Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, January 3, 2017


HarperCollins: Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

From My Shelf

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

Algonquin Books: Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet

There's not much crazier than starting a diet plan a week before Thanksgiving. It has a higher chance of epic fail than going on the wagon right before your New Year's Eve party. But my husband and I did it, and have maintained; perhaps our strategy is the key to making perennial New Year's diet resolutions stick.

 
 

We didn't want a traditional diet--we just wanted to change the way we'd been eating, and Rip Esselstyn's The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health (Grand Central Life & Style) looked like a good choice: Lower total cholesterol? Check. Lower blood pressure? Check. Lower weight? Check. Plant-based diet? Uh... not so fast. Kale, brown rice, lentils, broccoli? No olive oil, no dairy, no donuts? What could be more boring than brown and green food? But we can testify: Esselstyn's plant-based ("strong food") plan works; surprisingly (to me), it's delicious. A breakfast of homemade muesli (oats, rye and barley) topped with blueberries, raspberries, banana slices, pomegranate seeds and almond milk--scrumptious, and even pretty.

Triathlete and former firefighter Esslestyn isn't doctrinaire, but wants you to know what you're doing when you add brown sugar to oatmeal, or whole milk instead of soy to your latte. A glass of pinot with your Red Quinoa Bowl (with cumin, lime juice and red bell pepper)? Sure, but know that it's not just empty calories, it inhibits your body's ability to burn fat. We had turkey and stuffing and gravy for Thanksgiving, with pumpkin pie for breakfast the next day; then we went back on the Rescue Diet because it is tasty and satisfying, as well as being healthy.

"When you eat strong food, your cholesterol nosedives, your blood pressure bottoms out, your blood sugars even out, and your energy increases." You can't ask for much more if you want to jump-start a change in your food habits. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


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


Book Candy

Happy New Year's Resolutions!

A slightly belated Happy New Year. "These hilarious Shakespearean New Year's resolutions are just what you need to get over 2016," Bustle promised, while also escorting 2017 in with "13 New Year's writing resolutions inspired by famous authors" and "11 bookish New Year's resolutions to make happen in 2017."

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"Literary quiz 2016: the year in books--and who said what?" was featured by the Guardian.

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The new film musical La La Land inspired Signature to share its picks for the "10 best book-based musicals."

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"Celebrate winter with six Geeky cutout snowflake ideas," Quirk Books suggested.

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Buzzfeed told "17 jokes you'll only understand if you're well read."


Titan Books: Relics by Tim Lebbon


Great Reads

Rediscover: Postcards from the Edge

Carrie Fisher's death dims the many hopes of Star Wars fans eager to see her continued portrayal of Princess Leia in the Disney-revived franchise. Fisher's passing also marks the loss of a talented author, screenwriter and humorist, whose work includes candid depictions of her struggles with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. She died a week after suffering medical complications on a flight home from the European leg of her book tour for The Princess Diarist (Blue Rider Press), a memoir chronicling the making of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, including her affair with married co-star Harrison Ford.

Wishful Drinking (2008), based on her one-woman play of the same name, and Shockaholic (2011) were the first of Fisher's humorous nonfiction memoirs, but not the first time she shined a lighthearted light on her sometimes dark past. Published by Simon & Schuster in 1987, Postcards from the Edge is a semi-autobiographical novel about an actress trying to remain sober after a drug overdose. It tells the tale of Suzanne Vale (played by Meryl Streep in the 1990 film adaptation) through epistolary postcards and letters, monologues and, finally, in third-person narration as the actress exits rehab and navigates new relationships and professional pitfalls. It was last published in 2010 ($16, 9781439194003). --Tobias Mutter


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


The Writer's Life

J.D. Daniels: Seeing What We're Ready to See

photo: Willy Somma

J.D. Daniels received a 2016 Whiting Award for Nonfiction, and his writing has appeared in the Paris Review, AGNI, n+1 and the Oxford American, among other publications. His collection The Correspondence (just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is difficult to categorize: four nonfiction letter-essays, two fiction "letters" that both confound and amuse. Our reviewer (see below) wrote, "These letters are brief, but they hit the mark with more than bewilderment and humor--they often nail the truth."

What exactly are we reading here?

The Paris Review has a tradition of closing its issues with a letter from abroad. I sent the magazine a story of two years spent training with professional and amateur fighters here in Boston and, briefly, in Brazil. My editor thought "Letter from Cambridge" would be an unexpected title for a tale of unremitting smelly violence.

"Letter from Majorca" was selected by Cheryl Strayed for Best American Essays 2013. I wrote that whole thing in a seizure, front to back, top to bottom. There's a lot happening in it. The major narrative through-line is a trip from Italy through the Balearics to coastal Spain on a 43-foot ketch with five Israeli sailors. Didn't know how to sail, didn't speak Hebrew. Sailing is beautiful. Lots of barfing, lots of dolphins and rainbows.

"Letter from Kentucky" began as a magazine piece about a television show called Justified set in Harlan County, Kentucky, but it died when that magazine's editor got canned for taking erotic photographs of his underage female interns' feet. Now all I had was my notes about my journey home--I was born in Kentucky and I lived there for 30 years. For example, I stopped to take a photo of a barn in Hodgenville, where my mother grew up, and a one-eyed old woman walked over the hill and said, "I seen you with your camera, government man." I said, "I'm Charlie and Sylvia Rock's grandson. I've just been up to the cemetery on Red Hill." And the one-eyed old woman said, "I knew your grandmother. She was an extreme seamstress. Many's the time I sold her fabric or a pattern. I used to work at the store, you see. I guess you'd better come over to my son-in-law's." This is a true story.

"Letter from Level Four" was published as "Empathy" in the Paris Review. It's about meeting a man who could have been my twin brother. I hated him to death. You know what Pogo the possum said: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Ninety percent of the story is true. I made up the dog.

"Letter from Devils Tower" was published as "Close Encounters." For a while it was called "Unidentified." You can see its protagonist still isn't identified. It's a story about a doomed love affair, and about a job I had for a couple of years driving a truck.

"Letter from the Primal Horde" is embedded reporting from a group-psychoanalytic conference gone bad. What they do is they experimentally generate psychotic anxiety in order to study what methods, if any, the group develops to manage the mounting terror. It's kind of like atomic-weapons testing. It didn't go well.

There's a palpable sense of the delirious running through these pieces, that life can be as ridiculous and nonsensical as anybody could conceive, that the things that happened to Charles Bukowski, to Hunter Thompson, to Henry Miller--those are really the things that are "normal" for most people. Any given day, we're two twists of fate away from the outlandish. Is this your experience generally, or are we privy to your isolated instances of strangeness?

I'll be honest with you. I spent five hours thinking about this question, and I still don't understand it.

I like what you said about palpable sense, though. That means you can feel something.

Like the vast majority of people who have ever lived, are alive today, or ever will live, I have never read a book by Hunter S. Thompson.

I guess I know what you mean by outlandish. Yesterday a man I don't know walked up to me and gave me a frying pan. Heavy-duty carbon steel for lasting quality.

Or: "Excuse me, sir," a man said to me as I sat down with a cup of coffee. "Are you Irish? I was a Marine. I'll always be a Marine. My grandmother was Irish, and she was a witch. I was a Marine in Vietnam, and the man walking point, with the night goggles, I said to him, Hey. I make this motion with my hand and everybody stops. I said, Over there. Two in the trees. He takes his goggles off, he says, How did you see that? I told him, My grandmother was a witch and I can see things. I'm glad to see you're drinking coffee, sir. That's a drink for men with integrity. It means you have a plan. You want to know what I see when I look at you?"

I said, "Yes, I want to know, but I'm afraid to find out."

He said, "I see green and gold all around you. It means luck. I'm a warlock. That's like a man witch. It's hard to explain to human people."

Then there was the man on the corner who was screaming at the co-ed. I stepped between them. He said, "Look, sir, I don't have a problem, I just want to tell somebody what happened." I said that was fine, he could tell me. So he told me that the night before, while he'd been sleeping rough, someone had poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. He woke up and put himself out. He opened his shirt and showed me his bandages. He couldn't believe anyone could be so evil as to set a living human being on fire. Despite the fact that it had happened to him not 24 hours earlier, he could not believe it, he thought it was outlandish. He wanted to unburden his heart, and just then this girl walked past him. He said, "Miss, miss, listen, last night someone set me on fire," and she, in a hurry on her way to class, not hearing him correctly, thought he wanted a cigarette, and she said to him, "Sorry, I don't have a light," and he, by now pushed beyond the limits of human endurance, began screaming at her, or merely near her. That was when I stepped between them. He told me his story and we hugged each other.

Life is outlandish all the time. We can see what we're ready to see.

What are some topics you'll be exploring in the future? Will there be more correspondences, or are you moving on to other things?

I was going to write a book called Solar Power. Part One was Shamash, Amon-Ra, Apollo, Huitzilopochtli, Amaterasu and the Theosophical Solar Logos. Part Two was heliocentrism, the biochemistry of photosynthesis, nuclear fusion in the sun and crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.

Instead I drove 1,600 miles through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas for a long Esquire article. It should be out in March.

Right now I'm writing about a movie. I get a lot of cognitive mileage out of movies. I love movies. They make me cry. They're so stupid. Most movies are children's movies.

I'm writing a long essay about a horror movie, about Melanie Klein and W.R. Bion and Didier Anzieu and, above all, about the great genius Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. My girlfriend is tired of listening to me talk about her. "How's Janine?" she said yesterday. --Matthew Tiffany, LCPC, writer for Condalmo and psychotherapist


Yearling Books: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar


Book Review

Fiction

The Girl in Green

by Derek B. Miller


In Derek B. Miller's sophomore novel, The Girl in Green, he follows two unlikely heroes on an errand of mercy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth: modern-day Iraq. During the uneasy ceasefire following the first Gulf War in 1991, American soldier Arwood Hobbes meets Thomas Benton, an older British journalist, in the midst of the "industrial and inescapable" boredom at his post 150 miles from the Kuwaiti border. Cocky and determined to get a local perspective on the Shiite rebellion, Benton takes Arwood's semi-dare to sneak over to a nearby town to interview Iraqis. When violence strikes and Arwood steps in to rescue Benton, the two try to save a Kurdish girl in a green dress, but are unable to stop the teen's murder at the hands of a Ba'athist colonel. Arwood and Benton both lose a part of themselves when the girl dies. 
 
Twenty-two years later, Benton hears from an agitated Arwood, who believes he just saw the girl in green, un-aged and in the same dress, in an Internet video of a mortar attack on refugees in Kurdistan. Arwood is convinced that the universe has granted them a chance to right a terrible wrong. 
 
Miller (Norwegian by Night) pulls off an amazing feat of alchemy here, because this chronicle of trauma, violence and endless conflict is the unlikely feel-good story of the year. Not only does he pepper the narrative with enough absurdist humor and one-liners to keep readers helplessly grinning at the darkest moments, he hits points of emotional resonance with the precision of a sniper. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Discover: As daring in execution as imagination, this adventure tale crackles with heart, charm and dark honesty.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, hardcover, 326p., 9780544706255

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


Everything Love Is

by Claire King


Claire King launches her beautiful second novel with a riveting scene on a train bound for Toulouse, France, in May of 1968. A mysterious young woman goes into sudden, violent labor. Sharing her train compartment is a midwife who, seeing her distress, offers help. But by the time this brutal, powerful scene is over, the woman--with no identification--will lose her life giving birth to a baby boy, who will be saved by the midwife, a married woman unable to have children, who will become the baby's mother.
 
What follows is the story of Baptiste Molino, the infant, now a middle-aged bachelor, a man raised in the French countryside. Baptiste has lived a good--yet rather uneventful--life. He thinks he is fulfilled and happy until Amandine Rousseau, an attractive woman wearing green shoes, shows up at his door. During their first meeting, Amandine tells Baptiste she wants "something that makes me feel alive. Joy, passion, despair, something to remember or something to regret.... Perhaps after all this time, what I really want... is to fall in love." As Baptiste learns more about Amandine and her life, he feels challenged, and he begins to question himself: Is there something missing from his life? Is he truly happy? Amandine's presence causes ripples that turn into waves of memories that encourage Baptiste to go on a labyrinthine journey in search of himself.
 
King (The Night Rainbow) thoughtfully plumbs the tangled depths of the human psyche, the meaning of life and the evolution of love in its many incarnations. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This haunting, rewarding memory novel is about a man who goes in search of himself and learns the true meaning of love.

Bloomsbury USA, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9781632865380

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


Of All That Ends

by Günter Grass, trans. by Breon Mitchell


If you're in your 80s, have received two pacemakers and have enjoyed "decades of self-indulgence in hand-rolled cigarettes and well-stuffed pipes," your thoughts are bound to turn toward death. In Of All That Ends, a posthumously published collection of poems and lyric prose, Nobel laureate Günter Grass (The Tin Drum) contemplates his mortality and the fate of a world he's soon to depart. He does so with morbid wit and more than a trace of sorrow. This book, illustrated with many of Grass's drawings, addresses topics that range from his last remaining lower tooth, which he says "would also make a suitable Christmas tree ornament, like a pearl on a pendant," to German chancellor Angela Merkel, Aleppo, the Greek financial crisis and "the bombs exploding daily in Iraq."
 
But it's not all gloom and doom. In one poem, he writes of a beloved typewriter, "sleek and elegant in form, as if Leonardo da Vinci had invented the typewriter on the side." And he reminds us that there's often plenty of life left in an old body. When 80-something Grass says he's too old to write prose, the 101-year-old scholar he complained to "took me sharply to task," pointing out that there's "so much that's new, still untasted.... It's all right to be amazed again." The message of this moving collection is clear: life ends, but assuming you're in control of the matter, that's no reason to limp across the finish line. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: This collection of short poems and prose by Nobel Prize-winner Günter Grass, who died in 2015 at age 87, covers aging, writing and politics.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, hardcover, 167p., 9780544785380

Love, Alice

by Barbara Davis


Societal stigmas and taboos reside at the heart of Love, Alice by Barbara Davis (Summer at Hideaway Key). Set in Charleston, S.C., the novel focuses on 36-year-old Dovie Larkin, whose fiancé committed suicide two weeks before their wedding. A year later, Dovie spends her lunch hours sitting graveside at the cemetery, still grappling with what happened and why, unable to pick up the pieces of her life.
 
One day, Dovie spots an elderly woman leaving a note at the striking angel grave marker of Alice Tandy, a young maid who died 32 years earlier and, to the bewilderment of locals, had been buried in a plot belonging to one of the richest families in town. After the woman leaves, Dovie reads the note: a mother's impassioned regret for having sent her young daughter to an asylum for unwed mothers in Cornwall, England, in the 1960s. Dovie, identifying with the unresolved grief expressed, soon discovers a trove of related letters in the cemetery's lost and found, and sets off in search of the writer, Dora Tandy, who has come to Charleston to learn more about the life--and death--of her long-lost daughter, Alice.
 
Hope, love and forgiveness permeate this beautifully rendered novel where both Dovie and Dora unearth answers to mysteries and reveal secrets that will come to define their respective lives and quests for peace. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Two grief-stricken women cross paths and help each other come to grips with the mysteries of their respective lives.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 432p., 9780451474810

Between Dog and Wolf

by Sasha Sokolov, trans. by Alexander Boguslawski


What do readers do when a work of literature is actively trying to trick them? Some books have twists and turns of plot, often with a stunning reveal, but they typically have resolutions, or at least some final thought for readers to depart with. But what about a work that has very little plot to speak of, or one whose plot points are entirely contradicted later in the text? Sasha Sokolov's Between Dog and Wolf (a French expression for "twilight," which is perfectly suited for this story) is uninterested in how readers typically engage with fiction. This dense novel (if it can even be called that) is about narrative itself, the act and its reception.
 
Written in 1980 and now translated into English, Between Dog and Wolf follows three narratives: one epistolary, one in dramatic third person and, lastly, the poetic musings of one of the protagonists (if anyone in the book can really be called that). All three sections are dynamic, filled with wordplay, portmanteaus and flights of fancy. It's rarely possible to see where the narrative is going. Instead, readers are taken on a literary ride, rolling through images and counter-images, stories and counter-stories that contradict their predecessors, until it finally ends with a poem that could either be read as a statement of purpose or just another game. Either way, it's one hell of a ride. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Russian author Sasha Sokolov's novel breaks the bonds of narrative and makes for a dizzying engagement with how we tell stories.

Columbia University Press, $30, hardcover, 296p., 9780231181464

Mystery & Thriller

Don't Turn Out the Lights

by Bernard Minier, trans. by Alison Anderson


French author Bernard Minier's Don't Turn Out the Lights opens with a deeply disturbing prologue depicting the grisly events encountered by a man walking in a forest with his dog. The scene is unsettling, and will keep readers on edge during what lies ahead.
 
Radio host Christine finds an unsigned and unaddressed suicide note in her mailbox on Christmas Eve, indicating the writer will kill herself if the letter's recipient doesn't intervene. Christine believes the note was mistakenly delivered to her, but it turns out to be the beginning of a nightmare, one in which her life is insidiously destroyed, by unknown persons and for no reason she can imagine. Will she be able to fight her invisible enemy, or will she choose to end the torture with her own suicide?
 
This psychological thriller is told primarily from Christine's point of view and that of the man in the beginning chapter, Martin Servaz (who appeared in The Circle), a cop on leave for depression. He receives clues from an anonymous sender imploring him to reevaluate an old case labeled a suicide, making Servaz wonder if a more sinister story lies behind it. His path eventually converges with Christine's, but he fears he may be too late to save her.
 
Minier sustains a sense of dread throughout. It's frustrating--and sometimes unconvincing--how easily Christine's tormentor can manipulate her supporters, including her fiancé, to turn against her, but once she's forced to fend for herself, she becomes a resourceful heroine. Christine endures one blow after another, but her nemesis finds it's harder than expected to put her lights out. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A woman struggles to comprehend why an unknown tormentor has launched psychological attacks against her.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 400p., 9781250106056

Above the Paw

by Diane Kelly


Police officer Megan Luz and her German Shepherd K-9 partner, Brigit, return for a fifth installment in the Paw Enforcement mystery series. In Diane Kelly's (Against the Paw) other entries, the two have pursued bombers, gang members, thieves and convicts on the lam. In Above the Paw, the lauded Fort Worth, Tex., duo are on patrol at a Fourth of July celebration, where Brigit sniffs out the street/club drug known as Molly (aka ecstasy) among the crowd. Several students at a nearby college have fallen seriously ill after taking the drug, and matters grow even worse after another student collapses at the event. Is it a coincidence that all who succumbed to the drug live in the same college dorm? Twenty-five-year-old Megan volunteers herself and Brigit to go "back to school," where the two work undercover--Megan as a college student and Brigit as her devoted health-service dog--in order to flush out the drug-dealing connection.
 
The story is told from the points of view of Megan, Brigit and the mysterious perpetrator, which heightens the danger, drama and suspense. Kelly has a keen grasp of college life, student quirks and foibles, as well as politics--on campus and off. Add a dash of comedy and recurring characters like Megan's ex-partner and rival on the police force, along with her sexy bomb squad beau, and Above the Paw delivers another entertaining whodunit in the continuation of this fast-paced series. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A Fort Worth, Tex., police officer and her much-loved K-9 partner go undercover at a college to nab a drug dealer.

St. Martin's, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 384p., 9781250094841

Graphic Books

The One Hundred Nights of Hero: A Graphic Novel

by Isabel Greenberg


Isabel Greenberg again draws the thick-lined world she introduced in The Encyclopedia of Early Earth for a wry and wise retelling of One Thousand and One Nights that's sure to become a feminist classic.

Two friends named Manfred and Jerome make a wager. Jerome insists that his wife is so pure, he himself has not managed to take her virginity. Asserting that all women are deceitful, Manfred bets that he can seduce Jerome's wife. Jerome agrees, even offering to leave town for 100 nights. The winner gets the loser's castle. If Manfred wins, which he intends to do by coercion if necessary, he also gets the lady. 
 
Luckily, Cherry, the lady in question, is not nearly as obedient and pure as her husband believes. She secretly loves her maid, Hero, who overhears the wager and contrives a plan to stall Manfred with 100 nights of storytelling. Every night, Manfred becomes captivated by Hero's stories of jealous sisters, dancing princesses and a moon that walks as a mortal woman. Manfred falls into the trap, telling himself he has weeks to waste. Even if Cherry and Hero can win the wager for Jerome, though, they may still face the repercussions of showing their mettle in a world where men destroy women for "storytelling and sassiness."
 
Greenberg's elongated, angular characters sport simple, expressive faces and live amid grass-furred woods, misty marshes and lavishly appointed castles. A cry against oppression, a love letter to the human need for stories, a celebration of the many bonds between women, The One Hundred Nights of Hero will leave readers wishing Greenberg had written 1,000 nights instead. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This sly, funny feminist reimagining of One Thousand and One Nights is set in the same world as Greenberg's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.

Little, Brown, $25, hardcover, 224p., 9780316259170

Essays & Criticism

The Correspondence: Essays

by J.D. Daniels


If you missed J.D. Daniels's crackerjack letters when they first appeared in the Paris Review, The Correspondence is your chance to catch up with this talented, funny, often dark master of the personal essay. Mostly nonfiction, the six pieces in this collection by the Whiting Prize-winning Daniels include experiences as diverse as training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, laboring as a deckhand on a Mediterranean ship out of Tunisia, kicking around his hometown of Louisville, Ky., and attending a group psychotherapy retreat. They paint a picture of a man who embraced the contrary, did more than his share of drugs and alcohol, stumbled in and out of college, handled marriage poorly, dabbled in therapy and wound up becoming a writer, despite some of the whiny, self-centered colleagues in his writing classes. 
 
Each entry is a striking piece of prose with Daniels's sharp take on life nested inside humor and clever wordplay, but "Letter from Kentucky," about his return to his hometown, is perhaps his most sensitive, observant essay. It opens with a biblical begats list of his ancestors, touches harshly on his parents and the religion pounded into him, tastes the bars and alleys that shaped his youth, and captures the heart of the culture in drive-by panoramas: "I drove past Magic Vapor Shop and Tri-State Floors... Urban Creek Holiness Church... Jimbo's 4-Lane Tobacco and the Federal Correctional Institution." Daniels catches something true about every piece of the unsettled world. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With striking prose and self-deprecating wit, Whiting Prize-winner J.D. Daniels uncovers a plethora of small truths.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $20, hardcover, 144p., 9780374535940

Science

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

by Dava Sobel


Long before women had earned the right to vote, a few worked diligently in the astronomy department at Harvard, carefully cataloguing the position and color ranges of the stars, which were preserved through photography onto glass slides. Dava Sobel (Galileo's Daughter) has meticulously researched and recounted the history of these early female astronomers, who were used as human "computers" to perform intricate measurements and calculations while their male colleagues manipulated the heavy telescopes and glass slides to capture the night skies.
 
For over a century, Harvard collected data in this manner, amassing a library of more than half a million individual photographs, which reveal far more than is visible through the telescope, "because the sensitive plate, unlike the human eye, could gather light and aggregate images over time." Thanks to the women Sobel writes about and their industrious and eye-opening analysis of the photographs, much has been learned about the nature of the universe, the stars and galaxies, such as the composition of the stars, the identification of binary and variable stars and the distance between stars. The codes developed by these women to catalog their findings are still in use today; their names have become part of astronomy's history and their work is now being digitized for future research. Rich in scientific details, The Glass Universe is fascinating and enlightening, filled with the personal desires and triumphs of women who were pioneers in the workplace and in the heavens at a time when male dominance was the norm. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: The book explores the huge contributions to astronomy that women at the Harvard Observatory made at a time men dominated the field.

Viking, $30, hardcover, 336p., 9780670016952

Children's & Young Adult

The Warden's Daughter

by Jerry Spinelli


Jerry Spinelli, author of the Newbery Medal winners Maniac Magee, Stargirl, Milkweed and many other middle-grade books, again proves why he's the king of storytellers. The Warden's Daughter, set in a 1959 Pennsylvania prison, is a buoyant yet powerfully emotional coming-of-age novel that reflects its prickly young protagonist's sense of entrapment in her own inarticulable sadness.

As the Hancock County Prison warden's daughter, "scruffy tomboy" Cammie O'Reilly carries significant social heft among her sixth-grade peers, who are intrigued by the world she shares with "crazed" prisoners of every stripe. But it's among these very souls that Cammie searches for a mother figure: "I was sick and tired of being motherless. I wanted one.... If I couldn't have my first-string mother, I'd bring one in off the bench." She finally settles on her housekeeper, the accused arsonist Eloda Pupko, and gets down to the business of wooing her: Cammie fakes an injury, smokes a cigarette in front of her, mocks her, gives her a gift--all to no avail. Will anything turn Eloda, a woman with bright orange hair and a flat demeanor, into the mother Cammie craves?

To her surprise, during this epic summer of adolescent onset and identity search, Cammie finally understands that she is not a happy person: "The sky is blue. The grass is green. Cammie O'Reilly is not happy." It isn't until years later that Cammie learns that with her gruff compassion and stubbornness she can make her own happiness, and that the people in her life have always been looking out for her in ways she never could have imagined. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Cammie O'Reilly, 12-year-old curmudgeon, searches for a mother figure among the female inmates at the prison her father runs in 1950s Pennsylvania.

Knopf, $16.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 9-12, 9780375831997

Wolf in the Snow

by Matthew Cordell


With a light snow falling outside, two smiling, mug-sipping parents, their daughter and dog are seen through a log-house window. Soon the bundled-up, red-coated girl is heading uphill on her way to school, waving back to her barking dog: "bark! bark! bark!" is shown as handwritten letters floating in the sky. Next up are two juxtaposed "portholes": on the left side a girl (a pointy red triangle with legs) roams the wintery landscape and on the right a pack of wolves does the same. (Yes, this is foreshadowing.) By school's end, the snow has picked up, ominously. The girl heads home and the wolves are on the move, their breath steaming white in the cold.
 
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell (Trouble Gum; Another Brother) is an almost wordless story told in watercolors, snowy white paint daubs and scratchy, kinetic pen-and-ink line work reminiscent of Quentin Blake or James Stevenson. The words are mostly howls (wolves), growls (a mad raccoon) and screeches (an owl). When the lost girl meets a lost wolf pup in the woods, the words are "huff huff" and "whine whine." She scoops him up, listens as his "howwll" is answered, and trudges through a vast snowscape to reunite the scared pup with his pack. 
 
Now exhausted, the girl collapses in the snow. As her little dog barks worriedly in the distance, the pack finds her. More howling, more barking, and the girl is rescued by her parents. This heartwarming story is simple but profound in its messages of selflessness and courage, and how we're all in this together, no matter the species. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this almost wordless picture book, a little girl gets lost in the snow... and so does a wolf pup.

Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 2-6, 9781250076366

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Kids Buzz

Star-Crossed

by Barbara Dee

Dear Reader,

Here's Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted) on STAR-CROSSED: "Star-Crossed delighted me! Barbara Dee has a light touch and a pitch-perfect middle school voice." And Donna Gephart (Lily and Dunkin): "Star-Crossed takes...Romeo and Juliet and transforms (it) perfectly to the middle school stage."

STAR-CROSSED is a gentle comedy about a girl crushing on the girl playing Juliet.  Kirkus Reviews calls STAR-CROSSED "a sweet story of young love amid middle school theatrics."

Email Barbara@BarbaraDeeBooks.com to enter to win a free copy!

Happy reading!

Barbara Dee

 

Buy this book

KidsBuzz: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

PUBLISHER: Aladdin

PUB DATE: March 14, 2017

AGE RANGE: 9 to 13

TYPE OF BOOK: Middle Grade Fiction

ISBN: 9781481478489

PRICE: $16.99

 

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