Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 21, 2014


University of California Press: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children by Emma Johnson

Tarcherperigee: Elements of Taste: Understanding What We Like and Why by Benjamin Errett

Synchronicity

I recently received a copy of And There Was Light, written in 1963 by Jacques Lusseyran and just reprinted by New World Library--the memoir of a blind hero of the French Résistance in World War II. Shortly after that, we interviewed Barbara Brown Taylor for her new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. She was asked about why she included Lusseyran's story in her book. She said, in part, "Once I began reading everything I could find with 'dark' or 'darkness' in the title, I fell in love with so many authors [who] came at darkness from so many angles that I knew I could not write the book without their help.... Lusseyran's angle was physical blindness, and his writing was so luminous that I could not figure out why I had never heard of him before. He writes like an angel, like a mystic. His response to losing his sight at an early age is so surprising that it will change the way anyone thinks about blindness. You end up almost envying him."

Exactly two weeks later, we interviewed Anthony Doerr for his new novel, All the Light We Cannot See. In his acknowledgements he writes that he owes a debt to Jacques Lusseyran's memoir: "He lost his sight at a young age.... What's beautiful about it is that his parents didn't see it as a disability; he never gave in to despair. He led a busy boyish life, and he became convinced, in an almost mystical way, that the world is composed of light and that he figured out some ways to actually see it. He becomes involved in the French Resistance because he is so good at listening to voices that people think he is like a lie detector." 

What endorsements! I'm reading the book now and am just as entranced as Brown and Doerr. You will be, too. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Andrews McMeel Publishing: Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6) by Dana Simpson


Book Candy

OED Update; Books for Springtime

The Oxford English Dictionary added more than 900 new words, phrases and senses in its March 2014 update, including "bestie" and "wackadoodle," Buzzfeed reported.

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Time to thaw out with "8 rejuvenating books to read in the spring" recommended by the Huffington Post.

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HBO's True Detective "gets The Hardy Boys treatment in this cool mashup" by Todd Spence at Break.com.

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Rosa Rankin-Gee, author of The Last Kings of Sark, picked her "top 10 novellas about love" for the Guardian.

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LOLit: Flavorwire collected the "first Tweets of 25 writers we love."

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Calling them an "intriguing alternative way of 'shelving,' " Bookshelf featured Spineless Classics, "an entire book in poster format designed around each book's central theme."


Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance (SIBA): Lady Banks' Commonplace Books


The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Bruce Holsinger

photo: Daniel Addison

Bruce Holsinger is a fiction writer and literary scholar who teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he lives with his wife and two sons. A rabid soccer dad, Holsinger is a native of Leesburg, Va. He's written several academic books, and his scholarly work has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Council of Learned Societies. Holsinger's debut novel, A Burnable Book (Morrow, February 18, 2014), is set in the alleys and halls of medieval London.

On your nightstand now:

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (greatly enjoying it, though I think the Dickens comparisons misrepresent the novel) and A Game of Thrones, the first volume of Song of Ice and Fire, to which I've finally succumbed. I've also been reading Dan Jones's The Plantagenets, which is on my coffee table. Plantagenets and Lannisters have a lot in common.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Grimm's Fairy Tales, in their original, gruesome versions as edited by Louis and Bryna Untermeyer in two thick volumes I devoured several times. How many of us remember that Cinderella's stepsisters cut off chunks of their own feet to fit into the glass slipper? Or that cute little Hansel and Gretel slit the witch's throat? Great stuff.

Your top five living authors:

For crime and thriller, Tana French and Robert Wilson. For historical fiction, Hilary Mantel. For narrative nonfiction, Ted Conover. For overall greatness, Philip Roth.

Your top five dead authors:

Off the top of my head: Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens--though listing 500 might be easier.

Book you've faked reading:

By day I'm an English professor, so I can't answer this question for fear of losing my job.

Book you're an evangelist for:

At the moment? Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. I do a lot of carpentry and repair at home, and this book was a powerful validation of everything my father taught me by example about working with your hands and getting s**t done. I also went through this weird phase in graduate school where I was recommending Scott Spencer's Endless Love to anyone who would listen. Oh, and I never shut up about George Pelecanos and his epic vision of Washington, D.C., through the prism of crime.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Illuminating the End of Time: The Getty Apocalypse Manuscript by Nigel Morgan, picked up at a medieval studies conference last year. On the cover, you'll see the greatest dragon ever, from a manuscript written and illuminated in 13th-century England.

Book that changed your life:

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I trace my obsession with the Middle Ages back to that book, though it was only years later that I learned of Tolkien's own profession as a medievalist (he was a great scholar of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature). The movies, by the way, are dreadful adaptations.

Favorite line from a book:

From early in David Copperfield, as David is recounting childhood memories: "I look at the sunlight coming in at the open door through the porch, and there I see a stray sheep--I don't mean a sinner, but mutton--half making up his mind to come into the church." Just sublime. Oh, and also the opening line of Robert Parker's The Godwulf Manuscript: "The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse." Says it all.

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

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. One of the great reading experiences of my life. And for nostalgia, Brown and Hurd's Goodnight Moon.

Favorite books about books:

The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, about a medieval manuscript as it moves through history and shapes lives. And Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind, a wonderful story of books within books within books.


Diversion Publishing: The Skeleton Paints a Picture (Family Skeleton Mystery #4) by Leigh Perry


Book Review

Fiction

The Divorce Papers

by Susan Rieger


Former university professor and law teacher Susan Rieger gives the epistolary form a fun twist, interspersing personal letters and e-mails with interoffice memos, briefs, transcripts, worksheets and other legal documents to deliver a clever, lively, engaging story, along with a crash course in divorce law.

Murder, not divorce, is attorney Sophie Diehl's specialty, so when she winds up helming Mia Durkheim's high-profile divorce case, she is as surprised as anyone. In Mia's mind, a criminal lawyer is exactly who she needs to combat the hardball attorney her philandering husband hired. Sophie is reluctant, but her unwanted client turns out to be the smartest, funniest, most interesting one she's worked with. Together they dish Daniel--a first-rate doctor and third-rate human being--the comeuppance he deserves.

Readers get to know Sophie in and out of the workplace as she deals with office politics, including a spiteful colleague who thinks the young lawyer stole her case, romantic drama that has shades of Portnoy's Complaint and thorny family affairs. Anchoring the story is the two women's entertaining correspondence, which is peppered with literary references, salty language and musings on topics such as the seven stages of divorce.

Rieger brilliantly blends the serious and the comic, offsetting the weighty topic of divorce with (sometimes dark) humor. When Sophie is first assigned to Mia's case, her boss warns her, "In divorce, there are very few satisfied customers." Not so with this immensely enjoyable debut novel. The verdict: if you like your fiction smart and witty, The Divorce Papers is a winner. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Discover: This lively epistolary novel offers an eye-opening look at the inner workings of the divorce process.

Crown, $25, hardcover, 9780804137447

Spiderline/House of Anansi Press:  The Couturier of Milan (Triad Years #3) by Ian Hamilton


Hotel Brasil

by Frei Betto, trans. by Jethro Soutar


The fiendishly clever mystery in Frei Betto's Hotel Brasil plays straight to the reader's blind spot, and the hotel provides a delightful register of guests and residents as suspects and potential victims.

The heart of Betto's story is motorbike-riding Professor Candido, who volunteers at a local center to help homeless street children. Educated to be a priest, Candido ends up sheltering a runaway girl as the breakout of a hundred street kids from a correction facility collides with the investigation of a murdered hotel resident. In scrupulously lean prose, with exactly the right details, Betto--a political activist and Dominican friar jailed by Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s--brings to life the hotel's residents, including a political aide with a thirst for power, a madam and a pretty housecleaner who dreams of being a telenovela star. One by one, they are grilled by the pompous, determined police inspector, eager to solve the murder before the press does. But no one solves this mystery except the reader.

Hotel Brasil comes at you in short little bullets of narrative, each with its own title, sometimes no more than a paragraph or two long. The odd technique works. Alternately comic, insightful and harrowing in equal proportions, Betto is a thorough entertainer, painting a Rio de Janeiro of road accidents and shoeshine boys, kidnappings and murderous neighborhood mobs, topping it all off with a horribly satisfying ending--not to mention a glue-sniffing, revolver-toting 12-year-old street girl who threatens to walk away with the story. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Frei Betto, a political activist and Dominican friar jailed by Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s, makes his literary debut with a thrilling mystery set in a very realistic Rio.

Bitter Lemon Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781908524270

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Lilac Lane by Sheryl Woods


Roosevelt's Beast

by Louis Bayard


Louis Bayard's Roosevelt's Beast blends historical fiction with horror in a suspenseful imagining of an American president and his son facing down a nightmare in the dense jungles of Brazil.

Though aging former president Theodore Roosevelt is known for his adventuring, his wife insists their second son accompany him on an Amazonian expedition in 1914. The journey goes poorly from the beginning. When a lack of food leads Theodore and Kermit to hunt too far from camp, father and son are kidnapped by an Amazon tribe and expected to save their captors from an elusive beast that disembowels its victims. Aided by a longtime captive named Luz and her son, Thiego, the Roosevelts stalk and slay the Beast, but Kermit finds himself unable to join wholeheartedly in the tribe's celebration. A sixth sense tells him that the animal they killed was a red herring, that the Beast still lives and now inhabits one of his companions.

Bayard (The School of Night) reimagines the real-life Roosevelt expedition--as recounted in Candace Millard's The River of Doubt--in a tense and brooding manner that never fails to deliver chills and peril in a claustrophobic jungle atmosphere. His ability to capture the delicate relationship between a giant of a man and the son who struggles to come into his own brings an unexpectedly touching aspect to an often-brutal story. This journey into darkness strikes enough notes that a variety of readers will find an element to tempt them, whether it's the terrifying unknown or the simple desires of the human heart. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A famous father-son team struggles to outwit a mysterious beast during an ill-fated Amazon expedition.

Holt, $27, hardcover, 9780805090703

Hyde

by Daniel Levine


Daniel Levine's debut novel, Hyde, comes with Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appended to the back of the book. It's an unusual move, but one that enables Levine--in his introduction to the classic story--to discuss why he was inspired to create a new take that attempts to craft "a convincing psychological model to explain Jekyll's plunge into self-annihilation."

Levine's tale, which takes place in London over four days in March 1886, begins "Henry Jekyll is dead," picking up where Stevenson left off. Though told from Hyde's perspective, it's more a strange tale of Hyde and Jekyll. Levine's Hyde exists alongside Jekyll's consciousness; inside Jekyll's head, he can reflect on all of his counterpart's thoughts and actions, as well as his own actions as Hyde. He recalls that, shortly after the transformations began, he used Jekyll's money to buy a house and hire a charwoman: "Just like that," he writes, "I was a legitimate human being." Sex, murder and debauchery follow. Now, two years since Jekyll first "ejected me into the world," Hyde says the change "has never felt so smooth before." But Jekyll is gone, dead--and Hyde is alone.

Levine's version of Stevenson's story uncovers a dark, perverse "father" theme that haunts both men. Hyde is masterfully told, with plenty of damp and spooky London gothic atmosphere. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A haunting yarn with a sumptuous Victorian atmosphere exquisitely re-imagines Stevenson's "monster," the maligned Hyde.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780544191181

Inappropriate Behavior

by Murray Farish


Inappropriate Behavior is full of unpleasantness. These are miserable, excellent stories, featuring conspiracy theorists, perverts, depressive psychopaths and uncontrollable adolescents. Bad things happen to good people, good people do bad things and bad people just keep on being bad.

Murray Farish is fascinated with the most sordid corners of American history, especially presidential assassinations: in "The Passage," a young man catching a ride to France in 1959 finds himself sharing a berth with an abrasive man named Lee Harvey Oswald; the narrator of "The Alternative History Club" is a young woman who believes she's seeing JFK's real killer everywhere decades after the assassination (hint: it's not Oswald). "Lubbock Is Not a Place of the Spirit" features a protagonist recognizable as would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley, Jr. The title story, which is also the best of the collection, focuses on more mundane dysfunction, as an underemployed father whose son has myriad undiagnosed behavioral issues watches his comfortable life spiral slowly, sadly away, one more casualty of the great recession.

Farish plays with stream-of-consciousness narration, sliding in and out of his characters' deranged psyches. The stories often begin with a straightforward recollection of events, then end on a disconcerting, surreal note. For all its darkness, though, this is a funny book. Farish sets out to prove that you don't have to be an optimist to be happy, nor do you have to be successful to be interesting. Inappropriate Behavior is America the beautiful, in all its ugly glory. --Emma Page, bookseller at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Mass.

Discover: This darkly funny debut story collection embraces the uglier sides of the U.S.

Milkweed, $16, paperback, 9781571311078

Biography & Memoir

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art

by Carl Hoffman


The 1961 disappearance of 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller off the coast of New Guinea triggered decades of dark rumors regarding his possible fate at the hands of cannibals. Though Rockefeller was officially declared dead by drowning, no physical evidence was ever found of his doomed attempt to reach shore from his capsized boat. Carl Hoffman's Savage Harvest presents a nearly conclusive chronicle of Rockefeller's disappearance, reopening the case with new evidence--gleaned in part through months spent among descendants of the Asmat tribesmen who likely killed and consumed the young explorer.

Western New Guinea of the late 1950s and early 1960s was a largely ungoverned Netherlands colony, an isolated expanse of Stone Age tribes with a handful of Dutch missionaries and administrators. The Asmat, an ethnic group on the Arafura Sea, still practiced their ancient traditions, including ritualized cannibalism, despite an unenforceable ban by the Dutch. Just three years before Rockefeller's arrival, an overzealous Dutch administrator had killed five Asmat men during an armed patrol. The tribe members believed their slain relatives could not find peace until their deaths were "balanced," a debt incurred by usually untouchable white men--which suddenly became repayable when they found an exhausted Rockefeller.

Hoffman's own journeys through modern Asmat mix introspective travelogue with historical investigation. His findings are fascinating, if never quite conclusive. Even a month living in an Asmat village fails to elicit any confessions or physical proof of Rockefeller's fate. However, Hoffman's evidence, though circumstantial, is the strongest indication yet Michael Rockefeller was one of the final victims of headhunting in Asmat. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A fascinating investigation of Michael Rockefeller's legendary disappearance and likely fate.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062116154

The Double Life of Paul de Man

by Evelyn Barish


Evelyn Barish's The Double Life of Paul de Man is an amazing biography, an age-old story of hubris and the fall of one of the 20th century's most influential literary critics.

Along with Jacques Derrida, de Man created deconstruction, a very difficult and obscure theory of literary analysis. Barish observed de Man's classes in the 1960s; she couldn't understand what he was talking about, she admits, but "he had a magnetic pull." When he died in 1983, the New York Times ran his obituary on the front page. Five years later, it came out that the Belgian native had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II and had written an anti-Semitic article. The revelations rocked the academic world; Newsweek even put the story on its cover.

Barish (Emerson: The Roots of Prophecy) was determined to find out who de Man really was. Her research in Belgium revealed that he was a bigamist who embezzled funds from his own postwar publishing company, yet he occasionally gave assistance to the Resistance even while he was working with the Nazis. The de Man she discovered was a "chameleon," easily changing colors when it suited his purpose, escaping time and again--eventually to the United States, where he kept his past a secret and rose to the highest levels of academia. As Barish writes, each new revelation in this mesmerizing exposé leads to "new and more tangled mysteries" about its subject's life. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A prodigiously researched biography of a charismatic "chameleon" who buried his sordid past and reinvented himself as the most influential literary critic in the world.

Liveright, $35, hardcover, 9780871403261

Current Events & Issues

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival

by David Pilling


When the 2011 tsunami killed 15,000 people, damaged almost a million buildings and all but wiped out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the world saw yet another example of modern Japan's resilience in the face of disaster. David Pilling, the Asia editor for the Financial Times, traces the modern history of Japan's many rebounds in the engaging Bending Adversity. Beginning with the humbling postwar occupation by American forces, his analysis takes us through the Kobe earthquake, the Tokyo subway sarin attack, the bursting of the nation's real estate bubble in 1990 (which left "lost decades" of economic hardship in its wake) and the devastating earthquake that led to 2011's tsunami, where Tokyo skyscrapers "lurched toward each other like bamboo in the wind." Samuel Beckett ("I can't go on, I'll go on") had nothing on Japanese existential perseverance.

Recounting one disaster after another, Pilling demonstrates the incredible endurance of the Japanese--their "gamanzuyoi" (steadfast patience), built on what one playwright described as "an intriguing tradition of forging onward while holding on to a sense of our own impermanence." No fawning Nipponophile, Pilling notes that many of the factors that give Japan its resilience (reverence for the past, a homogenous population, an ingrained respect for courtesy and order) have also mired its people and economy in a sluggish, inward-looking miasma while China, Korea and other Asian countries have bolted full speed into the 21st century.

Bending Adversity is the definitive Western insider's look at Japan as it is today--a country and people that, Pilling concludes, "it would be foolish to count out just yet." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kans.

Discover: A fascinating study of Japan's modern history of rebound and recovery from disaster after disaster.

Penguin, $29.95, hardcover, 9781594205842

Essays & Criticism

The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

by David Giffels


Detroit may be today's poster child for Rust Belt decay, but according to David Giffels, Akron, Ohio, began rolling downhill long before Detroit fell on hard times. Once home to all of the country's major tire companies and proudly wearing the tag "Rubber Capital of the World," Akron's population has dropped 30% from its peak in the 1960s and '70s, its factories reduced to totem smoke stacks. The Hard Way on Purpose collects a potpourri of Giffels's musings on the things that make old Midwest cities like Akron special. As he asks its emigrants, "Hamburgers and ice cream and bowling and rock music and soap-box racers and Chuck Taylors and football.... Why are you leaving here?"

In these linked essays, Giffels (All the Way Home) riffs on the loss of Akron-born LeBron James and rock star Chrissie Hynde, the fickle, often harsh weather, the dearth of pro sports championship titles in nearby Cleveland, professional bowling, the "four-chord rock riff" of the "Akron sound," real estate gentrification and the city's ubiquitous thrift stores. In one of the best pieces, he wanders the local Goodwill in his Gold Circle sneakers ("unabashed knockoffs of the Adidas Country") looking for a vintage bowling shirt. To Giffels, thrift stores define the Rust Belt. In the aisles of Goodwill, he finds the history of his home town--"the high-school-band sweatshirts and hospital-sponsored 5K freebie T-shirts and Myrtle Beach souvenirs." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: David Giffels pays a sometimes nostalgic and often funny homage to the idiosyncrasies of life in Rust Belt Ohio.

Scribner, $15, paperback, 9781451692747

Health & Medicine

The Secret Life of Sleep

by Kat Duff


When asked why the atmosphere in Washington is so acrimonious, Bill Clinton once responded that "too many members of the Congress in both parties are sleep deprived… it clouds your judgment, and it undermines your ability to be relaxed and respectful in dealing with your adversaries."

Clinton's theory echoes mental health counselor Kat Duff's own observations of her clients, which, along with her "lifelong love of sleep," prompted her to write The Secret Life of Sleep, a multidisciplinary, multitudinous exploration of slumber's various aspects, from the biological to the spiritual.

In addition to her own experiences with sleep and dreaming, Duff (The Alchemy of Illness) noticed that when her clients addressed their sleep problems, other issues inevitably became more manageable. She analyzes the cognitive effects sleep has on our emotional and physical well being, including a section on how the popular "Ferber" method of teaching infants to sleep independently may affect their future happiness (and encourage a predilection for anxiety and guilt).

"I have come to think of sleep in our day and age as a wild creature that has been taken into captivity," Duff writes, "trying desperately to adapt to a radically changed habitat. It is alive but struggling, showing signs of stress from the effort to adjust to new and constraining conditions: impossible schedules, nighttime lights, overseas flights, a chemical soup of stimulants and sedatives, and hyper-vigilant nervous systems, to name a few." With The Secret Life of Sleep, Duff helps her readers tame sleep and embrace healthy habits. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Kat Duff reveals the overwhelming influence of our sleeping patterns on our waking lives--and how to take charge of the process.

Beyond Words/Atria, $24, hardcover, 9781582704685

Children's & Young Adult

The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander


Meet charismatic Josh Bell, a 12-year-old poet and ace basketball player. Josh narrates in stanzas, and proves he's both scholar and athlete, with his sights set on Duke.

Josh's identical twin, Jordan ("JB"), is also a gifted ball player. Josh is "an inch taller, with dreads to my neck," while JB gets his head shaved once a month. JB is the jumper; Josh is the slasher, and the master of the crossover ("in which a player dribbles/ the ball quickly/ from one hand/ to the other./ As in: When done right,/ a crossover can break/ an opponent's ankles"). School comes harder to JB, but he's always up for a wager. The twins bet that if JB scores the last basket of the game, he can cut off Josh's dreads. Josh agrees to let him cut just one, but JB accidentally trims off five. Their mother then makes Josh cut them all. Tension smolders. When JB gets interested in a "pulchritudinous" new girl, Josh acts as his brother's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Alexander carefully charts, through a series of poems, Josh's simmering pot building to the boiling point. Josh lets loose on the basketball court, nearly breaking his brother's nose. It's the start of a downward spiral, but Josh's parents refuse to let him succumb. Despite the damage to the brothers' relationship, the novel brims with evidence of the family's deep respect and love for one another. Full-bodied characters and spellbinding wordplay will keep readers riveted to find out if the brothers can mend the breach in their once iron-clad bond. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Josh Bell, star scholar-athlete, tells his tale in poems, as a rift develops with his identical twin.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 9-12, 9780544107717

Mama Built a Little Nest

by Jennifer Ward, illus. by Steve Jenkins


A deceptively simple narrative structure reveals the myriad ways birds prepare for their offspring's arrival.

Jennifer Ward describes their approaches in four-line stanzas. For the woodpecker, "Mama built a little nest/ inside a sturdy trunk./ She used her beak to tap-tap-tap/ the perfect place to bunk." Long gray lines on the black wings of the birds emphasize the tree's vertical majesty and make the hollowed-out home pop on the page. Next, a hummingbird builds "a cup so wee and snug," its "walls of moss" so tactile in Steve Jenkins's (My First Day) collage that readers will want to touch it. Near each stanza, a brief scientific explanation offers more facts. The story may be read straight through, or the reader can linger to take in more information about the scene pictured. Ward also gives examples of mothers who lay eggs in nests "another made"; fathers who serve as "living nest[s]" (the emperor penguin); and even a "Daddy [who] built a little nest./ And then he built another./ And another. And another--/ hoping to impress my mother" (wrens). Some nests float (grebes); others are scraped out of a high ledge (falcons).

Ward brings the book back to the child in the closing lines: "You have a nest--your very own!/ A place to rest your head..." Jenkins depicts a robin's nest outside a child's bedroom window, then, with a turn of the page, shows the nest as the child would view it from inside the house. This excellent first science book doubles as a bedtime story. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: All the different ways birds (both female and and male) make nests for their offspring.

Beach Lane/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781442421165

Blue Iguana

by Wendy Townsend


Wendy Townsend (The Sundown Rule) convincingly portrays a high school student who spends a life-changing summer caring for endangered blue iguanas on Grand Cayman Island.

Clarice, who narrates, cares so much for animals that she must leave her favorite teacher's biology class rather than dissect a frog. She practices what she preaches: she is vegan and will not wear leather goods. When Clarice decides to spend the summer at the Blue Iguana Recovery Program in the Cayman Islands, readers learn about this unusual habitat right along with Clarice. She describes the rough karst terrain as she accompanies two researchers attempting to find out where a blue iguana named GRG (Green-Red-Green, referring to her markings) has stashed her eggs, the sweltering heat inland, and the smell of the ocean on a windy day. Readers also learn about the lizards' diet, their life expectancy and how many eggs they typically lay. Before her trip, it seemed impossible for Clarice to imagine being a marine biologist and eating fish, as is the case with one of her new friends, but she begins to see there's room for balance and interconnectedness in the world.

Readers will grow to care as much for the blue iguanas as Clarice and the other volunteers do. When tragedy strikes the preserve, it may well feel as devastating to readers as it is for the volunteers. Give this absorbing read to any nature lover. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: High school junior Clarice loves animals and wonders if she can find a way to serve nature without heartbreak.

Namelos, $18.95, hardcover, 196p., ages 10-up, 9781608981571

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Publisher:
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Pub Date:
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ISBN:
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List Price: $2.99

 

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