughtful voice of an ordinary 12-year-old who survives extraordinary circumstances.

Introducing each chapter with quotations from newspapers, radio announcements and propaganda posters, Burkinshaw deftly weaves in historical context to enhance her personal story. She falters occasionally with what feels like unfinished details (a passing reference to Japan's colonization of Korea seems especially clumsy), but Burkinshaw's intended middle-grade audience will hardly notice such brief stumbles. What will surely linger longest is the immeasurable cost of war, and the fervent reminder that every victim is "someone's mother, father, brother, sister, or child." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: In this debut middle-grade novel based on the author's mother's experiences, 12-year-old Yuriko of Hiroshima undergoes shattering changes in the final year of World War II.

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