Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

From My Shelf

Liveright Publishing Corporation: Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

Thunder Bay Press: The Greatest Brick Builds: Amazing Creations in Lego by Nathan Sawaya

Visual Epiphany

Stephen Powers started as a graffiti artist in Philadelphia and now his work has been commissioned from Coney Island to Johannesburg, from Dublin to São Paulo. A Love Letter to the City (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95) collects his murals, created in close collaboration with the communities displaying them all over the globe.

In the 1980s, PAGN--the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network--sought to channel young graffiti artists like Powers into a more constrained idea of what graffiti should be. He said, "PAGN was a first attempt at stopping graffiti by rerouting graffiti writers onto a job track.... Nowadays I think organizations want writers to write graffiti, but just the fancy version without the criminality."

We asked him about the work he's most proud of. "What's interesting in the development of an artist is I think you pass a point where you stop being proud of anything, and you really measure success by what is working. The last time I said 'this is the best thing I ever painted,' it was a graffiti piece. Graffiti doesn't work, it hangs out beautifully."

Discussing influences he would point younger artists toward, Powers said, "If you have anything in your life that you see that you think is really special, I really believe that's the universe speaking to you personally. For me, it's an old version of the Singer sewing machine logo. As a four-year-old I felt profound wonder looking at this logo of an S with words inside the letter. I still think about it and it's carried through to my work to this minute. I imagine everyone has their own epiphany; you might already be carrying with you. Go look, we'll wait." --Matthew Tiffany, LCPC, writer for Condalmo and psychotherapist


Indiana University Press: UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan


Book Candy

Reasons to Date a Bookworm; Literary Holidays

The Huffington Post offered "11 reasons to date a bookworm."

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Operating on the theory that "there's no wrong time to fete your favorite book or author," Mental Floss highlighted "10 literary holidays."

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Sophie Hannah, author of The Carrier, recommended her top 10 pageturners for the Guardian, noting: "Over the years, I have been lucky enough to discover many books that have gripped me into total submission."

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"Everyone you know respects you. This disgusts you." The Toast offered a self-helpful literary diagnosis under the headline: "How to Tell If You're in a Hemingway Novel."

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"It's not unusual to hear an avid reader confess to 'devouring' a book, but these literary confections take it to a whole new level," Mental Floss observed in serving up "11 cakes shaped like books."

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"A few pieces of wire and a couple props turn these old paperbacks into whimsical sculptures," io9 noted in showcasing Terry Border's Wiry Limbs, Paper Backs collection, where "anthropomorphized paperbacks act out the stories between their pages."


Johns Hopkins University Press: Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum by Kathryn Hughes


The Writer's Life

Andy Weir: Mars or Bust

Andy Weir was hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age 15 and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is a lifelong space nerd and devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics and the history of manned spaceflight.

Weir's debut novel, The Martian (just published by Crown), is speculative science fiction with an emphasis on the science. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after a mission goes horribly wrong. Injured and presumed dead, Watney must use his wits, the limited supplies on hand, and his background in mechanical engineering and botany to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be sent from Earth.

It's a harrowing tale, yet it's full of humor and genuine warmth. The math and scientific facts are spot-on--non-science-minded readers as well as space nerds will sail on through, loving every minute of the fast-paced thrill ride.

Why did you write The Martian?

Honestly, I wanted to recapture the thrill I got when I watched Apollo 13. It's like MacGyver in space, with billions of dollars of equipment being misappropriated to barely stay alive, and everybody working together, and I just love that.

I love man-versus-nature stories in general, and I liked Apollo 13 because there's no ambiguity over who you're rooting for. Sometimes when I'm seeing a story where there're good guys and bad guys, I start analyzing the bad guy's point of view, empathizing with him. But in man versus nature, it's always very clear: it's all of us versus the physical world. It drills down into something very deep and fundamentally human about us, where we have this overwhelming desire to cooperate against nature. Tapping into that feeling in the reader is what I was shooting for.

You wrote The Martian to be as scientifically accurate as possible. How did you manage also to write a compelling story?

I tried to make the main character, Mark Watney, as approachable and likable as possible. If the reader is rooting for the protagonist, they'll forgive you just about everything else. So I made him a smartass, and he's really snarky and self-effacing, things like that. I had to get the humor in there, otherwise it's just a dry science lesson. His being really sarcastic makes the narrative much more fun to read.

Also, first-person narration is great. When you're writing third-person, there's this kind of presumed professionalism in the narrator, that the narrator doesn't have a personality and it's the story itself that you should be paying attention to. But in first-person narration, which most of the book is, it's like he's sitting in a room talking to you. You can really get a feel for his personality. Which is really the only way to do it, because he's the only guy there on Mars. There's no one else.

Did you talk to people at NASA? Did you do a lot of this research on your own?

I did everything on my own. Now I have some contacts at NASA because they read the book and sent me e-mail, which is way cool. It's really weird to just wake up one morning, check e-mail, and see fan mail from astronauts.

So now I have people at NASA I could talk to and ask questions of, but when I was writing it, I didn't have any connections at all. It was all research online. Manned space flight has always been an interest most of my life, so I started with a pretty heavy knowledge base in the area already.

How did you go about creating such believable characters?

For the NASA people, I needed a whole bunch of types. I tried to minimize how many roles there would be, but NASA has fairly defined roles. You know there's going to be a flight director, you know there's going to be a manager in charge of everything, you know there's going to be a press secretary. I found myself having to come up with a whole bunch of characters, and I didn't want to spend a lot of time developing each one of them, so I tried to give them slightly more extreme personalities than you would run into in the real world.

When I had to make a new character, I tried to give them some quirk or something like that, so that if nothing else, the reader won't get confused about which one is which. It's like, "Oh yeah, she's swearing a lot. That's the press secretary."

What about the astronauts? Did you do any research on personality types or how people get along in space?

I don't know anything about that in reality; all I know is what I've seen in documentaries and films about astronauts, again, like Apollo 13. And transcripts from missions, which I've also read because I'm that level of nerd.

My interpretation of what their personalities are like is based on what I've seen in those. I don't know if it's accurate at all, but it's what I think of astronauts as being like, so that's how I wrote them.

Were you ever tempted to tone down the science and math?

That was probably the toughest part of writing this book. It was a constant struggle to decide what I wanted to describe and what I didn't, because I did all the work under the hood. I worked everything out. You kind of want to brag to the reader: "Hey, look at this, I did this and this and tell me I'm cool." If it's not completely pertinent to the story, though, it shouldn't go in.

It all comes down to when people are reading it, do they stop and think something is implausible? If so, then I need to explain the science behind it. I didn't want it to be dry science, but I didn't want it to be hand-wavy physics, at least from the reader's point of view. So it was tough putting in the right amount. There are places in the book where, looking back, I went too far into the science side, but that's okay, I guess I can err on the side of science.

How did you figure it all out in such incredible detail?

I worked on it one problem at a time. I didn't plot out the whole story from start to finish. I'd look at his initial problem, and figure out how Mark was going to solve that. Then I'd work out all the details on how he solves it, and usually by sitting down and doing the math and doing all the science behind it, that would tell me what the next problem would be.

Sure, he can do this one thing, but that's going to cause this other problem. Or there's a good chance he will mess the solution up, so maybe I'll have that happen, and so on. I had it grow organically, I guess. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor


Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright


Book Review

Fiction

Quesadillas

by Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans. by Rosalind Harvey


It's a trick to use the f-word three times in a novel's first sentence and still be as charming and disarming as Juan Pablo Villalobos manages to be in the delightful Quesadillas. This is a swift, tight little family saga told by 13-year-old Oreo (short for Orestes) about his stubborn, hot-headed father and six brothers and sisters (Aristotle, Archilochus, Callimachus, Electra and the twins Pollux and Castor), all crammed into a tiny illegal house in 1987 on a hill in Mexico with a name that means "in the middle of f---ing nowhere." Soon, however, that rural hillside will be transformed into the prosperous Olympus Heights, no matter whose dwelling is in the way.

Like Villalobos's first novel, Down the Rabbit Hole, Quesadillas is a child's skewed vision of life, but this time the story is much funnier, with an economic vision of Mexico from the bottom up that's alternately heartbreaking and hilarious. When the five-year-old twins go missing, 15-year-old Aristotle becomes convinced they've been abducted by aliens and takes Oreo with him to burglarize the neighbor's pantry for supplies and then set out on a quest to rescue them.

Riddled with hoaxes, scams and folk beliefs, laced with the proverbs of poverty ("God tightens the noose but doesn't strangle you"), Quesadillas is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, an effortless breeze of a black comedy. For Villalobos, life is a festival of coincidences, and the novel concludes with all the threads of the story converging in a comic fantasy celebration of this family's colorful slide from very poor to even poorer yet. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A darkly comic story about a poor Mexican family in which two teenage brothers set off to find their missing twin siblings.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14, paperback, 9780374533953

Da Capo Lifelong Books: Veganomicon, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero


Wake

by Anna Hope


Anna Hope's debut novel, Wake, follows three English women over a span of five days in 1920, building toward the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of World War I.

Hettie, a dance instructor, is paid to twirl with strangers, many of whom are missing limbs. The festive hall where she works presents an interplay between light and dark, and Hettie's forays with a more fortunate friend to a breathtaking speakeasy emphasize class differences. Evelyn handles veterans' pension complaints, a thankless job that keeps fresh the wound left by her boyfriend's death in France. Asked every day to consider the fates of damaged young men, her bitterness grows. And Ada is nearly mad, haunted by her son's death, which has never been properly explained. When a young man appears on her doorstep and speaks her son's name, Ada is staggered; this event threatens to precipitate her descent into mental illness.

Woven among the three women's stories are brief views of military exhumation of unidentified bodies, candidates for the unknown soldier who will be reburied and honored on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Hope's strengths lie in nuance and atmosphere, as she gently and subtly reminds the reader of humanity under the worst of conditions. The pervading mood of the novel is reinforced by poverty, an inability to talk about past trauma and the presence of countless maimed and begging young men. As the lives of her three protagonists come together and the unknown soldier nears his final grave, Wake's deeply moving, ultimately universal story speaks evocatively across nearly a century. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A convincing and melancholy dramatization of the aftermath of World War I, told through the lives of three English women.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9780812995138

Thirty Girls

by Susan Minot


Susan Minot is best known for her short fiction chronicling complex family relationships. In Thirty Girls, she takes an apparent diversion and turns her sights on a group of Catholic schoolgirls kidnapped, raped and abused by Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army. A novel based on the "Aboke abductions" of 1996, Thirty Girls is partly the story of survivor Esther Akello, but it's even more the story of Jane Wood, a divorced American seeking purpose and connection by writing an article about the abducted girls.

In Nairobi, Jane stays with free-spirited Lana, who gathers guests and boyfriends with ease; soon Jane begins a passionate affair with Harry, a much younger man. Up for anything, he drives Jane and her new friends to a rehabilitation hospital in Uganda to interview Esther. "What I have inside is for me to look at alone," Esther says, with the halting hesitancy of a teen who's seen too much horror too soon. "I don't want these stories to be my life forever. I want another life." After coaxing Esther to detail her life among the barbarous boy-soldier rebels, Jane begins to understand herself better--that "her attachments to people turned out to be more intermittent, not entirely there... her connection to the world came only in a string of moments."

Minot has an uncanny feel for the emotional hit-or-miss connections between people. Here, she explores them against a background of random violence and political corruption where not only hearts and minds get broken, but also human bodies. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A novel of violent sub-Saharan Africa and the self-centered lives of those who come only to observe it.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307266385

In the Orchard, the Swallows

by Peter Hobbs


The unnamed Pakistani narrator of Peter Hobbs's sad little novel, In the Orchard, the Swallows, has just been released from prison, arriving exhausted at the family pomegranate orchard he hasn't seen for 15 years. He stays in the house of kindly Abbas, an educated man who found the young narrator emaciated and dehydrated. Abbas's 10-year-old daughter helps the recuperating stranger write a journal in one of her old school notebooks.

What he composes is a long letter to Saba, the rich girl in the marketplace to whom he gave a pomegranate when he was 14, the girl he loved throughout his years in prison, the woman he loves still. A single rash act resulted in a vicious retaliation from her powerful politician father, and catapulted the teenage narrator into a life of horrors, and he is beaten, chained and tortured by the police for years.

The story itself is slight; Hobbs isn't interested in plot or character. Instead, his brief narrative is about the melancholy of missed life, the devastation engendered by a single reckless act, a fragile love that becomes idealized yet somehow manages to last. How long is it possible to love someone who is absent and still have that love be true? That's only one of the unanswered questions in Hobbs's lyrical meditation on recovery and regret. Spare and minimal, with a painterly style as moody as the weather, this is a delicate tale about the sadness of unfulfilled desire and the ache of memory. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A short, melancholic story of a poor Pakistani boy sent to jail for love.

Europa Editions, $15, paperback, 9781609451837

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

by Anita Loos, illus. by Ralph Barton


Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was inspired by the inordinate attention a blonde woman on a train was given by a male passenger while Loos was all but ignored. From that fleeting scene came the quintessential gold digger's bible. As Loos's heroine, Lorelei Lee of Little Rock, Ark., advises, "Kissing your hand may make you feel very good but a diamond bracelet lasts forever." The story has enjoyed many incarnations, chief among them the 1953 movie starring Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei and Jane Russell as her sidekick, Dorothy Shaw. First published by Liveright in 1925--and now brought back into print by the same house--the novel will find a new audience to delight, amaze and amuse.

Lorelei and Dorothy, lounge singers, are in pursuit of "education," to be provided by Daddy #1, Gus Eisman, king of the button business. He puts the girls on a ship bound for Paris, London and the "Central of Europe." The men they meet aboard and ashore are all dazzled and can't wait to be taken advantage of. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is Loos's clever use of language. In diary entries, Lorelei refers to herself as "a girl like I," mangles her spelling and grammar, makes incorrect multilingual puns and, in general, creates a language all her own. Her take on what she sees is also unusual: "The Eyefull Tower is devine!"

Lorelei's combination of insouciance, innocence and street savvy is irresistible. She has Piggie, one of her suitors, send her a dozen orchids every day, reasoning thus: "I always think that spending money is only just a habit and if you get a gentleman started on buying one dozen orchids at a time he really gets very good habits." Pure Lorelei. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A romp through the Jazz Age led by Lorelei Lee, a singer from Little Rock with a voice all her own.

Liveright, $13.95, paperback, 9780871403179

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Strange Bodies

by Marcel Theroux


Speculative fiction often serves as an effective medium for philosophical debate of ethically murky issues. Marcel Theroux's Strange Bodies is a revelatory whodunit that challenges accepted notions of biological consciousness and identity by examining the physical and psychological implications of human consciousness's survival beyond death in a world that witnesses Man playing God with devastating effect.

Nicholas Slopen, after dying in a horrific car accident, awakens to find himself trapped in another man's body, struggling to prove his identity. He ends up imprisoned in a psychiatric institution, where he begins a dreamy recollection of his life as a brilliant but impoverished professor of Johnsonian literature who is recruited by a Silicon Valley mogul to verify the authenticity of a mysterious batch of letters alleged to be authored by Samuel Johnson. These letters awaken Slopen academically while drawing him into the conspiracy-fueled world of Cold War-era Russian intrigue and dark scientific experimentation, leading to his physical destruction--and to a world where identity can be taken and reassigned at one man's will.

Poetically written, eerily reminiscent of a Philip K. Dick novel, Strange Bodies moves with jagged twists and turns as it follows Slopen's descent into ethical purgatory. One cannot help but cheer on Slopen's psychological doppelganger as he seeks to redress the wrongs and prevent darkness from setting foot in the world. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: The author of the National Book Award finalist Far North returns with a literary thriller that challenges notions of biological consciousness and personal identity.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 9780374270650

Biography & Memoir

Glitter and Glue: A Memoir

by Kelly Corrigan


As her parents' only daughter, Kelly Corrigan (The Middle Place) grew up adoring and being adored by "Greenie," her joyous, optimistic dad. But her relationship with her firm, proud, stoic mother was much more complicated. When Corrigan was in high school, her mother summed up the family dynamic: "Your father's the glitter, but I'm the glue." It would take Corrigan years to realize how much she needed both.

After college, Corrigan took off on a round-the-world trip with her best friend, hungry for the exciting life experiences she doubted she would find in an office job. When she ran out of money in Australia, though, she found herself working as a live-in nanny to the Tanner children, who had just lost their mother to cancer. As Corrigan tiptoed through the family's grief, making school lunches and wondering how she could possibly provide real comfort, she began hearing her own mother's voice in her head: instructing, calming, offering wry commentary and sound advice. Through six quiet months, Corrigan gained a new, deep appreciation for the woman who had raised her.

Corrigan's voice is warm and engaging, and she treats the Tanners' grief and her own callow younger self with grace and compassion. Poignant and funny, heartbreaking and deeply wise, Glitter and Glue is a deeply resonant meditation on fear, growing up and the complex, life-giving bond between mothers and daughters. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Kelly Corrigan looks back on her younger self and her relationship with her mother in this wise, funny, heartbreaking memoir.

Ballantine, $26, hardcover, 9780345532831

E.E. Cummings: A Life

by Susan Cheever


Susan Cheever (Home Before Dark) likes the poet Edward Estlin Cummings, aka e.e. cummings, very much. He and her father, John Cheever, were friends, so she was able to see Cummings read and experienced his poems and his exuberant and eccentric presentation style firsthand. Cheever considers him one of the "great and most important American poets," our "only true modernist." His reputation has fluctuated; when he died in 1962 it was on the rise, then it fell. Today, Cheever says, he's "too popular for the academy," yet at times "too sassy" for high school.

Cummings was born into wealth and an idyllic and privileged family. They lived close to Harvard, where his father, a strict minister, was a professor and he himself would eventually enroll. At college, with T.S. Eliot and John Dos Passos as classmates, Cummings became a rebellious, angry, brilliant young man. In his last year, he took an intensive class in poetic forms and formalism. Ironically, it gave him the freedom to experiment, freeing him to "string words and forms together in an electrifying and entirely original way."

Cheever doesn't shirk from examining Cummings's darker side--bouts with anti-Semitism, his reactionary conservatism, egotism and his life-long substance abuse--but always keeps his profound influence on poetry and young poets in mind. She quotes from his exuberant poetry throughout, and takes the time to discuss in depth a number of pieces. E.E. Cummings: A Life isn't the first biography of the poet, but it may be the most charming and heartfelt--a thoroughly enjoyable appreciation. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An unpretentious biography for those interested in learning more about a great poet too often remembered more for his rejection of capital letters than his verse.

Pantheon, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307379979

History

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

by Doug Most


As industrial innovation and waves of immigration led to the dramatic growth of New York and Boston in the 19th century, both cities needed to find new ways to move people around. Constrained by geography, they were running out of space for pedestrians, horses, carriages and street railways to coexist; eventually, they looked in the same direction--below street level. In The Race Underground, Boston Globe editor Doug Most recounts the remarkable achievements in civil engineering that transformed two cities, along with the political and financial intrigues that accompanied them.

The Race Underground shifts its narrative between Boston and New York from one chapter to the next, and while Most doesn't minimize the technological developments that made the subway possible, he's more interested in the people responsible--and, sometimes, on the ones who stood in the way. The human interest angle allows him to play up the competitive relationship between the two cities as each races to be first to take its transportation problems underground. (Spoiler: Boston does it sooner, but New York does so on a much bigger scale.)

As challenging as it can be to get around New York, Boston and other cities where mass transit is part of everyday 21st-century life, it's staggering to imagine what it might be like without it. The Race Underground tells the story of how we got there, and it's an enlightening--and surprisingly exciting--ride. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: How two U.S. cities looked underground to solve their gridlock problems.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 9780312591328

House & Home

Knit Your Own Zoo: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 24 Animals

by Sally Muir, Joanna Osborne


If you've ever longed for a pet giraffe, meerkat or crocodile, your wait may be over. And once you've finished creating these animals, you don't even have to feed them (or build zoo cages in your backyard).

Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, the creators of Knit Your Own Cat and two "litters" of Knit Your Own Dog designs, have come out with a much more diverse--and wilder--collection this time around. Knit Your Own Zoo features 24 colorful knitted zoo animals, ranging from a cuddly koala and a sweet elephant to a family of nosy meerkats and a toothy (but cuddly) crocodile.

Muir and Osborne include plenty of helpful tips, explaining how to create a lion's magnificent mane or knit the spots right into a leopard's fur. Fun facts about every animal accompany the instructions and photos: who knew, for example, that a group of anteaters is called a parade? Each design features charmingly accurate details, from the mandrill's red-striped face to the panda's small green bamboo stalk. Some of the patterns are simpler than others, and all require a bit of detail work at the end, but there's something here for most knitting skill levels, from the straightforward camel to the complicated giraffe.

For the knitter who loves animals or simply enjoys a challenge, Knit Your Own Zoo will provide hours of wild, woolly, crafty entertainment. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A whimsical collection of patterns for 24 knitted zoo animals, from meerkats and penguins to crocodiles and giraffes.

Black Dog & Leventhal, $14.95, paperback, 9781579129606

Children's & Young Adult

Say Hello Like This!

by Mary Murphy, illus. by Mary Murphy


As with her fabulous I Kissed the Baby!, Mary Murphy returns with a book that invites interactive play with preschoolers as she introduces animal sounds and behaviors.

"A dog hello is licky and loud..." Murphy begins. Thick black outlines depict two pups' exploratory postures and wide-eyed looks of anticipation. With a flip of a flap, a joyous canine cacophony erupts: "like this! bow-wow-wow-wow!" A red ball is momentarily forgotten as the smaller dog leaps up and licks the newfound playmate, sure to inspire similar toddler snuggling. Next, it's all feline formality for two cats, "prissy and proud," extending paws in greeting. Murphy tucks in details that toddlers love to discover: a pair of mice hide behind a ball of yarn as the cats paw-shake, and a chick hatches from an egg as two chickens greet each other ("flappy and clucky"). Several pairs of animals on the title page go unmentioned in the narrative, but toddlers will surely find them.

Murphy varies the moods, with frogs that jump for joy from their lily launchpads ("croakety croak"), and beetles whose hello is "tiny and tappy" as they touch antennae. A delicious word sums up the sound of all the animals gathered on the penultimate spread ("hullabaloo!"), which rhymes with the "one hello missing--let's hear it from you...." Spatters of paint simulate fireworks as all the animals await the last word from youngest book lovers: "Hello! like this!" Soon to become a family favorite. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's reviewer, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Mary Murphy offers an interactive read-aloud for toddlers that introduces animal sounds and behaviors.

Candlewick, $12.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 2-5, 9780763669515

Beauty and the Beast

by H. Chuku Lee, illus. by Pat Cummings


A husband-and-wife team gives a fresh look to the tale of a woman who recognizes the kindness beneath the surface of a beast, with West African patterns, colors and architectural details.

In Beauty's narrative, first-time author Lee neatly telegraphs her father's mission ("Father had to hurry into the city on business"). Her sisters give him a "long list" of requests, but Beauty asks only for a rose: "How could I know his promise to bring me a single rose would change all our lives forever?" When their father seeks refuge from a storm at Beast's door, Pat Cummings (Talking with Artists) depicts a palace rising from the earth, in a pillar-like structure akin to the dwellings of Dogon country. The father spies a rose in his host's garden; the moment he plucks it, Beast appears for the first time.

Text and art work in tandem: As Beauty, watching her father leave Beast's castle, reaches out her arm toward him, Beast's arm reaches toward Beauty. She sees Beast only at dinnertime, and he anticipates her every wish, "But... I could not leave!" writes Lee. Cummings reinforces a feeling of imprisonment with elongated sculptures on the walls that evoke African masks and observe Beauty's every move. In an elegant conversion, both textually and visually, readers view through the palace's arched windows the passage of time as Beauty paces "all day, waiting anxiously" for a Beast who does not appear. By the time she discovers him in the garden and tells him she loves him, readers will be convinced. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An eloquent retelling of the classic tale, draped in the lush fabrics, patterns and architectural details of West Africa.

Amistad/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780688148195

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