Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, April 11, 2014


Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

From My Shelf

William Morrow & Company: Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams / The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Mira Books: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Synchronicity

Synchronicity is the coincidental occurrence of events, especially psychic events that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality (especially favored in C.G. Jung's theories). Many authors say the process of writing a novel is filled with synchronicity. It's happened to me, too. So often I thought I'd made something up, only to later discover obscure historical facts backing up my inventions.

Last month, cleaning out the attic, I found my old portfolio, filled with ads I'd written another lifetime ago when I worked on Madison Avenue.

One stopped me cold.

In 1986, I was put on the Charles of the Ritz perfume account. My job, as creative director and copywriter, was to come up with the campaign for a new fragrance called Xia, Xiang. Here's the ad I wrote for the mystical perfume: a gardenia blossom and rose scent, finished off with vanilla, sandalwood and oakmoss:

The Fragrance of the Imagination.
To travel forward to the past.
To allow what is forbidden.
To obtain that which is elusive.

That ad could very well be an ad for my last two novels, The Book of Lost Fragrances and Seduction, or my newest one, The Collector of Dying Breaths [the Shelf Awareness review is here].

That ad, which I wrote when I was 30 years old, decades before I even tried my hand at fiction, perfectly encapsulates the theme of my current novels.

How curious that all these years later, I am writing time-slip fiction and my main character is a perfumer named Jac L'Etoile who moves between the present and the past, between what is allowed and forbidden and what is always elusive.

How curious that the very subject of these books is synchronicity and coincidence. Or perhaps, if you believe in magic, as I do... it isn't all that curious at all. --M.J. Rose, author


Akashic Books: Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino


Book Candy

Fiction Fantasy Dinner Dates; Book Obsession

The Guardian considered "fiction's fantasy dinner dates," imagining "Mr. Darcy, Miss Havisham and Leopold and Molly Bloom supping together in the Count of Monte Cristo's cave with Game of Thrones' Tyrion Lanister."

---

We know the feeling. E! chronicled the "8 stages of becoming obsessed with a new book."

---

"Sweet Valley isn't so sweet anymore," Buzzfeed noted in featuring "11 classic young reader books updated for today."

---

Peter Norman recommended "10 great reads for dictionary fanatics" in the National Post.

---

Mental Floss previewed "5 early film adaptations of books you might not know about."

---

Noting that there is "nothing quite like the feeling of having your heart metaphorically ripped out of your chest," the Huffington Post suggested "the biggest heartbreakers in literature."


Fabled Films: The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht - 11 Fun summer boredom buster activities!


The Writer's Life

Kevin Brockmeier : A Difficult Year

photo: Benjamin Krain

Kevin Brockmeier is the author of many works of adult and children's fiction, including The Illumination, and several short story collections. His stories have been published in the New Yorker, McSweeney's and Tin House, and he has received the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards and the PEN USA Award. In 2007, he was named one of Granta magazine's Best Young American Novelists. He teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and lives in Little Rock, Ark., where he was raised. His first memoir, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip (see our review below), focuses on a particular period of his life--the seventh grade.

Because so many people cannot recall the seventh grade with any kind of fondness, I have to ask: What made you want to go back to revisit it?

First, that it was a difficult year. For that reason alone, I thought it might make a good story. I also realized I had a lot of stories that I had been telling people since I was 13 years old, and I could pinpoint them all to that time in my life.

I had also never written book of this sort, and wanted to see if I could do it.

This is one of the only memoirs I can recall reading that is written in the third person. Why did you ultimate decide on this approach, when first person seems the more obvious choice?

I attempted the very first paragraph of the book in any number of ways. I ultimately found a voice that allowed me access to that period of my life with specificity. In the third person, the voice of Kevin felt natural. I felt the consciousness that I used to possess at that time blossoming to life, and I wanted to explore that.

At the time, were you aware of any split within yourself, being so observant of other people but struggling to see how you fit into that changing landscape?

I probably was. What surprised and distressed me at the time was the way in which my friendships shifted off in new directions that didn't include me. I was aware of the nuances of those relationships day by day. I just didn't see where it was all going.

A lot of this book is about friendship, and how yours changed over the course of the seventh grade.

Most of those friendships faded over the course of the year. I had a little trio of friends: Thad and Kenneth and Bateman. Bateman remains a friend of mine. I was closest with Thad and Kenneth, but they were no longer a presence in my life by the time the year was over.

That was a difficult year for me, but there were a few people in my life then who were kind and generous and made the year much easier than it otherwise could have been. One of them was Ethan Carpenter, who slowly becomes my best friend over the course of the book. And the other one was my English teacher, Miss Vincent.

You thank every member of your seventh-grade class in your dedication, but Miss Vincent is the only teacher you've included.

Miss Vincent was only at CAC that one year. Every so often I would think about her, where she was, what she had become. But she was a grown-up and I was a kid; there was really no way of staying in touch back then. And I don't even know that I was sure at the time how important she was to me. It was only when I was writing the book that I realized how fundamental of a presence she had been that year, and how intimately involved she was in what happened to me.

Did you ever speak to her again?

I had tried in the past with no luck. But after I finished writing this book, I tried again. I ultimately found someone teaching English in Washington State. She had a different name, hyphenated, but it seemed worth a shot. I sent her a letter, and included a copy of The Illumination. I just said who I was, where my life had taken me, and that seventh grade was an extraordinarily difficult year for me. I told her she was kind, and made it easier than it might have been, which was something I hadn't been able to express at the time, but wanted to express now.

I heard back from her a few weeks later. I had found the right person, and she remembered me--a bit surprising giving the years and number of students she had taught, but then, I had written a play about her. We ended up getting coffee when she was in Arkansas visiting family.

There's a section in the middle of the book that feels more fantastical than one might expect in a memoir. Can you talk about that?

I thought of that chapter as a moment of science fiction in the middle of what is otherwise a wholly autobiographical endeavor. Within the world of the narrative, I wanted it to be understood as something that this character is undergoing. But as readers, we understand that this is a device employed as a writer, rather than an actual memorable feature of my experience. It was an opportunity to divorce Kevin Brockmeier from the events he was undergoing, talk about what would happen to him, and give him an opportunity to accept his life, with all of its difficulties.

It's definitely unusual, but intentional. And because that element is in the memoir, it is more in keeping with my novels and short stories.

In an age when bullying is a hot topic, what advice would you have for kids in a difficult spot--or for their parents?

The closest I could come to advice would be acknowledging you aren't the only person who has gone through these experiences. I underwent them, too, I understand what it's like. I'm hesitant to say that things will get better, because who knows? But I can say unequivocally that things will change. It won't always be like this. It's so hard to imagine who you will become. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm


Akashic Books: Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortes


Book Review

Fiction

Pretty in Ink

by Lindsey Palmer


When Lindsey Palmer's charming novel begins, it's the worst of times at Hers magazine (a sort of cross between Family Circle and Cosmopolitan). The editor-in-chief has just been given the boot, and new boss Mimi--a cackling diva who calls her dog on Skype--further crushes staff morale by executing a round of firings. Every writer, art director, blogger, editor and photographer wonders who will be next and hopes to escape the ax. The point of view shifts, chapter to chapter, among these employees.

Assistant editor Leah (a mother of triplets) gives her all to the magazine but finds herself demoted and shoved out of her corner office into a cubicle. Recipe creator Sylvia is aghast when her sacred kitchen is taken over by Mimi's demands for junk food. Things go from bad to worse as researchers are fired and replaced with cheap interns who are ill-equipped for the job. Even the mail guy weighs in on the nutty office culture of airbrushed celebrities and fashion mavens who eat nothing but lettuce. The changing perspectives perfectly highlight the outrageous office politics: there are scandals, takeovers and intriguing betrayals. It's no longer a question of who'll be fired next but whether the struggling Hers will survive at all.

This scrumptious, campy look at the world of magazine publishing will keep you hooked until its delightfully satisfying conclusion. It's as light and fun as cotton candy and just as sweet; you will savor every bite until it's gone. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: An engrossing fictional confection set in the fascinating world of women's magazine publishing.

Kensington , $15, paperback, 9780758294333

Silver Dolphin Books: Kisses for Kindergarten by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan


The Frangipani Hotel

by Violet Kupersmith


Based on traditional Vietnamese folktales, the nine stories in Violet Kupersmith's The Frangipani Hotel take the reader through matters fantastic, chilling and ghostly. There are many hauntings recounted in the stories, most particularly the haunting hangover of the Vietnam War and the ways it has affected so many people.

In "Boat Story," a young girl wants her grandmother to tell her about escaping in an open boat for a school assignment. The girl wants the hard facts, the rigors of the crossing, maybe a storm at sea--and her grandmother weaves a tale of a man walking on water (a dead man at that) and how she and her husband got away from him. Her granddaughter says: "But I want the real story! Why can't you tell me how you escaped?" Grandmother's response sets the tone for the rest of the stories: "It's simple, child: Did we ever really escape?"

In "Turning Back," an aimless Vietnamese-American girl, Phuong, finds an old Vietnamese man, stark naked, behind a convenience store. She's horrified to discover that he can turn into a giant python, then back into a man--over and over again. Naked or scaly, he tells what it's like to be a snake: "How to taste smell, how to taste heat, seeing the world in motion, not in colors. The feeling of coiling, of lengthening, of squeezing."

Each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Fantastical stories of the clashes between the real world and the spirit world.

Spiegel & Grau, $25, hardcover, 9780812993318

Crown Publishing Group: The Little French Bistro by Nina George


Mystery & Thriller

The Cemetery of Swallows

by Mallock, trans. by Steven Rendall


The addictive mystery in The Cemetery of Swallows has nothing to do with who committed the murder. Manuel Gemoni is a devoted father and husband, a man so gentle and centered he was nicknamed "Little Gandhi" as a boy. But with no warning, he leaves his wife and daughter back home in Paris, flies to the Dominican Republic and calmly murders Tobias Darbier, an elderly man whom he has never met before. After shooting Tobias twice, Manuel pauses before firing the bullets that will end his life. "Time stops. Seconds rub their black paws together." Manuel pulls the trigger, and so begins a sinister and terrifying journey.

Legendary police superintendent Amédée Mallock travels from his home in Paris to the jungles of the Dominican Republic, but his investigation of Manuel's crime keeps stalling as he descends deeper into disturbing realms that defy categorization. The drama swirls around Mallock's paradoxical character, at once empathetic and misanthropic. The persistence and insight that made him famous force him to pursue a line of inquiry that will shake the very foundations of his professional and personal identity.

Writing under the pseudonym of his story's hero, Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol leads us across the globe and back and forth through time, punctuating his dark tale with moments of humor as well as moments of staggering brutality. The Cemetery of Swallows combines the straightforward tone and quick pacing of a police procedural with a conjectural curiosity that challenges the boundary between life and death. --Casey O'Neil, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A gripping and surprising historical mystery in which knowing who committed the murder is only the beginning.

Europa Editions, $18, paperback, 9781609451868

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Lake House by Kate Morton


Science Fiction & Fantasy

Dark Eden

by Chris Beckett


Eden is an alien world without a sun, a planet of bioluminescent life otherwise steeped in eternal darkness. It has been six generations since an interstellar accident stranded two astronauts on Eden. Their 532 offspring have become Family, an inbred tribal society of hunter-gatherers surviving among the geothermal lantern trees of Circle Valley, an oasis ringed by the freezing mountains of Snowy Dark. Family keeps the half-forgotten rituals of Earth alive, waiting for the "waking" when sky boats will cross Starry Swirl to rescue them from Eden. Adolescent John Redlantern, however, sees a dwindling food supply and stagnant society as a reason to break with tradition and discover what really lies beyond Snowy Dark.

Chris Beckett (Holy Machine; The Turing Test) has created a bizarre world of astounding imaginative vision grounded by fundamental human conflicts. Dark Eden wavers between extended parable and character-driven drama, achieving the best of both efforts. The novel's setting is its strongest point, evoking wonder, terror and the same sort of curiosity that drives John Redlantern beyond the edge of Family's known world. Beckett alternates between first-person perspectives for each chapter, though the voices of many secondary characters feel either underdeveloped or like another outlet for an omniscient narrator. His characters also use speech patterns some readers might find abrasive. These minor issues aside, Dark Eden is a fantastic novel that will certainly appeal to speculative fiction fans--and already won Britain's Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel when it was published there in 2013. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The tribal descendants of stranded astronauts survive on a sunless alien planet.

Broadway, $15, paperback, 9780804138680

Biography & Memoir

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer

by Micha Boyett


"My first year of motherhood I lost prayer," Micha Boyett admits in the introduction to her memoir, Found. A West Texas-bred Baptist girl, Boyett had spent years carving out quiet time to sit and talk to God. But as a sleep-deprived, overwhelmed new mother living in unfamiliar San Francisco, she struggled to hang onto even a shred of the life she had known. When she learned about the Rule of St. Benedict, an ancient document laying out rules and practices for monastic life, Boyett wondered if its rhythms of prayer, work, study and play could apply to her own disordered days.

Structured according to the eight daily prayers of a monastic community, Found traces Boyett's journey through Benedict's Rule, and her quest to reclaim prayer and find peace. She records her failed attempts to pray before her son awoke, her frustration at leaving the ministry career she had loved and many moments of surprising grace in her new life as a stay-at-home mom. Boyett also shares her longtime struggle with anxiety, and her constant striving to measure up to an impossible standard of Christian perfection. At one point, a friend gently gives her a message that will resonate with readers: "Please try not to be so ferocious with yourself."

Wise, comforting and full of grace, Found will appeal to seekers who, like Boyett, are tired of striving and who long to find glimpses of the divine in their everyday lives. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A wise, comforting memoir of one new mother's journey to reclaim prayer and find inner peace.

Worthy Publishing, $14.99, paperback, 9781617952166

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip

by Kevin Brockmeier


A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip focuses on one year of Kevin Brockmeier's life: the seventh grade. This period was short but defining, a difficult year marked by rapidly changing relationships with friends, teachers and the greater world. The young Kevin Brockmeier was bullied as much by those he once called his friends as by those in higher grades; the grown author Kevin Brockmeier (The Illumination; A Brief History of the Dead) reflects on those bullies, and on the islands of kindness he found between them, as well as on the lock-ins, outings to the movie theater, trips to the comic book store and nights watching television that generally made up his life as a seventh-grader.

Brockmeier's first work of nonfiction is told in the third person--an unusual choice given the subject matter, but one that ultimately gives Brockmeier the ability to act as the observer of himself in his own past, much as he once acted as an observer of his classmates and teachers. The voice makes it easy to forget that the stories in A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip are real, not imagined--young Kevin really did pee on his sandwich to stop the mystery lunch thief from stealing his meal each day; he really did write a play about the teacher-napping of his English teacher; young Kevin's first kiss really was at a youth group meeting. And despite the tough times that Brockmeier faced as a boy, any reader can find comfort in the humor in these stories--and the knowledge that the struggling 13-year-old did, eventually, find his place in the world. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A memoir of the seventh grade, and all the pains and trials it can bring, from author Kevin Brockmeier.

Pantheon, $24, hardcover, 9780307908988

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

by Frances Mayes


Sometimes you have to leave a place in order to appreciate it. Such was the case for Frances Mayes, who here charts and examines her formative years before she wrote her blockbuster memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. As a child, Mayes longed to escape her hometown of Fitzgerald, Ga.; she lived most of her adult life in Italy and California. But a trip to Oxford, Miss., for a book signing served as a conversion moment for Mayes. She and her husband relocated to Hillsborough, N.C., a small, historical enclave on the Eno River where many writers and artists reside.

"Often, seemingly spontaneous acts come from a deep, unacknowledged place," Mayes writes, as she reimagines and re-creates the solitary, bookish, willful childhood she had in the pre–civil rights South. Mayes's unhurried, stream-of-consciousness narrative provides an intimate look into her upbringing, an "intense microcosm" of family, friends and a home where pride seemed to prevail over realism.

"Secretive, inverted things informed my childhood," writes Mayes, as she traces the complex connections of a small town. She renders the trajectory of her life story--the people and the places she's fled--via pivotal scenes infused with colorful characters and sensory imagery. In describing one of the first funerals she ever attended, Mayes writes, "The smell of roses feels so heavy it's as if we've stepped inside a flower. Pink shades on hanging lamps make the room glow like inside a shell." Such vivid, poetic prose serves to enhance the bittersweet journey of a natural born storyteller who rediscovers her Southern roots. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A moving memoir from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, now on a quest to understand and reclaim her connection to the South.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 9780307885913

John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

by Kim Heacox


John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire is neither a straightforward biography of Muir nor a simple study of the global significance Alaska's glaciers. Rather, Kim Heacox (The Only Kayak) is concerned with the relationship between Muir and the glaciers that rivaled Yosemite in his affections, and the impact that pairing had.

From a humble background in Scotland and Wisconsin, and between stints as a surprisingly apt businessman, Muir lived as a self-described tramp, ardent nature lover and student of flowers, trees, mountains and--upon finally reaching Alaska--glaciers. His famed role as author and activist came late in life, and not easily: he found writing hard work and political activism distasteful, though necessary. However, Muir made perhaps the greatest impact on conservation of any individual in United States history.

Heacox meticulously researched and lovingly describes Alaska's rivers of ice and Muir's path toward them, his emergence as writer and preservationist, and his far-ranging influence in legislation, literary legacy and new traditions--including the birth of the conservation movement as we know it. Though often descriptive rather than persuasive, Heacox lends his own voice to the cause in his final chapters: "To debate [climate change] is to give credibility to an argument that shouldn't exist." He closes by adding the arguments of Aldo Leopold, Bill McKibben and Derrick Jensen to Muir's, in the interest of preserving our wild spaces--thereby continuing Muir's work. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: The carefully researched and engaging story of John Muir, Alaska's glaciers and the movement they built together.

Lyons Press, $25.95, hardcover, 9780762792429

Science

You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves

by Hiawatha Bray


After working for millennia to map the world, we have at last solved the problem of location. Smartphones, wi-fi routers and other transmitters can pinpoint our exact positions at any time--but they can also share that information with advertisers, corporations and government agencies.

Beginning with the age of exploration and mapmaking, veteran tech reporter Hiawatha Bray charts the history of location technology through two world wars, the growth of the U.S. space program and the rapid evolution of now-ubiquitous portable GPS devices. After examining the military origins and civilian uses of radar, satellites and other tracking systems, You Are Here focuses on the recent swift growth of location tracking software, wireless signals, GPS and the instantaneous, detailed mapping they make possible. Bray also delves into a raft of privacy issues, asking whether companies and governments ought to use software to track users' activities, preferences and locations. While many users are happy to trade a bit of privacy for a bit of convenience--say, entering their location into a smartphone to obtain driving directions--Bray questions how far surveillance can go before it becomes invasive.

Timely and thought-provoking, You Are Here provides an entertaining overview of location technology and a set of important questions to ask as we keep mapping the world and our place in it. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An entertaining history of location technology--and an examination of today's ubiquitous surveillance methods.

Basic Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9780465032853

Sports

Jackie & Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball's Color Line

by William C. Kashatus


Historian William C. Kashatus believes "if we seek to do justice to the examples of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, we must look at the condition of contemporary race relations and ask ourselves, 'What can I do?' " Jackie & Campy is evidence he follows his own advice. In this enlightening look at baseball in the early part of the 20th century, Kashatus describes the role America's pastime played in the civil rights movement, as well as the way "Ebbets Field became a microcosm of the American Dream."

The title players don't truly take the field until the second half of the book. Kashatus first sets the stage, providing general history of the U.S. and the evolution of baseball that enabled Branch Rickey to break "the gentleman's agreement"--an unwritten law barring African-Americans from major-league baseball--by hiring Jackie Robinson.

Robinson and the men who followed him could not afford the luxury of simply playing the game. Instead, they carried the weight of integration's success on their shoulders. It seemed that one wrong step could set progress back years. Robinson and Campanella approached that obligation with diametrically opposite philosophies, which led to the destruction of their friendship.

Jackie & Campy is the story of heroes--heroes who gave young men of color reason to hope and dream. Like all heroes, they were "disappointingly human," which, Kashatus points out, is still inspiring; there is much to learn from these trailblazers. His obvious respect for his subjects and their critical role in baseball's history drives a fascinating story home for an uncontested win. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: America's favorite pastime, a groundbreaking ball club and two men who helped change the face of a country and its civil rights movement.

University of Nebraska Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780803246331

Children's & Young Adult

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats

by Sy Montgomery, illus. by Nic Bishop


The Sibert Medal–winning team behind Kakapo Rescue here focuses on Africa's most endangered cat in their latest impeccably executed Scientists in the Field series addition.

Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop travel to Namibia, to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), where they meet Laurie Marker and learn about her "maverick" approach to conservation. Farmers in Namibia see cheetahs as dangerous predators, so they trap and kill them in an effort to protect their goats, sheep and cattle. Marker re-educates them to understand that cheetahs prefer wild game. Then she proposes an alternative--the CCF raises and trains Kangal dogs, a Turkish breed known for guarding livestock, and offers them at low cost to farmers. Marker and her colleagues also visit schools to teach children about cheetahs and the crucial role of predators in the eco-system. Readers accompany Montgomery and Bishop on a data-gathering field mission led by Finn, a border collie trained to locate cheetah scat, and then to a high-tech vet's office to watch a cheetah undergo her annual medical exam. The book discusses the role of DNA in identifying each cheetah's movements and habits, as well as reintroducing rescued cheetahs into the wild.

Perhaps it is the African light, but Bishop's photographs look particularly stunning, and the appeal of the cheetahs themselves, with their large "sunset-colored" eyes and distinctive markings, will lead eager readers to learn how to help rescue cheetahs and to explore the bibliography for further reading. --Angela Carstensen, school librarian and blogger

Discover: The fastest predatory animal on earth--and the woman whose reeducation and rescue efforts are saving the cheetah from extinction.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99, hardcover, 80p., ages 10-14, 9780547815497

Panic

by Lauren Oliver


In Panic, Lauren Oliver (the Delirium Trilogy) brings the intensity of The Hunger Games to contemporary upstate New York.

Most residents of Carp see the small town as a dead end. From Fresh Pines Mobile Park to "Meth Row," there isn't "much to smile about in Carp." When Heather Nill's boyfriend dumps her for someone else, Heather joins the crowd of high school seniors who will compete in Panic, a summer-long series of challenges beginning the day after graduation. The winner will get $67,000, collected from everyone who attends Carp High--a sum representing a dollar a day for every day school's in session, starting freshman year, for each student. Panic is a way out of town for one lucky senior. But in its seven-year history, the game has resulted in four deaths and one person becoming paralyzed.

Dodge Mason is playing Panic this year, too. It was Dodge's sister who was paralyzed when her car was tampered with on a final challenge; Dodge wants revenge. Heather's best friend, Natalie, plays for a chance to go to Hollywood. And Bishop just wants them all to survive. As the summer progresses, the challenges grow increasingly dangerous. Alliances are made and broken, secrets are revealed, and no one emerges unscathed. But each player might well learn some important truths.

In alternating chapters told in third-person from Heather's and Dodge's points of view, Oliver spins a compulsively readable plot, with high-stakes action and just the right amount of romantic intrigue. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: A dangerous, high-stakes game called Panic, played by graduating seniors in a dead-end town.

HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 416p., ages 14-up, 9780062014559

A Gift for Mama

by Linda Ravin Lodding, illus. by Alison Jay


Oskar searches the streets of Vienna for "the perfect gift" for his mother's birthday in this sweet story of good intentions and coincidences.

Alison Jay (Picture This...) takes readers back to a time when men doffed top hats, women wore petticoats, and people traveled by stagecoach. We first spy Oskar peering through the window of a millinery shop. But he has "only a single coin." Aha! A flower seller's beautiful yellow rose will make the perfect present, Oskar thinks. But a painter thinks the rose Oskar holds would be perfect for the portrait he's painting, so he trades Oskar for a paintbrush. Now a conductor who's lost his baton thinks Oskar's paintbrush would make the ideal substitute, and trades him a newly minted melody. And on it goes, with Oskar's "perfect gift" always needed urgently by someone else. Jay portrays other things gone astray, such as a runaway Dachshund pilfering a sausage, then chasing a black-and-white cat. But just as the errant pup returns to its owner, so, too, is Oskar reunited with his perfect gift--under the watchful eye of the black-and-white cat, just as dusk falls. Jay provides points of reference for readers, such as the shifting position of a Ferris wheel, depending upon Oskar's location, a green carriage that arrives in the morning and departs at dusk, and the shifting play of light as the day progresses.

This lovely story rewards Oskar's noble purpose and celebrates Vienna's many gifts as the boy does present his mother with the perfect acknowledgment of her birthday. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy's search for the perfect birthday present for his mother doubles as an homage to Vienna's many gifts.

Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780385753319

Powered by: Xtenit