Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Random House Studio: Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Oxford University Press, USA: Spring Reads

Chronicle Books: Tap! Tap! Tap!: Dance! Dance! Dance! by Hervé Tullet

Minotaur Books: The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Charlesbridge Publishing: Glitter Everywhere by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat


ABA Town Hall and Annual Meeting

The mood was so mellow at the American Booksellers Association's Town Hall and Annual Meeting that both events ended early. It made a few audience members almost wish for a return of the occasional verbal slugfests of yore.

Among the good news:

For the third year in a row, ABA membership has grown, with every category up, as v-p Steve Bercu of Bookpeople, Austin, Tex., observed. ABA now has 1,900 bookstore locations members, up 4.2%, who represent 1,567 companies, up 3.6%. Provisional membership, representing people interested in opening a store, rose 16.2%, to 194. Bercu noted that many people see bookselling as a good business to get into, which "a few years ago would have been considered insane."

ABA CEO Oren Teicher commented: "I believe that this year we can say with certainly that the trend of indie bookstore decline has been reversed." In the same vein, he happily pointed to Nielsen Bookscan figures that show a continuation of "the double-digit increases over the previous year that we saw throughout the holiday season." In the first 20 weeks of the year, unit sales at indies have risen 13.4%. Thus "the indisputable fact is that we, as a channel are selling more books today than we were a year ago." Also, gross annual sales at IndieCommerce stores are up 92% for the year to date.

"We have reason for optimism," Teicher said. "We have proven to the industry that our business model is well positioned for the future. Now more than ever, customers appreciate our curated selection; our local ownership and close ties to our towns and cities; our many in-store events; and the opportunity to connect face-to-face in our stores with other passionate readers. The experiences you create everyday in your stores simply cannot be downloaded or replicated online."

In addition, Teicher said, despite a smaller market share, indies do a better job than other book retailers "discovering, championing, and launching notable writers and showcasing outstanding fiction and nonfiction"--and fueling sales in other channels.

Teicher added, "I know there are some doom and gloom folks out there who continue to predict the demise of bookstores. But, when I look out at this room--and add up all you do every day--I believe this moment in our industry is rich with promise and opportunity. I remain confident and convinced that, despite all the challenges and difficulties, the best days of indie bookselling are yet to come."

Offering some striking perspective about "the talk about modest market share for independents," Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, happily stated at the Annual Meeting that San Francisco now has 35 independent booksellers and no chain stores. Only a year ago there were four Borders stores and a Barnes & Noble.

In other news, the ABA is talking with several companies about a replacement for Google eBooks, following Google's decision to end the program with the ABA in January. Teicher said there are many more options compared to when ABA and Google first came to an agreement several years ago. "It's our goal and our hope that the new e-book solution will be more robust and more flexible than the Google program, offering more choices to a broader spectrum of the membership," Teicher said. He predicted that the new program will be in place by the holiday season. At the Town Meeting, president Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops, Naperville and Downers Grove, Ill., said that a decision may come as early as July. Echoing Teicher, she said the new program will be "better than what we had before."

Teicher called the Justice Department's suit against Apple and five publishers over the agency model for e-book pricing "baffling." The ABA supports agency pricing. "The evidence is clear," he said. "The agency model has enhanced competition--not in any way lessened it--and that it has created more options and more value for consumers." He as well as many members of the board urged booksellers and others to send comments to the Justice Department before the June 25 deadline. He pointed to the ABA's effect on sales tax collection at the state level, saying, "Many voices joined together can channel the power of important ideas." Now sales tax equity is "becoming reality in more and more states."

At last year's ABA annual meeting, Teicher challenged publishers to work with indies to develop new business models for the 21st century. Many publishers responded and are currently conducting experiments with some booksellers, but this is all being done in the strictest secrecy. "Much important work has begun, but there is much more yet to do," Teicher said. "And I urge publishers who have not yet begun to rethink their business operations regarding indie stores to join us in dialogue."

Teicher reaffirmed the association's commitment to education, which includes the wildly popular Winter Institute and today's first ABC Group Children's Institute, and said that "in the coming weeks" there will be information about "additional mini-Institutes offering focused educational programming on key bookselling topics."

BookExpo America will be in New York through 2015, but there is "a realistic possibility" that in 2016 it will move from New York, BEA show director Steve Rosato said at the Town Meeting.

This year's experiment having consumers visit the show takes place tomorrow. Although only about 500 had registered as of yesterday, Rosato said that given the nature of consumer attendance, there could be many last-minute consumer attendees, closer to the show's cap of 1,000. If consumer attendance is a success, BEA may move the show to Thursday, Friday and Saturday in 2014 to make it more appealing to consumers.

Leave your hard hat at home next year: Rosato said that "in theory," this year is "the worst" of the ongoing construction at the Javits Center. --John Mutter

Candlewick Press (MA): Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur? by Helen Yoon

BEA: Pictures from an Exhibition, Part 2

It was gridlock on the show floor yesterday morning as long lines of fans waited to meet two big fall authors: Justin Cronin (l.) signed The Twelve (Ballantine, October 16), the sequel to The Passage, while Junot Diaz signed excerpts from his upcoming story collection, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead, September 11).

For the first time, Natalia Solzhenitsyn presented the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Archive yesterday at BEA as part of Read Russia 2012.
"What is surprising is how much of the archive is still intact," she said. [We'll have more on this in an upcoming issue of Shelf Awareness.]


"Drop Your Weird Things Here." Overlook Press, publisher of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell, is asking booksellers attending BEA to stop by booth #4133 and share the best and worst from their own quotable customers.

Discussing great poetry near the Graywolf Press booth yesterday were Michael Taeckens, marketing director at Graywolf; Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Life on Mars; Fiona McCrae, Graywolf's director and publisher; and Paul Yamazaki, book buyer at City Lights bookstore, San Francisco, Calif.

On the Downtown Stage, Shelf Awareness children's editor Jennifer Brown talked to superstar skater Kristi Yamaguchi about skating and writing her books Dream Big, Little Pig! and its recent companion, It's a Big World, Little Pig! (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). This fall her Always Dream Foundation will launch a two-pronged literacy program: one will partner with "Raising a Reader," which sends five books home with each student each week; the other is a language arts software program called "Footsteps to Brilliance." All of the profits from It's a Big World, Little Pig! will go to benefit early literacy programs supported by the Always Dream Foundation.


At the first annual Independent Book Blogger Awards, given at Monday's BEA Bloggers' Conference, Victoria Strauss (l.), author of Passion Blue (Marshall Cavendish, November), seen here with her editor, Melanie Kroupa, won in the Publishing News category. The IBBA winners, chosen by Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers, received free airfare, hotel accommodations and full admission to BEA.

Zibby Books: Super Bloom by Megan Tady

BEA: Book & Author Breakfastpalooza

"Like many Americans, I do some of my best reading at breakfast," said Stephen Colbert to open yesterday's Book and Author Breakfast. Then he expressed a particular fondness for the literary stylings of Kellogg's Apple Jacks boxes. The Comedy Central icon and bestselling author--whose next book is America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't (Grand Central, October 2)--described the event and the large and enthusiastic audience before him as "the Lollapalooza of quietly reading to yourself."

As master of ceremonies, Colbert introduced, as he put it, "three of the best authors of books other than mine": Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her, Riverhead, September 11), Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behavior, HarperCollins, November 6) and Jo Nesbo (Phantom, Knopf, October 2).

Diaz expressed his astonishment at the seemingly endless line of booksellers that snaked away from the entrance to the special events hall before the event. "I saw you guys lining up at 7 a.m. and earlier," said Diaz. "You guys are amazing. You're like my heroes." Recalling his childhood as a self-described "book nerd," he added: "I always dreamed of lining up at 6:30 to do something with books." He also observed: "We are in a tremendous debt to you.... to booksellers, because of how absolutely important books are to the functioning of a democratic society.... In some ways you are the capillary strength of our democratic society."

Kingsolver acknowledged her shock at being invited to any event featuring someone as cool as Colbert, much less a breakfast: "Anything you do before eight in the morning is automatically not that cool unless of course you started seven hours earlier." Noting that the publishing industry is as enticed as everyone else by our celebrity-driven culture--with its celebrity chefs, celebrity housewives and even "celebrity celebrities"--Kingsolver said, "It has occurred to me that the profession in which you're least likely to get a book contract is writer."

That said, she insisted "the literary reader is a small but probably stable demographic," and emphasized the long human history of crafting stories, citing the importance of fiction in particular: "Nothing else out there puts you inside another human mind.... We writers and readers and sellers of fiction; this is the magical thing we do that cannot be replaced."

Storytelling was also on Nesbo's mind. "I grew up in a storytelling tradition." he said, adding: "Storytelling is a social reflex." He shared some of his family history, particularly his father's penchant for telling long stories at the dinner table while routinely enhancing the truth. Nesbo also recalled being assigned a school essay with the prompt of going into the woods. Even though he completed the assignment, for some reason the characters he created did not survive their forest visit. Thus, a brilliant career writing about grisly murders was hatched early. --Robert Gray

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

BEA: Authors Celebrate Booksellers

Once again, the ABA's superbly organized Celebration of Bookselling and Authors Awards Luncheon yesterday featured a range of authors, who spoke for a few minutes each to the crowd of appreciative booksellers.

Among the winners of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards and Indies Choice Book Awards:

Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book honoree, said that one of his favorite things is "to go to independent bookstores," and he praised independent booksellers: "They know me. I know them. There's consistency and engagement that doesn't exist elsewhere."

In an unusual case of BEA serendipity, Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal, author and illustrator, respectively, of Over and Under the Snow, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book honoree, met for the first time in person at the Celebration of Bookselling luncheon. Messner lamented that her community does not have an independent bookstore and is, she said, "jealous" of those who do. Neal noted that the book was his first picture book--"I drew myself as the father, hoping one day to have a daughter and to discover hidden treasures with her."

Marla Frazee, the illustrator for Stars, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book honoree, said that when visiting a new town or city, bookstores are "the first place I go to calm down and feel at home."

Jon Klassen, E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book winner for I Want My Hat Back, recalled that when he was a child, he, his father and siblings loved to hang out in bookstores--as much as three hours in a good one--which led his mother to speed up whenever they drove by a bookstore.

Carmen Agra Deedy, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Middle Reader Award honoree for The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, said that she grew up as a Cuban refugee in the South. She choked up as she recalled, "I was turned on to reading by a very serene Apollonian librarian who introduced me to Charlotte's Web."

"As a child and now, at the darkest times, the only thing that helped me was a book," said Lauren Oliver, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Middle Reader Award honoree for Liesl & Po. Books help her "climb out of dark places." She thanked booksellers for providing "stairways, especially out of darkness, for so many readers."

Maile Meloy, one of the two winners of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Middle Reader Award, for The Apothecary, noted when she and her brother, Colin Meloy, author of Wildwood, learned they had tied for this award, "we thought we might fight to the death like the Hunger Games." She then recounted that her step-mother once drove cross country listening to NPR and arrived wanting to buy a book she had heard about, but she couldn't remember which show she was listening to at the time, author's name, the title, "or even what it was about." Still, her local bookseller figured it out and found the book. She concluded: "Thank you for being clairvoyant and for being doubly generous to my family." (Colin Meloy did not attend because he and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, are on deadline for their next book.)

After arriving from China in 1989, Marie Lu, a YA honoree for Legend, learned English from reading books from bookstores. "When I go into my local independent now," she said, "I feel like I'm coming home. Thank you for all you do connecting the right books to the right readers."

Ruta Sepetys, young adult winner for Between Shades of Gray, talked about how family's harrowing history in Lithuania. Her father and his family were "on Stalin's extermination list," she said. Luckily they escaped, but the Soviets "took my father's extended family instead" and sent them to Siberia. Her "difficult" book deals with this grim history and was a success "because of the independent bookselling community. You handsold it and gave it to customers," she said. Moreover, she said, "when others picked up the wrong Shades of Grey, you gently took them out of their hands and said, 'Totalitarianism, not titillation.' " Noting that Stalin "murdered 25 million people," she said that stories about people caught up in the horror made sure that such history was not just reduced to bland statistics and gave voice "to many hundreds of thousands of people who couldn't tell their own story. It's a way to create justice and hope for the future."

Andre Dubus III, an adult nonfiction honoree for Townie: A Memoir, said his "favorite people in the country" are public school teachers, nurses, librarians and independent booksellers. Teachers nurture children, nurses nurture bodies, librarians nurture communities, and booksellers nurture "our souls." Without booksellers, he continued, "our culture and democracy is in peril."

Gabrielle Hamilton, nonfiction winner for Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, said that it was especially poignant to accept the award because when working in the catering business, she "spent thousands of hours" preparing lunch boxes like the ones attendees at the Celebration of Bookselling ate from and pushed trolleys up and down the halls. In fact, she said to a roar from the audience, "it's f**king incredible to be here."

For Amer Towles, an adult debut honoree for Rules of Civility, who has worked in the investment business for 20 years researching companies and markets, the book world is "the most discerning industry I have ever been involved in." He cited editors, sales reps, and particularly independent booksellers. "I find it incredible how carefully they read and recommend books across genres to different genders, ages and classes," he continued. "They can pull out the perfect book for an individual."

Tea Obreht, adult debut winner for The Tiger's Wife, called the last year and a half of her life "most unbelievable" and said that "pretty much all of those responsible are in this room, except for a few people who stayed behind in the stores and a few at the publisher's." She noted that when starting to write something new, "you're the only person who makes that exist." Then, as the book was published, "the people in this room became inhabitants of this world, too," and when they shared the book with their customers, "they came to inhabit this world," too.

Jesmyn Ward, an adult fiction honor winner for Salvage the Bones, noted that her community bookstore, Pass Christian Books, Pass Christian, Miss., is selling online but has not yet returned to bricks-and-mortar form since being destroyed in Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. "I'm really looking forward to the day when our community has its independent bookstore back," she said. "I see what great work you do and want that for my community, too."

"Authors are supposed to be shy and awkward and have bad hygiene, but I'm so impressed here," Jeffrey Eugenides, who won the adult fiction award for The Marriage Plot, said. Noting that some critical pieces were written about him after he wrote his first book, he said, "The only cure was to go around the country and read and stop and talk with people in bookstores. It was like medieval Europe, moving from monastery to monastery, finding these people who were keeping knowledge alive--and enjoying Belgian beer in the basement." He said that "the enemy" is any person or entity that asserts that the book is created by a single person and says we don't need editors, promotion people, copy editors and "people like you who pass this on to others."

Saying, "We all love you," M.T. Anderson, a nominee for engaging author, told booksellers that "our fates are tied with yours. Don't be afraid to call. We're there for you."

John Green, another nominee for engaging author, said when he learned he hadn't won the award--which went to Ann Patchett, the author who founded Parnassus Books last year in Nashville, Tenn.--he was happy because he mistakenly thought he wouldn't have to speak. Pretending to take a snarky tone, he said, "Maybe I'll buy a bookstore next year, Ann Patchett!" Green added that authors at the luncheon were being nice "not just because we are here and you are here and it would be awkward otherwise, but we're nice for the same reason Republicans are nice to billionaires--we need you!"

As if at a revival meeting, Ann Patchett, the ABA's most engaging author, began by saying, "Brothers and sisters," and made a plug for Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray, her mother, which came out last week. Unfortunately Ray just had shoulder surgery and can't tour, so Patchett is on tour for both of them. Patchett called the novel "a very funny book" and told booksellers to "go back to your stores and read it."

Patchett concluded by saying that sometimes against huge odds, "the little guy wins." In the "best example of the little guy winning," she said, "The Javits becomes Agincourt, we become the English, Amazon and the Department of Justice become the French, and I become Henry V." She then recited the St. Crispin's Day Speech delivered by Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare's Henry V. The audience found this most engaging, and gave the merry player a standing ovation. --John Mutter

BEA: 7x20x21

At 7x20x21 on the Downtown Stage yesterday afternoon called, each author was given seven minutes to present 20 PowerPoint slides, with the slides advancing every 21 seconds. The result: a frenetically paced mish-mosh of ideas, followed by much-needed drinks and mingling. Pictured (l. to r.) are Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore (FSG, Oct.), a novel about global conspiracy, high-tech data, love, eternal life and more; Nate Silver, author of The Signal and the Noise (Penguin Press, Sept.), a nonfiction book that attempts to make sense of random statistical, historical and/or predictive information from all over the world; Ami Greko, vendor relations manager at Kobo (and co-organizer of the event); Sheila Heiti, author of How Should a Person Be? (Holt, June), which bears the subtitle A Novel from Life, which the author said is about as true as a "sausage is true"; and Ryan Chapman, online marketing manager at Penguin (and co-coordinator of the event). The event also featured comedian/bookseller Dan Wilbur, author of How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life (Penguin, Sept.), a humorous take on great works of literature (e.g., new titles for classics: The Great Gatsby = Drink Responsibly; Ulysses = One Long Sentence About Hand Jobs); and, more seriously, New Yorker writer D.T. Max, author of a new bio of David Foster Wallace called Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story (Viking, August). The title, Max explained, comes from a phrase that had often popped up in the writer's work, and which, Max believes, embodies the essence of biography. --Bridget Kinsella



Image of the Day: Stages on Pages' Book Passage

Last Saturday, MB14, the new teen advisory group at Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., hosted the YA authors touring with Stages on Pages, a tour that benefits the performing arts. The authors read from their books and spoke of how their experiences in the arts, including screen writing, opera singing, circus performance and ballet, provided foundations for them to write books for young adults. The event also included lunch and signings. Pictured in the store's newly established teen section: (from l.) Jake Stromberg (MB14); Sami Peterson (MB14); Alyssa Lang (MB14); Elise Allen, author of Populazzi; Gretchen McNeill, author of Possess; Katherine Longshore, author of Gilt; Annalise Shulman (MB14); Kim Culbertson, author of Instructions for a Lonely Heart; and Stasia Kehoe, author of Audition.


Pennie Picks Spring Fever

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9780312642716) as her pick of the month for June. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"With June heralding the official start of summer, friends and fellow readers keep asking me for beach-read suggestions. This year the title that's rolling off my lips is Mary Kay Andrews' Spring Fever.

"Annajane Hudgens is four years divorced and seemingly over her ex, Mason Bayless. In fact, she's engaged and ready to leave the small town that holds so much of her history. But when Mason's second marriage is stopped as his intended walks down the aisle with someone else, Annajane wonders if she's been given a second chance.

"Oozing with Southern charm and packed with delightful characters, this is a go-to summer book. In fact, only one thing could make it any more enjoyable: reading it while sitting on a rambling front porch and sipping an ice-cold glass of sweet tea."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Buddy Guy's Gig on Tavis Smiley

This morning on Good Morning America: Joan Rivers, author of I Hate Everyone...Starting with Me (Berkley, $25.95, 9780425248300).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Cees Nooteboom, author of Self-Portrait of an Other: Dreams of the Island and the Old City with drawings by Max Neumann, translated by David Colmer (Seagull Books, $25, 9780857420114). As the show put it: "Eminent Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom discusses his book of prose poems written in response to drawings by Berlin artist Max Neumann. The otherworldly drawings inspire dream-based prose poems immersed  in climate, myth and landscape. These texts took 10 years to be translated into English. Nooteboom expresses the hope that more translation projects will be commissioned in America."


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Shawn Colvin, author of Diamond in the Rough: A Memoir (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061759598).


Tomorrow on HLN's Dr. Drew: Drew Manning, author of Fit2Fat2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and Losing 75 lbs on Purpose (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780062194206).


Tomorrow on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show: Dylan Evans, author of Risk Intelligence: How to Live with Uncertainty (Free Press, $26, 9781451610901).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Buddy Guy, author with David Ritz of When I Left Home (Da Capo Press, $26, 9780306819575).


Tomorrow on Charlie Rose: Henry A. Crumpton, author of The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service (Penguin, $27.95, 9781594203343).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Edward Conard, author of Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong (Portfolio Hardcover, $27.95, 9781591845508).

Movie: Bel Ami

Bel Ami, based on the 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant, opens this Friday, June 8. Robert Pattinson stars as a Parisian journalist and manipulative womanizer. The film also stars Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Colm Meaney.


Books & Authors

Awards: Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis

Crime Writers of Canada announced this year's winners of the Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in Canadian crime writing:

Crime novel: Before the Poison by Peter Robinson
First novel: The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton
Crime book in French: La chorale du diable by Martin Michaud
Juvenile or YA crime book: Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
Crime nonfiction: Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art by Joshua Knelman
Crime Short Story: "What Kelly Did" by Catherine Astolfo (North Word Magazine)
Unpublished first novel: (aka "Unhanged Arthur"): Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe

Book Brahmin: Andrew Blum

Andrew Blum is the author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, just published by Ecco. He writes about architecture, infrastructure and technology for many publications, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Slate and Popular Science. He is a correspondent for Wired, a contributing editor to Metropolis, and lives in his hometown of New York City.


On your nightstand now:

Lauren Groff's Arcadia. Lauren Redniss's Radioactive, Pico Iyer's The Man Within My Head and Joe Flood's The Fires.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Jack Finney's Time and Again. I've hardly read any fantasy since, but I've never let go of its sense of how imagined places can become real.

Your top five authors:

I feel parochial about this, but the truth is I became a writer because of the way they put the world into words: Henry David Thoreau, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Wallace Stevens and James Merrill.

Book you've faked reading:

Robert Caro's The Power Broker. But that's not entirely true, because I've read the whole thing, just in pieces. Really!

Books you're an evangelist for:

Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, Martin Heidegger's Poetry, Language, Thought, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. (Come to think of it, those last two go together oddly well.)

Book you've bought for the cover:

W.G. Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction. The Monks of New Skete's How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend. (Have you seen it? A photograph of hippie monks, posing--as if in a Renaissance painting--beside their German shepherds.)

Book that changed your life:

Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. It redefined for me what it meant, as a writer, to go out into the world and listen to a story.

Favorite line from a book:

"But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when the days are growing shorter and the multicolored lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman's voice cries ooh!, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time." --from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

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

Patti Smith's Just Kids. What an amazing person to get to know on the page.

Book you most enjoy reading to your child:

Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion. A hilarious, heartwrenching saga--even the 50th time through.


Book Review

Review: The Insomniacs

The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf, illus. by The Brothers Hilts (Putnam, $16.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 3-up, 9780399256653, August 16, 2012)

A family resembling a Charles Addams creation learns how to live during the night in this visual feast.

Karina Wolf, in her first picture book, charts a family that shifts from being a normal one that drives, goes to school and takes photographs during the sunlight hours, to one that "stayed awake only in nighttime." The problem is that they've moved 12 time zones away for Mrs. Insomniac's new job. Mother nods off at her desk, Father falls asleep taking pictures, and the headmistress sends Mika home from school with a diagnosis of "sleeping sickness." The Brothers Hilts depict dark, shadowy rooms with people and mice in profile, and green, gold and red bottles gleaming in the few rays of sun. Mika's purported sickness is a wakeup call to the whole family. They try many strategies to get to sleep, but nothing works until they quiz their nocturnal neighbors. The book's design juxtaposes velvety interiors of the Insomniacs' house--striped wallpaper, high-back chairs--with vignettes of them plotting to learn the bear's secret to how he beds down all winter long.

A gorgeous image of the family members in search of the bears on a rolling landscape lit only by their lamps and a hint of sun on the horizon complements a curving colony of bats (which the Insomniacs think are mice that hang upside down). But the piéce de resistance is the 11-panel progression of the Insomniacs noticing "the darkness was full of life." A porthole view of owls, as if seen within a hollow tree, fireflies in a dense thicket of grass, a herd of moose approaching a pond all attest to a thriving nighttime scene.

In the end, the message is clear: If you accept your circumstances, you're more likely to figure out the best next steps. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: A favorite warhorse about not wanting to go to sleep gets a fresh new look thanks to glorious artwork by the Brothers Hilts.



Shadowhunters Are Everywhere

Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunters (featured on the stairs at the Javits Center) are the characters featured in all of Clare's book series (The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, and the forthcoming Dark Artifices series) rather than the title of a book.

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