Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, January 19, 2016


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

From My Shelf

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

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

Shakespeare 400: All the Year's a Stage

I'm looking forward to a complete William Shakespeare immersion experience in 2016, which marks the 400th anniversary of his death. I've had the great fortune of seeing four magnificent productions in recent years, including three from Shakespeare's Globe and Mark Rylance-- Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night and Richard III--as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company's As You Like It in a stunning replica of its Stratford-upon-Avon Theatre, constructed within Manhattan's Park Avenue Armory. I hope to add to the list this year.

Shakespeare 400's reach goes well beyond the stage, including the BBC comedy series Upstart Crow and Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare on Screen project; not to mention a flood of entertaining miscellany like a pie chart tallying deaths in the plays or an infographic analyzing characters.

There are--and will be--new books, of course. The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending Shakespeare's First Folio on a 50-state tour. The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio by Andrea Mays offers some intriguing background.

The Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which the plays are re-imagined by contemporary authors, was launched in October with Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time, a reinvention of The Winter's Tale. Coming later this year are Howard Jacobsen's Shylock Is My Name (The Merchant of Venice), Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) and Margaret Atwood's as-yet-untitled variation on The Tempest.

A two-volume Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare gathers 300 of the world's leading experts. Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe by Chris Laoutaris is fascinating, as is Women of Will: The Remarkable Evolution of Shakespeare's Female Characters by Tina Packer. The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro explores how tumultuous events in England shaped King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra.

"In our lifetimes, this will be the biggest Shakespeare extravaganza," said Shapiro. We'll be checking back occasionally during the year with Shakespearean updates. My advice: "Go, make you ready." --Robert Gray, contributing editor


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


Book Candy

Platform 9¾ Memorial for Alan Rickman

Harry Potter fans "have turned Platform 9¾ into a memorial for the late Alan Rickman," Buzzfeed reported.

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The Eagles wrote "Witchy Woman" after being inspired by her biography. Mental Floss gathered "10 roaring facts about Zelda Fitzgerald."

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Tatts update: Bustle found "10 Jane Austen tattoos for the classic lit lover in you."

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Quirk Books featured a "bookish socks round-up."

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"Happily ever after and again: 8 of the best re-told fairy tales" were showcased by Word & Film.


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


Great Reads

Rediscover: It Can't Happen Here

Novelist, playwright and short story writer Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first author from the United States to receive the award. The Swedish Academy made special mention of Lewis's novel Babbitt (1922), a satire about conformity and the American middle class. His other critically and commercially successful works include Main Street (1920), Arrowsmith (1925) and Elmer Gantry (1927). Like Babbitt, each of these novels satirize some aspect of American society: small town life in Main Street, science education and culture in Arrowsmith, and religious fundamentalism in Elmer Gantry.

In 1935, Lewis turned his critical eye to American politics and the rise of fascism in Europe with It Can't Happen Here. The novel imagines populist U.S. Senator Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip elected president on promises of drastic economic reforms and conservative social values. Once in power, Windrip seizes total government control with SS-style paramilitary forces à la Adolf Hitler. Most of the plot follows journalist Doremus Jessup's participation in a dissident revolution. The character Windrip bears an unmistakable resemblance to real-life Louisiana politician Huey Long, a firebrand populist assassinated just after the novel's publication but before his planned 1936 presidential run.

It Can't Happen Here was last reprinted in 2014 (Signet, $9.99, 9780451465641) with an introduction by literature professor Michael Meyer. In what's shaping up to be a particularly volatile election year, the book will resonate with many readers. --Tobias Mutter


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


The Writer's Life

Katarina Bivald: Books--The Scent of Unread Adventures

photo: Cecelia Bivald

Swedish author Katarina Bivald can't remember a time when she wasn't reading. She claims to have always turned to books "for company, support and inspiration," and she grew up working in a bookstore. Therefore, it's fitting that her passion for the printed word and reading wove their way into her first novel, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (in paperback from Sourcebooks Landmark; see our review below). The story centers on a young Swedish woman, a bibliophile, who travels to a run-down Iowa town to visit her book-loving pen pal, only to be met with townsfolk who underestimate the power of books and reading.

Why and how did you become a writer?

I always dreamed about writing a book. But somehow or another, I never gave it any serious effort. When I was 25, after I finished university, I took a job and worked for 10 months to save up some money. Then I spent a month writing full time while traveling around Ireland. It was a great way to get to know my characters.

The truth is, for a long time I never expected this book to be published. I just wrote it as a trial run; writing a complete draft, from Chapter 1 to The End, in order to learn how to write. It didn't have to be good, it would never be published. I just wanted to take any idea and finish it. Since I only wrote it for myself, I decided to fill it with everything I love in books: small American towns, quirky characters, unexpected friendships, love--and books, of course.

Why did you set the novel in the United States?

The best thing about writing a book is that you get to make things up... so it was fun to set things in a small town in Iowa rather than in my own suburb outside of Stockholm. Books should provide some escapism even for the writers. The name of the town, Broken Wheel, came to me one day, complete with the entire history of the town. When I wrote the book, I had never been to Iowa, had never even visited the U.S. But in a way you could say I had grown up there, with Fannie Flagg and Annie Proulx and Louisa May Alcott.

At one time you worked in a bookstore.

Yes, but the bookshop I worked at in Sweden was nothing like the bookshop I created in the town of Broken Wheel. In the bookstore where I worked, I spent most of my time trying to read in secret--and sniffing books, of course. It was there I discovered how different books smell. They all share the scent of unread adventure, but there are differences as well: paperbacks smell different from hardcover, English paperbacks smell different from Swedish; classics different from chick-lit, and chick-lit different from crime. School books have their own very distinct scent of forced reading and boring days spent locked in a classroom.

Did you know from the start this novel would be about the power of books and community?

Yes, definitely about the power of community, although the link between books and community took me by surprise. When I started writing the book, I thought working in a bookshop was all about the books. I considered customers a rude interruption in my reading. But when I looked back on all those years in the bookshop, I realized it was actually the people I remembered, which got me thinking about what a bookshop can do to a town and a community that's struggling, failing.

The story is anchored by pen pals. Did you ever have a pen pal?

Nothing that I managed to keep up for any length of time, but I have often lamented the dying art of letter writing. And I have received a touching amount of real letters from people who've read The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, including some who've kept up a correspondence with me for months. It's one of the most fun things about having written a book.

Who, in your own life, shares your love of books?

I share my love of books with everyone in my life, whether they like it or not. I have no friends, no lovers, no acquaintances, no family members, who haven't, at one time or another, received a book as a gift from me. Although I'm not sure whether they consider it a gift or a threat ("do tell me what you thought about it").

Do you have any favorite books about books?

I love books about books! Some of my favorites are: Dewey--The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicky Myron (the reason my book is set in Iowa--who wouldn't want to write a book set in a state that once had a library cat?); 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (the touching exchange of letters between a formal, rather stuck-up English bookseller and a very much less formal American woman); The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (very impressive title).

How have books changed your life?

Sometimes I think books are the reason I'm still single. Having once fallen in love with both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (being a bisexual book lover is a curse), it's very difficult for real people to measure up. Not to mention, real life. It's so... unstructured. God has a lousy sense of plot development.

Your novel has already sold 50,000 copies in Sweden and France and will be published in 25 countries.

Yes, it's been quite a journey. For a long time, I wasn't even sure if it would be published in Sweden, so I never imagined the story or the people in it reaching so many countries. It's a somewhat bizarre thought, that my book has traveled much farther than me. 

Has writing this novel, and having it so well received, changed you?

I write full time now, that's the most obvious change. But a more far-reaching change is that I've discovered how unsettling it is to fulfill dreams so very thoroughly. I'm still not used to it. Truman Capote wrote in Answered Prayers about occasions where you don't sacrifice a talisman: "When you have nothing and when you have everything--each is an abyss." So it's been strangely unsettling but, most of all, incomprehensible, in a fun, refreshing sort of way. It has made me experience things I had never even imagined, and as I get older, I find truly strange experiences surprisingly rare. 

Are you writing another book?

I am indeed. My second novel was published in Sweden this year, called Life, Motorcycles and Other Impossible Projects. It's about a single mother whose idea of time shifts when her only daughter moves to a different town to study. Eventually she starts taking motorcycle lessons, gets involved in an impossible project, falls for her motorcycle instructor (even more impossible) and eventually discovers just how complicated dreams and freedom can be.

My third book is much more unclear. At the moment, it's taking place in a fictional town in Oregon, so now when I look outside the window I see not the tiny Swedish pine trees, but the more magnificent Oregon ones. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines


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


Book Review

Fiction

The Guest Room

by Chris Bohjalian


When he offers to host his younger brother's bachelor party, Richard Chapman hopes inviting the raucous men to his home in a charming, prosperous community north of New York City might inspire civility. But the party's sleazy tone is set with the arrival of two young women from an escort service, and bacchanalia spins into tragedy with the murder of the two goons who delivered the girls to Richard's house, and the dreadful repercussions.

In his 17th novel, The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian (Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls) has written a crime thriller, plus an exploration of family loyalty and moral ambiguity. As readers familiar with Bohjalian's work expect, there's a broader social issue at the heart of his domestic and suspense dramas, in this case sex trafficking: the two young women at Richard's party were kidnapped Armenians, imprisoned by Russian gangsters and brought to the U.S. as sex slaves. The three main characters alternate chapters: Richard; his wife, Kristin; and Alexandra, the young Armenian whose life story illuminates the horror of trafficking.

Less developed characters advance the plot, but the story belongs to the issue of the sex trade. Bohjalian consistently examines social injustice and its victims in his fiction, including the well-intentioned caregiver in Midwives, and the civilian victims of war in Skeletons at the Feast and The Light in the Ruins. In The Guest Room, the characters suffer mightily, but it's Alexandra and her timely plight that will be seared into readers' memories. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: This emotionally charged novel about a suburban bachelor party that goes awry focuses on a victim of sex trafficking.

Doubleday, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385538893

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald, trans. by Alice Menzies


When 28-year-old Swede Sara Lindqvist loses her job in her hometown bookshop, she travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa, finally to meet and visit with her book-loving pen pal, Amy Harris. Upon her arrival, Sara is heartbroken to learn that the 65-year-old bibliophile has recently died. Encouraged to stay on by the good-natured residents of the struggling rural town (population 637), Sara moves into Amy's now vacant house.

Sara and Amy shared a belief that books are better than real life. But once Sara settles amid the charms, rhythms and personalities of Broken Wheel, she begins to wonder if the stories of those who live in this small town might be as compelling as books.

A colorful cast of characters offers Sarah friendship and kindness, including the owners of the local diner and bar, a reformed alcoholic mired in grief, a buttoned-up churchgoer living a double life, the standoffish owner of the hardware store, quirky members of the town council and a dreamy-looking, longtime resident, who is set in his ways but may hold romantic feelings for the Swedish newcomer.

When Sara decides to honor the memory of Amy by setting up a makeshift bookshop, featuring all the books she and Amy loved--treasures from Little House on the Prairie to Bridget Jones's Diary--she draws townsfolk to the neighborhood hub. Might Sara's quest bring Broken Wheel back to life? Katarina Bivald's feel-good first novel explores how books and reading have the power to reinvigorate stagnant lives and communities. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A Swedish bibliophile travels to the U.S. and enlivens a small Iowa town through her passion for books and reading.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99, paperback, 9781492623441

A Paper Son

by Jason Buchholz


Jason Buchholz, whose work has appeared in the journals Gobbledegook and Switchback, has written a prophetic and engrossing supernatural thriller examining how memory surfaces after a near death experience. As third grade teacher Peregrine Long awaits the coming of a huge storm in his San Francisco classroom, he sees an image in his morning tea: a Chinese family--Li Yu, Bing and their two children, Rose and Henry--aboard a steamship. Images appear to Peregrine in standing bodies of water, and this particular one causes him to commit the story of this family's voyage from California to China to paper. After the small and mysterious publishing house Barbary Quarterly prints Peregrine's story, he receives a visit from 60-year-old Eva Wong, who claims to be the daughter of Rose and who demands to know what became of Henry, her uncle and Rose's brother. Li Yu's story of imprisonment and escape unfolds in parallel with Peregrine's burgeoning awareness and uneasy acceptance of the supernatural forces with which he's been gifted after a near drowning. What arises is a richly woven and haunting tale of memory, loss and identity, in which the ocean serves as the bridge that separates and binds the two distinct timelines together.  

A Paper Son is a magical journey through memory and history, with Peregrine acting as the medium for voices that were silenced and lost in the pre-World War II immigration void. What makes Buchholz's debut sing is not the mystery, but how the characters handle and rise above their exceptional circumstances to come to terms with a painful and forgotten period of Asian American history. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Jason Buchholz's debut is a mesmerizing thriller of memory, loss and identity.

Tyrus Books, $24.99, hardcover, 9781440591617

Mystery & Thriller

After the Crash

by Michel Bussi, trans. by Sam Taylor


Suspense runs high in Michel Bussi's U.S. debut, After the Crash. When a plane goes down in the Swiss Alps on December 23, 1980, only one passenger survives, a three-month-old girl. But there were two female infants aboard the plane, and extenuating circumstances leave no reliable witness to identify whether the child is Lyse-Rose of the wealthy de Carville couple or Emilie of the struggling middle class Vitral family.

As the defenseless child waits helplessly in a hospital unit, the two families battle for custody. The court is charged with determining her identity, and despite the money the de Carville family pours into experts declaring the girl is theirs, the judge decides she is Emilie Vitral. Unsatisfied with the results, the de Carville family hires Crédule Grand-Duc, a mercenary-turned-private investigator, to find the incontrovertible truth. He has until Lyse-Rose's 18th birthday to do so. On the eve of that fateful day, Grand-Duc is poised to commit suicide. He has failed. And then, gun in hand, he discovers the clue that will confirm the girl's identity beyond any doubt.

Fast-paced and action-packed, this thriller is adrenaline pumping. Bussi offers a smart, complex mystery with plenty of plausible twists and surprises. His choice of timing allows him to employ DNA with a creatively climatic flare. And his characters embody rich, distinct personalities. These elements, combined with a strong translation from Sam Taylor, make for an engrossing story that's almost impossible to put down. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A private eye spends 18 years trying to determine the identity of an infant plane crash survivor--and finds the crucial clue just before a crucial deadline.

Hachette Books, $26, hardcover, 9780316309677

Biography & Memoir

The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth

by Karen Branan


In researching her family history in the little town of Hamilton, Ga., investigative journalist Karen Branan was surprised to find connections to a 1912 lynching. A nephew of her great-grandfather, the sheriff, was murdered. Days later, a local mob killed three black men and a black woman. Branan digs deeper, expecting to find her forebears innocent of violence. The evidence is far more complex in The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth.

In a town where nearly everyone has been related by blood or marriage for generations, Branan's family variously turned a blind eye to the murders, or directly participated. She finds herself related not only to the white mob, but to at least one of the black victims as well. Every new piece of information complicates the story and startles her further, until she has to address her most basic understanding of the world. "I began this journey believing myself to be an unflinching investigative reporter and a nonracist," Branan writes, but must confront a bias in favor of her own family. Admirably, she examines herself and the preconceptions she brings, even to the pursuit of racial justice.

The Family Tree offers an in-depth study of the history of Southern race relations, particularly in Georgia. The narrative of the lynching is told thrillingly, the background more dryly, but it is Branan's personal perspective and soul-searching that makes this history insightful, relevant and memorable. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A journalist's research uncovers her own family history and connections to a horrifying hate crime.

Atria, $26, hardcover, 9781476717180

History

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

by Eric Weiner


Why do some places produce dozens of geniuses, seeming to carry brilliant ideas in their very air? Is there a certain set of conditions (political, artistic, technological) under which genius is guaranteed to flourish? Traveler and self-confessed non-genius Eric Weiner (The Geography of Bliss) embarks on a physical and historical journey to investigate. Traveling to seven great cities of ideas (past and present), Weiner explores the evolving concept of genius and the places where it has thrived.

Weiner begins in Athens, where he consults modern-day philosophers, including one named Aristotle (yes, really) about the revolutionary ideas produced by the city's ancient thinkers. In each city he visits--Western hotbeds like Florence, Edinburgh and Vienna, plus Eastern genius centers like Calcutta and Hangzhou--Weiner talks to locals who have studied the work of their resident geniuses: Mozart, Freud, Shen Kuo and others.

Taking as his motto Plato's maxim, "What is honored in a country will be cultivated there," Weiner delves into the roles of place and culture in creative innovation. He also asks how our modern-day society (including Silicon Valley, where he ends his "genius tour") can seek to foster creativity. Kicking against the myth of the lone, tortured genius, Weiner demonstrates that personal connections can spark creativity and argues for cultivating ingenuity "not as a private indulgence but as a public good, part of the commons."

Informative and dryly witty, Weiner's odyssey is both an insightful examination of genius and a call to readers to explore their own untapped creative resources. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Eric Weiner visits seven "genius cities" to explore the history of creativity and the optimal conditions under which it thrives.

Simon & Schuster, $26.95, hardcover, 9781451691658

Political Science

When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World

by Greg Jobin-Leeds, AgitArte


Political activism can be frustrating and exhausting at times, and the workings of modern radical movements may seem obscure to outsiders. In When We Fight, We Win, activists and anyone new to the social movements of the early 21st century will find first-person insights and a primer on the history of these movements, from the 1960s to 2015.

For five years, Greg Jobin-Leeds (co-chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education) interviewed working activists, asking, "What are the lessons you've learned?" In chapters on LGBTQ rights, public education, ending mass incarceration, immigrant rights, economic power and the environment, these organizers, artists and musicians tell stories of failure and success, what worked and what didn't, what keeps them going and how anyone can get involved. Their strong awareness of the links between their various causes illuminates a principle Jobin-Leeds calls "transformative organizing." Their common enemy is identified as racist and capitalist mainstream U.S. society. Members of the artist collective AgitArte have illustrated each chapter with examples of didactic art and photographs of "art in action" at demonstrations and in other public venues. Readers will have to contend with a few pages of such jargon as, "My main goal is to create an effective counterproject to hegemony." But for the most part the text is clear and to the point, infused with the passionate and practical voices of many creative effective individuals working toward common goals. "We will fail. We will stumble. We will doubt and we will hesitate. Don't give up." --Sara Catterall

Discover: Influential activists and artists discuss what's worked and what hasn't in recent radical social movements in the U.S.

The New Press, $17.95, paperback, 9781620970935

Essays & Criticism

The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story

by Christopher Castellani


The "Art of" series from Graywolf Press is an acclaimed, ongoing collection of short books on specific elements of literary craft. The Art of Perspective is a remarkably perceptive and gracefully written examination of the role that perspective plays in storytelling.

"There is no more important decision the writer makes than who tells the story," writes novelist Christopher Castellani (All This Talk of Love). "Narration is perspective in action... every story, at its core, [is] an assertion of perspective, with the narrator as the story's prime mover."

This is not a book of prescriptions for writers, but more a study of principles through examples. Castellani describes his way of deciding on the right perspective for one of his story ideas, and examines various strategies in the works of others. Each story has "its own set of requirements, its own moods and vision," and the choice of narrative strategy is key to their successful development. Castellani contrasts the intimate first-person narrator of E.M. Forster's Howards End with the more formal and omniscient one of A Passage to India. He considers the careful narrative distance in a Lorrie Moore story, the "subtle but distinct shift in perspective" in Faulkner's Light in August, and stories by Grace Paley, Tim O'Brien and Tony Kushner that invest "in multiplicity, in a cross section of voices and perspectives and angles." Castellani thinks and writes with great perception and clarity. Anyone with an interest in how good stories are constructed will find this book both enjoyable and useful. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A perceptive and thorough consideration of the role of perspective in storytelling.

Graywolf Press, $12, paperback, 9781555977269

Psychology & Self-Help

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism

by Caren Zucker, John Donvan


In 1938, Dr. Leo Kanner, a preeminent child psychiatrist in the United States, examined a boy named Donald Triplett. Donald was detached emotionally and didn't show signs of self-sufficiency or ability to recognize danger. He created rituals and expressed a rigid need for "sameness." It would be four years after first seeing Donald before Dr. Kanner coined a term for this collection of irregular behaviors; at that point Donald Triplett became the first person ever diagnosed with autism. His story begins In a Different Key, which is ABC contributing correspondent John Donvan and ABC producer/journalist Caren Zucker's in-depth look at this puzzling disorder.

While Donald's was the first diagnosis, Kanner did not believe he had " 'discovered' autism as much as found the eyes with which to see it." Since that time, the view of this "spectrum" has come into clearer and clearer focus, but it continues to mystify those in the fields of medicine and psychology and, above all, the families of the afflicted.

In a Different Key recounts the many strenuous trials that families have encountered and continue to face. But it also brilliantly illuminates the successes, the strengths and the hope. A cure has not been found, nor a definitive cause isolated, but today the medical field is brimming with research.

This isn't a quick read, but rather a book to be slowly digested and absorbed. Think of In a Different Key as a treatment program for blurred sight. Everyone who reads it will experience newfound clarity. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: This is an eye-opening reading experience for those not intimately connected to autism.

Crown, $30, hardcover, 9780307985675

Children's & Young Adult

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof

by Annie M.G. Schmidt, trans. by David Colmer


Tibble, a shy newspaperman, prefers cats to people. His editor calls him into his office one day to complain: "Your articles are always about cats." The discouraged reporter heads off to look for a cat-free scoop; suddenly, a German shepherd, barking furiously, goes racing after--what? A cat? A stork? The dog chases it into an elm tree. Tibble and his accidental benchmate, Mr. Smith, look up into the tree and see "A leg. A leg in a stylish stocking with a shiny, high-heeled shoe on the foot." " 'Heavens,' " said Mr. Smith. 'It's a lady.' "

So begins The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof, originally published in the Netherlands in 1970 and written by the late Annie M.G. Schmidt, recipient of the 1989 Hans Christian Andersen Award. The young lady chased by a dog up a tree is named Minou, and the reason she's so "cattish" is that she used to be a cat, until she ate out of a rubbish bin at the Institute for Biochemical Research. Tibble takes Minou into his home and, in return, Minou uses her abundant cat contacts to become an excellent source for all the city's breaking news. The genuinely funny story of how these two shy beings make room for each other in their lives is as irresistible as kittens. Schmidt raises questions about what it is to be human, what it is to be a cat, what it is to be something in between, and what it means to accept someone for who she is, even if she is "shilly-shallying" herself. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this charming Dutch classic, the life of a newspaperman named Tibble is changed forever when he encounters a strange young lady who used to be a cat.

Delacorte, $14.99, hardcover, 160p., ages 10-up, 9780553535006

Worm Loves Worm

by J.J. Austrian, illus. by Mike Curato


Worm loves Worm, and they agree to marry. Seems simple enough, until the bug brigade gets involved. The bespectacled Cricket declares the worm couple needs someone to marry them, and he volunteers to officiate. "Now can we be married?" asks Worm. The moustachioed Beetle says they need "a best beetle" for their wedding. "Now can we be married?" asks Worm. Cricket tells the couple they must have wedding rings. "But we don't have fingers," says Worm. They agree to wear the gold rings like belts, which end up looking like gilded collars. "Wonderful," says Worm. "Now we can be married."

Not so fast! The "bride's bees" need to know which worm will be the bride, and the best beetle needs to know who the groom is. Turns out, both will be both, one worm wearing a white veil and a bow tie, the other in a top hat and white cape. "Wait! says Cricket. "That isn't how it's always been done." Worm and Worm are okay with that. "And so they were married... because Worm loves Worm." Children don't need to have same-sex marriage on their radar to enjoy this gender-bending tale, nor do they need to know that worms are both male and female (though that's clearly a fun fact for anyone). The bottom line here is, love conquers all.

J.J. Austrian's entertaining refrain "Now can we be married?" makes for a fun read-aloud, and his lively story is the perfect mate for the cartoonish crew of busybody bugs by illustrator Mike Curato (Little Elliot, Big Family). --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this joyful picture-book ode to love, Worm and Worm want to marry each other, and it doesn't matter who's the bride and who's the groom.

Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780062386335

Poetry

War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad

by Christopher Logue, edited by Christopher Reid


Upon his death, poet Christopher Logue left unfinished a full-length reimagining of Homer's Iliad. His fellow poet and friend Christopher Reid applies a careful editorial hand to the papers Logue left behind to release War Music, which includes both previously published works and new material.

The result is as epic and evocative, as emotional and resounding as the original, yet also surprisingly novel. Logue employs memorable images, as when the two armies meet "like a forest making its way through a forest." He is unafraid of wild anachronisms: "As many arrows on [Hector's] posy shield/ As microphones on politicians' stands"; "Blood like a car-wash." But this is no attempt to modernize; the rage of Achilles, Helen's beauty, capricious gods and customs of battle remain set in Homer's Greece. Rather, it is an enrichment of a well-known and loved story, in swelling verse and with the same clever eye for tragedy and sly humor of its model.

Reid finds Logue's "capacity for the grand conception dashingly and convincingly executed," as near "pure Logue" as possible. His preface and comments in the appendix (where the manuscripts were roughest) offer insight for readers unfamiliar with Logue, who references Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson, as well as Homer. Expertise with the original is unnecessary to enjoy this version; although such knowledge will increase the impact, the grandeur of War Music is gripping and suspenseful regardless of the reader's background. No fan of Homer will want to miss Logue's contribution. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This epic retelling in verse of Homer's Iliad is worthy of the classic.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 9780374286491

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