Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 17, 2011
From My Shelf
Welcome to Our New Shelf!
We are so pleased to present the first issue of Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers. This new version of "The Shelf," a publication beloved by booksellers, librarians and publishing industry insiders, is targeted at readers--and really, if you're in the book business, you're a reader, too. That's why we're sending this to you, our faithful subscribers. You're some of the most avid readers we know.
Like Shelf Awareness: Daily Enlightenment for the Book Trade, this newsletter is free--and that means you can share it with the other readers in your life, from family to friends to colleagues. The only thing required for a subscription is a valid e-mail address. We also have a nifty app for signing up that you can share, too.
What you'll get: a newsletter delivered to your e-mail inbox twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays by noon Eastern time. (Today, we're so excited we're sending it out slightly early.) In it will be a dozen or so book reviews, along with some content from the daily version of Shelf Awareness that will boost your reading IQ, new consumer-focused content like "Book Candy" and more readerly goodies.
Take a moment to skim through all of the reviews. Each week we will share the 25 best books available to you right now, chosen by our industry insiders, including reviews editor Marilyn Dahl and children's editor Jennifer M. Brown. You'll see that not only have we expanded the number of books we're covering; we've also expanded the kinds of books we're covering. You'll find literary fiction, commercial fiction, biographies and memoirs, cookbooks, YA novels, children's books and more. Our terrific corps of reviewers includes booksellers, critics, librarians and authors. In each issue we'll also feature a "Starred Review," highlighting an especially worthy title.
However, the most important factor in our content will be your feedback. Please drop me a line (or tweet me; I'm @TheBookMaven) to let me know what you love, what you don't, and what you'd like to see here, too.--Bethanne Patrick, editor
Love in the Stacks
Folks, we have a new wedding-proposal idea for you: get on bended knee at your favorite bookstore!
That's what Jed Carlson did last week in St. Paul, Minn., at the Red Balloon Bookshop, when he asked his girlfriend and fellow Bethel University senior Emma Beyers to marry him. The pair share a passion for children's literature. "Both of our moms are elementary school teachers, and we've always had good books around," Carlson said.
Carlson was clever enough to ask Red Balloon events coordinator Amy Baum help him out. The store staff created a display of Beyers's favorite kid lit picks (with an "Emma Recommends" sign), played her favorite music and even presented the newly betrothed with a Red Balloon book bag, a bottle of champagne and a pair of champagne flutes. Baum said, "It was truly a romantic moment for those of who live inside the covers of a book."
Once Carlson had received a "Yes," the Pioneer Press wrote, "the couple had a few quiet moments alone in the stacks."
A Real Headache
Here's one book list you may never have considered: titles about migraines (and yes, just thinking about it gives us a headache). But for Janet Geddis, owner of the Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., her Goodreads list of nonfiction titles that deal with the issue is an important part of her life with and work against headache disorders. (She welcomes suggestions of novels and stories that feature characters with migraine or other types of headache disorders at email@example.com.)
When she launched her blog the Migraine Girl several years ago, Geddis "just wanted a place to vent some of the frustrations of the affliction." Readership grew quickly, however, and the blog is now housed on Migraine.com as "part of a national effort to show how common migraine is and sway lawmakers to make life easier for the millions of Americans who suffer," the Banner-Herald wrote.
Geddis was profiled in recognition of her work as a patient advocate on behalf of migraine sufferers. She recently visited Washington, D.C., for Headache on the Hill, a trip organized by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy.
A Heartfelt Lullaby: Go the F**k to Sleep
Anyone who has ever had a newborn, an infant, a baby, a toddler, a preschooler... oh, heck, anyone who has ever known a young child will understand the impetus behind Adam Mansbach’s runaway bestseller and "children's book for adults," Go the F**k to Sleep. Sometimes even the most dulcet rhymes don't have the desired effect of getting little ones to... well, go the f**k to sleep, although Mansbach does mimic them in his text:
The windows are dark in the town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I'll read you one very last book if you swear
You'll go the f**k to sleep.
If you haven't heard about this book yet, you've probably been on a remote island for a couple of weeks: Mansbach has or will hit every media outlet from Nightline to Late Night to NPR--and next week the Akashic Books title will even be featured in the somewhat staid Time magazine.
However, the audiobook version, recorded by actor Samuel L. Jackson, may be the best showcase for Go the F**k to Sleep; you can listen to it here; and Audible is offering a free download for a limited time.
If you'd like your personal literary life to extend to your home's aroma, look no further than these gorgeous (and actually sweet-smelling) Paddywax Library Diffusers. The chic bottles of scented oil filled with slender reeds come in scents meant to evoke Poe, Austen, Whitman and Thoreau. While the Austen--"gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine"--seems sensible to our sensibilities, beware the "absynthe" in the Poe....
So, you say you have 10,000 books in your collection and are looking for just the right forest retreat to display them in? May we suggest the Scholar's Library in Olive Bridge, N.Y., which was showcased by Modern Residential Design.
In this feature, we highlight a new release and then give you ideas about what to read based on different aspects of that book.
My first pick is the masterful State of Wonder by Anne Patchett, which follows Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical research fellow, as she obeys her CEO's orders to find out why and how her colleague Anders Eckman died at an Amazon field station. (See full review below.)
The station is headed by Singh's former medical school mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, and after the two women first meet in the Brazilian riverfront city of Manaus, they travel into the jungle to meet their fellow researchers and their subjects, the mysterious Lakashi tribe. (NB: Patchett told me in an interview that she named the tribe after--yes--her beloved Kashi cereal. It's all material!)
If you enjoyed State of Wonder and would like to know more about:
The city of Manaus: Read The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King and learn more about the early days of this peculiar Brazilian burg built on the spoils of the rubber barons, who funded the jewel box opera house that Patchett writes about in her novel.
Domineering mentors: Read The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn. Yes, read it and don't watch the television adaptation; in Osborn's book, which preceded Scott Turow's One-L in defining the law school experience, it's easier to imagine the terrors induced by "Professor Kingsfield."
Anthropological discovery: Read Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski, because the novelist actually spent time as an anthropological journalist in northern Thailand, and his fictional murder mystery, while slighter than Patchett's, echoes some of its cloistered, alien atmosphere.
Drinking in Hard Times
Because "a good novel about the economic slowdown can take the pressure off of another grinding week at the office or on the job hunt," Flavorwire helpfully suggested 10 novels about lost wealth and the Great Recession.
Booze and books. Flavorwire couldn't "think of anything better than to sip a cool drink while typing away at our--er, laptops--out on the porch in the sweet summer night air." Thus, the inevitable feature: "How to Drink Like Your Favorite Authors."
A Gathering of Owls: News from J.K. Rowling
It began as mysteriously as a Hogwarts hidden hallway. At first, according to the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy, it was just two owls and the words "Pottermore" and "Coming Soon" on the site pottermore.com. On Thursday, owls began fluttering by and landing on famed author J.K. Rowling's YouTube channel with the legend "The owls are gathering... Find out why soon," and a countdown clock that indicates the world has about six days until "J.K. Rowling's announcement." While Rowling has said she will not write any more Harry Potter books, no one yet knows what the media-shy mogul novelist has up the sleeve of her invisibility cloak, although nearly 50,000 people are following the Pottermore Twitter account in hopes of learning more as soon as possible. Accio gossip! (P.S.: In case you can't wait six days for more Pottermania, here's the trailer for the final movie.)
A New I, Claudius
Some of you may remember the TV blockbuster I, Claudius, in 1976, a 13-part series from BBC that redefined Roman decadence for the 20th century. A new miniseries adaptation of Robert Graves's novel is now in the works from HBO and BBC2. Deadline.com reported that the acquisition deal "ends a long series of twists and turns for the rights to a book that was previously turned into an Emmy-winning 13-part miniseries in 1976 by BBC." Although BBC controls the rights to the original TV miniseries, the new HBO/BBC2 production will focus primarily on Graves's books I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 and Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina.
Book Trailer of the Day: Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
Book trailer pick: Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America by Maureen Stanton (Penguin Press). Check out the trailer's gem: a little tap dancer dancing atop a record on an old-fashioned phonograph, filmed at a flea market in Massachusetts.
by Kate Christensen
Kate Christensen, celebrated for her "loser lit" novel The Epicure's Lament and her wonderful The Great Man, among others, may actually become best known for her ability to submerge herself--and the reader--in her characters' psyches. Just as she did in her previous books, Christensen goes deep to explore the motivations behind behaviors.
In The Astral, her focus is on Harry Quirk, at 57 separated from his wife, Luz, and disconnected from their two children. Luz believes that Harry has been carrying on for decades with his friend Marion, and none of his protestations of innocence will convince her otherwise. Harry is a poet, but due both to his personal crises and his bad habits--like drinking beers in the morning at a neighborhood dive--not only has he failed to publish anything in a while (Luz burned his latest manuscript, and being Harry, he has no copy), he needs a real job. After an unfortunate gig as a bookkeeper at his pal Yanti the Hasidic crack addict’s all-Jewish lumberyard shows Harry that there is always further to fall, he decides to help his daughter, Karina, rescue his son, Hector, from life in a quasi-Christian cult.
The book's title refers to the apartment building in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood where the Quirks live, but by the novel's end it also points to a resigned recognition that all of our efforts to reach the stars are somehow supported by props--and how, sometimes, we treat the people we most love as props instead of as the fully realized individuals we each believe ourselves to be. What makes The Astral fully realized is Christensen's true compassion for Harry Quirk in all of his failures--and even in his small successes. --Bethanne Patrick, editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: The best exploration of a middle-aged man’s psyche since Bellow, all the more brilliant for having been written by a woman.
by Daniel H Wilson
Daniel H. Wilson has been pondering the subject of his all-too-imaginable debut novel for some time and in great depth. In addition to earning a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, Wilson is the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising and How to Build a Robot Army. Now he's transformed these robopocalyptic visions into a swiftly paced and well-crafted thriller that will have readers eyeing their electronics (including their e-readers) with suspicion and no small amount of fear.
The novel is set in the near future and opens in Alaska, where soldier Cormac Wallace discovers a box containing a digital record of the recently ended robot-human war. This record, essentially an action highlight reel of the war, serves as the novel's narrative and very clever framing device.
The notion that our machines will eventually turn against us is strikingly familiar from such science fiction classics as I, Robot and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Wilson reimagines the villain as Archos, a supercomputer so intelligent that its creator feels compelled to destroy it. Naturally, Archos cannot let that happen. Soon, reprogrammed toys start threatening children, cars systematically run over pedestrians, and any device with a wireless port turns into a killing machine. And that's before things get really bad.
Wilson's story raises thoughtful questions about the nature of consciousness, communication, and, of course, the price of technology; above all, however, Robopocalypse crackles with old-fashioned entertainment. The story is smart, scarily plausible and contains bots for every taste. What's more, there is enough intelligent explanation of the ways in which technology actually works to satisfy readers who want a little bit more from their thrillers than, well... deus ex machina. --Debra Ginsberg, author
Discover: A very clever and highly entertaining thriller from robotics expert Daniel H. Wilson that asks--and answers--the question of what happens when the machines take over.
State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett
Two women form the nucleus of this story: Dr. Annick Swenson and Dr. Marina Singh. Dr. Singh was Dr. Swenson's student in medical school, which Dr. Singh left for a career in pharmacology. She has settled in to a life of research at “big pharma” Vogel, enjoying a discreet relationship with her older boss Mr. Fox, and a friendship with her colleague Anders Eckman.
Anders is sent to the Brazilian jungle to check up on Dr. Swenson, who has been there for years working for Vogel. She feels no urge to make timely reports; she just wants to continue studying the effects of a certain bark which, when chewed regularly, gives women the possibility of conceiving indefinitely. Dr. Swenson and her team haven't told the company that this same bark also renders women immune to malaria; a breakthrough in world health, but unlikely to generate the sort of big bucks that the fertility-boosting properties of the bark would. Suddenly, word reaches Vogel that Anders is dead of fever. Nothing else; no remains, no real information. Marina, filled with misgivings, is sent to the research site to find answers, her quiet life among the test tubes on indefinite hiatus.
Patchett's evocation of the Amazon port city of Manaus and its environs will have the reader dripping sweat and slapping at hard-shelled bugs, biting ants and crawling things with no known names. She makes the jungle jump off the page, and we wonder, along with Marina, why on earth she agreed to this odyssey. What she finds there is more than she bargained for, but she is equal to it. This is Patchett's best effort since The Patron Saint of Liars and, yes, that includes Bel Canto. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.
Discover: A journey to the jungles of Brazil that brings Dr. Marina Singh into contact with an anaconda, cannibals, creatures that bite and sting and, most frightening of all, her former teacher and mentor.
Mystery & Thriller
by Ruth Rendell
Tigerlily's Orchids is a story of secrets, set in a London apartment building. Some are heartbreaking: Olwen, whose only goal in life is to be able to drink as much gin as she wants until she dies. Some are perverse: the caretaker who desperately hides his unholy longing. Some are mysterious: Who is the beautiful Asian girl hidden in the house across the street? Rendell gives us old lovers who may or may not remember each other, a not-so-secret affair, a young thief and the sighing of unrequited love. Of course, there is also a murder....
Rendell offers us a fascinating glimpse into the minds of her characters. Each thinks that his or her actions, no matter how rotten, are completely justifiable, and the process by which they absolve themselves can be amusing--although in this novel, which counts as among the best of Rendell's work, the amusing always works in service of the insightful.
Discover: A keen psychological thriller about the residents of a London apartment building.
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
by Marcus Sakey
Marcus Sakey wastes no time plunging readers into the action in his thrilling new novel, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. The first scene has a man waking up in the middle of an ocean, naked, in the dead of night, with no memory of who he is and how he got there. He manages to make it to land, find an abandoned car and drive to a nearby hotel. But then a cop comes after him. What has he done? Why is he drawn to an actress he sees on TV? How does he find his way back to his life?
The protagonist turns out to be a screenwriter, and sometimes his flashbacks unfold as cinematic scenes. In Sakey's hands, this method works rather well. The film rights to three of Sakey's previous four novels have sold to Hollywood and it wouldn't be surprising if this one sells, too. Sakey has even made it easier for whoever adapts it by writing part of Two Deaths in script format.
But you shouldn't wait for any potential movie because you'd miss out on Sakey's sharp, vivid prose, describing low-rent motels as "places people came to hang themselves," and a woman in a convertible as "a blonde whose hair stirred like a dream of summer." He also shows a sense of humor:
"Luckily, he was in Los Angeles. If a second head had sprouted from his belly and begun pitching a spec script, it wouldn't have drawn more than a glance."
Discover: A sharp, vivid thriller about an amnesiac man searching for his identity while running from the police.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Uncertain Places
by Lisa Goldstein
Will Taylor is a student at Berkeley in the '70s when his best friend, Ben, introduces him to the Feierabends, the family of the young woman he's dating. Will becomes infatuated with Livvy, a younger sister, but is puzzled by some of the family's behavior and by the mysterious helpers around their home. When Livvy falls into an irreversible sleep, it's Ben who leads Will to the improbable truth: a fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm, lost before they could publish it, about a man who makes a bargain with a supernatural creature: his family would have great prosperity, as long as one daughter from every generation endures a seven-year magical nap while her spirit is enslaved in a supernatural war. The deal is real... and it's been in place for three centuries.
Will impulsively decides to rescue Livvy from the spell, but that's only the first half of what Lisa Goldstein has in store for readers. Livvy's freedom comes with a price: for years, Will wonders if there will be greater consequences for cheating the magical beings. Then, when she's in the hospital with a mysterious illness, he desperately re-invokes the bargain. This time, the other realm takes their young son, and the entire family rallies together to win him back.
The Uncertain Places benefits greatly from Goldstein's meticulous combination of fairy-tale logic and modern characterizations, and while the outcome of Will's effort to outsmart his magical foes is never really in doubt, Goldstein is still able to keep us wondering up to the end whether there might have been one last catch to the deal. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com
Discover: A fairy tale crossed with modern characterizations, by an author at the top of her game, that will keep the reader guessing to the end.
Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex
by Erica Jong, editor
Anaïs Nin once told Erica Jong that "women who write about sex are never taken seriously as writers." Jong (Fear of Flying) insists that this is precisely why women must write about sex: to "brave the literary double standard" and put women back in control of how their experiences are portrayed. In Sugar in My Bowl, Jong presents a carefully curated collection of essays and short fiction about sex by more than two dozen contemporary female writers.
The pieces in this anthology run the spectrum from prudish--Julie Klam half-ashamedly admits that until recently, her six-year-old daughter believed women's private parts were simply called "the front"--to downright erotic--Susan Cheever's "Sex with Strangers" explores the pleasures and perks of doing just that--and everything in between. Anne Roiphe and J.A.K. Andres examine children's curiosity about sex, while Elisa Albert and Margot Magowan consider the impact of children on a couple's sexual relationship. Jennifer Weiner and Karen Abbott create characters who persist in seeking sexual connection despite very real challenges of age and health.
But fantasy and play also figure large in Sugar in My Bowl, as Rosemary Daniell and gossip columnist Liz Smith remember former lovers whose touches linger for decades, and Rebecca Walker contends that, thanks to fantasy, the best sex she ever had was sex she never had.
Sugar in My Bowl is proof positive that women can write seriously about sex and live to tell. It represents a remarkable smorgasbord of experience and perspective, and there's a dish here for everyone. --Rebecca Joines Schinsky, The Book Lady's Blog
Discover: Not your mother's book about S-E-X.
Biography & Memoir
I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
by Kelle Groom
In contrast to so many memoirs that can feel voyeuristic, Kelle Groom's is intimate in a generous, revelatory way. Perhaps the fact that Groom's book began as a personal journal and is told via first-person narration helps; the feeling is that the reader is enlightened as Groom slowly releases her burdens.
When, in the first few pages, Groom gives her baby up to be raised by her aunt and uncle, her grief resonates viscerally: the reader is fully on her side and feels the loss as an injustice. This initial bond with Groom is crucial because the author quickly embarks on a dark, harrowing journey through addiction and unraveling. When Groom goes on a quest to find her son again, the result is not at all expected or typical of most memoirs about adoptive parents and children. Baby Tommy, diagnosed with leukemia at nine months, died at 18 months--and no one told his mother.
What saves Groom's tale from becoming unbearably painful is the prose. A published poet, Groom states that she is "interested in a narrative that is lyrical, imagistic, sensory." While this style is difficult to define, it allows the reader to experience Groom's life as a vortex of images from the other side of a pane of glass--as Groom herself seemed to experience her own life via alcohol:
"Drinking is easier than I'd imagined, less dramatic. I feel myself cohere around a radioactive center, my arms reaching out like bright flowers. Where I end blurs."
While the focus of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is on regaining the son she lost, the ultimate gain for the reader is in witnessing Groom reclaim her own life. --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics
Discover: A dark journey through addiction, enlightened by lyrical prose and hard-earned wisdom.
Current Events & Issues
Allah, Liberty and Love
by Irshad Manji
Irshad Manji is a Canadian journalist and the author of bestselling The Trouble with Islam Today (2005), a provocative critique that sparked both outrage and solidarity around the world. Allah, Liberty and Love is built on the foundation of that book. If Trouble was the critique, Allah is the roadmap to reform, as Manji lays down seven lessons in "moral courage" that will guide us--Muslim or not--to peace and freedom.
A devout Muslim, open lesbian and passionate advocate of democratic ideals, Manji is perhaps an ideal voice for progressive reform. Writing in an engaging, open style, she combines the strength of her own faith with a clear-eyed, relentless insight into the troubling politics, fears, and narratives that govern contemporary Islam.
With an unwavering commitment to integrity and conscience, Manji argues that culture is not sacred, clinging to group identity is a trap, and that offending people is the price of asking tough, vital questions: "My questions re-imagine the public discussion so that Muslims and non-Muslims can find shared purpose in human values."
Manji's writing has been criticized for being too personal, but matters of faith, conscience and individual liberty are personal--profoundly and urgently so. Manji's project is not to provide a removed, scholarly study of her religion; it is to motivate people around the world, of any faith or none at all, to listen to their consciences, ask questions and challenge dogma for the benefit of the greater good. --Hannah Caulkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice
Discover: A bold, compassionate and highly accessible argument for Islamic reform.
Children's & Young Adult
Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat
by Philip Christian Stead
In spare prose and gorgeous collage illustrations, Philip Christian Stead (who wrote the text of the Caldecott Medal–winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee) hones in on the emotional connection between a boy and his teddy bear. Stead quickly establishes the bond between Jonathan and his teddy bear, Frederick, as the boy holds him up to see the Big Blue Boat anchored in the harbor. "It makes me feel very small," he tells Frederick. The giant vessel pulses in a swirl of sapphire and cornflower blues comprised of torn paper and postage stamps. But soon after, Jonathan's parents tell him they have traded Frederick for a toaster. "You're getting too old for a stuffed animal," they say.
As the boy starts his search for his bear, his singleness of purpose points the way to each phase of his journey. When Jonathan explains to the tugboat captain, "Frederick is missing," the man tugs the Big Blue Boat "into the open ocean." Each event builds on the cumulative refrain: "And that is how Jonathan came to sail the sea on a Big Blue Boat." When the boat gets marooned, a mountain goat helps and gets added to the refrain. Everyone aids the hero in accomplishing his mission. Stead seems to say that as long as we follow our true North, everything falls in line. Jonathan reminds children that our Fredericks don't hold us back, they help us grow up with confidence. And there's no rush. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A poetic picture book that chronicles a determined boy's journey to find his teddy bear, taken from him too soon.
Blood Red Road: Dustlands, Book One
by Moira Young
Moira Young's debut novel unfolds in prose as spare as its wind- and sand-dominated landscape. Saba and Lugh are twins, born on Midwinter Day 18 years ago. Their mother died giving birth to their now nine-year-old sister, Emmi. Their father reads their fates in the stars, and does not seem surprised when four men arrive one day on horseback in long black robes (calling to mind the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). They kidnap Lugh and kill Pa, leaving Saba to protect Emmi and find her twin brother.
As Saba's world becomes wider, so does her perspective. The people she meets help her see herself differently. One is a friend of Saba's mother, Mercy, who parted ways with Saba's father because " 'he looked to the sky for answers, I looked here.' She tap[ped] her hand over her heart." The heroine must decide for herself which one guides her path. In this world, Saba discovers expanses of beauty, but also shifting sands and winds powerful enough to make skeletons of skyscrapers. Few people know how to read. Chaal, an addictive drug, rules everything, and the Tonton--the men in black robes--round up slaves to serve a "king" dressed like Louis XIV of France. Terror pervades the country, akin to Mad Max, ruled by tyranny rather than anarchy. But Saba also discovers romance, friendship and trust. Does fate or the heart rule her path? This first book in the Dustlands series comes to satisfying completion, but leaves the answer for Saba's next adventures. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A breathtaking debut from an British author in which an 18-year-old comes of age as she explores a post-apocalyptic world dominated by beauty and tyranny.
by Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes's (Sun and Spoon) story of the winter in which Alice Rice turns 10 sneaks up on readers with its emotional impact. Alice and her parents travel to Sanibel Island in Florida each February, leaving behind "cold and dreary" Wisconsin. The heroine thinks of the people she sees on these winter breaks as "part of her family." But right away, Alice knows things will be different this time. The Wishmeiers' grandchildren aren't coming, for one thing. Then their friend Helen gets snowbound in New York. Worst of all, Kate, Alice's mother's college friend, arrives with a boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter, Mallory. So much for having Kate all to herself.
Henkes's novel captures universal feelings of childhood through one child's unique experiences. As Alice counts the minutes until Kate's arrival, she decides "this kind of waiting--waiting for something good and bad tangled together--should be given its own special name." The author betrays Alice's feelings about Kate's six-year-old traveling companion through his description: "Mallory Rumbelow had a round face, round cheeks, round eyes, round knees, and a round nose. When Alice looked at her, she saw circles." Henkes drops clues to Mallory's erratic moods, which Alice pieces together later, relizing she's jumped to unfair conclusions. Alice searches her whole vacation week for the special Junonia shell. She finally finds one, only to discover that it, too, comes with complications. Through his insightful exploration of moments that feel monumental to the child experiencing them, Henkes lets his readers know they have company on this often confusing journey to growing up. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Kevin Henkes introduces a new character who powerfully embodies the pains of growing up.