Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers: This Land: America, Lost and Found by Dan Barry

From My Shelf

Andrews McMeel Publishing: #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by GB Trudeau

Millbrook Press: The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by Melina Mangal, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

Adventures in Space

What is it about space that so enthralls our imaginations? Is it that it's one place we, as mere non-astronaut humans, know we cannot visit? Is it because of its vastness, or its promise of secrets yet to be revealed? Or perhaps it is its consistency: look up on a clear night and the stars will always be there. Regardless, the subject of space has captured our imaginations for as long as we've been staring at night skies.
 
In Mary Doria Russell's debut novel, The Sparrow, when humankind hears distant noises from outer space, the Jesuit order sends a secret mission to a world known as Rakhat to make contact with aliens. The story is not a happy one, but it is a fascinating imagination of what could happen if (when?) humans encounter alien life for the first time.
 
Andy Weir was similarly taken with the concept of space travel, though his debut, The Martian, took a more literal approach. Weir stated in interviews that he intended his novel to be as scientifically accurate as possible; though much of the technology used by protagonist Mark Watney in his stranded-on-Mars mission is prohibitively expensive, we're told it could theoretically exist.
 
Nonfiction writers promise even more science, astronomy and math: Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures reveals the oft-overlooked history of a team of African American women who were mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s and whose calculations were key to the space program. Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void explores the very strange, very necessary science behind keeping astronauts alive in environments not designed to do so. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson promises an (hyper-condensed) answer to questions about the universe.
 
We can't all grow up to be astronauts, after all. But we can all at least read all about them and their adventures. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Win a Free Trip to Miami Book Fair!


Book Candy

Writing to Fictional Crushes

Quirk Books considers some "fictional characters we'd want to write love letters to."

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"How other countries have translated The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’s absurdly long title" is explored by Slate.

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From Maus to Tamara Drewe, author Paul Gravett recommended "10 graphic novels everyone should read" for the Guardian.

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JSTOR Daily recalled the period "when Harriet Beecher Stowe and George Eliot were penpals."

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Mental Floss reveals "16 facts about Christopher Pike's books."

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Based on "your perfect night in," Buzzfeed will tell you which "literature lady you are"--a Bennet girl or more Miss Havisham.


Diversion Books: Pitino: My Story by Rick Pitino with Seth Kaufman


Great Reads

Rediscover: Frankenstein

In 1818, when Mary Shelley was just 20 years old, the first edition of her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously in London. By the time Shelley's name appeared on a second edition in 1823, her work had polarized critics while achieving popular success. In a hint of things to come, Frankenstein was already being adapted into derivative works even during Shelley's lifetime, including a stage play she saw with her father, William Godwin, in 1823. In the 200 years since, Shelley's reanimated creature has become its own pop-culture monster, as much a product of film and TV depictions as the original novel.

Shelley's gothic/romantic/proto-science-fiction work originated in a contest among Mary, her future husband, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron to see who could write the best horror story. With Percy's encouragement, Mary expanded a potential short story inspired by a dream into a canonical work of speculative fiction.

In August 2017, Liveright published The New Annotated Frankenstein ($35, 9780871409492), which includes 200 illustrations, 1,000 contextual notes and an introduction by Guillermo del Toro. The Penguin Classics edition of Frankenstein, published in 2003, includes a scholarly introduction and "A Fragment" by Lord Byron, a predecessor of the modern vampire story created as part of the same writing contest that begot Frankenstein. --Tobias Mutter


Fig Tree Books: My Mother's Son by David Hirshberg


The Writer's Life

Christina Dalcher: When Silence Speaks Volumes

photo: B Dalcher
Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects, and has taught at several universities. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in more than 100 journals worldwide. She lives in Norfolk, Va., with her husband. Vox (Berkley, $26), reviewed below, is her first novel.
 
Vox has been compared with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. How do you feel about that?
 
I think many dystopias can be compared with another because dystopian literature is almost always based on the common person being oppressed by a totalitarian system. It's certainly a compliment to see Vox being compared with other books, both classic and contemporary. Of course, all books are different. I wanted to explore how we rely on language without realizing it. We take it for granted.
 
I read Vox as a cautionary response to current events--particularly the threats to women's rights in the United States and elsewhere. Was that your intention?
 
Yes and no. Most of Vox is me asking "what if we returned to that culture?" That's exactly what we did after women won the right to vote and in the 1950s after women joined the workforce. Vox certainly can be read as a cautionary tale. While Jean's story is set in the near future, the idea of speaking out while you can is timeless.
 
What was your inspiration?
 
I kept thinking about a world in which all humans suffered from fluent aphasia--one type of language loss resulting from trauma to the brain, making people completely unable to communicate and perhaps robbed of the ability to think. Language is really the single element that defines us as human, separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom. It was terrifying to explore.
 
You wrote Vox in two months. Tell us about that process.
 
It originated as a short story, one that my readers wanted to see expanded. Also, I work off a bare-bones outline of about a dozen sentences. If I want to know what's going to happen next, I need to write it. I'm part of the audience, which is exciting.
 
You write flash fiction (only a few hundred words or fewer), which has the perception of being "easy" to write. What has your experience been? And what advice can you offer to others who want to explore this genre?
 
Flash has always come easily to me, probably because of my academic background where abstracts for journal articles and conference presentations require only a few hundred words. For newcomers to the form, I'd suggest reading stories in flash fiction journals and lit mags. When I'm not tweeting about Vox, I'm almost always tweeting about flash, usually a recent story by someone in my writing community. Once you know where to look, you'll find flash fiction everywhere! Then just write your heart out.
 
How does the process of novel writing compare to your academic writing?
 
I'm so happy you asked me this! Vox is dedicated to the memory of Charlie Jones, who was my first linguistics professor and a brilliant syntactician. He was also the most parsimonious sonofabitch I'd ever met. This man's idea of an academic paper was two pages that were condensed so tightly, I think the sheets they were written on screamed in protest. But Charlie taught me how to be lean and how to write something complex using the fewest words possible. When it came time to think about a 350-page doctoral dissertation, I asked Charlie how in the world I would do it. His response? "One chapter at a time, man." And he was right.
 
Can you share a bit about what you are working on now?
 
I finished the first draft of book two a few months ago. It's not a continuation of Jean's story, although I haven't ruled out a follow-up. Instead, I went back to the early 20th century when we had a strong eugenics movement in the United States. I decided to use that as the basis for another near-future dystopia in which intelligence testing has run amok.
 
In 25 years, what will readers be saying about Vox?
 
I hope people will still read the book, because of its timeless message. Vox could have taken place at any point in our history, because at its core, Jean's story is about a power exchange: the state gains more control at the expense of individual freedom. We've seen this happen before. We're seeing it happen now. And I'm sure we'll see it happen again. When it does, maybe people will read Vox or go to the polls or find a way to tip the balance of power back in their favor. --Melissa Firman

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: Gray Foy: Drawings 1941-1975 by Don Quaintance, Lynn M. Herbert, and Alexis Rockman


Book Review

Fiction

Suicide Club: A Novel About Living

by Rachel Heng


Set in a near-future New York, Suicide Club hinges on the premise of immortality. Healthcare and technology have already extended the potential human lifespan to hundreds of years, and "lifers" such as Lea Kirino do everything in their power to optimize that lifespan: avoid meat and sugar in favor of chemically engineered and nutritionally balanced meals; abstain from any high-impact exercises, such as hiking or running; listen only to music known not to tweak cortisol levels. The push for immortality goes beyond the individual level, however, as government edicts declaring the "sanctity of life" outlaw any and all attempts to die outside of a death date assigned to individuals at birth.
 
Lea's life is a long one, full of sacrifices made willingly but without thought. When her estranged and possibly suicidal father shows up after 88 years, however, she begins to reflect on those costs, opening a series of questions about her life--and possible death--that she is unable to answer.
 
Rachel Heng's debut novel is steeped in death; the titular Suicide Club uses very public suicides to make a point about what it means to choose how one lives by choosing how one dies. Despite a sense of dread that pervades its pages, Suicide Club never veers into morbidity or hopelessness. Indeed, it is a celebration of "the messy, sprawling innards of life, the flesh beneath the skin, the breakages," a reminder of what it means really to live--on one's own terms, with abandon. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: In a near future when life expectancy is extended and optimized, a woman must consider the cost of immortality.

Holt, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9781250185341

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Park Row: Under My Skin by Lisa Unger


The Seas

by Samantha Hunt


Samantha Hunt's debut, The Seas, originally published in 2004, is far from the average twee mermaid affair. Written in the chimeric style that Hunt has become known for, the novel is a watery meditation on the "surrender places" of desire, trauma and grief.
 
The unnamed 19-year-old narrator, who may or may not be a mermaid, lives with her family in a house once divided into sailors' apartments in a claustrophobic northern coastal town known for its high rate of alcoholism. Her father, with whom she shares a yearning to return to the ocean, disappeared into the sea years ago. The object of her desire is an older Iraq War veteran named Jude who suffers from PTSD. ("He holds me. He hollows me. He hells me.") Both relationships are with drowned ghosts.
 
With a point of view beached on the thin space between the conscious and subconscious, the narrator's perception is faulty. Throughout the book, she is captivated by the color blue. Her fascination references both the murky and unstable depths of the seas, as well as the hazy, always unattainable and distant blue horizons. It exemplifies both her unclear state of mind and her pointed hungers. Blue then becomes a signal coloring the obscured, permeable border between what can and cannot be grasped, what may or may not be real in this strange, somber and beautiful story. --Shannon Hanks-Mackey, editor and bookseller

Discover: Samantha Hunt flips both language and reality on their heads in this slim novel about a young woman troubled by love, death and the sea.

Tin House, $19.95, hardcover, 232p., 9781941040959

Mystery & Thriller

Some Die Nameless

by Wallace Stroby


Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series, takes a hiatus from his bad girl protagonist to introduce readers to an army vet and a seasoned investigative reporter. Ray Devlin is retired, divorced and living quietly on a boat in Florida when an old colleague shows up unexpectedly. What starts out as a cordial reunion turns violent and leaves Devlin with life-or-death questions. He must resurrect his dark past to find their answers.
 
Devlin's search takes him north to Philadelphia and another former comrade who only adds more mystery to the situation. A decomposing body discovered in an abandoned building ties back to their former life as mercenaries. The timing of the man's murder and Devlin's surprise visitor make the events too coincidental to ignore.
 
Meanwhile, journalist Tracy Quinn is covertly looking into the homicide. Her supervisor at the newspaper tells her to drop the story and focus on work that will elicit clicks online, but she's convinced there's more to the corpse's story than anyone suspects. When Quinn and Devlin's paths inevitably cross, the two uncover a plot that puts them both in the crosshairs of greedy, heartless businessmen.
 
Some Die Nameless has no shortage of suspense. Stroby keeps the adrenaline flowing page after page. His depiction of the modern newsroom and its shrinking staff builds Quinn as a rogue hero, fighting to bring the truth to the American public. Timely, exciting and shrewd, Some Die Nameless is prime crime fiction. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A former mercenary and a jaded reporter team up to uncover the truth about a string of violent crimes connected to a complex, corrupt business empire.

Mulholland Books, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780316440202

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Vox

by Christina Dalcher


Imagine a country where women and girls are permitted to speak only 100 words per day. (The average person says 16,000). Each spoken word is monitored via a government-issued electronic wrist counter that can administer a powerful shock after she reaches the daily allotment. In this world, women are banned from reading, using computers and learning information about their pregnancies. And the president is "always on television... always trumpeting a new plan to turn the country around, constantly telling us how much better off we are."
 
Welcome to debut novelist Christina Dalcher's terrifyingly brilliant near-future vision of the United States, one that has drawn comparisons with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. In Vox, crooked politicians and a fanatical reverend are hell-bent on implementing the Pure Movement to silence strong independent woman like Dr. Jean McClellan. A neuroscientist and linguistics expert, Jean was on the verge of a medical breakthrough when the government mandated that every woman in the country leave her career to focus exclusively on raising children, keeping house and pleasing her husband. "Take the fifties," proclaims male bureaucrat Morgan LeBron. "Everything was fine. Everyone had a nice house and a car in the garage and food on the table. And things still ran smoothly! We didn't need women in the workforce."
 
When the president's brother and trusted adviser suffers the same neurological issue that Jean's scientific research team was studying, Jean receives a conflicting offer: work for a cure at the government's behest and her wrist counter--along with the one attached to her young daughter--will be removed, allowing both to speak freely. But once a cure is found, the wrist counters go back on.
 
Dalcher's characters are sypathetic and familiar; within the tension, readers will recognize themselves and others in this astonishing and frightening tale that reflects these uncertain times. While demonstrating the importance and power of using one's voice to speak out, Vox also sounds a warning about the consequences of political apathy and how collective inaction sometimes leads to detrimental change. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger

Discover: In a chilling dystopia set in the foreseeable future, all American women and girls are restricted to speaking just 100 words each day.

Berkley, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9780440000785

Biography & Memoir

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

by Charles Casillo


Billy Wilder said Marilyn Monroe was "a puzzle without any solution," but biographer and novelist Charles Casillo (The Marilyn Diaries) has dug deep with his extraordinary biography and finds answers to questions that have haunted Monroe fans for decades. There have been dozens of full-length biographies written about Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962); however, Casillo's compelling and exhaustively researched biography does an outstanding job of sifting through conflicting testimonies and offering a compassionate and nuanced presentation of Monroe's tragic life.
 
The groundwork for Monroe's insecurities and neuroses forms when she's abandoned by a mentally unstable mother and grandmother, and shuffled from abusive foster families to an orphanage before she marries at 16--just to have a place to live. A modeling job leads her to film work in Hollywood where, she said, "They'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." Her popularity in movies was meteoric but her desire to learn her craft and pick her projects was met with dismissive condescension by her studio and directors. Her almost daily analysis sessions brought her demons (isolation, sexual abuse and faltering confidence) to the surface and "slowly destroyed any kind of work ethic she had." Crushing loneliness, bad relationships (including Arthur Miller and both John and Robert Kennedy) and debilitating depression mixed with pills and alcohol led to breakdowns and multiple overdoses before her final overdose at age 36.
 
Monroe's sad but fascinating life has been told many times before, but Casillo's fast-paced, sympathetic and psychologically sound biography stands as one of the best. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Castillo's sympathetic and psychologically nuanced Marilyn Monroe bio is compulsively readable and well researched.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250096869

History

Korea: Where the American Century Began

by Michael Pembroke


Michael Pembroke's Korea: Where the American Century Began is a harrowing, eye-opening account of the Korean War, leaving no side unaccountable for the mistakes, atrocities and bad faith. It considers how the U.S. intervention in the Korean civil war is one of the most consequential, and least analyzed, decisions in American history. A global power, in full belief of its moral and military superiority, rushed into a nation on another continent to stop the spread of Communism and try to dominate the region.
 
While focusing mainly on the war itself, Pembroke, an Australian historian, makes sure to explain the geographic and historical context of Korea. For centuries it was the battleground between China and Japan, and from 1910 to 1945 it was a brutalized colony of Imperial Japan.
 
But in Pembroke's account, it is the U.S. that makes the most serious mistakes. Korea is thorough and damning, showing how hubris, racism and paranoia bled together to create a horrifying and destructive strategy that needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, propagated the use of napalm and introduced the use of biological weapons. Pembroke certainly doesn't take sides (he is likewise critical of China and the USSR's actions in the region) but makes clear that U.S. hegemony came at a far-too-brutal cost. The book is a must-read for anyone who wants better to understand modern American diplomacy, and is a reminder that history should not be disregarded, since it holds the keys to the decisions the great powers make today. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Historian Michael Pembroke's Korea: Where the American Century Began is an essential, relevant look at a mostly forgotten war.

OneWorld, $27.95, hardcover, 368p., 9781786074737

Social Science

Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

by Peter Vronsky


Peter Vronsky is an expert on serial killers, with two previous books on the subject and a Ph.D. in criminal justice history. He also has a tendency to bump into them in the wild--Richard Cottingham in 1979, Gary "Mick" MacFarlane in the 1980s and Andrei Chikatilo in 1990. In Sons of Cain, Vronsky traces the arc of psychopathic violence over millennia to put into perspective this terrible strain of murderers.
 
He begins with the patterns of rape and killing among Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and suggests there remains an innate human drive toward carnage that must be socially curtailed. Why don't more people become serial killers, he asks. Moving forward through history, he covers werewolf myths and medieval witch trials in all their gory detail. With such a broad scope, it is easy to get lost down rabbit holes--like the one about medical conditions related to werewolf physiognomy.
 
Nevertheless, with dry humor and nauseating case studies, Sons of Cain hits its stride as Vronsky closes in on what is considered the "golden age" of serial killers in the U.S., 1950-2000. Factoring in a trend of perpetrators who first kill at around age 30, he points a convincing finger at World War II, and the atrocities that American GIs both witnessed and instigated therein, as the progenitor of bad seeds. "My hypothesis is that a broken generation of men either raised or abandoned a dysfunctional generation of boys... the sons of Cain."
 
There is clearly more research to be done; the term serial killer wasn't even coined until the early '80s. What Sons of Cain clarifies, though, is the relatively new understanding of an age-old phenomenon. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A serial killer expert traces the most egregious murderers back to our earliest ancestors.

Berkley, $17, paperback, 432p., 9780425276976

Essays & Criticism

Sustainability: A Love Story

by Nicole Walker


Essayist Nicole Walker digs deep into lifestyle choices--and the nature of choice itself--in her eco-conscious essay collection Sustainability: A Love Story.
 
Walker (Egg) has a talent for bending creative nonfiction to maximum capacity, blending narrative storytelling and factual analysis. The 38 essays in Sustainability aren't discrete; they're linked in theme and form, like roots of a great tree. Together, the essays try to answer the question of how a middle-class white American family can live sustainably in the 21st century knowing global warming is already wreaking havoc. Walker's environmental concerns shift from global perspectives on climate change and catastrophic weather to local issues (she lives in Flagstaff, Ariz.) of community recycling and forest fire prevention.
 
Walker is a college professor, but hers isn't a distant armchair environmentalism. These essays succeed because of their messiness and their insistence on analyzing domesticity, the infinitesimal choices and attitudes that add up to a lifestyle. She admits, more than once, her own hypocrisy--she consumes fossil fuels, eats meat, etc.--but that doesn't stop her from trying to live sustainably in a way that honors her values.
 
Two of the most powerful essays, "Pipeline" and "Sustenance," tackle darker subjects of addiction and suicide. Walker ties these subjects to questions of free will, individualism and the way humans rebel against their environment, hurting those they're connected with most. But even here, Walker's optimistic environmentalism--her dream of sustainability--persists: "It takes a lot of work and a lot of imagination to make reality good."
 
Sustainability: A Love Story beautifully balances human need with urgent environmental realities. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Environmental issues are broken down in human terms in this moving collection of essays.

Mad Creek Books, $23.95, paperback, 288p., 9780814254851

The Garden Party

by Grace Dane Mazur


Grace Dane Mazur's debut, The Garden Party, gathers 24 members from two families into a carefully orchestrated setting--with a diplomatic seating arrangement--for a wedding rehearsal dinner. This idyllic early summer's evening develops into a tale rich with drama, innuendo, secrets, poetic interludes and humor.
 
Set over 24 hours, in 1991 Brookline, Mass., the novel is as masterfully designed as the event itself. Mazur prefaces the story with the seating chart, which reads like a playbill's cast. The Cohens, good-natured intellectuals, are preparing for the bride's family, the Barlows, mainly lawyers and their wives. Mother of the groom Celia Cohen makes pithy notes like, "Stephen Barlow, Soon-to-be-judge? Lord of golf." The groom's father, Pindar, nervously entreats his wife, "You're not going to surround me with them?" Meanwhile, an omniscient point-of-view offers occasional observations from the grounds--"the house waits for guests... the excitable flower beds toss light and color to one another"--giving readers a sense that they, too, have been assigned a place at the table.
 
Secret subplots simmer. From the bride and groom's efforts to wed privately before the ceremony to the charming spontaneous friendship between the octogenarian grandmother and grandfather, each Cohen and Barlow has a story. Skipping among the wine-sipping grown-ups, the next generation delights in slipping undetected into the woods.
 
As delightful as A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Garden Party exudes a whimsical tone as it builds to an unexpected adventure for all. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A midsummer rehearsal dinner brings together two families in a charming Massachusetts garden, and each guest harbors a story.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 240p., 9780399179723

Sports

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding... Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

by Sam Anderson


Oklahoma City can be a pretty easy punching bag, and New York journalist Sam Anderson rarely misses his jabs--like this faint praise: "one of the great weirdo cities of the world." His first book, Boom Town, is a hilarious history and drive-through study of this Midwestern city born of bedlam and ambition during the 1889 Land Run. Growing with the willy-nilly annexation of the surrounding oil-rich flatlands, its 600 square miles make it one of the geographically largest cities in the world. As Anderson makes clear: it is "the natural habitat of cars," so you better have a motor vehicle if you want to take it all in. Even LA has a higher walkability score than OKC.
 
Ostensibly on assignment to write about the improbable success of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA expansion team, Anderson becomes entranced by the chutzpah and resilience of the Sooners who call it home. While Oklahoma is the Choctaw word for "red people," the nickname "Sooner" comes from those who slipped over the border into "Indian Territory" before the Land Run noon shotgun start.
 
If the Thunder's up-and-down path to the NBA Finals is the primary thread running through Boom Town, rock band the Flaming Lips gets almost equal coverage. Perhaps this is because unappreciated Sooner boosters covet a winner. In 2006, the city even created a Flaming Lips Alley in downtown, and in 2009 the band's "Do You Realize??" was named the official rock song of Oklahoma. Boom Town may not get an OKC Chamber of Commerce blurb, but Anderson clearly has a soft spot for the city he also calls "provincial, amateur, permanently uncool." Ouch. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: New York journalist Anderson goes to Oklahoma City to cover the NBA's Thunder and comes away with a much bigger and funnier story of a city always "on the make."

Crown, $28, hardcover, 448p., 9780804137317

Children's & Young Adult

The Sinking of the Vasa: A Shipwreck of Titanic Proportions

by Russell Freedman, illus. by William Low


Newbery Award-winning author Russell Freedman (Angel Island) and illustrator William Low delve into the waters of Sweden to uncover the story of the Vasa, a navy warship that sank during its maiden voyage in August of 1628.
 
Freedman briefly outlines the two years of construction it took to create this "vessel so fearsome, the very sight of her would shiver the timbers of any enemy ship." Low's corresponding, lifelike digital images reinforce the enormity of the project and its meticulous detail. Freedman imbues his narrative with a tone of foreboding suspense as he shifts to the Vasa's first, doomed excursion: "Water gushed through the open gunports. A moment later, the ship's deck railings were slapping against the waves, then disappearing underwater." Likewise, Low's illustrations evoke the rocking motion of the water and the tipping of the ship.
 
A transition forward three centuries occurs at the book's midpoint, paired with a stunning gatefold featuring the Vasa underwater as the navy attempts to bring it to the surface. Concluding the tale with a similarly compressed retelling of the vessel's restoration, Freedman inspires hope when discussing the original cannons: "In their silence lies a king's misguided dream of military might. And the Vasa, in her restored glory, is herself a testament to peace."
 
The Sinking of the Vasa is sure to spark the interest of history and maritime buffs. Freedman gives readers a delicious taste of this grand story--spiced up by Low's atmospheric illustrations--and his list of sources at the conclusion offers a full buffet of further reading options. The Vasa may have sunk, but Freedman and Low's recounting is a glorious trip through her amazing legend. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A brief history of one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions--a 17th-century warship--recounted reverently by a Newbery Award-winning writer.

Holt, $18.99, hardcover, 44p., ages 5-9, 9781627798662

Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America

by Amy Reed, editor


"In the days after the 2016 presidential election, I felt lost." Readers who don't share this sentiment, courtesy of editor Amy Reed's introduction, will not likely find common ground with the contributors to Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America. Conversely, readers who agree with Reed that "we are living in a cultural battleground where, for many of us, our very identities seem to be under attack" will find comfort herein.
 
Our Stories, Our Voices uses the 2016 election of Donald Trump as a prompt for contributors--all female, but from a range of ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations--to reflect on times when they've been marginalized. In "Black Girl, Becoming," Tracy Deonn Walker, who is African American, recalls being called out by white and black people for having tastes (in music, in boys) considered too "white." In "Is Something Bothering You?," Jenny Torres Sanchez describes the terror her family experienced when her Spanish-speaking father was pursued by members of the KKK. Common themes include grappling with rape culture, being on the receiving end of Islamophobia after 9/11 and--here's the comfort--finding spirits-boosting solace in writing and activism. The book's most adept essayists connect their personal experiences with an aspect of the 2016 presidential campaign. In "Trumps and Trunchbulls," Alexandra Duncan links Donald Trump's behavior toward Hillary Clinton with the gaslighting technique that sexual abusers (including Duncan's) use on women. The personal? You bet it's political. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: Twenty-one women, largely young adult novelists, use the election of Donald Trump as a springboard for writing essays about the experience of being marginalized.

Simon Pulse, $18.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 14-up, 9781534408999

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Buy this book



Publisher:
St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date:
September 18, 2018

ISBN:
9781250101884

List Price:
$27.99

 

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