Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, April 29, 2016


Ten Speed Press: The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

From My Shelf

Mira: Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Doubleday Books: Hurts Like a Mother by Jennifer Weiss

Mom Wants a Children's Book, Too

Giving Mom a children's book for Mother's Day could make a grown woman cry, in the good way. Shelf Awareness asked three indie booksellers for suggestions.

From Hicklebee's in San Jose, Calif., Valerie Lewis says, "When someone comes in for a Mother's Day book, I consider it a personal matter. I ask if their mother read to them. I ask if there's a book that reminds them of their mother. I ask what she's interested in. I remind them that often the best gift is a bit of themselves, so is there something that connects them to her? Poetry, hiking, gardening, song? From their responses I can usually find a good match."

"Ryan T. Higgins's Mother Bruce (Disney-Hyperion) is a book my children would give to me," says Joan Trygg from Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn. "Bruce is a bear, and he is a grump. All he wanted was breakfast. What he got was goslings, who immediately called him Mama. Bruce learns the trials and joys of motherhood, and what happens when the little ones grow up."

Red Balloon's Amanda Daus suggests Mango, Abuela, and Me (Candlewick) by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez. She says, "Three generations of women--with a strong relationship between grandmother, mother and daughter. Great for grandmothers!"

Ann Pearson

"Any real classic with good mamas in it (like in Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal or Make Way for Ducklings) that adult children would remember their mothers reading to them would be special," says Anne Pearson of A Children's Place in Portland, Ore.

I'm giving my mom Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad's exquisite When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook) because if I don't, I'm pretty sure she will steal my copy from me.

--Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

St. Martin's: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


Book Candy

A Child by Any Other Name...

"The best Shakespeare-inspired baby names" were showcased by Brightly.

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Harry Potter's wandmaker Garrick Ollivander has his own Pottermore Page.

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Hester Prynne on Teen Mom? Quirk Books considered "literary characters who could be on reality TV."

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"A cult book may be hard to define but one thing is for sure: you know a cult book when you see one," the Telegraph noted in featuring its choices for 50 of the best.

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Buzzfeed showcased "7 sexy positions to try with your book tonight."

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"The first Roman fonts" were explored by I Love Typography, which noted that the Renaissance "affected change in every sphere of life, but perhaps one of its most enduring legacies are the letterforms it bequeathed to us."


Schaffner Press: Every Moment of a Fall by Carol Miller


The Writer's Life

Kate DiCamillo: Forever Eight

photo: Catherine Smith

Kate DiCamillo won a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie (2001) and Newbery Medals for both The Tale of Despereaux (2004) and Flora & Ulysses (2014). She recently ended her two-year term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, appointed by the Library of Congress. DiCamillo spoke with Shelf Awareness about her new novel, Raymie Nightingale (Candlewick), from her home in Minneapolis.

You've said that Raymie Nightingale is your most autobiographical novel to date--"the absolutely true story of my heart." Was that planned, or is that just how the novel unfolded?

I did not plan on that! It started off for me with just the concept of the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Contest, and I thought that was so funny. It was going to be about this inept kid, i.e., Raymie, who couldn't win a Little Miss contest to save her life, i.e., me. I had [Beverly Cleary's] Ramona in mind, not that you could ever aspire to Ramona-ness, but there was that spirit to it.

The story changed and became more and more true for me. It's all made up, but there's this feeling of "You're responsible for your parent leaving, and you are responsible for getting your parent back." And the book became that. Really, the book is probably the result of a PowerPoint presentation. I've stood up in front of so many kids and talked about my childhood, and my father leaving, that I think talking about these things out loud is also part of where Raymie came from.

It's weird to think that since Raymie is set in 1975 Florida, it could be considered historical fiction.

No kidding! It's not only that we're adults and it's not only that we're middle-aged--we're past middle-aged. How did that happen? I still feel like I'm 8, 9, 10. I'm still that kid, I think.

That's why you write like you do, maybe.

I remember in one of the first interviews I did for Because of Winn Dixie, the interviewer said, "Now how do you get into the mind of a 10-year-old child?" And I was just gobsmacked by the question because for me the answer was so obvious: "Because I was one." But maybe I'm stuck back there more than other people. I just remember it so clearly.

Raymie's soul is often expanding and contracting. Tell us about that.

You are so brilliantly, fully alive when you're a kid. Everything is fraught with meaning. Everything is also gorgeous and terrifying. That's so much a part of what's going on with Raymie. And that's very much me. I'm just articulating that hugeness and immediacy of everything. Remember? This is what it's like to be a kid. There's a terror implicit in it. You learn to muffle those feelings as you get older, and you need to, in a way.

You competed in the Little Miss Orange Blossom contest when you were a child in Florida.

The one thing I remember clearly is a feeling of understanding who I was... and that I was in the wrong place. Time has drawn a merciful veil over the rest of the proceedings. I did take baton lessons, and I was a kid who had a hard time telling left from right much less twirling a baton while going left and right. I just remember the baton in the back of my closet, with dents in it. Which makes me think of Beverly Tapinksi who was always using it to beat someone up.

How would you describe Raymie Clarke to someone who hasn't read the book?

I would say, that child is so me. She's interior, she's worried, she's afraid, she's shy, she's hopeful and she's more capable than she knows she is.

You have an unusually clear style of writing--you zero in on the heart of a character. Is this a reflection of you as a person, or is it just how you like to write your stories?

I have a direct style and I zero in on the heart of things? That's so nice. Is that how I am as a person? No. I always think the writing is smarter and better than I am. It's the best part of me. If it is a direct style--and I would love to think that it is--it's from just massive amounts of rewriting and stripping it down. I'm always after that thing that E.B. White does: one of his words does the work of 10 words from somebody else. He put the whole weight of his soul on a word. That's the pie-in-the-sky dream, to try to do it that way.

Repetition--the deliberate kind--is central in your books. In Raymie, the refrain relates to her expanding soul. Any light you can shine on that?

I guess I do do that. And why do I do it? I don't know! I'm always at the end of something before I turn it in. At that point I'm doing nothing but reading out loud as I write, so there's a rhythm that I'm always looking for. Maybe that is part of the repetition. A leitmotif? It's that thing I keep on returning to, to unify, I guess. I truly don't know what I'm doing. I feel like I'm walking down a dark hallway and I can see light underneath the door and I know what direction I'm heading as I get closer and closer to that door, which is the end of the book. I'm instinctually making my way, so it's fascinating to hear what I do because I don't know it.

I loved how Raymie's focus was completely on the baton-twirling contest, and then it slid into the book rescue, then it slid into the cat rescue.

Again back to me and the long dark hallway! Because, in writing it, I thought, what happened? I thought it was going to be about this contest, but increasingly, it's not. It's about trusting people and making friends with people. And so I was worried from a plot perspective that the contest had gone away, but all I could do was follow these girls and their preoccupations.

In Raymie Nightingale, there's the elderly woman in the assisted-living facility who repeatedly screams "Take my hand!" Was there a particular memory that inspired these haunting cries?

We would take field trips as kids in the '70s and that's one of the things we would do--go to the nursing home and sing. We'd be singing "Make new friends and keep the oo-old" and someone would be screaming in the background and that would make me keel over sideways in terror. We had to pretend like screaming wasn't going on. There you were in the middle of it singing "Kumbaya."

Do you feel different after having served as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for two years?

It made me feel so much more connected. Everybody talks about kids and how they're not reading, and I realize that I'm just seeing a select group but, boy, stories matter to kids. They do read. And they are passionate about stories. Stories matter and talking about stories matters. Reading stories together matters. It was a wonderful experience for me.

Did that role shift your perspective on anything?

For me personally, to accept that role, something so large and so public, was a big thing because there's a part of me that still can't believe what's happened to me. To accept that role also meant that I accepted who I am and what I do, as unbelievable as it is.

You have a 20-city tour coming up for Raymie Nightingale. Are you excited about that?

It's like when you're signing books and you know there's a long line of waiting people there. Don't look at the line. It's just... this face, this child, this face, this child. You think, how could it be that this happened, this kid standing in front of me clutching a book that I wrote, too excited to speak? That's a gift, to go out there on tour... and that's what I remember. Not "20 cities." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Capstone: A Baby's Guide to Surviving Mom by Benjamin Bird


Book Review

Fiction

Mothering Sunday: A Romance

by Graham Swift


"It was true of all days, it was the trite truth of any day, but it was truer today than on any day: there never was a day like this, nor ever would or could there be again."

The day in question is an unseasonably warm Sunday in March 1924. Jane, a maid in an English country house, has been given the day off to celebrate Mothering Sunday as she desires--and her desires lead her into the bed of Paul Sheringham, the son of a nearby upper-class family. This day is not the beginning of their clandestine relationship, but the end of it, for Paul is due to be married.

Mothering Sunday moves back and forth between this day and the rest of Jane's life, painting a picture of her as a maid, a lover, a shopkeeper, a wife, an author and, above all, a woman. Through this lens, Graham Swift (Last Orders) builds a novel that is as much about Jane herself as it is about the power of contemplation and imagination. "All the scenes. To imagine them was only to imagine the possible, even to predict the actual. But it was also to conjure the non-existent." 

These imaginings explore the power of stories to help us define not only ourselves, but also our world. Through Jane's memory of Mothering Sunday, Swift brings to life the world that was 1920s England, with its many recently buried sons and a rapidly changing social structure. He builds a world of could-bes and what-ifs, full not of regrets but of a strange kind of hope. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: This short novel is one part romance and one part philosophical study of memory and imagination.

Knopf, $22.95, hardcover, 9781101947524

Thomas Nelson: Bride Novelas


Beautiful Country

by J.R. Thornton


In his debut novel, Beautiful Country, Beijing Normal University writer-in-residence and former junior international tennis player J.R. Thornton provides a behind-the-scenes look at how China's state sports system selects and grooms its young tennis players. It is a cutthroat world in which young athletes become the unwitting pawns of government officials.

Thornton tells the story of an American player, Chase Robertson. Chase, 14, still reeling from the death of his brother, is sent by his father to Beijing in 2003 to attend Madame Jiang's tennis academy and live with the Zhang family, business acquaintances who have ties to the Chinese government. The boy is guided by an English-speaking, unemployed journalist named Victoria, whom his father hires. As Chase begins his stint with the Beijing National Junior Tennis Team, he comes face-to-face with the brutality of its training programs: run-down facilities and a coach with little knowledge of the sport who insists on demoralizing conditions and archaic training methods. "Those who were cut from the team left with nothing except the skills they had developed on the tennis court," observes Chase, who notes that the boys will lie about their ages and throw games in pursuit of American sponsorships to train and play in Meiguo ("beautiful country").

Using his own experience in China, Thornton excels at describing the contrasts between two cultures, revealing the fundamental philosophical differences. English translations of inherently Chinese phrases and Chinese interpretations of Western culture provide brief moments of hilarity, but Beautiful Country is, at its core, a critique of the Chinese sports system from a one-time insider privy to its workings. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: This novel provides an insider's glimpse behind China's brutal and hierarchical state-supported tennis training programs for its young men.

Harper Perennial, $15.99, paperback, 9780062411914

Independent Bookstore Day April 30, 2016


Mystery & Thriller

Hard Light

by Elizabeth Hand


The fact that Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary series (Generation Loss, Available Dark) has garnered many favorable comparisons to Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy is understandable to a degree. Cass is also an antisocial, somewhat surprising force for truth. But, unlike Lisbeth Salander, Cass is approaching 60, a Luddite who's obsessed with drugs, alcohol and black-and-white photography.

Cass plans to meet her erstwhile lover, Quinn, in London, but Quinn never shows up. Nervous because she's traveling on a false passport and because Quinn is wanted by both Interpol and the Russian mob, Cass ends up making friends with a strung-out singer in order to find a place to crash. Unfortunately for Cass, she gets drawn into a world full of drugs, cinematography and smuggled antiquities. Desperate to save her own skin, Cass makes a deal with the devil that she may come to regret.

Hard Light is a shocking and fast-paced novel. Cass hurtles from one disaster to the next, fueled by booze and amphetamines. Cass herself is an antihero, and her erudite musings on the history of film, photography and the punk scenes of her past contrast sharply with her dangerously addictive behaviors. The perilous weather and apocalyptic scenes that Cass encounters from London to the Land's End Peninsula are sure to keep readers on their toes. Hard Light's outrageous secrets aren't for the faint of heart, but the enthralling backstory of prehistoric art and ancient thaumatropes is sure to fascinate. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Drugs and stolen antiquities fuel this disturbing thriller.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250030382

Da Capo: Roots by Alex Haley


The Exiled

by Christopher Charles


Christopher Narozny's first novel, Jonah Man (2012), was a well-regarded story of an early 20th-century one-handed juggler cum drug courier and his fellow shady vaudevillians. His second, The Exiled, is such a leap across genres that it appears under the pseudonym Christopher Charles. Set amid the arroyos and piñons of New Mexico, it is the contemporary story of county homicide detective Wes Raney's investigation into a brutal triple murder at an isolated ranch outside Santa Fe. Raney is a former Brooklyn undercover cop who, 18 years earlier, worked the city armpit of mobsters, murder and dope. Alternating between the story of Raney's on-the-job fall into cocaine addiction and subsequent exile from the NYPD and his current dogged sleuthing, Charles paints a graphic picture of Raney as a lonely man with a fine-tuned cop's intuition and a stubborn drug jones.

The Exiled is rich in side characters, like the New York capo's nephew--unpredictably violent, "like the chemical that makes fear was sucked from his brain"--or the waitress who "looked like she'd spent the first fifty years of her life smoking cigarettes while standing under a hot sun." But this is Raney's story. After several more killings, he tracks down the Mexican cartels and twisted locals behind the mayhem, but he never quite shakes the memories of his past. The Exiled is a fine piece of crime fiction with a keen sense of timing and character. Let's hope for another Raney novel soon--regardless of what name Narozny writes it under. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Charles neatly balances a New Mexico homicide detective's investigation into multiple drug-related murders with his violent NYPD background.

Mulholland Books, $26, hardcover, 9780316340649

Minotaur Books: The 14th Colony by Steve Berry


Science Fiction & Fantasy

Almost Infamous: A Supervillain Novel

by Matt Carter


Matt Carter's debut novel, Almost Infamous, explores superpowers with a distinctive, realistic perspective. If the good guys always win, what will they do when they run out of bad guys?

Aidan Salt, 18 years old and looking for attention, shrugs on a leather jacket and slams a motorcycle helmet onto his head to become supervillain Apex Strike. When his first foray into the public eye ends up killing a C-lister superhero, Aidan's evil alter ego becomes a lightning rod for a secret project run by a cabal of superheroes looking to reclaim some of their former glory.

The heroes round up Aidan and several dozen other potential villains, and cordon them off on a secret island to train them to become the next group of supervillains. Newfound notoriety comes with a price, however: the threat of a mysterious prison hangs over anyone who reveals the secret.

Aidan and the newly chosen baddies get caught up in the superstar lifestyle--full of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll--until they begin to realize just how hollow their lives and victories have become. It's up to Apex Strike to lead his friends in an epic battle against the very heroes who set them up in the first place.

The comic book-flavored Almost Infamous zips with uncanny momentum while Carter performs literary sleight-of-hand, building an ostensibly comic novel that brings with it a surprising sense of poignancy and pathos. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This is a funny, charming novel about supervillains and the heroes who need them.

Talos Press, $15.99, paperback, 9781940456508

Join

by Steve Toutonghi


Join is a government-sponsored technology born of quantum mechanics, psychology and cybernetics. It creates single beings from multiple people: one mind controlling many bodies, turning loneliness and death into a thing of the past.

Chance and Leap, joins of five individuals each, have been co-workers for years. Two of their bodies, or drives, work as pilot and co-pilot flying cargo across the globe while battling mega-storms created by the environmental catastrophes on a near-future Earth.

Leap is facing the consequences of joining with the terminally ill, 70-year-old mother of one of the original drives. The woman's fear of joining with Leap causes a "flip," a rare, fatal join-related disease with both physical and mental consequences.

One of Chance's drives is killed by a mysterious but brutally insane join bent on pushing the envelope of the technology by connecting hundreds of drives to its system, then killing them off one by one, in a desire to approach a post-human extremity. Chance must deal with the grief at losing a drive while helping Leap discover a cure for the flip.

Chance and Leap must team up to find the killer, who might know where to find an early pioneer of the technology--now hiding with a group of anti-government people--who might be able to heal Leap's join-sickness.

Join is a high-concept, immersive science fiction thriller with compelling characters navigating a well-built speculative future. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This strong science fiction debut is a compelling cautionary tale that explores ethics and selfhood.

Soho Press, $27, hardcover, 9781616956707

Food & Wine

Dinner Made Simple: 35 Everyday Ingredients, 350 Easy Recipes

by the editors of Real Simple magazine


With the trademark minimalist style of Real Simple magazine, Dinner Made Simple: 35 Everyday Ingredients, 350 Easy Recipes is a beautifully streamlined cookbook from the publication's editors. Organized from apples to zucchini, it's a collection of recipes with easy-to-follow instructions and mouthwatering photographs.

Each of the 35 chapters has one ingredient at its core, whether it is chicken, kale, smoked salmon, corn or pizza dough. The ingredient is then showcased in 10 gorgeous dishes. For example, the broccoli section includes Curried Broccoli Couscous, Creamy Broccoli and Apple Slaw, and Sautéed Broccoli, Tomatoes and Bacon (among others), while the shrimp chapter includes delectable options like Shrimp and Mango Lettuce Wraps, Crispy Shrimp Cakes, Shrimp and Sausage with Polenta, and Tandoori Shrimp with Rice and Peas.

With short ingredient lists, a fresh, real food approach, minimal cooking times and uncomplicated methods, Dinner Made Simple is sure to appeal to busy cooks everywhere. Many of the recipes are vegetarian, and others are easy to prepare gluten- or dairy-free, making Dinner Made Simple appealing for a number of diets.

The "dinner" in the title sells short the variety of dishes featured: a lot of the recipes offered are quick enough to make for lunch, and some of the options in the Oatmeal or Eggs chapters would make excellent breakfast choices. Also, a bonus dessert section at the back offers a variety of sweet treats sure to be tempting at any time of day. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Dinner Made Simple is a beautifully straightforward cookbook with lots of easy meal ideas.

Oxmoor House, $24.95, paperback, 9780848746896

Biography & Memoir

Trespassing Across America: One Man's Epic Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland

by Ken Ilgunas


While working as a dishwasher at a camp 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Ken Ilgunas (Walden on Wheels) realized that he needed to take a new direction with his life. He decided to walk the length of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, a route of nearly 2,000 miles that crosses eight American states and two Canadian provinces.

Starting in Canada, near central Alberta, Ilgunas hiked much of the Great Plains, finally reaching his destination of Port Arthur, Tex., 146 days later. Throughout his adventure, Ilgunas had plenty of time to contemplate the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline on the flora and fauna he passed, as well as the economic and cultural effects this tar-sands highway would have on the populations that lived in these otherwise desolate areas. Ilgunas has filled his soul-searching memoir with great descriptions of the prairie, the people who befriended him and those who didn't, the numerous herds of cows he encountered, his feet and even the oil pumps that he passed. "North of town were dozens of pump jacks, some white, bearing streaks of rust; others, pitch-black. Some were slowly dunking their proboscises into the ground, but most stood frozen, paralyzed, dead, having long ago sucked dry the pools of black nectar that once gave them life." Even though he interjects his own environmental opinions, Ilgunas doesn't try to change anyone else's mind with his thoughts on the Keystone XL Pipeline, allowing the reader to make up his or her own mind on this multi-sided, often contentious issue. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: During his hike along the proposed path of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Ken Ilgunas gets to know the area and the people the plan would affect.

Blue Rider Press, $27, hardcover, 9780399175480

Business & Economics

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization

by Parag Khanna


Connectography is the third volume in a trilogy on "the future world order" by Parag Khanna (How to Run the World), the director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation. Khanna sees a future organized around chains of supply and demand, in which efficient connections to trade and travel hubs will matter more than political boundaries. Khanna argues that the United States is falling behind because "Europeans and Asians have learned to measure their robustness by their infrastructure spending, while America still measures its strength by its military spending." National borders will still exist as regulatory filters to prevent illegal activities, but not as solid obstacles to the flow of labor, ideas and goods. And we may have even more of them, as countries fragment into smaller nations, which must then build new economic alliances with each other and with powerful private entities to survive. "Today we don't get to choose between a world of great power competition, globalized interdependence, and powerful private networks; we have all three at the same time." He believes that our increased interdependence will mean fewer wars, though he also discusses violent uprisings against Chinese industry in Pakistan and Africa.

This is an extensive study filled with examples from every industry and continent. If the reader wants even more, Khanna provides many recommendations for further reading. Connectography is likely to appeal to anyone with a serious interest in how our rapidly changing world is evolving. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A fascinating vision of a future in which political boundaries mean less than economic, digital and structural interconnections.

Random House, $30, hardcover, 9780812988550

Science

The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond

by Christophe Galfard


What are gluons and how are they related to quarks? Why can't we see what the universe looked like before it was 380,000 years old? What exactly is space-time and why is "empty" space anything but? If these questions make your head hurt and heart race, have no fear: Christophe Galfard, a theoretical physicist from Cambridge University and former graduate student under Stephen Hawking comes to the rescue with The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond.

The Universe in Your Hand is a series of thought experiments, much like the kind Albert Einstein used to imagine the behavior of objects moving near the speed of light. In simple, conversational and often humorous prose, Galfard takes readers from an imagined vacation on a tropical beach and whisks them up into the heavens, all the way to the edge of the observable universe. And that's only the beginning. He moves deftly through time travel and quantum jumps, never betraying his single rule--that the only mathematical equation in the entire book is E=MC2. He ties these vast scales together with poetic fluidity, and the images he evokes are often beautiful.

The Universe in Your Hand is the ultimate layperson's guide to, well, everything, at least as early 21st-century physics understands it, and even a bit beyond--the end of the book deals with the theoretical boundaries of modern knowledge, including string theory and dark matter/energy. The Universe in Your Hand is a masterpiece of popular science writing. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The Universe in Your Hand is a math-free, mesmerizing trip through the universe at every scale.

Flatiron Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9781250069528

Children's & Young Adult

Wolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk


Eleven-year-old Annabelle McBride was hungering for change. She felt as if excitement waited for her "like an uncut cake." But now, everything's a terrible mess, and she wishes the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Betty Glengarry had never moved to Wolf Hollow that fateful fall of 1943. Readers of Wolf Hollow will immediately feel the chill this "dark-hearted" 14-year-old bully brings to a close-knit farming community in rural Pennsylvania.

When a rock, thrown from a nearby hill, blinds her friend Ruth in one eye, Annabelle is sure it must have been Betty's doing. After all, Betty has beaten her with a stick and crushed a bird's neck in front of her. But Betty says she saw Toby throw the rock. Toby is a tall, solitary World War I vet who roams the hills of Wolf Hollow with three guns strapped to his back. Annabelle knows Toby couldn't have thrown the rock--Toby is enigmatic, but she believes he's a good man. When Betty disappears, Toby is blamed again, and the suspense builds unbearably.

Lauren Wolk's nuanced, nerve-wracking middle-grade debut takes a close look at how dangerous it is to make assumptions of guilt or innocence based on appearances--and how telling the truth and standing up against injustice are essential, even if the wrongs are not always righted. Annabelle is a likable, engaging character, and readers will enjoy lively descriptions of her farm chores as well as her honest pleasure in the "small, unbottled genies" that are her younger brothers. Wolk has a clean and poetic way with words, and her story is finely crafted, haunting and unlikely to be forgotten. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: When a dark-hearted girl moves to Wolf Hollow in the fall of 1943, the rural Pennsylvania community is forever changed.

Dutton, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 11-14, 9781101994825

Unidentified Suburban Object

by Mike Jung


Primrose Heights is home to only three Asian Americans: 12-year-old Chloe Cho and her parents. In spite of Chloe's growing interest in her Korean heritage, her astrophysicist mother and fish store-owner father remain consistently mum about the family's past, always hedging with excuses like "Talking about Korea... it's complicated, and painful." Chloe turns to the Internet to learn to make Korean food (her dumplings resemble "mutant baby squirrels") and to download the latest K-pop.

Culturally hungry, Chloe is thrilled to learn her new seventh-grade social studies teacher is also Korean American. But when Ms. Lee's first assignment is to share an old family story, Chloe's father is forced to be "a primary source" and reveals a tragedy about a Korean great-uncle. Chloe--gratefully relieved--transcribes the story, only to be shocked when accusations of plagiarism besmirch her model-student reputation, resulting in her first F ever. Finally, her parents must divulge the truth, causing Chloe's head to "pop like a supercheap balloon." Struggling with this surreal new revelation, Chloe aims her whip-smart sarcasm at the casual racism all around, including her orchestra teacher who insistently calls her a famous Asian violinist's name, and the assistant principal who expects only "compliance." Here's how a straight-A-first-chair-violinist becomes a formidable Unidentified Suburban Object to contend with!

Seamlessly blending realism and out-of-this-world fantasy with clever snark and easy humor, Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities) also manages to infuse thought-provoking statements about identity, race and living life as the only and "other"--or, as Chloe proudly insists, "waving my freak flag solo." Go, Chloe, go! --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Mike Jung's second rollicking middle-grade novel tackles the perils of self-discovery with Korean dumplings, koi fish, sci-fi novels and plenty of laughter and tears.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9780545782265

I Am Pan

by Mordicai Gerstein


"Long ago when the world was just a baby, a family of gods lived in Greece. They lived on Mount Olympus, above clouds that looked like whipped cream." So begins I Am Pan by Caldecott Medal-winning Mordicai Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers; The Night World; A Book). This gleeful, longer-than-usual picture book is narrated by Pan himself, and illustrated with marvelous, aptly vivacious comic-book-style panels and cartoon bubbles.

Pan, the hairy, hooved and horned god of Noise and Confusion (among other things) explodes into the world, "in the beautiful green valley of Arcadia." Even pre-birth, the midwife hears "snickers and sneezes" before she hears a heartbeat. Pan's father, Hermes, decides to let Papa Zeus name the screeching, furry baby, if it is a baby. "We'll call him Pan, because he delights all our hearts. Pan means all!" proclaims insta-smitten Papa Zeus. Pan soon decides to "cheer things up" at the grumpy, boring palace on Olympus, snatching Aunt Artemis's arrows and shredding his father's mail to confetti. "I hate to admit it, but he scares me," says Ares, the god of war. Pan is promptly booted back to Arcadia, where wild, over-the-top adventures unfurl in mini-chapters such as "I Invent Panic," "I Fall in Love with the Moon" and "The Monster Typhon." Gerstein revels in the entertaining human-ness of the Olympians, and brings his own hilarity and modern touch to the party.

Children who have been called high-energy (or pests) all their lives will find a kindred spirit in the irrepressible Pan. As Pan would say, "Yeeeaaahoooo!" --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Caldecott artist Mordicai Gerstein takes delightful liberties with stories of the Greek god Pan in this effervescent picture book.

Roaring Brook, $18.99, hardcover, 80p., ages 7-10, 9781626720350

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