Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 2, 2015


HarperCollins: Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

From My Shelf

W. W. Norton & Company: Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

Algonquin Books: Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Conquering the New Year's To-Do List

We all start off the year with a clean slate. But some of the things you didn't do in 2014 will creep into 2015. Never fear, here's a short list of ways to excel at list-making:

1. Evaluate: Look at your goals and to-dos; decide what the priorities will be. If getting new furniture doesn't really matter to you anymore, scratch it off your list. Be realistic and downsize. 

2. Consolidate: There is even more you can do to shrink the list. Put all the similar projects together.

3. Delegate: If you ask for help and look for ideas, resources and another set of hands, you can be more efficient with your project. You'll save time and money by doing a little research and outsourcing to the best person for the job.

Book Lovers Bonus!

We've heard about guilt over unread books (tsundoku) and towering stacks of half-read books on the nightstand threatening to topple over and crush your dreams, literally. You can also vanquish that with list-making! Make a do-able to-read list:

1. A "change your life book" to start the new year afresh: a career, self-management or motivational book to kick-start your 2015. For me, David Allen's Getting It Done was revelatory.

2. A "change-it-up book": switch up your reading habits. Maybe you always read literary fiction and the occasional biography. Add a top-notch sci-fi or fantasy title--The Bone Clocks covers ALL your bases there.

3. A "change your mind book": neuroscience and the mysterious inner workings of the brain are more fascinating than ever--my editor recommends The Power of Habit to anyone and everyone. Learn why you do what you do! --Paula Rizzo

Rizzo is an Emmy-winning television producer and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com. She's the author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed (Viva Editions).


Indiana University Press: What My Last Man Did by Andrea Lewis


Book Candy

Literary Quotes to Inspire New Year's Resolutions

Bustle featured "25 inspirational literary quotes to help you make a New Year's resolution you can actually keep," including this from Henry James's The Ambassadors: "Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life."

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Winter is coming. The Guardian highlighted the "top 10 winters in literature," noting that "from Emily Dickinson to Raymond Briggs, great writing that gets to the heart of the coldest season."

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Mental Floss served up "9 famous authors' favorite workday snacks."

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Buzzfeed modeled "23 T-shirts only book nerds will appreciate."

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Electric Lit highlighted London artist Simon Jones's re-imagining of "classic albums' tracklistings as book titles."


Titan Books: Relics by Tim Lebbon


The Writer's Life

The Seven Mostly Awful Titles I Nearly Used for My First Book

Think once the writing is done, it's all downhill? Not so, as Claude Knobler discovered with More Love, Less Panic: 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Ethiopian Son, just published by Tarcher.

I had done what I'd always assumed was the hard part. I'd not only written a book, but had actually sold it. All that I had to do now was come up with a title and then get ready to pose for the photo for the back cover. I was thinking of wearing a tweed jacket. Something with elbow patches perhaps.

My book was about the lessons I'd learned about parenting after my wife, our two biological kids and I decided to adopt Nati, a five-year-old boy from Ethiopia. Raising my energetic, exuberant and downright goofy Ethiopian son had made it very clear to me that it really was nurture and not nature, and that the single best thing I could do as a parent was to stop pretending I could control every facet of my children's lives and instead just sit back and enjoy the ride. The book came, if not easily, then at least fairly quickly, and I was happy to get to relive those very strange days when my son and the rest of my family didn't speak the same language and yet still found ways to connect.

I figured it would take a few hours to slap a title on it and then I'd be done.

What followed instead were months of phone calls, e-mails and frantic conversations with friends, family, my agent, my editor and, yes, my dog Boise, as I tried desperately to come up with a title I could live with and my publisher could sell. 

Happily, I did eventually find a title that I love. More Love, Less Panic: 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Ethiopian Son is, I hope, easy to Google and remember and even more importantly, captures my central idea: that my children are better served by my loving and accepting them for who they are rather than desperately trying to change them into something they're not. 

Here, however, are a few titles that didn't quite get the job done.

Totally Powerless and Utterly Happy. We'd been trying to come up with a title for a week or two, when I suggested this one. My agent liked it. My editor liked it. I called my wife to tell her the good news. My book, I proudly told her, was going to be called Utterly Powerless and Totally Happy. No. Wait. Totally Powerless and Utterly Happy. No, wait.... You know what's a really bad sign for a book title? When the author can't remember it. To this day, I honestly can't remember if I nearly called my book Totally Powerless and Utterly Happy or Totally Happy and Utterly Powerless. Unless, of course, it was Utterly Happy and Totally Confused. Yeah, that might have been it.

Where There Is Always Dancing. There is an African proverb that goes, "Where there is always dancing a child can not fail to dance." I liked the sound of this one, and the idea that the best way to teach a child how to have a happy and productive life is simply to let them see you have a happy and productive life of your own made a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, my son is Ethiopian. The proverb is South African. Alberta, Canada, and Ecatepec, Mexico, are in the same continent too, but you'd feel pretty silly lumping them together, right?

First Words Last. I kept trying to convince my editor at Penguin/Tarcher, Sara Carder, to like this one, and to her infinite credit, she never did. My thinking was that your first words were how you set the tone of your child's actions and that therefore there was no need to have the last... you know what? I honestly don't remember what I was thinking. First Words Last means what exactly? Your guess is as good as mine.

Okay, now things were getting pretty dire. I had taken to having very animated conversations with Boise while I took him on a series of longer and longer walks. I'd suggest titles and then argue with Boise when he didn't seem to like them. I offered my kids cuts of the book's advance if they came up with anything that worked (Very small cuts. Very, very small cuts.) One day Nati (now 16) came up to me with what I'll charitably call a sly smile and said he had an idea. My Struggle. I paused for half a second and then told my child that no, I wouldn't be calling my book, My Struggle, since as he and I both knew that translated into Mein Kampf in German, a title which had already been used once by someone I had no wish to copy. In case you're wondering, no, I have no idea whether or not Nati gave the same suggestion to the bestselling, now world-famous Norwegian memoirist Karl Ove Knausguard, before he titled his work My Struggle, but I do know that I really should listen to my kid more often.

You Can't Turn an Ethiopian into a Neurotic Jew. Well, it's true, you can't. And trust me, I tried. Anyone who has two kids who share parents but not personalities knows that children seem to come out of the womb with their own identities already built in. Learning that it wasn't my job to control and mold my children into the people I thought they should be left me a much better, freer and happier parent. On the other hand... would people really want to buy a book if they thought its goal was helping you to make your child neurotic? (I also toyed with African Matzo, before realizing that it made no sense whatsoever. Still, never let it be said that I didn't try to squeeze all the juice out of every bad idea I ever had.)

As Is/Nati & Me/The Road Home/Perfectly Imperfect/In Every Language/In Any Language/Out of Control and Over the Moon/Apples from Oak Trees/Imperfectly Ever After/Out of Africa and, best of all, The White Album. Yeah, after about three months of looking for a title, things got a little crazy. I think I spent about a solid month suggesting no less than five titles a day. That last one on the list was my semi-joking suggestion that we use a plain white jacket with no title at all. Hey, it worked for the Beatles, right?

Everybody Loves a Lubba-Lubba. When Nati had been home with us for about a month, he began singing what we came to think of as "the mishashu song." He'd sing out "Mishashu!'" and then answer himself with a hearty chorus of "a lubba-lubba." It was all gibberish, the words weren't English and they weren't his native tongue of Amharic, either. Naturally, I worried that this sort of thing might lead to the other kids at school thinking he was sort of weird... until, that is, the song caught on and became a sort of craze at his elementary school. All of which proved that when it came to my kids, I wasn't very good at knowing what to worry about. In fact, I was so bad at knowing what to worry about that I eventually decided I might just as well give up worrying altogether. My wonderful editor, Sara, however, had apparently not given up worrying and so was more than a little concerned that no one would know what the hell this title meant or how to spell it. Not everybody actually does love a lubba-lubba. 

More Love, Less Panic: 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love and Parenting After We Adopted Our Ethiopian Son. Perfect. And if any authors out there want to use the one about lubba-lubba-ing, they're more than welcome to it. --Claude Knobler, morelovelesspanic.com


Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat


Book Review

Fiction

Skylight

by José Saramago, trans. by Margaret Jull Costa


Completed in 1953 when José Saramago was barely in his 30s, the manuscript for Skylight disappeared into the reject pile at a Portuguese publishing house. Crushed, Saramago wrote nothing more for 20 years. Only in 1989, once Saramago had resumed writing and become famous, was the single copy rediscovered. He refused to allow Skylight to be published in his lifetime. It has become the Nobel laureate's posthumous gift, and it's a literary explosion of youthful talent. The story unfolds in the Lisbon of the early 1950s, under the Salazar dictatorship. The opening chapter alone is a bravura performance, a round-robin sequence of encounters and conversations as the tenants of the building call on each other to borrow the phone, to do a favor, to lower the noise, from apartment to apartment.

Skylight is an exuberant classic farce with a philosophical spin. The tale unfolds from multiple points of view that intersect and overlap. It crackles with subtext, subtle set-ups and unexpected payoffs, turning narrative somersaults with ease. Just beneath the surface are secret rages and shames, painful memories and guilty regrets, an apartment house full of buried skeletons of lost loves and unforgiven humiliations. It's not perfect. It has flaws. Yet all the elements of Saramago's thought-provoking genius are here, and several of the story threads have profoundly satisfying endings as we watch these early Saramago characters struggle to be happy in the endless war between freedom and habit, on the tricky slope between seeming and becoming. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A lost manuscript by Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago reveals the tenants of a Lisbon apartment house.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, hardcover, 9780544090026

Yearling Books: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar


Mystery & Thriller

Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story

by J. Jefferson Farjeon


British crime novelist J. Jefferson Farjeon's Mystery in White was first published in 1937 and receives a brief introduction to accompany this new release. It's a classic puzzle, timeless even in its charming historic setting. A group of strangers gather in a third-class train compartment a few days before Christmas: an "elderly bore"; a young chorus girl; a clerk who "did not have spots, but looked as though he ought to have had"; a brother and sister; and an elderly scion of the Royal Psychical Society. When relentless snow shuts down the tracks, they flee an apparent murder on the train into the "strange fairyland" of whiteness outside. They happen upon a fine country estate, but the danger only mounts.

The door is unlocked, fires lit and tea set out; though no one appears to be home, the kettle is boiling over. This setting is not the closed environment it seems: in their investigations, members of the party tramp about in the snow only to find their footprints fade quickly and paths are obscured. The danger of losing oneself in the blizzard is added to the danger of knife-wielding lurkers.

Farjeon increases the pace and plays out suspense with an expert hand. His characters are appealing, their plight both picturesque and distressing; there is just a hint of the ghost story to this whodunit. Mystery in White is, in short, an elegantly, enchantingly entertaining tale to be enjoyed on a chilly evening while safely indoors. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A captivating puzzle mystery involving strangers thrown together by chance in a nearly snowbound British country house.

British Library, $15, paperback, 9780712357708

HarperCollins: Curiosity House: The Fearsome Firebird (Curiosity House #3) by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester


The Brewer of Preston

by Andrea Camilleri, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli


Published in Italian in the 1990s just as Andrea Camilleri was creating the first of his popular Inspector Montalbano mysteries, The Brewer of Preston is another of Camilleri's darkly comic Sicilian historical novels (Hunting Season) that take place a century earlier in the Inspector's fictional city of Vigàta. Translated for the first time into English, the book centers on the gala opening of the port city's new theater on December 12, 1874, shortly after the unification of Italy. The disastrous production of a Florentine opera--Il Birraio di Preston, about identical twins in an English brewery--forced on unsympathetic Sicilian townsfolk by corrupt Italian officials results in verbal abuse from the audience that becomes a riot and a fire that destroys not only the theater but the neighboring apartment house, causing the intervention of the militia and three deaths.

Sophisticated, carnal and wildly funny, Camilleri's depiction of that night is a farce on a grand scale. The tempestuous politics and convoluted scheming surrounding the doomed production are just as byzantine as any opera. Camilleri delights in double-talk, innuendo, blatant lies and double-crosses. In the final 40 pages, the surprises go off like a string of firecrackers, as the veneer of respectability is shattered. Nothing is what it seems, and for good measure Camilleri concludes his theater-in-flames disaster with a whitewashed official account "rewritten" 40 years later by one of the characters.

Ferociously cynical, Camilleri juggles more plot threads in this slim volume than could be found in a bulky trilogy, all of which converge at a gallop in a finale full of Sicilian laughter, horror and tears. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A new theater goes up in flames on opening night in this Sicilian historical novel from the creator of the Inspector Montalbano mystery series.

Penguin Books, $15, paperback, 9780143121497

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? by Lawrence M. Krauss 03.21.17


The Voices

by F.R. Tallis


The Voices, a chilling tale of supernatural snooping by F.R. Tallis (The Sleep Room), is set in a well-off London neighborhood during the 1960s. When Christopher and Laura Norton move into their newly purchased and renovated old home with their four-month-old daughter, almost immediately they begin hearing strange things. Christopher, an avant-garde composer, is frustrated that his career has come to be defined by sci-fi music soundtracks; the ghostly voices--communications from the dead?--might be just what he needs to restart his more "serious" calling. Laura is simply terrified; she has always had accurate intuitions and now she is sure the voices are speaking her daughter's name. Christopher begins sampling the voices for what he hopes will be his career-saving masterpiece; but with what consequences?

On its surface, The Voices is a ghost story set in a haunted house. But its historical setting adds complexity: Laura, a former model, reads The Feminine Mystique and makes new female friends at bookstore readings, as Christopher studies the economic challenges facing his country and his household. Their marriage is threatened not only by the voices and the stress they bring but also the changing times and the family dynamics to which Tallis (a clinical psychologist) applies extra scrutiny. The Nortons' closest friends, also multifaceted, offer another layer of potential support, betrayal or suspense. With the added dimension of interpersonal relationships, this horror story is undeniably hair-raising. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A haunted house inhabited by an increasingly troubled family.

Pegasus Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 9781605986562

History

Chasing Gold: The Incredible Story of How the Nazis Stole Europe's Bullion

by George M. Taber


Rarely can a story about central bankers, bullion holdings and maritime shipping be described as thrilling. Nazis, of course, tend to liven things up.

In times of economic and political chaos, gold becomes the last bastion of stability for individuals and countries. The Great Depression brought gold to the forefront of international economics in the 1930s, then Hitler's ambitions made gold holdings a matter of international security. The Nazis needed gold to finance their rearmament in the '30s and fuel their war machine during World War II. The Germans sought to steal the bullion of their invaded neighbors, precipitating the shipping of many thousands of tons of gold to bank vaults in the United States. Some bankers were caught by surprise, leading to an oft-repeated scene: brave bureaucrats desperately shuffling millions of dollars worth of gold just ahead of the advancing Wehrmacht. Outrunning Nazis was only the first obstacle--gold transport ships were still imperiled by prowling U-boats and naval mines. The Nazis also found a far more insidious source of gold in wedding bands and dental fillings stripped from concentration camp victims.

Journalist George M. Taber (The Judgment of Paris) chronicles the fortunes of Europe's gold before, during and after World War II in Chasing Gold: The Incredible Story of How the Nazis Stole Europe's Bullion. This exhaustive book glitters with an engaging narrative, though long descriptive passages of items like gold reserve tonnages occasionally weigh down the text. Taber gives enough broad historical information to keep general readers from getting lost, but the detailed depth of Chasing Gold seems most likely to appeal to history fans. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The fortunes of Europe's gold during World War II.

Pegasus Books, $29.95, hardcover, 9781605986555

Waterloo: A New History

by Gordon Corrigan


By 1814, Napoleon had lost control of continental Europe: the French emperor was defeated by a coalition of other European powers, he abdicated the throne and he was forced into exile on the island of Elba off the Italian coast. The Bourbon monarchy, deposed decades earlier during the French Revolution, was restored to power. In 1815, Napoleon escaped Elba and retook the French throne, ushering in the Hundred Days period, during which he had a real chance of restoring France's lost imperial glory. Those hopes were dashed at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, when a joint Anglo-Dutch-Prussian force decisively defeated Napoleon's army. The emperor abdicated and was exiled again, this time to Saint Helena in the mid-Atlantic, where he died in 1821.

That pivotal battle is the subject of Waterloo: A New History by British veteran and military historian Gordon Corrigan (A Great and Glorious Adventure; The Second World War). Corrigan spends the first half of the book establishing the history, people, places and equipment involved before giving a thrilling account of the battle itself. He is detailed enough to satisfy military history buffs without losing general readers, though the occasional listing of brigade numbers and minor officers might feel overwhelming. His prose is clear and engaging, sprinkled with gratifying details and footnotes revealing dry British humor. Waterloo should have a broad appeal to nonfiction readers, even those unfamiliar with the Napoleonic Wars. It is available in time for the battle's bicentennial this year. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: An accessible history of the Battle of Waterloo, available for its bicentennial.

Pegasus Books, $28.95, hardcover, 9781605986524

Current Events & Issues

The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

by Nazila Fathi


Nazila Fathi was nine years old when the 1979 Islamic Revolution occurred in Iran, replacing the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's hard-line Islamist government. For affluent, Westernized families such as Fathi's, the revolution brought terrifying changes: the loss of jobs, the banning of Western films and books and a sharp decline in personal freedoms (especially for women). But for millions of poor Iranians (male and female) who supported the new government, it meant economic opportunity and a chance to improve their place in society.

Fathi's memoir, The Lonely War, examines post-revolution Iran through the lens of her experience as a university student, a translator for American journalists and later the longtime Tehran correspondent for the New York Times. She explores the effects of the regime's harsh policies on ordinary Iranians, balancing stories of raids and imprisonment with chronicles of day-to-day life. She recounts interviews with top political figures, both pro- and anti-regime, and includes the opposing perspectives of political prisoners and regime supporters (such as her family's housekeeper).

During the 2009 popular uprisings, Fathi came under surveillance by the government. Forced to flee the country with her husband and children, she remains in exile, and her book is full of love and longing for the country she left behind. Fathi's memoir, like Iran's history, presents no easy answers to her country's political and social problems, but it paints a vivid portrait of a nation struggling to reinvent itself after years of oppression. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An Iranian journalist's fascinating memoir about the Islamic Revolution's effect on the country and its citizens.

Basic Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9780465069996

Health & Medicine

What the Fork Are You Eating?: An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate

by Stefanie Sacks


If any title is going to entice readers to pick up a blueprint for healthy eating, it's the attention-grabbing What the Fork Are You Eating? by certified nutrition specialist Stefanie Sacks. Sacks is described as a "food warrior" for holding the food industry accountable, but calls herself a "moderationist" as she helps people replace toxic dietary choices with healthy alternatives. Her goal "isn't organic purity; it's getting rid of the crap."

To that end, she presents a primer on TRTs (Top Rated Terminators) that sabotage healthy diets--such as chemical preservatives, trans fats, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs and artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners--and explains why their GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status awarded by the FDA is unacceptable. She then details how to rehab a pantry and refrigerator by interpreting food labels. Once the kitchen is cleared out, she provides an aisle-by-aisle action plan for finding healthy alternatives.

Sacks understands that while her readers may be receptive to her suggestions, entire families may not be. So she shares helpful tips for introducing new foods to kids and partners. More than 60 pages of nutritious recipes are included so readers know what to do with the new ingredients in the pantry and fridge. She also offers many helpful resources regarding the food industry (who owns major brands, who oversees what is considered humane, organic or sustainable, etc.). She wants us to make choices that send a loud and clear message to food companies: stop making humans science experiments. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: An action plan to change food choices and health.

Tarcher, $16.95, paperback, 9780399167966

Gardening

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

by Ann Ralph


Ann Ralph's Grow a Little Fruit Tree yields both a hands-on how-to for planting and tending a backyard orchard of judiciously pruned trees as well as a poetic homage to the bounty of nature. A fruit tree specialist with decades of nursery experience in central California and the Bay Area, Ralph shares her "evangelical zeal" for the benefits of small-scale trees: they require less space, offer manageable harvests and are sturdier and easier to tend than trees that soar out of reach.

The 12 chapter titles are illustrated on plant markers, one of the book's many graphic delights that also include photos, watercolors, literary quotes and sidebars; tiny drawings of insects, seeds and shears accompany the page numbers. Ralph takes the aspiring tree-pruner from a convincing introduction through pruning principles, choosing varieties, the critical first cut, watering and maintenance, and includes advice on apples, figs, cherries, apricots and more. Anecdotes reinforce Ralph's persona as a knowledgeable neighbor eager to help: her grandfather planted a tree at age 96 ("fruit trees are about the future"); she has strategized around thieving birds, deer, raccoons and squirrels ("just grow more fruit" works); her family savors the grapefruit from her late parents' tree.

While this handbook grows out of Ralph's California experience, the rules and encouragement apply anywhere, and she notes the "chill science" and varieties a gardener "in whatever region you call home" needs to know. Bursting with tips and advice, this enthusiastic directory to succulent homegrown fruit is something even an apartment dweller can enjoy. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A visually appealing and practical guide to growing small fruit trees.

Storey, $16.95, paperback, 9781612120546

Children's & Young Adult

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

by Carol Boston Weatherford, illus. by Raúl Colón


Carol Boston Weatherford (Africa Dream) begins this inspiring picture book biography of the groundbreaking soprano in 1927 Laurel, Miss., where "the line between black and white was as wide as the Mississippi River was long," and demonstrates how Leontyne Price broke barrier after barrier in a society largely hostile to African Americans.

Raúl Colón (Draw) reflects Price's journey through a palette of the earthen browns and creams of the Cotton Belt where she grew up. The music that moved and emanated from Price infuses the scenes in a swirl of rainbow colors. Still a girl, Leontyne watches Marian Anderson "[glide] onstage in a whoosh of satin." Author and artist here link the lives of the two singers, laying out how one paved the way for the other. A stream of colors envelops Anderson like a low-lying mist, "Her song, like a torch, sparked a light in Leontyne." In 1939, as Anderson sings the famous Easter concert at the Lincoln Memorial, young Leontyne sings in her church choir on the facing page. Her college president hears Leontyne sing and urges her to study voice: "Led by song, she cracked the door that Marian had opened years earlier."

The author chronicles how Price's voice led to Juilliard, Broadway and finally to New York's Metropolitan Opera House, against the backdrop of a United States where much remained closed to her. Weatherford describes the journey that built Price's personal and professional strength and power; Colón makes visible the music that fueled her path. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The extraordinary path to success of one of the country's most renowned sopranos.

Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 7-10, 9780375856068

We Should Hang Out Sometime

by Josh Sundquist


At age nine, Josh Sundquist was diagnosed with cancer and had his left leg amputated at the hip. This memoir leads readers through a charmingly honest catalogue of his past almost-girlfriends.

Josh opens in eighth grade with a wicked crush on Sarah Stevens. He describes the universal pains of middle-school crushes--putting your BFF up to finding out if your crush is mutual and your crush's BFF serving as messenger back, and requited crushes that fizzle out before they even begin. Sundquist uses charts, graphs, footnotes and Venn diagrams to ramp up the deadpan humor. His prologue sets the tone: "When I was twenty-five years old, it came to my attention that I had never had a girlfriend." His clear-eyed observations about his family and the young women to whom he's attracted will entertain and pierce readers, in equal measure. On his first day of public school in ninth grade, an upper-classman trips Josh, and he describes his step-by-step process of righting himself with his prosthesis. We see how he goes to great lengths to abide by his two rules: 1. Never be a burden. 2. Never be different.

After Josh's description of each would-be girlfriend encounter, he hypothesizes about why things didn't work out, then launches an investigation (he tracks down the almost-girlfriend to test each hypothesis). Some investigations are inconclusive, others non-events; with still others, such as prom date Evelyn, Josh learns that things might have worked out if he'd read the signals properly. Best of all, his story has a happy ending. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A funny, honest and often poignant memoir of a teen's attempts at romance while navigating life minus a leg.

Little, Brown, $18, hardcover, 300p., ages 12-up, 9780316251020

Rocket's 100th Day of School

by Tad Hills


The lovable canine hero Rocket adds counting to his list of talents in Tad Hills's second Step into Reading entry, after Drop It, Rocket!

To celebrate the 100th day of school, Rocket begins collecting "100 special things." He finds the perfect spot to keep them--in the hollow of a tree. "Or maybe not," says the text, as a squirrel pokes out of the hole, nose to nose with Rocket. Luckily, the squirrel is friendly. "You can keep your things here," says Bella. Hills shows the interior of the squirrel's spot, as Rocket peers through the opening. Mindful of building a beginning reader's skills, Hills repeats the sentence structure with a series of vignettes: "Rocket finds pencils./ He finds a book./ He finds acorns." The pup's followers will recognize his pals from previous adventures, including Mr. Barker, who helps collect heart-shaped stones, and Emma, Fred and Owl, who also assist Rocket. "He puts everything in the tree," including all 26 letters of the alphabet, which Rocket records on individual cards.

On the 100th day of school, Rocket tallies on a blackboard everything he'd placed in the tree. But wait! There are only 95 things! "Where are the acorns?" Rocket asks. The guilty party's confession is worth the price of admission. Not only does Rocket forgive her, he also comes up with a solution to reach a perfect 100. With a smidge of math and a lot of heart, this beginning reader is sure to please Rocket's fans and win him new ones. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A beginning reader in which the lovable canine hero displays his math skills and his big heart.

Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $3.99, paperback, 32p., ages 6-9, 9780385390972

Poetry

In Praise of Poetry

by Olga Sedakova, trans. by Ksenia Golubovich, Caroline Clark, Stephanie Sandler


Olga Sedakova (Poems and Elegies) began writing poetry at an early age. In the 1970s, when the Soviet government preferred she and her fellow Russian poets cease their art, they went underground. Until 1990, her poetry was available only as samizdat--handwritten copies that were secretly passed from reader to reader. The '90s brought dramatic change and her work was widely published in Russian. Thanks to a group of translators and Open Letter Books, some of her work and her ideas about art and poetry are now available to English-speaking readers.

In Praise of Poetry is a potpourri. There are two sections of her poetry: "Old Songs," a group of early, individual pieces, and poems from her "Tristan and Isolde" sequence. Also included is her essay "In Praise of Poetry," an interview and her brief acceptance speech for her 2011 Master's Prize in Translation (on Rilke and Eliot: "These I love and I want to convey my love for them to Russian readers").

Her poetry draws deeply on Russian cultural and religious traditions. Poems in the first section reveal a deceptive, prayer-like simplicity, a piety reflective of monastic chroniclers. The opening piece in "Tristan and Isolde" invites us to "sew a dress of darkness,/ a monk's cloak of old." Purposefully avoiding the story's famous plot, she offers up poetic digressions, an act that she calls "tracing out of the air." These are rich, thoughtful, meditative poems exquisitely rendered. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The poems and ideas of a contemporary Russian Christian poet who mixes theology, philosophy and history.

Open Letter Books, $12.95, paperback, 9781940953021

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KidsBuzz: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

PUBLISHER: Aladdin

PUB DATE: March 14, 2017

AGE RANGE: 9 to 13

TYPE OF BOOK: Middle Grade Fiction

ISBN: 9781481478489

PRICE: $16.99

 

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