Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 24, 2012


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

From My Shelf

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

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

How We Read: Snacks

In this week's reviews, we have four novels and mysteries that are set in England past and present (The Orchid House, The Garden Intrigue, Accidents of Providence and Restless in the Grave) and one book that is about London (Londoners)--all this plus the hoopla over Downton Abbey puts us in the mood for tea. A good book, a cup of tea (or other strong drink), a comfortable chair... the picture of a perfect, genteel reading experience is conjured. But how do we really read when we're not on a bus or train or plane? How do we read when we're alone?

A few months ago one of our reviewers asked the others, "Anyone else have the 'I want a snack but I don't want to get my fingers messy and touch pages' dilemma?" One reply--"I just wipe my hands on the cat"--was a bit Monty Python-esque. Another said, "I read over meals. I also snack while I read. Popcorn with grated cheese is my nosh of choice. A napkin on the lap is the only answer." A reviewer complained, "Reading makes me fat. I can't not snack while reading.... I try to snack with the left hand, flip pages with the right hand... but there's no good answer except a strong napkin and a light touch on your pages." She further writes that she once belonged to a library that had chocolate stains on every romance novel and Cheeto/Dorito dust on every mystery novel, without fail.

Others sip wine, in moderation, of course, lest one fall asleep or drunk book-blog. Dark chocolate is good, coffee is good, mac 'n' cheese is good--anything that doesn't require two hands, unless a recipe holder is used (but there's still that page-turning problem). A friend celebrates her birthday with a few mysteries, a bottle of Champagne and a bag of potato chips.

What are your reading and eating rituals? Do specific snacks go with specific genres? Bourbon with Elmore Leonard or chocolates with Julia Quinn? Take part in our unofficial poll and send me an e-mail. --Marilyn Dahl


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


Book Candy

Bookshelf; Poetic Car Names, Justice; Pictionary; Old-Time Cussin'

Bookshelf of the day: WoodCurve's Stacked Teacups Bookcase.

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Would you drive a Ford Mongoose Civique? In 1955, Ford Motor Company asked Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Marianne Moore "to assist them in naming a new series of cars." Lists of Note showcased the results.

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Hereby sentenced to read great literature: A Utah judge has occasionally ordered defendants to read books, including Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, and write a book report as "a tool to help people think through their lives," the Daily Herald reported.

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Imaginary game of the day: "From the makers of Pictionary, comes Pictionary: The Cormac McCarthy Edition."

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You, sir, are an admiral of the narrow seas. Boing Boing showcased some "dirty cussin' of the early 1800s" culled from the 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue.


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


The Writer's Life

Margot Livesey: Misery at 10, Material at 50

When people learn that I grew up at the boys' boarding school where my father taught, they often get a hopeful gleam in their eyes. I am about to tell them tales of furtive romance or desperate bullying. While it's true I can tell amusing stories about boys in kilts on windy days, fraternizing with them was strictly forbidden and it never occurred to me that there might be bullying until, in another school, I myself became the target.

The school, with its turrets and battlements, was in the Scottish Highlands; Prince Charles attended a similar institution further north. Inside the buildings were an odd mixture of grandeur and privation: beautiful hallways and studies for the masters, stark cubicles where the younger boys slept, a dozen beds lit by a single light bulb. During the winter, the ancient radiators hissed like dragons and ice glazed the inside of the windows. Hard work, cold showers, muddy runs were all regarded as character forming. Such habits had got Britain through the Blitz; no point in getting soft now.

At the age of 10, I developed a new sympathy for the boys who peopled my landscape. Much against my wishes, I became a day pupil at a girls' boarding school, also based in a large country house. Once again beautiful reception rooms gave way to starker accommodations. Once again cold was viewed as character forming. I was miserably bullied by my older classmates and spent most of my four years there hiding in the library.

But misery at 10 became material in my 50s. When I began to write a novel about an orphan who has to make her way in the world, I sent her to a version of my horrible school; there she would suffer in my stead and happily (at last) follow me into the wider world. --Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy


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


Book Brahmin: Kristina McMorris

Kristina McMorris is the author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (Kensington, February 2012), the story of a Caucasian violinist who secretly elopes with her Japanese-American boyfriend the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed--then joins him when he is interned at a war relocation camp. Her first novel, Letters from Home, was inspired by her grandparents' wartime courtship. She has worked as a weekly TV host since age nine, and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons, where she refuses to own an umbrella.

On your nightstand now:

Two lovely ARCs, Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter and Erika Robuck's Hemingway's Girl, and, like the rest of America, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. 

Favorite book when you were a child:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. "We must increase our bust" became my preteen mantra; in fact, it might still be.

Your top five authors:

Sara Gruen for Water for Elephants, which solidified my choice to write historicals; Ruta Sepetys for Between Shades of Gray, because her book continues to haunt me; Markus Zusak for The Book Thief, a heart-wrenching poem of a novel; Jodi Picoult, the queen of inspiration and first pages; and Alma Katsu for mesmerizing me with her page-turner The Taker.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible in my required Religion 101 class in college. There. I finally said it. I shall now await the bolt of lightning to strike me down.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Like Oprah with The Color Purple, I hand out copies of Between Shades of Gray as if it's required reading. Any novel that begins with "They took me in my nightgown" yet manages to guide the reader through every page, even historical atrocities, with a sense of hope is a work that needs to be shared.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh (hardcover). Eerily beautiful, just like the story.

Book that changed your life:

Not a book, but letters. I was a non-reader/non-writer six years ago, when my grandparents' World War II courtship letters inspired me to pen Letters from Home. The couple's wrinkled, yellowed, endearing pages changed the course of my life. Later, it was World War II letters again, this time written by Japanese Americans in U.S. internment camps, that helped shaped my next novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. As the daughter of a Japanese immigrant father and Caucasian American mother, I truly believe--all clichés aside--that it's a book I was meant to write.

Favorite line from a book:

Death, the narrator, on war: "I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me." --Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I'm feeling a bit repetitive here, but I have to say The Book Thief. It's one of the few books that have brought me to tears, and the only one I ever felt compelled to reread the minute I finished it.


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


Literary Lists

Oscars; Rowling Titles?; Slacker, Political Campaign Novels

"Writer's showcase: 8 Oscar-winning adaptations" were showcased by Word & Film, which noted that "year after year, excitement overtakes us when the time for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar arrives."

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J.K. Rowling's announcement this week that her next book will be a novel for an older readership inspired the Huffington Post to imagine "10 potential titles for her upcoming 'adult' book."

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Adam Wilson, author of Flatscreen, chose his "10 best slacker novels" for Flavorwire.

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Political campaign novels, those "thrilling, chilling, secrets-spilling works of fiction--some of which bear a rather, er, uncanny resemblance to real events in recent American history," were showcased by the Huffington Post.

Book Review

Fiction

Accidents of Providence

by Stacia M. Brown


In a luminous and sensitive debut, Stacia M. Brown brings to life a love affair, a mystery and a murder trial, all set against the turbulent backdrop of Oliver Cromwell's England. It's 1649, and the realm is under Puritan law. When glove-maker Rachel Lockyer's employer spies Rachel burying a dead newborn, she assumes the worst and reports Rachel to the authorities.

Accused of infanticide in a legal system where the burden of proof rests on the defendant, Rachel's silence before investigator Thomas Bartwain only worsens her situation. While Bartwain cannot tell if Rachel is unwilling or unable to tell her story, the lack of evidence in her favor prevents him from releasing her. Rachel's public trial will draw in the people around her with cyclonic force, causing them to question the law and their own morals. Meanwhile, Rachel's history slowly unfolds through flashbacks to her love affair with married political activist William Walwyn, juxtaposing the stolen happiness of her affair with the inhumane conditions in the women's ward at Newgate Prison.

Brown deftly evokes the double standards inherent in the infant-murder laws and the enormous difficulty faced by any woman accused of that crime, allowing her characters to struggle with these issues, never resorting to preaching to make the point. While the dialogue occasionally feels too modern, Brown's spare, lyrical style delights, and the story's elements are nothing if not authentic.

With cross-genre appeal to fiction and mystery lovers alike, Accidents of Providence will leave readers moved and deeply aware of our society's progress in women's rights. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: A single woman in 1649 Puritan England is accused of murdering her illegitimate child in this thought-provoking and romantic debut novel.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780547490809

Red Plenty

by Francis Spufford


Rich with ham-faced Russian bureaucrats, vodka, Siberian pines and, most notably, Soviet optimism at mid-20th century, Francis Spufford's innovatively styled novel Red Plenty combines complex economic theory with snapshots of ordinary people dealing in different ways with the hopes and realities of central planning. What could have been a dry economics lesson is entertaining and intriguing, buoyed by Spufford's unusual, fully realized characters and settings, treated with a sense of tragedy and farce and a refreshingly fair approximation of the scale of the failed Soviet Union's ambitions.

Unlike politically focused post-mortems, Red Plenty examines not militarism and oppression, but the massive effort of planning and meeting all the consumer needs of the gigantic U.S.S.R. To imagine the inside of the Soviet bureaucracy, Spufford mixes real characters like Leonid Vitalevich Kantorovich (whose theories on resource allocation would eventually win the Nobel Prize in economics) with imagined characters like Galina, a student who, on Party orders, heckles an American emissary during an exhibition of consumer goods. 

By beginning and ending Red Plenty with Nikita Khrushchev, the leader who saw a future in which socialism would bring his citizens all they needed and more, Spufford invites the reader to see the Soviet premier as analogous of the Soviet experiment itself: a bumpkin with a bad temper who, for a moment, seemed to be on the precipice of showing the tired, hungry world a better way to live, but was brought down by small minds and the memory of his own bloodied hands. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A tragi-comic economic farce set during the hopeful Khrushchev years.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 9781555976040

The Orchid House

by Lucinda Riley


After losing her husband and son in a car crash, concert pianist Julia Forrester returns to Wharton Park, the English estate where her grandfather tended orchids for decades. Paralyzed by grief, Julia struggles to take an interest in anything, even Wharton Park's handsome new heir--until a diary found in her grandparents' house unlocks some unexpected secrets from the past.

Faced with Julia's questions, her grandmother spins a tale reaching back decades to the eve of the Second World War, when the heir to Wharton Park married a young socialite and then left to fight in the Pacific. His time as a prisoner of war in Singapore, and his convalescence in Bangkok, would affect his family's history for generations.

Riley skillfully moves her characters from England to Thailand and back again, drawing sharp contrasts between the two settings and giving richly detailed glimpses into time periods from the 1930s to the present day. The Orchid House has a few twists--one or two predictable, the others truly unexpected--and several love stories, each as fragile and yet tenacious as the orchids in Wharton Park's hothouses. As Julia learns more about her family's tangled history, she also finds the strength to move forward, returning to her music and opening her heart to the possibility of new love.

Full of family secrets, exotic flowers, tragedy and redemption, The Orchid House is a sweeping, poignant saga that will enthrall fans of The House at Riverton, Rebecca and Downton Abbey. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A lushly written tale of two families bound together by a English estate and a diary full of secrets.

Atria, $15, paperback, 9781451655780

The Shadow Patrol

by Alex Berenson


As The Shadow Patrol, the sixth John Wells novel, begins, Alex Berenson's star agent is longer officially part of the C.I.A.. He still freelances for them, though, and at the director's personal request, he's off to investigate the Kabul office. Two years after a suicide bomber gutted the station, the C.I.A. is still struggling to get back on its feet and reestablish its contacts in Afghanistan.

John Wells--agent, killer, faithful Muslim--is always willing to do what he can for his government. Going undercover to find the source of the problems in the Kabul office, he hears rumors of drug smuggling, and as he follows the trail, his suspicions soon fall on a team of Delta Special Forces stationed at Kandahar Air Base. Convinced that the drug smuggling is linked to the problems in Kabul, John heads to Kandahar; unfortunately, both soldiers and Taliban are determined to stop his investigation permanently.

The Shadow Patrol is a fast-paced thriller with an insider's view of up-to-the-minute espionage techniques in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Refreshingly, Berenson's agents are all intelligent and quick-acting, determined to assist Wells in finding the source of the problems in Kabul. Through Wells's mission, Berenson explores what it means to be a soldier in a war that few support, and what the future of Afghanistan may be. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: There's murder and drug smuggling in Afghanistan, and only one (ex-) CIA agent can stop it.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399158292

Mystery & Thriller

Restless in the Grave

by Dana Stabenow


In Dana Stabenow's 19th Kate Shugak novel, Restless in the Grave, the Aleut private investigator joins forces with Stabenow's other series protagonist, Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell, as an airplane crash leaves a prominent businessman dead, and a fight between Campbell's wife and the victim has the town wondering if the crash was truly an accident. At Campbell's request, Shugak goes undercover to expose the truth--and clear his wife--only to find an unfathomable evil no one expected.

Stabenow weaves a complex mystery, with each chapter bringing a new discovery, a new layer, a new suspect. The constant plot development sustains the momentum throughout the novel, with the strongest push coming in the final quarter. Stabenow's characters--including a "ninja demon," his bar-owner girlfriend, and Mutt, Kate's half-wolf, half-husky sidekick--are colorful and humorous, even if they aren't always entirely believable. In exchange for giving the author a little latitude with reality, though, readers get plenty of entertainment.  

A cameo appearance from someone in Shugak's past leaves a few loose ends untied, hinting at what's to come in future installments of the series. Additionally, the natural fit that Shugak and Campbell have in this novel suggests it won't be the last time their paths cross.  

As one would expect with the 19th book in a series, the characters and plot lines have deep roots, but a lack of familiarity with either the Shugak or Campbell series should not deter readers from enjoying Restless in the Grave. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: An ugly secret in rural Alaska demonstrates just how cold greed can make a person.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312559137

The Royal Wulff Murders

by Keith McCafferty


"I should have known that a woman doesn't pay you to go fishing without there being some kind of catch." This wisdom comes too late to save Sean Stranahan from the snares of a southern belle searching for her missing brother, but Keith McCafferty hits a bull's eye with Sean's story in his debut novel, The Royal Wulff Murders. A newly divorced transplant from New England in the throes of a precocious mid-life crisis, Stranahan moved to Montana to fish, paint and be a (preferably) retired private investigator. But when honey-tongued Velvet LaFayette offers him cash to locate her father's old fishing hole, he swallows her story hook, line and sinker--only to uncover a twisted plot of tainted trout and multiple murders most foul.

Bizarre occupational pairings for fictional sleuths are beyond passé as a way for new writers in the genre to make their niche, but--like bacon and brownies--Stranahan's odd mix of painter, P.I. and fly fisher works. It helps that McCafferty, an editor at Field & Stream, really knows his trout, and life in Bozeman has obviously acquainted him with the ways of Montana. He writes with both a love of nature and an obsession for detail common in the outdoorsman. Add the backwoodsy feminism of Sheriff Martha Ettinger, and the mystery is a good fit for enthusiasts of Nevada Barr who have read through all the Anna Pigeon novels. Packed with wilderness action and starring a band of stalwart individualists, The Royal Wulff Murders will have readers begging McCafferty for more. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A secret world of trout and trouble in a rugged Montana mystery from a debut author.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670023264

A Good and Useful Hurt

by Aric Davis


Aric Davis's A Good and Useful Hurt starts off as a run-of-the-mill love story; not even its tattoo parlor setting makes it particularly distinctive. Boy (Mike) meets girl (Deb) and run said tattoo shop together; boy and girl establish their Grand Rapids location by drinking at the local microbrewery and visiting the public museum. About as interesting as unflavored yogurt so far. Oh, and there's a serial killer on the loose.

Then things become interesting. Quite by accident, Mike gets into the business of tattooing as a memorial service: incorporating the cremated ashes of customers' loved ones into their tattoos. He and Deb--and the reader--think it's just eccentric at first, until a twisted, tragic series of events leads them to discover an unsuspected power in the macabre art of cremated-ash tattoos. They might even be able to use their unlikely discovery to save a pair of unwitting and innocent lives--if time doesn't run out. As Mike's mentor puts it in the book's stark opening line, "F*ck art; this is war."

A Good and Useful Hurt is part thriller, part mystery and part love story, with an emotional vulnerability and enough action to keep the pages flying by. The denouement is as gruesome as it is unlikely, but it turns a deceptively unremarkable book into an unforgettable trip. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Literary Cricket

Discover: Murder, mysteries, ghosts, tattoos and true love in the heart of Michigan's "City on the Grand."

47north, $14.95, paperback, 9781612182025

Romance

The Garden Intrigue

by Lauren Willig


In 2005, Lauren Willig's first novel, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, introduced readers to an exclusive circle of dashing, Scarlet Pimpernel-esque British spies working under the subtle and inspired leadership of the wily Pink Carnation. Nine books in, the series continues to be as clever, witty and charming as ever.

The Garden Intrigue centers on the absurdly verbose Augustus Whittlesby, poet extraordinaire and secret agent for the British government. Despite being enamored of the Carnation herself, Augustus is thrown into a creative partnership with lively American expatriate Emma Delagardie. Emma's longstanding friendship with Hortense de Beauharnais, the step-daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte, provides Augustus with an opportunity to infiltrate the newly crowned emperor's inner circle, but as the two grow closer, they realize that affairs of state are not nearly as treacherous as affairs of the heart.

The historical romance is framed in the contemporary research of Eloise Kelly, an American graduate student in London, and this savvy, snarky modern heroine is every bit as appealing as her historical counterpart. Like its predecessors, The Garden Intrigue is a playful and vibrant read, and Willig's writing is some of the finest in the genre. It's not strictly necessary to be familiar with the other books in the series, but when they're this much fun to read, why wouldn't you start at the beginning? --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: An effervescent romance highlighted with just a hint of aristocratic espionage.

Dutton, $25.95, hardcover, 9780525952541

Biography & Memoir

King Peggy

by Peggielene Bartels, Eleanor Herman


Since 1979, Peggielene Bartels had been living a quiet, productive life in Washington, D.C., as a secretary to the ambassador of Ghana. In 2008, however, she received an early morning phone call pronouncing her king of the sleepy fishing village of Otuam. Though born in Ghana, Bartels had not lived in the country since graduating from college and becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen; she hadn't even seen her uncle--the previous king--since the death of her mother in 1997. Her memories of Otuam were of a friendly village known for its kindness and harmony. After much deliberation, Peggy accepted the title, though she kept her job in D.C. since she knew the king of an impoverished fishing village would not receive a salary.

The town elders had intentionally chosen a woman living in the U.S. as their next ruler under the assumption that she would rule in absentia and kowtow to the elderly male council. Little did they know Peggy would embrace her role enthusiastically. Within two years, she'd orchestrated the development of two new sources of water (called "bores") and a future high school.

King Peggy is wildly entertaining and thoroughly engaging, and Peggy is a true modern hero as she battles her council of elders who try to maintain their old lifestyles of privilege and greed. King Peggy reminds readers that the truth is often stranger than fiction; King Peggy herself does not disappoint, neither as a ruler nor a storyteller. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: This memoir from a unexpected African monarch is a modern fairy tale that inspires and entertains.

Doubleday, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385534321

Travel Literature

Londoners

by Craig Taylor


Some people say true Londoners are born within the circle of the M25 motorway. Others say you're a Londoner if you've lived there for a "great deal of time." In search of 'true' Londoners, Craig Taylor spent five years interviewing scores of people, then turned those interviews into essays for Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. It may have a long subtitle, but Londoners is a fast read, a collection of reflections on London from an astounding array of people. An interpreter, paramedic, artist, plumber, squatter, city official, illegal immigrant and a black cab driver are just a few of those represented. Some talk for pages, others for only paragraphs, but each gives us a glimpse of their London.

Some hate London for its grime, its overcrowding and its impersonality. Others love it for its vibrancy and endless possibilities. Many have lived there for decades, others a few months. Love it or hate it, these people are all passionate about London.

Unlike Paris or Washington, D.C., London is an unplanned city, always changing as new mingles with old. Taylor's interviewees reveal that evolving nature; their perspectives will cause your impression of the city to deepen and change as you read. A must-read for lovers of London (or for those who have always longed to go), Londoners is a beautiful portrait of a one-of-a-kind city. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Fascinating interviews with current and former Londoners create a multifaceted tribute.

Ecco Press, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062005854

Children's & Young Adult

Steve Jobs: Thinking Differently

by Patricia Lakin


Even reluctant middle-grade readers will devour Patricia Lakin's (the Max & Mo series) biography of Steve Jobs--a fascinating portrait of a kid who breaks nearly every rule and yet rises to astronomical heights.

Lakin describes him as "a little terror in elementary school, a first-class prankster, and a college dropout" who grew up to lead "one of the world's most innovative companies [and also was] revered for his brilliant creations." She follows his life chronologically, and consistently demonstrates how young Steve learned in unorthodox ways. He bristled at authority, even chafing at one of his buddy and future Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's favorite teachers, a former Navy pilot, because the man was so strict. But he also learned by example--as when he worked side-by-side with his mechanically dextrous father. Paul Jobs taught Steve the importance of precision and care of a mechanism's parts, "whether the part showed or not"--the essence of all Apple products.

Similarly, Lakin conveys the early yin and yang of what would characterize Wozniak and Jobs's connection throughout their association with the "Blue Box" story. Wozniak showed Jobs how he could illegally make long-distance calls with an electronic device. Jobs suggested they profit from it--Wozniak the inventor, Jobs the marketing man. These stories may not be new to adults, but they will be to fourth-graders. What Lakin does for young readers is to, as Jobs put it, "connect the dots"-- to demonstrate to young people how his experiences and passions shaped Jobs all along the way. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A first biography of Steve Jobs for middle-graders that suggests there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities.

Aladdin/S&S, $15.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 8-12, 9781442453944

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different

by Karen Blumenthal


In a biography cleverly framed by the structure of Steve Jobs's commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class from Stanford University, Karen Blumenthal (Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929) takes a balanced view of the charismatic founder of Apple.

Like Lakin's biography (above), Blumenthal hits on the key people and events that shaped Steve Jobs. But because Blumenthal's audience is young adults, she also lays bare many of his flaws, along with his achievements. The details of his life juxtaposed with his advice to Stanford's graduates create opportunities for readers' contemplation and self-examination. The author exposes painful episodes such as his periodic estrangement from his daughter, Lisa, and a disputed monetary bonus split with Steve Wozniak after a project they did with Atari in their youth. Abundant technical, business and personal details make this biography attractive to kids with a wide array of interests. Sidebars, a timeline that maps out Jobs's career and a generous number of photographs add visual interest. (A wry "Apple vs. Apple" sidebar incorporates allusions to Beatles lyrics to illustrate an ongoing feud between Apple the computer company and the Beatles' company, Apple Corps.)

Blumenthal's thought-provoking biography asks us to consider the total "man who thought different," the choices he made and his foibles along with his strengths. No one achieves the success he did without giving up some things, too. Jobs was not much older than Blumenthal's audience when he began his meteoric rise; the author invites readers to pause and consider how our choices shape who we become. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A thought-provoking biography of Steve Jobs that invites teens to reflect on how his choices shaped the complicated man he became.

Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, hardcover, 9781250015570

Penny and Her Song

by Kevin Henkes


Kevin Henkes introduces a new mouse character named Penny for a spot-on beginning reader series.

Penny comes home from school with a song she can't wait to share. But she gets only as far as the first phrase before her mother asks her to wait until her baby twin siblings wake up. After two phrases, Papa, too, asks Penny to keep the peace. So she sings to herself in the mirror and plays with her glass animals. "She almost forgot about her song," Henkes writes. But after dinner, Penny sings her entire song, which counts up to 10 and rhymes beautifully. Mama and Papa praise Penny, then join her in performing her song. (Even the babies make their "baby noises.") Penny gets the last laugh when all the excitement tuckers out the twins.

Henkes's deceptively simple text and illustrations convey a great deal about Penny and her family. Even though his young heroine must wait for nearly half the book to sing her song, the author-artist shows that her parents love her. While Penny waits patiently, Henkes conveys a child's boundless imagination and rich emotional life. He gives newly independent readers two chapters to encourage a sense of accomplishment, and the last line of the first chapter resonates with the final line of the book. Just as Penny feels a sense of accomplishment and joy in the creation and performance of her very own song, so will newly independent readers feel a sense of accomplishment and joy in the completion of this exuberant picture book. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

For more on Penny and Her Song, check out our Maximum Shelf.

Discover: A new addition to Kevin Henkes's beloved cast of characters--Penny, a mouse with a song in her heart who's eager to share it.

Greenwillow Books, $12.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-up, 9780062081957

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