Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 4, 2016


From My Shelf

Clarkson Potter Publishers: Exciting Games for Readers and Word Lovers

Quirk Books: Holiday Gift Guide

Chris Edwards: Finding Support

After an award-winning career in advertising spanning nearly 20 years, Chris Edwards left his job as executive v-p, group creative director, at Arnold Worldwide to write his memoir, Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some (Greenleaf Book Group), about his transgender journey. We asked him what he would say to people who don't have the supportive family and friends he has. (Our review is below, and our full interview is here.)

I was very lucky to have the support I had and still have. And I know there are many transgender people out there who aren't so lucky. What is most alarming to me, and a big reason why I wrote this book, is that the suicide attempt rate for transgender kids is 51%. And this is largely due to lack of support at home. I feel if there were more "everyday" success stories like mine out there, parents could look at those examples and say, "Well those people did it and they turned out okay, my child will be fine."

It's great that celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner are spreading awareness and opening the conversation to a mainstream audience, but it's hard for a parent to be reassured that their child will be fine because celebrity life is not relatable. So really my message to parents and family members would be to please be more understanding and give your loved one the chance to live a full and happy life. And for the trans kids and adults who are feeling alone, I would say, surround yourself with positive people. Find support groups. There are so many resources out there that I didn't have back in the mid '90s when I went through this. One of them is Camp Aranu'tiq, a nonprofit program providing trans kids age 8-18 and their families with support that is so critical at that age. I'm donating a portion of proceeds from my book sales to their organization.

--Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Workman Publishing: Enter to Win a Library of Our Bestselling Holiday Gifts


Book Candy

Fitzgerald on Good Writing

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." Signature featured "19 F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes for flappers and philosophers."

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"School has just started again, and everyone has survived the stress of picking out an outfit for the first day of school," Quirk Books noted in showcasing the "best uniforms in books."

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The New York Public Library shared its "7 favorite literary coffee shops."

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"Welcome to Wigtown: A photo tour of Scotland's National Book Town," brought to you by Mental Floss.

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Library "bookcase." Bookshelf featured a design that "consists of two separate wallpaper rolls that can be pasted alternately to provide more variety to the design."


The Wangs vs. the World

by Jade Chang

Jade Chang's first novel, The Wangs vs. the World, is an accomplishment: sparkling characters, family dynamics, humor and despair set against global historic and economic forces, rendering the title entirely apt.

Charles Wang is a proud patriarch. He has three beautiful, talented children (though his son hasn't slept with quite so many women yet as he should have, and his older daughter lives too far away), and has built a major financial empire in makeup manufacturing. He has the house in Bel-Air, the factories, the cars; his second wife has all the designer clothing, jewelry and handbags she ever wanted. He has a "sexy little cigarette speedboat painted with twenty-seven gallons of Suicide Blonde, his best-selling nail polish color--a perfect blue-toned red that set off the mahogany trim and bright white leather seats."

Until he doesn't.

In 2008, the Wang fortune evaporates, like so many others, due nearly as much to Charles's hubris as to the economic climate of the time. In the face of this calamity (frequently referred to in his inner monologue as "the Failure"), Charles turns to an old legend: his family's land in China, stolen by the Communists. This fable of luxury and excess was his birthright, and with the U.S.-based version collapsed, he determines to take his family back to the old country and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. And so a road trip ensues, with the patched-together family forming and reforming in various configurations cross-country.

Charles and his second wife, Barbra, depart the California home they no longer own in a powder-blue Mercedes station wagon nearly 30 years old, which luckily had been transferred into the nanny's name, so it wasn't repossessed with the other cars. They pick up stunned younger daughter Grace from her boarding school in Santa Barbara, then son Andrew from Phoenix, Ariz., where he'd been enrolled in college (working harder on his stand-up comedy routine than on his studies). The Wangs aim for the home of elder daughter Saina in the Catskills, where she struggles to regroup from her own personal trauma--and from there, for China. But on a southern detour, Andrew leaves the group for an older woman he meets at a New Orleans wedding.

The hilarity of filial antics on this road trip, "a troupe of Chinese Okies fleeing a New Age Dust Bowl," forms a central part of this story. But the larger narrative involves Charles's perception of the injustices done to the Wangs by history: Japan's invasion of China, immigration through Taiwan, investment patterns in the U.S. The next generation of Wangs has taken an artistic turn: Saina is a fallen darling of the New York art world; Andrew aspires to be a comic, but relies perhaps too heavily on Asian jokes; and Grace surprises her elders with her fashion sense (and a promising blog on the topic). The Wangs vs. the World is about generational and cultural challenges, and not just that of the Chinese immigrant to the United States. It is more about family than money.

This is a stylish novel, fun to read. The Wangs sometime speak in a mashup of English and Chinese that Chang leaves untranslated, though adequately understandable in context. Charles has his own prejudices, including a bias against "the tropical joke of Taiwan" and "the poor, illiterate, ball-scratching half men from Canton and Fujian." Each chapter shifts perspective, beginning with Charles the patriarch and cycling through outsider stepmother Barbra (whose further crime is to be not even Chinese, but Taiwanese), the three privileged but loving children, even the 1980 Mercedes.

Chang crafts her characters expertly, with nuance and precise details. In Charles's mind, makeup "was artifice, and it was honesty. It was science and it was psychology and it was fashion; but more than that, it was about feeling wealthy. Not money--wealth. The brilliant Aegean blues and slick wet reds and luscious blacks, the weighty packaging, with its satisfying smooth hinges and sound closures." In packing to leave his dorm, Andrew prioritizes "his top five pairs of sneakers--original issue Infrared Air Max 90s, Maison Martin Margiela Replica 22s, Common Projects Achilles Mid, beat-up checkboard Vans, and a pair of never worn Air Jordan 4 Undefeateds." Saina's social life in the Catskills is populated by few but absorbing characters--including an old artist boyfriend and a new one who's a farmer--who are among Chang's finest sketches. Andrew's economics professor offers an impassioned in-class explanation for the crash: "Every one of you ought to be furious because you are the unfortunate generation who will be graduating and trying to obtain jobs in a busted economy that we might well pack up and sell to the Chinese." These details, and perfectly formed dialogue, make an already engrossing story positively glitter.

As a novel with momentum and magnetism, reaching across generations from China and Taiwan to high-society California and New York to New Orleans and the Catskills, with stops along the way, The Wangs vs. the World undertakes an ambitious range of material. Chang manages both this sweeping plot and backdrop, as well as the finer points of characterization and relationships, with ease. The result is hilarious and heartfelt, witty and wise, and a prodigious achievement for a first-time novelist. --Julia Jenkins

Houghton Mifflin, $26, hardcover, 368p., 9780544734098

Jade Chang: Method Writer

 

Jade Chang has covered arts and culture as a journalist and editor. She is the recipient of a Sundance Fellowship for Arts Journalism, the AIGA/Winterhouse Award for Design Criticism, and the James D. Houston Memorial scholarship from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She lives in Los Angeles. The Wangs vs. the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is her debut novel.

Your journalistic background covered some of the topics in the Wangs' lives, but still: How different was writing a novel? And how hard?

I never got an MFA, but my college did have a good creative writing program, so I went through writing workshops there. And in workshop, we were always writing short stories. I guess I liked it okay, and when I graduated I continued trying to write short stories, but sometimes a thing is just not your form. And short stories were kind of hard for me. Simultaneously, I was working as a journalist. And I enjoyed writing articles--hated writing on deadline, but enjoyed writing articles. But once I started writing a novel it felt like, ahh!--this makes more sense. Having all this space, all this room, all this time, having a much broader canvas felt more exciting to me. I don't know that being a journalist affected my experience enormously, except that I think it's really good training because you learn to not be too precious about your words. I got used to being edited, to rewriting and all that stuff. And that's good training for any writer.

Did the Wangs come to you fully formed, or did you have to work to build them? Are they based on anyone you know?

There's definitely no character-by-character corollary for them in real life. I would say that Charles Wang, the father, came to me kind of fully formed. His bluster, his exuberance, his excitement about life, but also his kind-of-asshole side, all of those things felt like--well, like a view of America to me. And then also he just really felt like a lot of fun to do. The other characters definitely felt from the very beginning like real people to me. But I do a lot of character work--I ask myself questions about a character, and a lot of that stuff doesn't go into the book at all, but it gives me a more well-rounded sense of who someone is and how they will react in a situation that does end up in the book.

Your characters are so rich, and span genders, ages, lifestyles and stages of life.

I knew I wanted to look at contemporary life from several different viewpoints. Growing up kind of between Gen X and Gen Y, I always found that definition of generations really interesting. So I really wanted to have siblings who were in different generations, who looked at the world in different ways. There are roughly 10 years in age between the sisters Saina and Grace, and that's a huge difference in experience.

Then you have a father who is an immigrant, children born here, and a stepmother who comes from a world that's actually very different from the father's, even though to someone who knows nothing about them, you might think that they are from the exact same world. I wanted to show a lot of different viewpoints. And I was interested in getting into a lot of worlds in this book. So you have the father who thinks of himself as a consummate entrepreneur or businessman, who makes a fortune in makeup. And then you have the oldest daughter who is an artist, and so you get to go into the art world. And then you have the middle son who's a standup comedian and the youngest daughter who is an aspiring style blogger. I really wanted to look at worlds where you have a balance between artifice and reality. It's all tied to the outset of the financial collapse in 2008, and that particular financial collapse, as most of them are I think, was based on essentially a lie, or the big con--mortgages we couldn't really afford, and all that. The financial world at that time was falling apart based on a beautiful lie. It made me very interested in other worlds that are based on that as well. I think makeup is definitely that. And then the art world--you know, I love it so much in many ways, but a piece can be worth nothing or millions of dollars, based on who says it is. That is so fascinating to me. I love the overlaps between these worlds, in how we ascribe values to things.

I really enjoyed your shifting perspectives--even the car gets a voice. Was that hard to write?

It was a challenge, and it was a really fun challenge. I definitely knew I wanted to do that. I was joking with a friend that, just like a method actor, I'm a method writer. I just really need to completely be in someone's head and looking through their eyes in order to fully embody a character. And I liked the challenge of it, honestly. I wanted to see if I could write from five or six viewpoints.

You chose to leave some untranslated Chinese dialogue for the (non-Chinese-reading) reader to decipher from context clues. Why?

A lot of the books that we read in America today are from the point of view of white people in America. Or they're written for what has been the majority audience, which is white people in America. And I feel like on the one hand obviously this book is for everybody, as every book is, but I wanted a different world of people to get to be the insiders. So people who speak Chinese and can understand the Chinese, they get to be the insiders in this book. But I didn't want to write it in Chinese characters, because I wanted any reader to be able to kind of sound it out and get that experience of what it feels like to eavesdrop in a language that you don't understand.

But you're not actually missing out on anything. There might be something a little bit jokey, or a colloquialism that's in the Chinese that doesn't come out in the English, but essentially, it's all there.

Do you have a favorite character?

I feel a lot of sympathy for Andrew. He is the middle brother, he is really trying hard to find his way in the world, he's so good-hearted, he really just wants the best for everybody. But he's also a young guy, and so he makes a lot of dumb missteps. And I just love stand-up comedy. I think it's so fascinating and so fun. You have to be so smart to do it well, and also so emotionally reckless. I feel a lot of sympathy for stand-up comics in general, and so writing him and writing those scenes where he gets up and does stand-up sets, that really made me love him a lot.

But whichever character I was working on emotionally, working on their emotional arc, I felt a lot of love for that character at that point.

What are you working on next?

I am working on another novel. We'll see what happens. --Julia Jenkins


Shelf vetted, publisher supported.


Book Review

Fiction

The Black Notebook

by Patrick Modiano, trans. by Mark Polizzotti


There was a literary fracas in the United States in 2014 when Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize. Many critics fumed, as they do annually, that Philip Roth had been usurped by an unknown and unworthy foreign author (never mind that Modiano is French, the academy Swedish). Subsequently, more of Modiano's books have been translated into English, enriching readers of that language, for whom The Black Notebook should cement Modiano's Nobel-worthiness.

Jean, upon reviewing the fastidious details he captured in his black notebook from the 1960s, reminisces about his lost love, Dannie, and a circle of Moroccans he came to know through her. Dannie is mysterious and abrupt, charming and sweet, her past obscure, and, for Jean, what is left of her are fragmentary memories, layered upon each other like the successive generations of streets and buildings that make up modern Paris. Theirs is a narrative equally constructed in the present as it is true to the past, with a sense of memory's fragility.

Of Dannie's opacity and possible criminality, Jean claims, "None of this was important. The only thing that mattered was that we were strolling along the quays without asking anyone's permission and without leaving anything behind. And we could just as easily cross over the Seine and lose ourselves in other neighborhoods, and even leave Paris for other cities and another life." But it must matter, for having lost her, Jean can only find her, at least metaphorically, by understanding who they both were. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

Discover: The Black Notebook is a brilliant evocation of yearning, memory, identity and narrative ambiguity set in '60s Paris.

Mariner, $15.95, paperback, 144p., 9780544779822

Storey Publishing: The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich


Winter Sky

by Chris Stewart


Chris Stewart (Seven Miracles that Saved America), U.S. Congressman from Utah, turns to historical fiction with Winter Sky, a story set during the bleak, cold days of December 1944.

The Red Army is advancing, the Nazis are withdrawing and the people of Poland are trapped between two enemies. A few brave Polish Resistance fighters, known as "the Devil's Rebels," have been fighting the Nazis, but they are forced to retreat from the Soviet surge. One young fighter winds up in the (fictional) village of Gorndask, with no memory of how he came to be injured, or even of his name. His only clue to his identity is the ripped photograph in his pocket.

A mysterious young woman gives the rebel news of a refugee train heading toward the American lines, but before he can act, a fellow countryman informs the SS of his presence in Gorndask. In spite of the Soviet threat, the SS officers are determined not to let a Devil's Rebel escape, and set off in pursuit of him.

A short and fast-paced novel that covers a rarely seen side of World War II, Winter Sky is a fast and fascinating read. Stewart does an excellent job of depicting the problems of the Polish people, and the bravery of the Resistance fighters who spent years fighting the Nazis after the 1939 invasion. Readers are sure to admire the bewildered young hero, who is determined to do the right thing, even at the risk of putting himself in further danger. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A young Polish Resistance fighter is on the run from SS officers in this touching novel.

Shadow Mountain, $16.99, hardcover, 192p., 9781629722290

Avery Publishing Group: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams


Graphic Books

Cat Rackham

by Steve Wolfhard


To know a cat is to love a cat, and to know Cat Rackham is to love Cat Rackham. Perennially depressed and clad in a green T-shirt, Cat is the anthropomorphic emblem of a certain type of being: striving, scheming and wondering about the point of it all. Throughout his exploits, he charms, a credit to Adventure Time artist Steve Wolfhard's keen eye for the liminal space between absurdity and humanity.

This collection of short episodes falls decidedly to the adult end of the spectrum, despite its often bombastic, caricaturish style. In one instance, prompted by his chipper buddy Jeremy the squirrel, Cat Rackham searches high and low for coffee, only to find a cabin nestled in the middle of the forest. There, he's immediately scooped up by a certifiable cat lady (this reviewer doesn't use that term lightly) and housed alongside an obese and pampered fellow feline. When Cat schemes his way onto the counter (using the other cat as a stepstool, naturally), he's caught in the act, and discovers that the mistress of the house plans to assemble him into a bathrobe made of other (live) strays.

Outlandish, humorous and tenderly rendered, Cat Rackham's most winsome element is its candid confrontations with mental health. The most moving frames are wordless, depicting the titular kitty as he descends into depression throughout the seasons, only to be reinvigorated by a glimpse at mundane love. It's a lesson Cat Rackham imparts effectively: that sometimes, the simplest, silliest pleasures are the ones that keep us going. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Cat Rackham depicts a depressed, T-shirt clad feline as he navigates the absurdity of life.

Koyama Press, $19.95, hardcover, 124p., 9781927668382

Trellis Publishing: Gift from the Garden by Bernie DuBois


Food & Wine

Big Food Big Love: Down-Home Southern Cooking Full of Heart from Seattle's Wandering Goose

by Heather L. Earnhardt


Big Food Big Love is a delightful combination: it inspires with beautiful, inviting photography; it remains practical in its simplicity of ingredients and instructions; and it reveals the character of a Southern cuisine (yes, there is more than one), of a restaurant and an author.

Heather Leigh Earnhardt opens with a short and sweet account of a life that took her from the Carolinas to Louisiana and eventually to Seattle, where she opened the Wandering Goose. She covers staples of Carolina cooking and entertaining: pimento cheese and cheese straws, fried okra and Brunswick stew, red-eye gravy and perfect buttermilk biscuits--and oh, the jams!--fundamentals that readers are advised to tweak and make their own. Then there are Southern-inflected inventions, like the red tomato cheddar pie, for instance, and a few that feel more contemporary and a bit more Northwestern, like the Bluebird Grain Farms farro and collard green salad. The servings are generous, the technique level easy to moderate. Earnhardt avoids the politics of barbecue--in fact, there's really no barbecue in here except for the pulled pork butt, which she dresses in a central Carolina vinegar sauce (eastward from Tennessee, tomato becomes more vestigial in sauces, and eventually nonexistent).

There are plenty of barbecue books, restaurant books and cookbooks that focus on other regions of the South, but few that take up good ol' Carolina cooking in as big-hearted and inviting a manner as this. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Discover: The owner of Seattle's Wandering Goose introduces approachable and delicious Southern cooking, with an emphasis on the Carolinas.

Sasquatch Books, $24.95, hardcover, 304p., 9781632170613

Legend Press: Lose yourself in a legendary classic - Click to win a copy


Biography & Memoir

The Future Tense of Joy: A Memoir

by Jessica Teich


Although Jessica Teich had an enviable life, with a devoted husband, two beautiful young daughters, a dog, a garden and plenty to read, she was discontent, "floating in a spiritual limbo," obsessed with fears and memories of the abuse she suffered as an adolescent. In The Future Tense of Joy, Teich openly acknowledges her anxieties and shares how reading the obituary of Lacey Cooper-Reynolds--whom she had never met--spurred her to explore the woman's life and, in doing so, understand her own.

"In her buried heart, I could hear an echo of my own," Teich writes. Like her, Lacey was a Rhodes Scholar, living in California. She was brilliant and well loved, and her suicide shocked her family and friends. Teich Googled Lacey and began talking to the woman's friends and family, wondering what sadness led her to take her life, comparing her own grief with Lacey's, and pondering whether they shared feelings of inadequacy, phobias and anxieties. As a teenager, Teich was a dancer in a company that included a man who molested and beat her. Nobody came to her aid, and fear and shame kept her silent. She fled and later built a career as a literary manager, and enjoyed a loving marriage. But motherhood and fear for her daughters' well-being tightened "this knot of longing and betrayal" rooted in the violence she had endured.

In this unusual memoir/mystery, Teich uses her considerable academic and writing talents to craft a credible and well-rounded portrait of Lacey, while gaining the confidence to examine and respect her own story--and to forgive the past and anticipate the future. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Burdened by childhood molestation, Jessica Teich discovers an obituary of a woman with a similar past, whose suicide offers Teich insight about herself.

Seal Press, $22, hardcover, 296p., 9781580055697

Prospect Park Books: Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style by Charles Phoenix


Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some

by Chris Edwards


In this bold memoir about gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery, Chris Edwards explains, "That feeling of finally being complete--of being who you really are--trumps everything." It ultimately takes Edwards more than three decades and 28 surgeries to realize his consummate body, but in 1974, at five years old, he already knows his true gender. It's everyone around him who seems confused. When Edwards, through the help of an amazing counselor, is finally able to share his battle with his family and friends, he finds support, compassion and encouragement. While everyone doesn't always understand, he patiently educates them--and his readers. Edwards also invites everyone to laugh with him--learning to pee standing up, mistakenly inviting the wrong woman on a date. His stark openness and dogged determination allow the audience to identify with him through their similarities, instead of fearing the differences.

Balls is a stunning self-portrait of an exceptional man, an inspiration for others who may be a gender not recognized by those around them. And it is a primer for those fortunate enough to be born "complete." With eloquence and grace, as well as sharp wit and brutal honesty, Edwards explains to his audience, "The key to understanding gender dysphoria is realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are two totally different and completely separate things." From opening himself up to his family, friends and colleagues to sharing the intimate details of his story with the world, Chris Edwards has no shortage of moxie. Smart, funny, genuine and uplifting, Balls is sure to win a lot of hearts. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A courageous memoir of one man's struggles, Balls tells the extraordinary story of being transgender in an era before it even had a name.

Greenleaf, $24.95, hardcover, 264p., 9781626343252

Sounds True: Practice You: A Journal by Elena Brower


Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History

by Kate Schatz, illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl


Following their 2015 Rad American Women A-Z, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl go global in Rad Women Worldwide, celebrating the achievements of women and girls throughout history. Their second well-researched collection of gorgeously detailed paper-cut illustrations is accessible to young readers but fascinating for grown-ups, too.

"May we all have the courage to be rad!" is the creators' challenge in the introduction to the brief bios of 40 women, representing every continent, from ancient Mesopotamia 4,300 years ago to Wimbledon and soccer's World Cup in 2007. Groundbreaking women whose names are likely lost to traditional history books are hailed here: the Mothers of the Plaza who challenged Argentina's dictatorship during the "Dirty War" of the 1970s; Australian Faith Bandler, who led a movement to end discrimination against her nation's indigenous people; Kalpana Chawla, India's first woman astronaut, who perished in the 2003 Columbia shuttle crash.

Rad women in this collection are humble, brilliant and theatrical. They pursue human rights as well as women's rights. Black performer Josephine Baker, shunned in the 1920s United States but embraced in France, spied on Nazis as a member of the French Resistance. Some Rad Women are unknown: the Guerilla Girls anonymously expose discrimination in the art world through posters, billboards and actions.

Demonstrating the dynamic movements of women who fight for a cause, Schatz and Klein end with a prose poem call to action on behalf of the "one in every 122 humans on earth who is a refugee, displaced person, or asylum seeker" and noting "Who helps? We do." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: The 40 brief biographies in Rad Women Worldwide focus on brave female activists throughout history and around the globe.

Ten Speed Press, $15.99, hardcover, 112p., 9780399578861

Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

by Tilar J. Mazzeo


When Nazi Germany invaded Poland during World War II, it was the beginning of the end for the millions of Jews who called that country home. But thanks to the heroic efforts of one woman, Irena Sendler, who was in charge of a resistance group, almost 2,500 Jewish children living in the Warsaw Ghetto escaped annihilation. Using meticulous research to back her account, Tilar Mazzeo takes readers to the chaotic years under Nazi rule where the slightest transgressions by Jews or their sympathizers, or the whims of a Nazi soldier, could mean life or death.

Mazzeo (The Hotel on the Place Vendome) engrosses readers with the long-buried story of "the female Schindler." Sendler was a Pole, in love with a Jewish man and had many Jewish friends; she risked death multiple times a day sneaking food, clothing and much-needed drugs and medical supplies into the ghetto while smuggling children out, through the sewers, or in suitcases, wooden vegetable bins and toolboxes, past the wall that separated the Jews from the rest of the Polish citizens. Like any history of the Holocaust, Irena's Children is not an easy read; it lays bare the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the indifference of many Poles toward the Jews. Mazzeo has written a tense account that superbly balances the horrors of the war with the valiant and incredible efforts of Sendler and her group of resistance fighters, who didn't see Jews or Aryans, but children in need of food, clothing, shelter and love. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: The story of a Polish woman who risked death on a daily basis to save as many Jewish children as she could during World War II.

Gallery Books, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781476778501

Portable Press: Uncle John's Old Faithful 30th Anniversary by Bathroom Readers' Institute


Asylum: A Survivor's Flight from Nazi-Occupied Vienna Through Wartime France

by Moriz Scheyer, trans. by P.N. Singer


When Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Moriz Scheyer was an arts editor writing for one of Vienna's main newspapers. He was also Jewish, a fact that became a matter of life and death under Nazi rule. Asylum is Scheyer's memoir of the events leading up to and through his years as a refugee, first in Austria and later in France. It was written while hiding in a Catholic convent and hospital for the mentally ill, before the Allied invasion. Scheyer, his wife and a close family friend lived there surrounded by nuns who risked their own lives to protect them, as well as the 80 or so patients under their care.

With candor and introspection on what it meant to be a Jew during this time, Scheyer muses on the physical brutality, as well as psychological and spiritual damage, the Nazis inflicted on his family and all Jews under their control. He leads readers through his harrowing moments of deportation from Austria, his internment in a French concentration camp and subsequent rescue, his attempt to flee into neutral Switzerland and, finally, his years in hiding where--as he and others like him waited moment by moment for the agony to end--he wrote. He reflects on the ease with which non-Jews collaborated with the Nazis, and on those who actively resisted the party's atrocious demands.

The original Asylum manuscript was destroyed in 1949 by Scheyer's stepson, but a copy was later found and translated by his step-grandson P.N. Singer, allowing readers rare insight into one man's mind during this tragic historical era. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Reminiscent of Anne Frank's diary, Asylum is a Jewish man's memoir on what life was like for a Jew under Nazi rule.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780316272889

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


History

The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters

by Christine Negroni


Christine Negroni (Deadly Departure) is an aviation journalist and air safety investigator with years of experience. In The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters, she uses her expertise to primarily analyze Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has mystified pilots, investigators and journalists alike since it vanished on March 8, 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members presumably still aboard.

Debunking far-fetched conspiracy theories and using countless other flights as examples, Negroni explains her theory that hypoxia could have caused the strange events of March 8, when the flight veered drastically off course, and that tiny mechanical errors could have led to the oxygen deficient conditions. Citing flights from Greece to Hawaii, and her own experiences in a hypoxia simulation, Negroni shows how a lack of oxygen leads to giddiness, poor decision making and a rapid deterioration of physical and mental abilities.

While not quite as exciting as its title would lead one to think it is, The Crash Detectives is nevertheless fascinating. Negroni analyzes flights from the 1930s all the way up to Flight 370, detailing incidents involving bad weather, mechanical failure and other crazy circumstances that can happen in midair. Full of meticulous research and fascinating anecdotes, it is the perfect light nonfiction to read anywhere (except, perhaps, on an airplane). A captivating blend of history, science and real-life mystery, The Crash Detectives is sure to find a wide audience. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: The Crash Detectives investigates what has caused numerous bizarre and mysterious air disasters, particularly Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Penguin Books, $17, paperback, 288p., 9780143127321

Children's & Young Adult

The Way Things Work Now: From Levers to Lasers, Windmills to Wi-fi, A Visual Guide to the World of Machines

by David Macaulay


David Macaulay is well loved for his picture books such as Rome Antics and the Caldecott-winning Black and White, and for the gorgeous, sweeping lines in his architecture series. Undoubtedly, however, The Way Things Work stands as one of his finest achievements, educating all ages on the ins and outs of machines, from simple levers to complex electronics, in its original 1988 version and in the revised The New Way Things Work that followed a decade later. Macaulay embraces further changes brought by rapidly advancing digital technology in The Way Things Work Now.

Whether readers long to revisit the wheel or peek inside a video-game controller, hybrid car, smartphone or LCD screen, Macaulay awaits with beautiful, easily understandable drawings, meticulous cross-sections, boiled-down explanations and, of course, a herd of whimsical woolly mammoths. The author-illustrator's ability to delight both the eye and the funny bone remains the great genius of the book. Seasoned with a wry, absurdist sensibility, the pages provide seemingly infinite opportunities for I Spy, new discoveries and sight gags. The categorization structure of the previous edition is preserved, assigning objects to sections focused on basic mechanics, harnessing the elements, wavelength technology, and electrical and automated devices. The new sections triumphantly revitalize "The Digital Domain." The afterword still gives historical context for invention and discovery timeframes, and the requisite index and glossary remain handy features.

Encyclopedic, logical and masterfully illustrated, Macaulay's work reminds those raised in the Internet age of the power and sheer pleasure of a truly brilliant reference book. Technologies may go in and out of fashion, but The Way Things Work and its progeny? Never. --Jaclyn Fulwood, lead librarian at Del City Public Library, Okla.

Discover: David Macaulay revises and expands his classic The New Way Things Work (1998) to explore 3D printers, smartphones, hybrid cars, the optical mouse and more.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35, hardcover, 400p., ages 11-up, 9780544824386

Gertie's Leap to Greatness

by Kate Beasley, illus. by Jillian Tamaki


Kate Beasley's debut novel has a terrific opening line: "The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect." Best half dead, because 10-year-old Gertie Reece Foy wants to resuscitate the bullfrog, boast about it in her back-to-school "summer speech," and be that much closer to being the best fifth grader ever--not just in Alabama but in the world.

Gertie's ultimate goal is to prove to the mother who left her that she is important. She will knock on her traitorous mom's door, "gleaming with greatness," and show her that she is "one-hundred-percent, not-from-concentrate awesome and that she didn't need a mother anyway. So there."

It's sometimes painful to watch Gertie tie herself in knots to be perfect, but Aunt Rae is always there to try to boost her great-niece's morale. This loving, supportive woman--and Gertie's often-absent-but-caring-father--are at the core of Gertie's Leap to Greatness, offering a gentle nudge for readers to remember what one has vs. longing for what one doesn't.

The ferocity of Gertie is something to admire, marvel at, and almost fear when she's feeling "dangerous." Her observations about everything from how Aunt Rae should be able to sense her unhappiness "like how dogs could smell fear and earthquakes and alien invasions" to The Waltons (a TV show "about this big family that wore old-fashioned clothes and talked about how much they loved each other") make this an energetic, entertaining read. Caldecott Honor artist Jillian Tamaki's (This One Summer) vivacious, often kinetic illustrations of Gertie and her entourage make the story leap to life. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this winning middle-grade debut, Gertie vows to be the best fifth-grader ever, to prove to the mom who abandoned her that she is special.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 8-12, 9780374302610

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