Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 29, 2016


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

From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: Holiday Must-Haves!

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

This Valentine's Day, Say It with Children's Books

Adults often buy children's books as romantic gifts for other adults on Valentine's Day, and we heartily endorse this practice.

When customers ask for Valentine's Day gift advice, Cristin Stickles from New York City's McNally Jackson Books stands by the classic little red square book I Like You (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast. And she's always caught off guard, she says, by how many lovelorn people come in to the bookstore around February 14 looking for Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece (Harper). She raves about the beautiful collages in I Carry Your Heart with Me (Cameron & Co.) by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Mati McDonough, and also suggests Sandra Boynton's Your Personal Penguin (Workman)--"I want to be your Personal Penguin/ I want to walk right by your side"--as a disarming declaration of love.

Collette Morgan, co-founder of Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis, Minn., is a fan of Sarah Kilborne and illustrator Steve Johnson's Peach and Blue (Dragonfly Books). Valentine's Day could then be spent discussing who is the blue-bellied toad and who is the talking peach in the relationship. Morgan also proposes J.J. Austrian and illustrator Mike Curato's 2016 picture book Worm Loves Worm (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins) for wooing purposes. In this book, two worms wed, and each worm is both the bride and the groom.

In Bellingham, Wash., where skies are gray quite often, Robert Gruen from Village Books particularly likes to recommend You Are My Sunshine (Cartwheel/Scholastic), the classic Jimmie Davis song illustrated in a board book by Caroline Jayne Church. He and his colleagues also like Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown) and, if customers can ask for the title with a straight face, Leslie Patricelli's board book Huggy Kissy (Candlewick).

Chocolates vanish, flowers fade, but children's books are forever. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness


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


Book Candy

Book Nook Best Practices

"Everybody needs a nook." Buzzfeed shared "19 ways to make a next-level reading nook."

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Maybe the butler's innocent after all. The Guardian showcased Tom Gauld's cartoon "on murder methods for modern mystery writers"; while Bustle shared "11 struggles all mystery lovers understand" and "literary character police sketches" that illustrate "what your favorite heroes would look like on the evening news."

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George Orwell's "11 tips for proper tea making" were served up by Mental Floss.

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Signature recommended "5 books to better understand the water crisis in Flint, Mich."

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Bent Hansen Studio's Up the Wall shelving system "invites you to step in to create a shelf that works for you and your needs," Design Milk reported.


Bonhomie Press: The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel by Erika Mallman


Great Reads

Rediscover: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Mildred D. Taylor's stories about the Logans, an African-American family living in Mississippi during the Great Depression, began in the 1975 novella Song of the Trees. The sequel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry followed in 1976 and won the 1977 Newbery Medal. Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981), The Road to Memphis (1990) and a prequel, The Land (2001), concluded the Logan family saga.

Song of the Trees came from the manuscript Taylor submitted to a 1974 writing contest hosted by the Council on Interracial Books. Her submission won the African-American segment of the contest, and readers of all ages have since been enriched by young Cassie Logan's accounts of her family's struggles. In the spirit of that original contest, Penguin Young Readers and We Need Diverse Books are holding a debut children's fiction (ages 8-14) contest for ethnically diverse writers. The submission period begins in April, with more information to come on this website.

In addition to the contest, Penguin published a 40th anniversary edition of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry ($18.99, 9781101993880) with new cover art by Kadir Nelson, two-time winner of the Caldecott Honor Award, on January 5. Taylor's tale of racism and poverty remains more than a history lesson for young readers, but a portrait of conditions still sadly prevalent today. --Tobias Mutter


Lion Forge: Generations by Flavia Biondi


The Writer's Life

Lindsay Starck: The Beauty in Uncertainty

photo: Victoria McHugh Photography

Lindsay Starck was born in Wisconsin and raised, she says, in the Milwaukee Public Library. She studied literature at Yale and creative writing at Notre Dame. She is editor-in-chief of Carolina Quarterly and writes and teaches in Chapel Hill, N.C., where she lives with her husband and their dog. Noah's Wife is her first novel. Our review is below.

Although you've pulled elements from the biblical story of Noah, you've definitely told your own story. How did you keep the two in balance?

I started with a number of questions about the flood story. What sort of woman, I wondered, would be willing to abandon her community and follow her husband into a giant floating zoo? What if she were afraid of reptiles or allergic to cats? How could she continue to believe in Noah if she could not see the signs that he saw? If she were given a voice, what would she say?

From the beginning, my intention was to use the flood story more as a point of departure than as a template. The most obvious elements I borrowed from the biblical account are Noah and his wife, the rain, and the animals. But I also used the story in subtler, more indirect ways. While most versions have the animals walking two by two into the ark, for example, in my novel the most important "pairings" are those between people: spouses, friends, parents, children.

Another example: In the biblical account, God is so disappointed with the world that he destroys it--but first he saves the best part of it. I was interested in what my characters would save from destruction, if they could. Mrs. McGinn wants to save her town, Noah's wife wants to save her husband, Dr. Yu wants to save her father. So I'm working with the idea of "salvation" in a very broad sense.

In short, while I'm not "retelling" the flood story, I do see myself engaging directly with its themes: faith, disappointment, destruction, and renewal. But for me these themes are most interesting when applied to human relationships, whereas the biblical account is focused on the divine.

Noah's Wife is filled with great supporting characters--the Roman expatriate, the misanthropic zookeeper, the commanding matriarch, the young woman desperate to escape to a new life.

At its core, the novel is a story about a "minor character"--a woman so marginal to the flood story that in the Bible she is not even given a name--who becomes a protagonist. Questions I asked myself while writing included: What does it mean to play a supporting role to someone else? How much of our identities are defined by other people? And what do we do if we think they've got us wrong?

To explore these issues, I filled the novel with a cast of "minor" characters who would typically play a supporting role to Noah's wife but who possess such strong personalities and motivations of their own that they sometimes take over her story. The idea was that the size and significance of a person's role in this story, in any story, depends on the perspective you take.

The mention of Noah's wife riffling through a card catalogue made me notice this story had no screens in sight. What made you decide to leave out digital connectivity?

Most immediately it was a decision that had to do with plot: because it was important that the townspeople feel an increasing sense of isolation, I needed to keep cell phones and the Internet out of the story.

But in a deeper sense the dated details--TV sets with antennas, corded telephones making "long-distance calls," paper maps pulled from a car's glove box--helped me create the kind of tightly bound, living, breathing community that was vital to my story. Sometimes our constant connectedness to the digital avatars of our friends and family means that we are less connected to them in real life. My characters don't have the option of digital media. They have to face each other every day, in person, with all the frustration that such familiarity can entail.

I also wanted the story to have a timeless, mythic feel, and so I tried to loosen its connections to the real world.

If you had to take in an animal from a flooded zoo as the characters do, which would it be and why?

When I was growing up, I wanted to become a veterinarian--preferably a large-animal vet like James Herriot (I read all of his books!). The unique human-animal bond that emerged between the townspeople and their creatures might be my way of vicariously living out that childhood dream.

Although I've definitely dreamed about having a pet fox, my favorite human-animal pair in the novel is Mauro with his peacocks. There, we see the birds helping him as much as he helps them. Mauro feeds them and shelters them, and in return the peacocks take him under their wing (do forgive the pun). They ease his anxious heart.

So maybe I'd take the peacocks, for that reason. Although I'm quite content with my golden retriever mix, Fenway, who takes his job as my companion very seriously. He calms me and looks out for me better than any peacocks ever could!

The idea of faith recurs throughout the story. What does faith mean to you?

The idea of faith is important to me because I'm the sort of person who needs to feel as though she is always in control of her situation--a classic type-A personality--and faith is a kind of letting go. It's an acknowledgment that much of what happens in our daily lives is out of our control, whether that be the weather (the rain!) or the thoughts and actions of the people we think we know the best: our spouses, our parents, our children. Faith is an ongoing process, a constant reminder that not everything is knowable or predictable. It is also, I would like to think, a recognition of the beauty in uncertainty.

In many ways, each step of the writing process has been an act of faith. There were weeks when I felt that the manuscript was a total disaster; and yet I had to trust that the story would emerge from my stacks of messy drafts. During the editing process, I learned to accept--even embrace!--the idea that the input of others would strengthen my voice rather than silence it. The months before publication were a kind of slow letting go, as well.... I've felt a lot of anxiety but also a sense of relief at finally releasing the story into the world. Now the book belongs as much to its readers as it does to me. --Jaclyn Fulwood


Storey Publishing: Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake! by Deanna F. Cook


Book Review

Fiction

The Stargazer's Sister

by Carrie Brown


The 18th-century British astronomer William Herschel was justly famous for his pioneering work with telescopes and discovery of several celestial bodies, including the planet Uranus. His sister Caroline, known as Lina, who worked as his assistant for decades, was an accomplished astronomer in her own right, too. In her sixth novel, The Stargazer's Sister, Carrie Brown (The Last First Day) brings Lina's story to light, creating a richly imagined account of astronomy, sacrifice and love.

Small, slight and deeply scarred from a childhood bout with smallpox, Lina is the least favored child of her domineering, dissatisfied mother. When William rescues her, as a young woman, from her life of drudgery in their native Hanover, Germany, Lina feels as though the world has opened up to her. She gladly gives herself to the task of running William's household as he throws himself into his astronomy work. As she transcribes his notes and answers his correspondence, Lina gains a level of scientific knowledge she had never dreamed possible, and she longs to make discoveries of her own.

Recounting Lina's hopes and fears, Brown explores the deep ambivalence that accompanies Lina's love for her brother: her deep sense of gratitude for his rescue and care, coupled with exhaustion at the physical and mental demands he makes of her.

Blending fact and fiction, and drawing on extensive journals and historical records left behind by both William and Lina, Brown creates a spellbinding account of two lives intertwined and bolstered by awe. Readers may feel the same sense of wonder at Brown's sparkling narrative, about a woman finding her place in the world. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: This is a sparkling, lyrical novel about Caroline Herschel, an 18th-century astronomer who worked in tandem with her brother William.

Pantheon, $25.95, hardcover, 9780804197939

Your Father Sends His Love: Stories

by Stuart Evers


One of fiction's greatest feats is unearthing the accessible in the exceptional. In the most outlandish novels and stories, there's a speck of humanity with which to identify, a flicker of the familiar. British writer Stuart Evers's Your Father Sends His Love inverts this approach, mining the known for its most haunting and alien particulars, demonstrating that the chasms of the human heart hold mysteries even when it beats inside our own chest.

Much like Jenny Offill, whose praise adorns the book's back cover, Evers's writing focuses on the domestic turned uncanny, ruptures that break the smooth veneer of daily life. In "Live from the Palladium," the collection's final and most moving piece, a young man tries his hand at stand-up, failing miserably until he resigns himself to repeating one of his father's famous comedy routines. While the audience boos and chatters, he sees his mother, "standing now, applauding. Members of the audience are turning to look at her, the crazy woman clapping alone."

These vivid and haunting images are underpinned by tender meditations on family and love. Opener "Lakelands" subverts the reader's expectation when a gruff, downtrodden British laborer embraces his openly gay son without hesitation. Like other stories in the book, "Lakelands" rejects formulaic plot in favor of a snapshot-style glimpse at a few moments in a life--moments that might otherwise seem ordinary, without Evers's lens--as tender, intangible and vital as love itself. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Your Father Sends His Love collects uncanny domestic moments like a reel of family photos.

Norton, $24.95, hardcover, 9780393285161

What Belongs to You

by Garth Greenwell


A common yet furtive encounter carries with it the potential to unravel an American expat teaching in Sofia, Bulgaria. The bathrooms at the National Palace of Culture have a reputation for cruising. "There was only one reason for men to be standing there," and this young man seems to have found his reason in Mitko, a handsome and charming hustler ready to please for the right price. Were matters to end there, with a simple transaction, the teacher's world might have gone on turning undisturbed, but his obsession with Mitko (or is it Mitko's dependence on him?) begins to transgress more and more boundaries, complicating his understanding of intimacy, desire and himself.

Right from its heady, lusty outset, Garth Greenwell's ravishing debut novel, What Belongs to You, whirls into a storm both erotically and psychologically charged. As the teacher's desire for Mitko--his company as well as his body--intensifies, he allows the man broader and freer access to his living space, his money, his belongings, his time.

In thoughtful, lyrical prose, Greenwell conjures an ill-at-ease atmosphere to weigh heavily over this constricting imbroglio: "It seemed to me there was no attitude toward Mitko I could take that would let me be at once sufficiently compassionate and sufficiently free, so that I wavered between eagerness and distance." The ambivalence between the two men nears a panicking pitch, further exacerbated by devastating news from the States.

What Belongs to You is as deliciously unpredictable as the object of the narrator's affection. At once tense, introspective, vexing and erotic, it easily entwines itself with a willing reader, and lingers. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Bulgarian hustler becomes the object of an American teacher's obsession and pushes the boundaries of his desire.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23, hardcover, 9780374288228

Seahorse

by Janice Pariat


Janice Pariat's Seahorse begins with the day on which a man named Nicholas disappeared, leaving his younger lover, Nehemiah, a college student in New Delhi who is the narrator of this tale. Who Nicholas is, and why he is important to Nehemiah, is slowly revealed.

Nicholas was an art historian, whose entry into Nehemiah's life upended everything the student thought he knew. Their unequal affection, the way Nehemiah's awe amused and pleased his older lover, reveals Nehemiah's youthful naïveté, which Pariat describes with a skilled touch of wonder and discovery. She intensifies the distance between these two lovers by alluding to the myth of Poseidon and Pelops with water imagery and other references. The role Nicholas played in the younger man's life begins to unravel as Nehemiah deconstructs his memories of the man he'd worshipped. Nicholas had his secrets, as do other characters throughout the story, yet Nehemiah's nearly childlike innocence leaves him oblivious to the layered lives of his companions. After Nicholas vanishes unexpectedly, Nehemiah feels confusion and, even after years have passed, is unable to move beyond his brief affair, hoping Nicholas will re-enter his life.

Pariat's choice to tell this story using a retrospective narrator allows her to tease out each character's secrets. In this way, she elicits empathy for them and reveals them as wonderfully complicated and flawed people, giving the story a quiet tone of inevitable melancholy. The mystery surrounding each of them propels the narrative forward until the most intimate connections become clear. Seahorse portrays the beauty inherent in the impossibility of ever truly knowing another person. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: This beautiful and engaging story draws on imagery from the myth of Poseidon and depicts how unquestioned awe creates false expectations.

Unnamed Press, $16, paperback, 9781939419552

The Things We Keep

by Sally Hepworth


Sally Hepworth (The Secrets of Midwives) delivers a beautiful, moving story with thoughtful grace in The Things We Keep.

Only 38, Anna has early-onset Alzheimer's. After she causes an accident that burns her five-year-old nephew, she voluntarily goes into assisted living. Understandably embittered by the turn her life has taken, Anna is surprised when she and Luke, another patient with early-onset dementia, find a connection that she thought she'd never feel again. But can Anna and Luke cling to their love, even as their memories of each other slip away?

Eve, whose husband's Ponzi scheme just collapsed with devastating results, is humiliated to have to take a job as a cook and cleaner in an assisted living facility. But Eve soon discovers unexpected hope as she's cooking meals and scrubbing floors. She finds Anna and Luke's love so compelling that she's willing to do anything to help them, even at the cost of alienating their families and hurting her own.

A lovely novel about the depth of memory, The Things We Keep may leave very few readers with dry eyes. It's told in flashbacks and present-day snippets alternating from Anna and Eve's perspectives, allowing the reader to see Anna's mental deterioration first-hand as she starts to use phrases like "sleeping bench" (after she forgets the word bed). Sweet and sad, The Things We Keep is a testament to the endurance of love. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A 38-year-old woman with early-onset Alzheimer's unexpectedly falls in love. But how long will she remember what she's found?

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250051905

Noah's Wife

by Lindsay Rebecca Starck


In her first novel, Noah's Wife, Lindsay Starck combines elements of the biblical story of Noah's Ark with her own sense of whimsy for an adventure that explores the boundaries of faith.

Charismatic young minister Noah is committed to his belief in the divine. His wife--unnamed in the narrative--has a similar commitment and belief in Noah. When he accepts a position in an isolated location far from the city she knows and never thought to leave, Noah's wife accedes to his plan without question, cheerily packing up her life to follow her husband. However, no amount of dewy-eyed optimism can prepare them for what lies ahead.

Rain has fallen on the small coastal town for years without stopping. The town gave up on religion long ago, when faith and prayers failed to stop the rain, and Noah quickly finds his personal magnetism no match for the apathy and anger he faces when trying to resurrect a congregation. His wife watches Noah stumble for the first time since she has known him. As days pass and the rain falls harder, he falls further into indecision and crisis, and Noah's wife wonders where she can place her faith if not in her husband.

A testament to the power of believing in yourself, the journey of Noah's wife to define herself does not exactly follow the structure of the biblical Noah tale; however, the strong narrative voice gives the impression of a modern-day fable. By turns humorous and moving, this mixture of allegory and offbeat characters will delight readers. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A minister's wife must find faith in herself when her husband falters as shepherd of a town where rain has fallen steadily for years.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 9780399159237

Mystery & Thriller

The Winter Girl

by Matt Marinovich


Matt Marinovich's The Winter Girl is a brief, chilling story of boredom's path to crime and secrets uncovered.

Scott and Elise have decamped from New York City to the Hamptons, where they are staying at Elise's father Victor's house in unaccustomed splendor while he dies in the hospital of cancer. Their lives have been put on hold as Elise spends her days visiting with Victor and Scott mopes around the house, drinking Victor's liquor cabinet dry. His career as a photographer has fallen off, although he still takes his camera out to the lake some days. His marriage to Elise is failing, for reasons that are more a natural drift than explicitly detailed.

In his boredom, Scott starts watching the house next door, which clearly has been emptied for the winter. Every night he watches the light turn off on its timer at 11 p.m. He grows a little obsessed, so the next move is clear: while Elise is at the hospital one day, he breaks in, just to have a look around. This starts a string of increasingly criminal and disturbing thoughts and actions, and begins to unravel a long-guarded tangle of secrets.

Told in Scott's first-person perspective, The Winter Girl has a strikingly unsettling tone and moody, atmospheric setting. Marinovich (Strange Skies) offers an unnerving and entertaining story. However, as the revelations mount, their pacing feels a bit rushed. On the whole, though, the experience is exhilarating, if a little leeway is allowed for accelerating surprises. And the dramatic denouement leaves the reader eager for more. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: At a borrowed home in the Hamptons, a couple pulling away from one another are drawn toward the house next door--and its secrets.

Doubleday, $24.95, hardcover, 9780385539975

Biography & Memoir

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship

by Paul Lisicky


The Narrow Door is a striking memoir of love and loss by Paul Lisicky (LawnboyThe Burning House). At its center are the life and death of Denise, Paul's longtime best friend; in parallel, Paul and his husband slowly pull apart and finally break up. The ups and downs of these two relationships define the story Lisicky tells, but they also give him space to muse on larger questions: the craft of writing, competition among writers, the meaning of love and events in the larger world.

Paul met Denise in the early 1980s, when they were both teaching assistants at Rutgers. They became fast friends, talking on the phone for hours, sharing the pain and joy of writing. Denise becomes a published novelist first, but Paul's later success threatens her. Paul's husband, identified simply as M, is a successful poet and has his own, weaker friendship with Denise. He supports Paul when she dies, but soon after, the couple begin their drift apart.

The Narrow Door employs a disordered chronology. It is an artistic work, poetic and layered and carefully structured. The tangled sequence of events emphasizes the ever-changing nature of relationships and emotional reactions. Lisicky's tone is sometimes elegiac, sometimes gently humorous, and consistently introspective, questioning. This portrait of a friend in all her complexities is lyrical, intellectual and occasionally challenging. In an austere mood, Lisicky avoids the idea of comfort for its own sake but asks, "Couldn't there be some rigor to comfort?" The Narrow Door answers with both, in a compelling package. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Literary, smart and poignant, this book is an extended eulogy for a friend and a meditation on friendship.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 9781555977283

Travel Literature

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

by Bill Bryson


Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods, One Summer) returns to what he does best in The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, in which he documents a follow-up journey around England, in honor of the 20th anniversary of Notes from a Small Island. For the first chapter or so, Bryson seems almost alarmingly elderly, ranting about the terrible spelling and rudeness of the British youth of today, until it becomes clear that "grumpy old man" is his shtick. His hilarious gripes about parking lot litter, unhelpful store clerks and people who let their dogs poop on public pathways will have the reader chuckling aloud.

Scattered among these funny anecdotes are truly fascinating historical tidbits about Victorian railways, the construction of Stonehenge, 1960s economic development and city planning, obscure marathon races and more. Bryson is an expert at making history come alive, and a little well-timed profanity makes even the driest subject quite funny.

Bryson lived in England for four decades, and his particular perspective on the country is perfect--mixing an outsider's objectivity with a lifelong resident's detailed knowledge. And although Bryson laments the slow decline of English culture, his spot-on reminiscences about local history and beautiful scenery will have Anglophiles checking airfares to Heathrow. Sure to send new readers rushing to their library in search of his older books, The Road to Little Dribbling will also be adored by long-time Bryson fans. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Bill Bryson travels England again, 20 years after Notes from a Small Island.

Doubleday, $28.95, hardcover, 9780385539289

Atlas of an Anxious Man

by Christoph Ransmayr, trans. by Simon Pare


Atlas of an Anxious Man straddles many genres. Flirting with travelogue, memoir, fiction, historical account and anthropological study, this collection of short pieces (calling them "stories" seems both to over- and under-represent their intent and effect) whirls with experiences, crossing the boundaries between countries, times and means of narrative. The result is a rare treat, but even as it defies classification, the book fits snugly into one category: masterpiece.

The book begins with the narrator (who may or may not be Austrian author Christoph Ransmayr) traveling to Easter Island, before heading to all corners of the world, including Sri Lanka, the American Southwest and the Himalayas. Each chapter begins with "I saw," placing the reader in the middle of whatever moment Ransmayr (The Dog King) wants to ruminate on. One assumes that each story he tells did in fact occur, but the book is less a history of his life and more a collection of dazzling memories, opening up various expanses of human existence and the world. The breadth of Ransmayr's travels is staggering, only equaled by his ability to recount perfectly what has happened to him. Fans of authors such as W.G. Sebald will relish the exquisite prose and subtle hints at the fallibility of the narrator, while lovers of travel and adventure will be sucked into the incredible descriptions of the natural world. No matter how one comes to Atlas of an Anxious Man, readers will find it a delight. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: This is a breathtaking journey across the world and through the expanse of human experience.

Seagull Books, $27.50, hardcover, 9780857423146

Children's & Young Adult

Up to This Pointe

by Jennifer Longo


A stunning love letter to ballet and San Francisco, Jennifer Longo's (Six Feet Over It) quirky sophomore novel, Up to This Pointe, is the perfect meld of adorable and heart-wrenching.

Harper Scott--related to South Pole explorer Robert Falcon Scott--has lied her way into a National Science Foundation grant for teens to winter over at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. One hundred and forty days ago, she and her BFF Kate were on the brink of realizing their Plan, which hinged on the San Francisco Ballet offering both girls positions so they could fulfill their professional dance goals and stay together in their beloved hometown. Kate's innate talent and ability to pay for extra classes and stretching coaches paves her way, while Harper taught children's classes at their ballet school to cover her tuition and has dieted since she "was like, twelve." However, Harper so wholeheartedly believed her sacrifice, work and passion would get her through that she never sought backup possibilities, even though 17 is old to start a ballet career. Longo slowly teases out how the Plan went awry and how Harper moves forward from her heartbreak in a dual then-and-now narrative.

Longo offsets Harper's crushing lesson that "sometimes ballet does not love us back" with dreamy rambles through San Francisco, her depressed need "[t]o be frozen" with perky penguins, and one charming rascal of a Mr. Right Now with a steadfast, swoon-inducing Mr. Right. Older teens and adults will relate to Harper's dreams, loss and rebirth. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services librarian, Latah County Library District (Idaho)

Discover: Jennifer Longo's second novel is a sometimes funny, sometimes anguished look at the failed dreams of a teen ballerina who lies her way into Antarctica's McMurdo Station, hoping to heal.

Random House, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 12-up, 9780553537673

The Memory of Light

by Francisco X. Stork


The first thing 16-year-old Vicky Cruz thinks about when she wakes from her failed suicide attempt is that she still wants the silence the sleeping pills promised.

Vicky, the privileged Mexican American daughter of a local Austin, Tex., developer, finds herself in the Lakeview Hospital psychiatric ward with three other teens who are "failures at the thing called living": her roommate, the wild and blunt Mona who aches to find her little sister who's been taken away by social services; sweet, philosophical Gabriel, who mows lawns for his grandfather's business; and hard-talking E.M., a young man with a shaved, "rocklike head" and massive tattooed muscles who works in construction. In their group therapy sessions with the thoughtful but persistent Dr. Desai, as well as in their informal daily conversations, the four patients push each other to be both honest and kind with themselves as they go through the process of recovery from their respective mental illnesses.

Vicky struggles to find her place in her family of bootstrap-pulling overachievers and to confront her guilt about "having everything" but still feeling miserable. It's Gabriel who helps her realize that she does like things... swimming and roses and writing, for starters. What makes The Memory of Light exceptional is the delicate, deft way Mexican American author Francisco X. Stork (Irises, Marcelo in the Real World) handles depression. One truth begins to come through: life--and death--is messy. When, inevitably, things start to blow up again for the four, Vicky's fragile new self-perception and growing strength are put to the test. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This is a nuanced, starkly honest look at adolescent depression and serious mental illness told through the eyes of 16-year-old Vicky Cruz.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9780545474320

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk

by Surishtha Sehgal, Kabir Sehgal, illus. by Jess Golden


Anyone who's ever been within earshot of preschool story time knows the classic nursery-rhyme song "The Wheels on the Bus," where the wheels go "round and round, round and round, round and round."

This joyful take on that rhythmic read-aloud ride takes children to the streets of India, where it's the tuk tuk wheels that go round and round. (A tuk tuk--pronounced "took took"--is a small, three-wheeled motorized shared taxi that, in illustrator Jess Golden's skillful hands, looks a bit like a friendly green and yellow insect.) People in the street jump on and off, the rupees paid to the moustachioed driver, or wala, go "ching ching ching" into his hand, and the tuk tuk riders say "Namaste-ji" and go "bobble-bobble-bobble"--that's right--"all through the town." Mischievous monkeys, traffic-blocking "moo-moo-cows," spraying elephants, and even some Diwali fireworks add to the fun of the tuk tuk's bobbling, jumbling journey, from morning's bustle until night when the cows are sleeping and it's time for the tuk tuk, now empty of passengers, to go home.

In The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk, India-born Surishtha Seghal and her son, Kabir Sehgal (the team behind A Bucket of Blessings) revel in fun-to-say words like squish and swish, and playful wordplay like "poppa-doppa-doms" (the crisp flat snack known as papadoms, as explained in the book's handy glossary). Golden's (Snow Dog, Sand Dog) cartoonish watercolor, pastel and colored pencil illustrations are expressive and artful, and, with a positively edible color palette, paint a warm, welcoming picture of a festive day on the streets of India. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The popular nursery song "The Wheels on the Bus" travels to India where the wheels are not on a bus but on a tuk tuk that goes "all through the town."

Beach Lane Books/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 2-5, 9781481448314

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