Also published on this date: Wednesday, August 30, 2017: Dedicated Issue: Random House DC Icons Series

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger


Hurricane Harvey Update: More Stores Open; Industry Help

Emergency workers rescue people and pets in flooded Houston.  (photo:

The rains have let up in Houston and Hurricane Harvey has now become a tropical storm and moved onto Louisiana, but flooding continues. Some bookstores were able to open yesterday; some are dealing with power outages and flooding.

Murder by the Book in Houston was open again yesterday, offering people coffee, wi-fi, air conditioning and the opportunity to charge phones. Owner McKenna Jordan told the Houston Chronicle, "I've got coffee, I've got snacks. And one of our authors just called and paid for books to give away to people as comfort."

That author was speculative fiction writer Marina J. Lostetter, who was supposed to participate in an event at the store Thursday night for Noumenon (Harper Voyager) but couldn't make it. The Chronicle said she called to purchase "about 30 books for the store to give away this week."

Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston reported that the store is "still dry" but has no power, so it was closed again yesterday.

Brazos Bookstore in Houston was open yesterday until 5 p.m..

The Galveston Bookshop in Galveston is in an area where flood waters are several feet deep. (See a picture of a business on the same block as the bookstore here.) Last night the store tweeted a shot of H20-D2, its "wet-service droid" vacuum cleaner, and said the space is "mostly okay, lots of puddles still, and a few drowned books. Will be open-ish tomorrow. Bye Harvey."


On Sunday, Kathryn Butler Mills, a teacher from Katy, Tex., formed a Facebook group called Hurricane Harvey Book Club that features videos of people reading aloud children's books. Already the group has some 26,000 members.

"I woke up with this idea heavy on my heart yesterday," she told WFAA-TV on Monday, adding that she wanted "to bring a love for reading, kids, and community and create a space for them to keep up the momentum from back to school during severe weather."

There are hundreds of videos posted already, read by children and adults--parents, teachers, authors and other book lovers--along with heartbreaking notes from people suffering through Harvey. The videos are in multiple languages--Spanish, English, even American Sign Language.


Simon & Schuster is offering assistance to Texas booksellers and to Texas public and school libraries that have been damaged by Hurricane Harvey flooding. The company is also ready to work with national and local nonprofits such as First Book and the Red Cross to provide books for children and adults displaced by Hurricane Harvey, including at shelters throughout Texas. In addition, the publisher reminded booksellers in need of immediate support of the services of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc).

For bookstores damaged by the hurricane and flooding, S&S will provide free multiple copies of 20 new releases and bestsellers to help them attract customers as they restore their businesses to normal operating conditions.

"For retailers, floods of the order caused by Hurricane Harvey can result in loss of inventory, damage to physical space, and a severe reduction in traffic," said Michael Selleck, executive v-p, sales and marketing. "With this offering we look to help our bookselling friends stock in-demand titles and re-build their customer base after the flooding clears."

Through the Simon & Schuster Education & Library marketing department, the company is offering any damaged Texas public or school library a donation of 250 "best of" titles to help in the restoration of their collections.

"When public or school libraries sustain devastating loss, the entire community suffers," said Michelle Leo, v-p, director of education & library marketing. "Our book donation program is intended to help affected libraries get back on their feet, and we look forward to working with our longtime friends in libraries across Texas, as well as other local and national organizations to help facilitate a speedy recovery for these vital cornerstones of Texas communities."


Reading Is Fundamental is working with local officials to donate 25,000 new books and educational resources to children displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The organization said in a statement that "our thoughts are with everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey and our sincerest thanks go out to all the rescuers risking their lives to save others." Those looking to donate to the 501(c)3 organization can do so here.


Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y., is extending its Blind Date with a Book fundraiser for another month, with all donations now going to the Houston Food Bank. Last month Astoria Bookshop customers raised $138.55 for Girls Write Now, a New York City organization that matches girls with women writers as mentors. Customers who take part in Blind Date with a Book receive a wrapped ARC of an upcoming book as thanks for their donation. Owner Lexi Beach also announced that for the next two weeks, a generous donor will match contributions to the fundraiser, meaning that a $5 donation "becomes $10 given to the Houston Food Bank."


Scholastic is donating $25,000 to the Red Cross to aid in the immediate Hurricane Harvey relief effort and in the long term plans to make sizable book donations to affected schools. To do so, the company will work directly with its customers to determine needs once schools reopen and will also be accepting requests from schools through its own Possible Fund.

Scholastic Book Clubs, meanwhile, will offer 500 free bonus points to teachers in affected areas to help them restock their classroom libraries, and Scholastic News Online will be "covering the effects of Harvey for young readers." Scholastic has also posted tips for teachers and parents on how to talk to children about natural disasters and suggests that those interested in supporting disaster relief efforts consider giving their money to the Red Cross or Save the Children.

Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White

Ingram Realigns Operations

Ingram Content Group is realigning its operations, mainly in response to its purchase last year of Perseus Distribution. As a result, the wholesaler purchasing group, led by George Tattersfield, will now report to chief commercial officer Shawn Everson, while the shared services sales team, acquired with the Perseus purchase and led by Jeanne Emanuel, will report to chief content officer Phi Ollila, who heads Ingram's distribution and services businesses.

Ingram CEO and president Shawn Morin commented: "We've learned a lot in the last year and are continuously looking for ways to become more efficient in our wholesale business while providing 'best in class' services to our publisher distribution clients."

Everson added: "As Ingram aligns the buy and sell side of its wholesale business, my goal will be to ensure our upstream and downstream partners understand the importance of a healthy wholesaler inside the supply chain."

Ollila stated: "The growth and success of our distribution business is tied to the strength of our sales team, aligning all of distribution sales with the distribution business will help us bring even more value to our clients."

Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Obituary Notes: Howard Kaminsky

Howard Kaminsky, a "brash and witty" publisher who held high-level positions at Warner Books, Random House and Hearst, died August 26, the New York Times reported. He was 77.

During his tenure at Warner Books (which eventually became Grand Central, part of Hachette), Kaminsky worked with authors such as Richard Simmons, John Naisbitt, Andrew Greeley, Judith Krantz and Nelson DeMille, but was perhaps best known for signing Richard Nixon to a book deal just six weeks after he resigned from the presidency. And during his three years as publisher and CEO at Random House, starting in 1984, Kaminsky was instrumental in signing The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump (and Tony Schwartz), though he reportedly "came to be unhappy about having published Mr. Trump's books." Kaminsky joined Hearst Corporation's trade publishing group after being forced out from Random House due to differences with the company's chairman, Robert Bernstein. He worked at Hearst until 1994, when he left publishing in order to care for his wife Susan Kaminsky, who "had been found to have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma" (she passed away in 2008).

Kaminsky was also an author; he co-wrote five novels with his wife and published a police procedural of his own called Angel Wings in 2013.

Summer Hum: End of the Season Approaches

For some independent bookstores, the final few weeks of summer before Labor Day weekend are one of the slowest stretches of the year, with the end of summer marking a return to normal business for a few months before the holiday rush. For stores in heavily seasonal areas, the situation can be drastically different, with summer being the busiest time of the year. As the season comes to the end, Shelf Awareness has taken a look at what summer is like for stores in the latter group.

In Bethany Beach, Del., Memorial Day weekend and the start of the summer season brings the town's population from less than 2,000 people to well over 10,000. Amanda Zirn, manager of Bethany Beach Books, reported that the store essentially makes its money in the 14 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The store is so seasonal, in fact, that she said it was like "running two completely different businesses." During the summer, Bethany Beach Books can do as much business in 10 minutes as it would do on an entire winter's day, and while bad weather during the winter can bring sales to almost a complete halt, some of the best sales days the store has ever seen have come on rainy days in the summer. To accommodate the summer rush the store also brings on additional staff, stays open from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. (winter hours are usually 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m.), and Bethany Beach Books hosts events and storytime sessions only during the summer. Said Zirn: "The summer is a beast that we just cannot keep fed and during the winter, it sleeps."

Every April, Zirn and her colleagues begin placing huge orders of backlist titles to replenish the store's inventory, and all summer frontlist titles are ordered in large quantities. Zirn reported that beach reads do in fact sell very well--thrillers, mysteries and love stories are summer mainstays, and children's and YA typically do very well. This year in particular, Zirn has had trouble keeping Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10 and Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls in stock despite frequently reordering them in quantities of 100. Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck and A Beautiful Terrible Thing by Jen Waite also sold well and, for sidelines, crazy socks by Sock It to Me! and Yoga Dice by Chronicle Books have been hits.

At Between the Covers in Telluride, Colo., the year is divided between the winter ski season and the much shorter summer season. Daiva Chesonis, co-owner of Between the Covers, said that Telluride's summer economy rivals the town's winter economy even though the former season is comparatively brief. No small part of that is due to Telluride's busy summer festival schedule. From Memorial Day until early autumn, there is one festival after another, focused on everything from films, art, bluegrass and wine to hot air balloons and mycology. Although fall isn't as busy as the summer, Telluride remains a popular destination until mid-to-late October, which is usually when the last of the leaves fall. Between then and the start of ski season around Thanksgiving, the town is extremely quiet and the store's hours are reduced.  Between the Covers is closed for most of the month of April. In fact, Chesonis said, most of the town shuts down in April; it's an opportunity for year-round residents to "get ready for what's coming."

Between the Covers partners with almost every Telluride festival, and consequently event sales are a huge part of the store's summer business--Chesonis said that anyone outside of Telluride would be "flabbergasted" to see just how many mushroom guides her store sells. Aside from the indie bestsellers, backlist and classic titles have done better this year than in summers past, and there has been an uptick in both comedic and serious political books. Chesonis added that Drawdown, Paul Hawken's nonfiction book about combating climate change, has moved like "gangbusters." Not only was Hawken in town for a film festival early in the season, Chesonis explained, but climate change is a deeply serious topic for a ski town. In addition to the mushroom guides, wildflower guides and hiking guides are also perennial favorites. Popular sidelines include postcards, a variety of funny socks, and Unicorn Snot glitter.

According to owner Jody Swanson, Cloud and Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita, Ore., does about half of its annual business between June and September. To help handle the summer rush of visitors to the Oregon coast, Swanson has two part-time employees who work a total of 25 hours per week. Once things slow down in the fall, Swanson plans to cut that back to around 15 hours. Swanson also orders more freely in the summer, and after October generally has to "tighten up" and make more deliberate decisions about what she can carry. Cloud and Leaf has not hosted any in-store events since the spring, but Swanson has sold books at off-site events during the summer. She explained that during the summer she's too busy stocking stocking inventory to also organize and set up for readings.

Swanson has found that during the summer, "it feels like everything sells, or everything goes through a wave of selling," with children's books making up about half of Cloud and Leaf's overall sales during the summer. This year, some of the major sellers have been On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. The books Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, both by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl, have also sold very well, along with Elena Favilli's Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Cards and book lights, meanwhile, have been some of Cloud and Leaf's bestselling sidelines. The store sells two varieties of book lights, one cheaper and operated by disposable batteries and the other nearly twice as expensive and rechargeable. Swanson said she was surprised that the store has consistently sold out of the more expensive book light.

Jamie Hope Anderson is the book buyer for Duck's Cottage Coffee & Books in Duck, N.C., and the owner of its sister store, Duck's Cottage Downtown Books, in Manteo, N.C. Located on North Carolina's Outer Banks, both stores see an influx of tourists during the summer, and the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day accounts for about half of each store's annual sales. While Downtown Books employs the same number of staff members throughout the year, the staff at Duck's Cottage--which is half-coffee shop, half-bookstore--increases from eight employees in the winter to 24 summer employees. Anderson added that though she tries to keep a consistent level of inventory throughout the year for both stores, the summer rush does necessitate ordering in larger quantities, and because there is relatively little storage at either store, she is constantly ordering and receiving. One upside to having "almost an entirely new group of shoppers every week," Anderson said, is that she does not have to change displays quite so frequently: "I can find a particular grouping of titles or a display that is really working and just ride it for a while."

Anderson has found that books already trending, whether they are on the bestseller list, popular among book clubs or will soon be adapted into movies, are always big sellers during the summer, while diet, fitness and self-help books definitely do not sell well during the same period (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the exception). Impulse items, including Dashboard Monks, Word Emporium stickers, tea towels and magnets, make for popular gift buys. Among this summer's hot sellers are A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, while Lisa Wingate's novel The Prayer Box "continues to set sales records" at both Duck's stores. --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Misko at Mosquito

Author James A. Misko (l.) posed with one of his fans at a signing at Mosquito Books in the Anchorage, Alaska, airport. Misko's new novel, The Path of the Wind, is Square Books' first fiction publication. (photo: Olivia de la Garza)

Cool Idea of the Day: Equal Pay for Father's Day

Australia celebrates Father's Day September 3, and this year Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane is approaching the holiday from a different perspective with Shop for Equal Pay This Father's Day, noting on Facebook that "we're always looking to do things a little differently. With Father's Day coming up soon... we thought that as well as compiling our usual great list of Father's Day book suggestions, we would also take the opportunity to start a conversation about Australia's gender pay gap.

"In Australia, female workers are paid on average 15.3% less than their male counterparts, and the number has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades. The causes are numerous, including hiring and pay bias, lower wages for female-dominated industries, lack of work flexibility and the underestimation of domestic work.

"This is why we have decided to offer female-identifying customers a 16% discount on Saturday, September 2. Maybe you're buying a Father's Day present. Maybe you're buying something for yourself. We are hoping this offer will instigate a positive and productive conversation around how and why the gender pay gap is so much, and what we can do as a community to bridge it.... To those of you who will call this unfair, we say 'Yes, it is unfair!' If you feel personally affronted or short-changed by this offer, that is exactly what more than half the population feels when they open their pay packet, based not on their performance or skill set, but simply because of their gender. Happy Reading!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Senator Ben Sasse on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Senator Ben Sasse, author of The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis--and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250114402).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Jeffrey Tambor, author of Are You Anybody?: A Memoir (Crown Archetype, $27, 9780451496355).

Movies: The Turning

Floria Sigismondi will direct The Turning, a Chad & Carey Hayes script inspired by the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw. Deadline reported that Scott Bernstein and Roy Lee "are producing a contemporized version of the classic ghost story, eyeing an early 2018 production start." 

Books & Authors

Awards: Center for Fiction First Novel; SCBWI Book Launch

The Center for Fiction has announced seven debut novels short-listed for its annual $10,000 First Novel Prize. The winner will be announced on December 5 at the Center for Fiction's Annual Dinner in New York City. The titles are:

As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis (Catapult)
Empire of Glass by Kaitlin Solimine (Ig Publishing)
Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes (Europa Editions)
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books)
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown)
Tiger Pelt by Annabelle Kim (Leaf~Land)
What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The Center for Fiction is also presenting the 2017 Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction to Morgan Entrekin, CEO and publisher of Grove Atlantic.


The winners of the 2017 SCBWI Book Launch Award, sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and providing authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to supplement the promotion and marketing of newly published works for children, are:

Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa (Charlesbridge), which, SCBWI said, follows a 13-year-old beauty pageant hopeful who is inspired by Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to be crowned Miss America. "A story about self-acceptance and redefining beauty, Like Vanessa is based on Charles' own experience growing up in New Jersey in the 1980s. She will use the grant to bring the book to public schools, especially in inner city Newark, where novel is set. Charles also has a marketing plan that includes a social media campaign centered on the phrase 'It's Okay,' which will encourage kids to think positively about their bodies."

Emma Otheguy won the Honor Award for Martí's Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad (Lee & Low), a bilingual picture book that tells the story of José Martí, the 19th-century poet whose work became a rallying call for Cuban independence. Otheguy plans to use the $1,000 Honor grant to launch her book at NCTE, as well as in New York and Miami, where she wants to teach Cuban-American children about Martí.

Reading with... Bruce Handy

photo: Denise Bosco

Bruce Handy is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he covers arts and culture, writing on topics including the Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Company, the original Playboy Clubs, the J.T. Leroy scandal, Star Wars and the comedy of Amy Schumer. Handy is a former writer and editor for Spy and Time magazines, and has contributed journalism, essays, criticism and humor to the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Esquire and many other publications. He especially loves writing about kids' books for the New York Times Book Review; thus, his first book, Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult (Simon & Schuster, August 15, 2017).

On your nightstand now:

The books on my "nightstand" are actually several tall piles of books stacked against my bedroom wall. Among the titles balanced on the tops of those piles: Elvis Costello's Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. He's one of my favorite musicians and songwriters, and his memoir is as smart and acerbic and wide-ranging as you'd hope. It's also not particularly linear, and thus great for dipping into.

Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. I've been reading this as research for my next book, a social and pop cultural history of the 1980s. Perlstein is great at weaving history and social criticism into a really compelling narrative--a model for what I'm hoping to do.

Ovid's Metamorphoses. I've never read Ovid, but got interested because my son was reading Metamorphoses for Latin class. He gave me a beautiful volume, in English, for my birthday, a really special gift.

Katie Kitamura's A Separation. Not long ago, I heard her read from this novel, her latest, and the writing was gripping and strange and beautiful. I can't wait to plunge in. I'm also looking forward to her husband Hari Kunzru's new novel, White Tears.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Impossible to say, but the two books I probably spent the most time with were Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. I would stare at the dog party illustration at the end of the former for hours; same with every dense page of Scarry's book. I loved getting lost in the intricacies and wit of those drawings. I think both books were for me gateway drugs to Mad magazine.

Your top five authors:

Can I name five children's authors and five adult authors? For kids: Margaret Wise Brown, Beverly Cleary, Kevin Henkes, J.K. Rowling and E.B. White. For adults: Jane Austen, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Henry James and Philip Roth.

Book you've faked reading:

In college, while taking a class on British women writers, I skipped Jane Eyre and read the CliffsNotes. I had struggled to get through Wuthering Heights and assumed that one Brontë sister's novel would be just as dreary (for me) as another's, which was obviously stupid and unfair. But I was facing a time crunch, too, with Middlemarch waiting in the wings.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Again, I want to offer two. For kids: The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown. This is a small, simple story that talks to children about death and grief in an imaginative, sympathetic and slightly strange way, and it's so different from most kids' books on this subject, which are universally well-meaning but tend to wear their therapeutic intent on their sleeves. For adults: Lost Illusions by Balzac. It's about a young writer trying to make his way in the literary world of Paris in the 1820s, but change the place names and the particulars of media and the setting could be New York City today. This novel also has one of my favorite endings ever, too: without giving anything away, it seems headed toward the expectedly tragic, cautionary finish but then makes a breathtakingly cynical and ironic left turn.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The 40th anniversary edition of Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which has a gorgeous cover painting of the young heroine, Cassie Logan, by Kadir Nelson--a wonderful book made even better. Nelson is in his early 40s and I think he's already established himself as one of the all-time great illustrators, both for children and for adults. (Check out his New Yorker covers and We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Leagues, which he both wrote and illustrated.)

Book you hid from your parents:

I don't think I hid them, but I remember being embarrassed when I was reading Ian Fleming's James Bond novels at like age 13 or 14. It wasn't that they were grown-up or dirty, exactly (they're really neither), but more the fact that they so perfectly met every fantasy need I had as an adolescent. I think it made me self-conscious how much pleasure these books gave me.

Book that changed your life:

Is it cheating to say Mad magazine? I discovered Mad when I was nine and it was a lifeline. The jokes met my sense of humor right where it lived then, but the magazine also taught me healthy skepticism, especially when it came to cant, whether from advertisers, politicians or just adults in general. Like all great authors for kids, the creators of Mad didn't write down to their readers. I'd also say Where the Wild Things Are. Re-encountering Maurice Sendak's masterpiece as an adult, and seeing so much more in it than I did as a kid (when I didn't like it!), partly inspired me to write Wild Things--and also, of course, gave me my title.

Favorite line from a book:

"He never eats dumplings, he don't--he eats nothing but steaks, and he likes 'em rare." --the landlord at the Spouter-Inn, describing Queequeg's diet to Ishmael, in Moby-Dick.

Five books you'll never part with:

The copy of Portnoy's Complaint I read during my turns in the passenger seat while driving across the U.S. with a friend in 1980. The copy of Anna Karenina I read while traveling in Europe in 1986. The copy of Bonfire of the Vanities I read on another cross-country drive, this time with my future wife, in 1988. (We both read the novel, passing it back and forth between shifts at the wheel.) The copy of Green Eggs and Ham I read to my children 500 hundred times, maybe more. My first edition of A Day at the Beach, my favorite novel by my wife, Helen Schulman.

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

I wouldn't have given this answer before I answered the question above about hiding books from parents, but now that I'm thinking about it, if I'm honest, I'd have to say Casino Royale or Dr. No, assuming I could also read it with my 13-year-old brain.

Do you finish every book you start?

I used to. I think I felt it was a moral obligation of sorts, a holdover from school. But in my 20s, I gradually realized I didn't have to--like my friend's young daughter who didn't understand for the first few days of sleeping in a real bed, as opposed to her crib, that she could get out anytime she wanted. For me, this license has been a huge gift, since why read something I just don't like when there are so many great books in the world that I'll never have time to read anyway? That said, I do think it's important to stick with something challenging or not immediately to your taste, to not just chuck it at the first speed bump. The third or fourth? Okay.

Book Review

Review: Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton, illus. by Victo Ngai (Millbrook Press, $19.99 library binding, 36p., ages 7-11, 9781512410143, September 1, 2017)

"One of the ships on this page is painted in sneaky, stripy camouflage. You probably can't even see it. Oh. You can see it? Hmmmmmmm."

The striped ship, depicted in bright blues and yellows, is a World War I Allied vessel. In 1917, the Central Powers began attacking Allied non-fighting ships; the plan was to cut off Britain and win the war by starving the island nation. Desperate to feed its people, Britain tried "different things to stop the submarine attacks": there was discussion of training seagulls and sea lions and sending swimmers to smash periscopes. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant-commander Norman Wilkinson was the most well-known of those who floated the idea to camouflage ships. He said, "since it was impossible to paint a ship so that she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer--to paint her, not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as to the course on which she was heading." And so the "dazzle ship" was born.

More than 3,000 U.S. and British ships were painted with the crazy-looking patterns. If the Germans were confused, their U-boats would launch torpedoes in error--the Allies hoped--and valuable resources would be wasted while Allied ships were kept safe. In both Great Britain and the United States, young female artists helped to create the designs, first on wooden models, then on paper and finally painted onto the ships themselves. In the U.S., members of the Women's Reserve Camouflage Corps "even used dazzle to draw attention to a ship-shaped New York City naval recruiting station."

Germany surrendered in November 1918 and the United States declared "that dazzle kept lots of ships from getting sunk." But "Britain wasn't so sure. The Royal Navy couldn't prove that dazzle had actually spared any ships." Effective or not, it was noted that many sailors felt safer knowing that something had at least been attempted to keep them alive. And the story of dazzle ships is a remarkable one.

As developed for children by author Chris Barton (Whoosh!), this story shows that "sometimes desperate times call for dazzling measures"; ingenuity is important, especially in the most trying of times. Paired with Barton's welcoming language and accessible story, Victo Ngai's illustrations sparkle. Using mixed analogue and digital media, she re-creates historical map templates and incorporates her own dazzle, creating overlapping and interconnecting patterns with strong lines and bright colors. Ngai's illustrations are inviting, drawing the reader in and slowing the pace of the narrative, each double-page spread an abundance of color and texture and shape, demanding time and reflection.

Dazzle Ships shines and shows that "a willingness to tackle problems by trying the unlikely, the improbable, the seemingly bonkers will always be needed." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Chris Barton and Victo Ngai's Dazzle Ships gives young readers an introduction to World War I in a clever and colorful way.

The Bestsellers

Top Audiobooks in August

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstore locations during August:


  1. Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta (Simon & Schuster Audio)
  2. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Penguin Random House Audio)
  3. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Penguin Random House Audio)
  4. Camino Island by John Grisham (Penguin Random House Audio)
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Penguin Random House Audio)
  6. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins)
  7. The Nix by Nathan Hill (Penguin Random House Audio)
  8. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (Hachette Audio)
  9. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (Penguin Random House Audio)
  10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Penguin Random House Audio)


  1. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken (Hachette Audio)
  2. Theft by Finding by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
  3. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (Hachette Audio)
  4. Brain Rules for Aging Well by John Medina (Pear Press)
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Penguin Random House Audio)
  6. Hunger by Roxane Gay (HarperCollins)
  7. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (HarperCollins)
  8. The Book of Joy by Douglas Carlton Abrams, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu (Penguin Random House Audio)
  9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (HarperCollins)
  10. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Penguin Random House Audio)


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