Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 10, 2012


St. Martin's Press: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

From My Shelf

W. W. Norton & Company: Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Arthur A. Levine Books: Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

Poems: A Collection of Heartbeats and Snapshots

When I was young, my mother had a thin paperback book by Mahmoud Darwish called A Lover from Palestine, English translation on one page, original Arabic on the facing page. As a child, I read the poems only in English; when I was older, I studied the collections of words in both languages, going back and forth from one page to the other as though they were puzzles that needed solving. I loved how so few words strung together could paint a picture and make me feel loss and sadness and beauty and love. In spite of my deep liking of this particular set of poems, as an art form poetry baffled me (both the reading and the writing).

On a whim, the summer before I started graduate school I signed up for a poetry writing class. My teacher was a tall, thin man a few years older than me who went swimming every morning and arrived to class smelling of chlorine and cigarettes. Originally from Kentucky, he said the word "poem" as though it had only one syllable and he talked at length about baseball and loss. "Poems are stories for people with short attention spans," he told us. This I understood.

Since that long ago summer when the late Joe Bolton taught me how to read, understand and spill poems, I have channeled my writing (and reading): poetry for the more immediate stories, those that demand raw descriptions, shouts, moans, or riotous giggling; short stories or novels for the more drawn-out tales, those that need deeper exploring. my name on his tongue is a memoir in poems, a series of tiny stories, a collection of heartbeats and snapshots, and an homage to a teacher who unlocked the door to a rich and necessary world. --Laila Halaby

Halaby's memoir in poems, my name on his tongue, will be published by Syracuse University Press, May 2012.


HarperOne: Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle


Book Candy

Book Designs; Katniss Barbie; Portlandia Reading Match

Flavorwire showcased "10 crazy and unusual book designs," noting that "we mostly think all books are little objets d'art, but these go above and beyond the normal standards, each one an innovative and interesting piece of design as well as a functioning book."

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In creating the Biblioteca bookcase, Umbra and designer Matt Carr "weren't afraid to challenge their customers and mass-produce a bookcase that looks as though it stepped straight out of Wonderland," Booklicious observed.

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Barbie as tribute. For Hunger Games fans, a Katniss Barbie Doll is now available that "looks a lot like Jennifer Lawrence. A pretty quick turnaround from movie to toy stores," Buzzfeed reported.

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Competitive reading. From the TV series Portlandia, two readers square off in a "Did You Read?" death match.


Second Story Press: The Pain Eater by Beth Goobie


A Reader's Life

Reading Ritual

In February, we asked readers what they liked to eat and drink while they read. Alice Sather responded with a poem, so in honor of both National Poetry Month and the pleasures of reading:

Reading Itself Might Be a Ritual

Tall-backed chair by the fire
in the sun-room, plants lining the sunny side
two dogs asleep 
warming feet,
tea to my right--
unless it is a very small glass
of deep red wine--
and bowl of
nuts or
crackers
or piece of dark chocolate
raisins and figs
apple slices,
not all and not too much.

Or the rocker in the living room
feet up on the stool covered with a
unicorn needlepointed by
my mother while my father
was in World War
Two--it still serves well these
many wars later--tea still
to my right--unless it is the wine--
with bowl of nuts,
or fruit, or crackers,
or that piece of dark chocolate, 
unless I am lucky and have a
marzipan confection.


Titan Books: The Killing Bay (Faroes #2) by Chris Ould


The Writer's Life

Ally Carter: Why Teens Can Relate to Spies

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Disney/Hyperion), marks author Ally Carter's fifth (and penultimate) novel in her Gallagher Girls series, set at a boarding school where young women train to be spies. The first book, I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You in 2006, was published in 2006, and the series now has more than 1.8 million copies in print. Out of Sight finds heroine Cameron Morgan coming to in a convent in the Alps, with no memory of her kidnapping by the Circle of Cavan, the terrorist organization from which she'd been trying to protect her friends and family. We talked with the author about what it's like watching Cammie mature, and what teens and spies share in common.

How did you get the idea for Gallagher Academy?

I was watching an episode of Alias on TV one night, and I had the sound on mute. I thought I was seeing a flashback of when they were at a boarding school studying to be spies. I misunderstood what I was seeing, but I thought, "I need to write that book."

For Cammie, spying is a family business. Her mother is headmistress at Gallagher Academy, her father is kidnapped for his work as a spy--even her aunt is a Secret Service agent. How did that aspect enter the story?

I do tend to write about girls in family businesses. Heist Society features a girl raised in a family of con men and art thieves. I myself was raised on a cattle farm in Oklahoma. I was used to being the only girl at the table from a very young age. You've got a job, and you've got to carry your weight in this business. It's no surprise to me that I come back to that theme.

Did you map out the entire series ahead of time?

I knew I wanted to do a series when I wrote I Love You.... I thought I might initially do three books. Then, in writing that first book, I realized it would likely only cover one semester. So from that point on, I knew I was going to do six books, but I didn't know exactly what would happen in each and every book.

You lay out several mysteries that grow more complicated as the series continues. With the unfolding of those mysteries we also get a sense of the complexities of growing up.

I knew that Cammie's missing father would be the biggest overarching question. Some of the more specific things, like the Circle of Cavan coming after her, didn't come up until the third book. I've been lucky. I'm not the kind of person who can plot out six books at a time. Each took many, many drafts to get that one book just right.

Yet each book could also stand alone. Is it difficult to figure out how much back story to include?

It's a goal always that readers could pick up any of the books and not feel lost. You want to make sure you don't overwrite for those who know the books. The things that Cammie's still wondering about are, hopefully, the things readers also review for themselves. I think that's an advantage of first-person narration. Readers always ask, "Why don't you tell us what happened to her dad?" But your readers can never know things that your character doesn't know.

There's a quote from Cammie in this book that seems applicable to the entire series: "As a spy, sometimes the biggest lies we tell are to ourselves."

Cammie's kidnapping put her career on fast-forward. At 17, she has dealt with things most operatives wouldn't deal with until age 30. But I also think it's something teens can relate to. Teens lie all the time: "I don't care what they think of me," and "I'm okay if he doesn't like me back." It's part of life. They try to alter or soften so many of the blows they're dealt.

The Gallagher Girls series came of age as Americans were coming to grips with terror on our own shores. Did that influence the books' development at all?

I was very aware of what was going on in the world, but I didn't want the books to be overly political or time-sensitive. At its core, reading is escapism. I wanted to make sure it dealt with the classic struggle of good versus evil, but I didn't want that evil to be too specific.

And as your books demonstrate, the greatest evil is betrayal by those you thought you could trust.

Teenage girls are acutely aware of that kind of betrayal. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Burning World by Isaac Marion


Inklings

What the Neighbors Must Think

I often wonder what my neighbors think of me.

This week, I'll be at two local bookstores, signing my new thriller, Terrified. Because I'm shameless when it comes to self-promotion, I posted a book cover and an announcement about the events on the lobby bulletin board in my condominium.

It's a small building with 19 units, and I'm one of the "old timers." I keep all the unit keys in case someone gets locked out. I bought my apartment back in 1995 with movie option money from my book Only Son. The movie never got made, but I got a nice place from the deal (thank you, Tom Hanks and David Seltzer).

On the bulletin board by the mailboxes there are coupons, bus schedules, minutes from the last condo meeting, a photo of a former occupant's new baby—and now, my announcement with Terrified's creepy book cover. It shows a bloody sneaker left behind in some dark woods, and has the tag-line: "The More You Know, the More You Fear!"

Probably not what you want to see right by that picture of Melissa's new baby, but I think my neighbors are used to it... almost.

"Thanks a lot, Kevin," Karen, across the hall, recently told me. She was reading my thriller Vicious. "I got to the part where the killer drags the woman into the bushes at Volunteer Park. That's right where I jog every night! Now I have to find a new route."

Another neighbor isn't happy with me for killing a character in the restroom of a nearby movie theater in Final Breath. "I can't go to the movies there any more without thinking of that scene," he told me.

For me, every local haunt or landmark has the potential for a creepy scene.

A young couple recently moved into the building. The wife started reading Disturbed. I asked her husband how she liked the book. "She's finding it really scary," he said. "The other night, while reading it in bed, she whispered to me, 'I can't believe Kevin wrote this... and he has our keys!' "

So--I wonder what my neighbors will think of me after they read my latest. "The more you know, the more you fear!"

I guess I really don't want to know. --Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien is the author of, most recently, Terrified (Pinnacle)


Literary Lists

Poems; Bug Books; Movies Based on Books; Literary Feuds

Remember, it's National Poetry Month. Flavorwire suggested "10 great poems you can memorize today."

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To celebrate the arrival of spring, Wired featured "3 picture books for bug lovers."

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Word & Film unmasked some "covert adaptations: 7 movies you didn't know were based on books."

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Canadian writer Michael Crummey picked his top 10 literary feuds for the Guardian, noting that feuding, "like love, it makes for compelling reading--you might as well try to look away from a traffic accident."


Book Review

Fiction

The Beginner's Goodbye

by Anne Tyler


Anne Tyler's 19th novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, is a slender but touching story about an editor-publisher of thin-spined "Beginner's" guides whose grieving for his late wife is stalled--until she comes back from the dead. Tyler's introduction of a conversing and strolling ghost in the first chapter is not as jarring as you might expect. The Pulitzer-winning novelist (Breathing Lessons) does nothing to distort her clear style, nor does she whip up any mumbo-jumbo dialogue to account for the lone paranormal character. In fact, the ghost of Dr. Dorothy Rosales seems just as stolid and practical as her pre-demise self, whom the reader sees in retrospect in the ensuing chapters, as widower Aaron Woolcott looks back on the year before Dorothy's visitations began, beginning with the event that abruptly deprived him of her under-appreciated companionship.

When Dorothy finally reappears, Tyler has simultaneously regained the element of surprise and loaded the reader's sympathy for the death-divided lovers because Aaron has been perseverating over the sore spots in their unfinished marriage. It's a bravura scene, heady with scent-memory and character-appropriate lyricism.

At first, Aaron doesn't believe ghost-Dorothy has a message for him, yet his tentative, delicate encounters with her teach him and the reader a life-seizing lesson: look now, listen now, love now. Fans of Ann Tyler won't be surprised that the ending of The Beginner's Goodbye gives Aaron a second chance to say both goodbye and hello.--Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: A slender and subtle novel about how grief can teach us to live and how to love by the patron novelist of second chances.

Knopf, $24.95, hardcover, 9780307957276

Sacre Bleu

by Christopher Moore


Christopher Moore has a knack for hitting a zany spot right between Tom Robbins and the comic fantasies of British novelist Tom Holt. Sacre Bleu continues in that vein, injecting a pair of bizarre immortal spirits into an enthusiastic, but not too reverential, tribute to the late 19th-century Paris art scene.

Actually, the novel opens outside the city, with Vincent van Gogh's murder (that's right, murder). The killer is a squat, mysterious figure known as the Colorman, who's sold his particularly potent shade of blue to just about every painter of note. Now, he and his partner, Juliette, have set their sights on Lucien Lessard, a second-generation Montmartre baker who, like his father before him, would really rather be an artist. But Juliette has broken Lucien's heart before--and his best friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, is determined to see that it doesn't happen again.

Moore uses the Colorman and Juliette to forge a clever occult connection between the leading Impressionists and the painters who came before and after them. Nearly everyone you would expect to see puts in at least a cameo appearance, and though some of the jokes are obvious--"Whistler, how's your mother?"--they serve to make these iconic figures more down-to-earth. Black-and-white reproductions of select paintings and prints provide additional context; it's a helpful touch, but you could know next to nothing about 19th-century art and still find your way through Sacre Bleu--and most of its jokes--with no trouble. If you are familiar with the scene, though, you've got that many more laughs coming your way. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com

Discover: Moore knows his art history, and it shows--but he's still first and foremost an absurdist.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 9780061779749

The Coldest Night

by Robert Olmstead


Over a trilogy of novels, Robert Olmstead has chronicled a century of war and its aftermath in the lives of the men of the Childs family. In Coal Black Horse, Robey Childs confronts the horrors of the Civil War in search of his father; then Napoleon Childs chases Pancho Villa through the mountains of Mexico in Far Bright Star. In the concluding volume, The Coldest Night, Olmstead brings us the even darker tale of Robey's grandson Henry.

In the first part of the novel, the young Henry finds some comfort in horses, baseball and a romance with Mercy, the impetuous daughter of a wealthy judge. When they elope to New Orleans, the judge sends Mercy's brother to bring her home and beat Henry senseless, a warning not to follow her back.

He enlists in the Marine Corps, where "they gave him three meals a day and a roof over his head, and he fired his rifle and screamed and bayoneted straw dummies. They told him he would be one of them forever." However, in the winter snow and cold of the Korean mountains, Henry learns that no one is anything forever. His Marine family is slaughtered, the few survivors left "deep in the coma of war, walking back down that frozen road... icicles of blood hanging from their bodies."

His aunt, a nurse, takes him in and attempts to ease him back into the world. He visits Mercy again, now alone with a daughter he never knew he fathered, and finds that their love is still alive. The Coldest Night is a bleak story told with harsh realism, offering only the slightest window of hope. --Bruce Jacobs

Discover: Olmstead's sharply realistic language describes the devastating impact of war on a heartbroken young man.

Algonquin, $23.95, hardcover, 9781616200435

Miss Fuller

by April Bernard


When Margaret Fuller perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Fire Island in 1850 along with her husband and son, the world was quick to forget the Transcendentalist author. Male counterparts in the movement--including Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne--dismissed her foundational feminist essay, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, as insignificant, even scandalous. In Miss Fuller, April Bernard takes a speculative scalpel to the life of Margaret Fuller, offering a narrative of her experiences that shines a harsh and unbecoming light on the male Transcendentalists.

Fuller didn't have to die, we learn from Emerson, who was both her guru and taskmaster. Lack of funds, largely due to Emerson's pressure on her editor, caused Fuller to set sail on a merchant vessel. Emerson objected to her working in Europe, and objected to her marriage--only as a virgin, he postulated, could she truly embody the New Woman of the 19th century. When she became a wife, she must inevitably belong to her husband.

It is Anne Thoreau, Henry Thoreau's sister, who bears silent witness to these events and is subtly shaped by them. A woman of her time, she finds Margaret's vehemence irritating, and upon the news of Margaret's death, Anne can't help but feel that it was somehow deserved.

Yet as the years fly by, Anne has time to contemplate Margaret's written exhortations to women to live a "complete" life... and then she reads Margaret's story. Through Margaret's confessions, Anne at last comes to some quiet, uncomfortable realizations about herself and her life. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: A novel about a 19th-century American woman's struggles against the dark side of Transcendentalism reveal the world feminism arose to challenge.

Steerforth Press, $14.99, paperback, 9781586421953

The Wedding Beat

by Devan Sipher


Devan Sipher, a writer for the New York Times "Vows" column, turns to what he knows best for his first novel, The Wedding Beat, a witty romantic comedy detailing the ups and downs of one man's hunt for true love. Gavin Greene, 37 and single, writes a wedding column for 'The Paper.' A hopeless romantic, Gavin is tired of being the single guy at all these weddings. Confronted by love and marriage on a daily basis, he is unhappily aware that he isn't getting any younger.

At a New Year's party, he happens to meet a beautiful woman named Melinda. Unfortunately, she leaves before he works up the courage to ask for her number, forcing him to search all over Manhattan for Melindas. Unable to find the right one, he dejectedly returns his focus back to reporting on other people's weddings.

Several months later, having becoming convinced he'll never meet the love of his life, Gavin finally crosses paths with Melinda again. The catch? Her upcoming nuptials are his latest story. Will he have the nerve to disrupt her wedding plans? Or will Melinda get away from him once again?

Sipher writes with a voice that makes Gavin's stresses about his job and his search for Melinda--even about his abnormally small neck--believable and funny. And seeing a love story play out from the man's perspective makes The Wedding Beat a refreshing take on traditional 'chick lit' themes.--Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A witty debut novel about a wedding columnist looking for a happy ending of his own.

New American Library, $14, paperback, 9780451235794

Biography & Memoir

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love

by Jessie Knadler


Most romantic comedies end at the declaration of love and never explore the "happily-ever-after." Rurally Screwed entertains by continuing well past the "I do" and, best of all, this is a real-life romance, a memoir with a hilarious narrator.

Jessie Knadler never felt comfortable in her home state of Montana; she moved to New York City when she was 17 and spent years writing for women's magazines, perfecting her kundalini yoga and embracing her sardonic, neurotic destiny. On an assignment for Outdoor Adventure magazine, she returns to Montana to do an article on the Bucking Horse Sale and accidentally meets the love of her life--a man who shed his own hometown of Baltimore in order to become... a cowboy.

Once married, Jessie and Jake decide to move to Lexington, Va., and are soon knee-deep in chickens, moonshine and never-ending manual labor. Jessie feels lost in her new "identity" and must rediscover her authentic self.

While primarily the story of her love for her husband, Rurally Screwed is also a hero's journey as Jessie navigates her relationship with various identities--a child from Montana, a woman from New York, a wife in rural Virginia. Her searing wit and unflinching honesty is a pleasure to read; for example, her description of Lululemon-clad yoga fanatics as "what it would look like if Wall Street and reality TV had a baby." Fans of Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman will love Rurally Screwed, as will anyone who has fallen madly in love with his or her opposite. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A hilarious romance about what happens when a jaded New Yorker meets an idealistic cowboy.

Berkley, $24.95, hardcover, 9780425245682

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

by Alice Kaplan


In Dreaming in French, National Book Award finalist Alice Kaplan traces the experiences of Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis during the periods early in their adult lives that each lived in Paris.

Bouvier had grown up under a family myth of having descended from French royalty, complete with the habit of speaking only French at mealtimes; although the royalty bubble soon burst, Jackie--who was still pronouncing her own name in the French fashion--found a rich intellectual world in France, as well as a sense of elegance and presence that would come to define her personal social, professional and sartorial style. Sontag went to France during graduate school at age 24, leaving behind a husband and young son. Her French was poor, but her social life in the city was rich, and what it taught her about human sexuality and her own passions informed her work from her dissertation until her death. Davis, like Bouvier an undergraduate studying abroad, spoke French fluently but found herself navigating alien racial terrain as the only black student in her study abroad program, which took place as bombings tore apart her home town of Birmingham, Ala. Davis's political action was motivated in part by these tensions; when she faced murder charges several years later, France produced many of her strongest supporters.

Each woman went to Paris with a dream and emerged with a political reality often far different from her fantasy--but one that, in each case, magnified her strongest attributes. Dreaming in French is a perfect harmony of coming of age tales, French culture and political history. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Literary Cricket

Discover: The subtle and engaging connections in the Parisian experiences of three prominent American women.

University of Chicago Press, $26, hardcover, 9780226424385

Current Events & Issues

Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup

by Mark Haskell Smith


Many parents won't want their babies to grow up like Mark Haskell Smith. Starting with his "gateway" Pabst Blue Ribbons, he chased the elusive teen high through exotic liqueurs cut with lukewarm Diet Pepsi, 'shrooms, E-bombs and sauvignon blanc before, as he puts it, cocaine, "party pooper that it is, ruined everything." He moved on to sober graduate school in Los Angeles, with only the occasional post-prandial joint to lubricate his Spanish-language skills with South American friends while finishing off their flan. Baby-boomer parents with their Kansas dirt pot and Golden Gate Park days behind them understand guys like Smith. In fact, they envy him--especially when he scores a gig to cover the annual High Times Cannabis Cup competition in Amsterdam.

Heart of Dankness is Smith's laidback account of the modern world of weed--from clandestine California grows (legal in-state, but not nationally) through the primo Hindu Kush fields of India to Amsterdam cafes. If his tale sometimes reads like one of those falsely euphoric, superficial, laugh-laced basement teen shout-out debates about sex and the top 10 Nirvana songs... well, maybe that's what all that ganja can do to a writer who can't quite leave out any of the funny stuff, even if it doesn't really go anywhere or add much to the story. However, no one should come to Smith's trippy search for the world's dankest bud looking for elucidation about the chemistry or commerce of marijuana: just come to enjoy the ride. –-Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An entertaining search for the best dope in the world.

Broadway Books, $14, paperback, 9780307720542

Health & Medicine

Sex Made Easy

by Debby Herbenick


For any woman who wishes someone would hand her an owner's manual for her sex life, Sex Made Easy, Debby Herbenick's straightforward collection of answers to 100 common sexual questions, is a must-have. Herbenick is a sex researcher, educator and columnist and no newcomer to awkward queries--she also answers questions on the Kinsey Institute's website Kinsey Confidential.

Herbenick divides her questions into broad categories, including chapters on genital anatomy and function, sexual health, orgasm, partner sex and helpful tips for times when parenting, pets and life in general get in the way of sexual fulfillment. She unabashedly discusses topics most mothers don't cover in the "birds and bees" talk, from pain during sex to mismatched libidos to the healthy use and care of sex toys. Using a frank, conversational voice--but never resorting to vulgar or sanitizing slang terms--Herbenick backs up her answers with scientific research and points out instances in which research has proved inconclusive, as with conflicting studies on the existence or nonexistence of the G-spot. Readers wanting a position manual should look elsewhere; Herbenick's advice addresses sex concepts and concerns rather than the mechanics of the act.

Although Herbenick writes with a female audience in mind, readers of both genders will benefit from her knowledge. For better sexual understanding and satisfaction, pick up this classy yet candid read. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: Answers to 100 frequently asked questions from a director at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

Running Press, $16, paperback, 9780762444069

Children's & Young Adult

In the Sea

by David Elliott, illus. by Holly Meade


In this third stellar collaboration by the creators of On the Farm and In the Wild, poet and artist do for the ocean depths what they did for the barnyard and jungle.

David Elliott once again invents surprising similes that ask us to reconsider familiar creatures. Take "The Sea Turtle," which swims for 30 years and returns to its birthplace: "Rare instrument of nature,/ fair compass in a carapace." Holly Meade portrays the cavernous mouth of "The Shark" to underscore the impact of the poem's last lines: "The fin,/ the skin,/ the brutal grin.../ The terror/ of the dark within." After a number of blue and green–dominated undersea spreads, poet and artist shake things up with the golden-hued landscape of "The Starfish": "Five fingers,/ like a hand,/ the starfish shines/ in a sky of sand." Other spreads emphasize the interconnectedness of sea life, such as a coral reef, anemone and the clown fish, which is "not an enemy/ of anemone;/ in fact, it is anemone's maid,/ for which anemone/ stings its enemies./ And that's how friends are made."

Author and artist build to a dramatic finish with "The Blue Whale." This "largest animal alive" barely breaks the surface of the ocean and dominates the horizon line in Meade's illustration, as it "sings a chanty deep and slow/ of winds that rage and storms that blow." Thanks to this collection of 17 poems, we stop to consider the awe-inspiring life that goes on in our planet's salty depths. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A stellar pairing of poems and artwork that celebrates the ocean's depths, teeming with life.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9780763644987

Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems

by Jane Yolen, photos by Jason Stemple


The mother-son team behind Birds of a Feather returns with another arresting compilation of poems, photographs and facts about bugs.

Even those who'd rather avoid insects and spiders may come to appreciate them through these lyrical, often humorous rhymes and mesmerizing close-up images. A variety of poetic forms plus brief facts help readers differentiate between insects, spiders and in-between species such as a daddy longlegs ("How do you know/ Which leg goes first?/ Are all your walking moves/ Rehearsed?"). Alongside her first poem, "Oh, Fly" ("[o]h you are/ a lovely fly./ Just/ do not go/ and multiply"), with its photo of a house fly with a shimmering pair of wings, the poet helps distinguish between the orders of a species. Flies in the order Diptera, meaning "two" (di) "wings" (ptera), are known as "true" flies, while others, despite the "fly" in their names (such as dragonflies and mayflies) are not. A later poem, "Dragonfly Lights," with Stemple's photo of the lovely subject's four wings "of dark-stained glass," reinforces her point.

A limerick issues a warning about the praying mantis, and rhyming couplets pay tribute to the fleeting beauty of the butterfly. The most unified presentation occurs in the spread of the lilting and witty "Spider to the Poet," inspired by a photo of a glorious green and yellow arachnid spinning a web against an emerald green background, and elucidated by a succinct summary of the Greek myth of Arachne. These poems and images will inspire children to examine the creepy, crawly critters around them more closely and appreciatively. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An arresting collection of poems and photographs about insects and spiders by the creators of Birds of a Feather.

Wordsong/Boyds Mills, $16.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 5-up, 9781590788622

Poetry

June Fourth Elegies: Poems

by Liu Xiaobo, trans. by Jeffrey Yang


The highest calling of poetry might be in witness, the ability to depict important, history-altering events from the ground level with the highest level of wisdom and lucidity.

June Fourth Elegies is a stellar example of this, a work that is an unflinching catalogue of government-induced misery, a testament to the human spirit's capacity and a creative work of the highest order. The poems were inspired by the Tiananmen Square protests that the Chinese government ended forcefully, in blood, on June 4, 1989. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo took part in these events, and his poems are relentless and harrowing in the recounting of all that was lost on that day and in the years since. They are rage-filled, eloquent, devoid of easy comforts; they brim with survivor's guilt, explicit rage against the government and implicit rage against his fellow citizens who turned a blind eye to the shameful events.

As an important event in world literature, June Fourth Elegies speaks in brave, penetrating language of all that can be lost when totalitarian governments run rough-shod over their own people and of the compensatory balms of great poetry, even when it's an unadorned howl of rage. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: The Tiananmen Square massacre as seen through the unflinching eyes of a Nobel laureate.

Graywolf Press, $26, hardcover, 9781555976101

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