Shelf Awareness for Thursday, July 5, 2018

Little Brown and Company: Haven by Emma Donoghue

Berkley Books: The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Sourcebooks: Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod by Casey Sherman

Candlewick Press (MA): Arab Arab All Year Long! by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

Jy: Enemies (Berrybrook Middle School #5) by Svetlana Chmakova

Entangled Publishing: Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noël

St. Martin's Press: The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Legendary Comics YA: Enola Holmes: Mycroft's Dangerous Game by Nancy Springer, illustrated by Giorgia Sposito


B&N Fires CEO Demos Parneros for 'Policy Violations'

Demos Parneros

In a stunningly timed announcement--5 p.m. on the eve of a national holiday--Barnes & Noble said Tuesday that it had fired CEO Demos Parneros "for violations of the company's policies." It gave no information about what policies had been violated, except to say that the dismissal is "not due to any disagreement with the company regarding its financial reporting, policies or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto." It added that Parneros will not receive "any severance payment" and that the action was taken by the board of directors, advised by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

B&N said that it is beginning a search for a new CEO and that "no changes in its goals or objectives are planned." In the meantime, the duties of the office of the CEO will be shared by a group that includes CFO Allen Lindstrom, chief merchandising officer Tim Mantel, and v-p, stores, Carl Hauch. B&N noted that "Leonard Riggio remains executive chairman of the company and will be involved in its management."

Besides the mystery of the cause for the dismissal, the firing stands out because this marks the fourth B&N CEO to depart in five years. Parneros served slightly more than 14 months in the position, after being promoted from chief operating officer in April 2017. He replaced Ron Boire, who lasted only 11 months as CEO, until his abrupt departure in August 2016. In the case of Boire, who had been hired from Sears Canada, there was a similar mystery about the cause for the departure: B&N merely described him as "not a good fit for the organization." Unlike Parneros, he did receive severance, which totaled $4.8 million.

Before Boire, Michael P. Huseby had been CEO of B&N for a year and a half. He left in 2015 to become executive chairman of B&N Education, when the college stores were spun off from B&N. Before Huseby, William Lynch had been CEO for three years before abruptly resigning as CEO, following dismal Nook results (and after being hired to drive the company's digital business).

Before joining B&N in November 2016, Parneros had had a nearly 30-year career at Staples, starting as general manager of the company's first New York City store and culminating as president, North American stores and online. During his short reign at B&N, there was much negative news: overall sales and comp-store sales continued to decline; the company's stock price dropped 20% in the past year; and the company fired 1,000-2,000 veteran booksellers in February. At the same time, B&N developed a smaller sized, new concept store; aimed to have a net growth in stores in the near future; and was shifting product mix to emphasize stronger-selling categories.

There was some speculation that in the #MeToo era, Parneros might have been fired because of some kind of abuse, which would explain the lack of severance, but acquaintances from his Staples tenure said that this was unlikely based on Parneros's behavior and reputation.

Another possible factor in the revolving CEO door at B&N is executive chairman Len Riggio. The founder and longtime head of the company, Riggio, 77, had announced in April 2016 that he planned to step down as executive chairman in September of that year. When B&N fired Ron Boire that August, Riggio postponed his retirement indefinitely and became CEO again--until Demos Parneros took the position. Some have speculated that Riggio is finding it difficult to hand over the reins of the company he founded and built, especially when it faces severe challenges.

In any case, now, in a situation eerily reminiscent of Borders in its last years of existence, B&N will hunt for another CEO and likely will find yet another executive from another industry. That person will have to spend time learning about the book world and its many idiosyncrasies when time seems like a luxury. But there are other options.

In 2011, in a similar situation in the U.K., the owner of Waterstones, the country's last national bookstore chain, which was in a downward spiral, hired someone experienced and dynamic from the book world who turned the company around. He was James Daunt--an independent bookseller.

W. W. Norton & Company: Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet

California Regionals Launch Joint Summer Catalogue

The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association together have launched a summer catalogue that is part of a campaign to encourage people to bring books on their vacations.

Called California Summer Reads, the eight-page catalogue highlights 49 books in a range of categories. Some 400,000 copies of the catalogue have been distributed since June 4 through more than 80 participating independent bookstores as well as 50 newspapers, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Continuing through August 12, the marketing campaign supporting the catalogue includes advertising in AAA publications, and regional Facebook ads highlighting each title with a call to action to shop at the participating bookstore in that region. Stores have also embedded the catalogue on their websites and are posting titles on social media.

The model combining a catalogue with extensive marketing was tested last holiday season when NCIBA added a supporting marketing campaign for its holiday catalogue. The effort, the association said, was "hugely successful, with 95% of the participating bookstores opting in again and 80% attributing increased sales to the program." After that, NCIBA decided to create a summer program and partner with SCIBA to expand the reach to the entire state of California.

"NCIBA was thrilled to join forces with SCIBA on this project and deliver the whole state to participating publishers," NCIBA executive director Calvin Crosby said. "The art and messaging for the campaign is so much fun for our readers who are loving the title selections."

"Our booksellers are loving this promotion and opportunity to sell more books this summer," said SCIBA executive director Andrea Vuleta. "This multi-faceted program encouraged the majority of stores to participate because they can adapt it to their needs and market."

The project manager is Vicki DeArmon, head of All Things Booked, an events marketing agency, and former marketing and events director at Copperfield's Books for eight years. She will also work on the One California Holiday Catalog and Campaign, another joint project of the two associations in which 1.2 million catalogues will be distributed in November and December and be supported by advertising and marketing.

Harper Voyager: Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa

Jon Klassen Honored with Order of Canada

Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen has been appointed a member of the Order of Canada "for his transformative contributions to children's literature as an illustrator and author." One of the country's highest civilian honors, it recognizes "outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation." He will be awarded the official insignia at a ceremony later this year.

Klassen is the author-illustrator of This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal, and its companion books, I Want My Hat Back and We Found a Hat. More than two million copies of the three books have sold worldwide. He illustrated two Caldecott Honor Books, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, as well as Triangle and Square, all written by Mac Barnett. He also partnered with Barnett on The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse, which was recently named the E. B. White Read-Aloud Winner.

Quill & Quire reported that 15 of the new inductees have made notable contributions to Canadian literature, including Beverley McLachlin, newly appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, former Chief Justice of Canada, and author of the recent legal thriller Full Disclosure.

KidsBuzz for the Week of 05.23.22

Sidelines Snapshot: Candles, Sage Kits, Slippers and Toys

At BookPeople in Austin, Tex., gift buyer Cassie Swank reported that the line she's most excited about right now is a line of fun, "very witchy" candles from a company called Coventry Creations. The company is owned by women, makes candles in small batches to keep their carbon footprint low and creates candles based on things like the cycles of the moon. Swank said BookPeople just sold out of one of their candles called "Bitch Be Gone," and noted that while their offerings can sometimes be "a little silly," there is clear "pride and effort" in the craftsmanship. Swank added that she's been bringing in more items like geodes and crystals and sage and smudge kits after a new age bookstore in Austin closed down recently. For sage kits, Swank said she likes the company Full Moon Farms, while for geodes and crystals she recommended GeoCentral.

In terms of trends, Swank said that for a while now, anything with a llama, sloth or cacti/succulent on it will move--vases, containers, journals, spatulas, dish towels, enamel pins and more. Almost all of BookPeople's "llama stuff" comes from Now Designs and its smaller brand Danica Studios, which Swank called "one of my favorite companies." When asked about items that are perennial favorites at BookPeople, Swank pointed to dish towels made by Red and White Kitchen, travel cases from Kikkerland, plaques from Spooner Creek, and assortment of mugs and other items pertaining to Austin.

Brenda McConnell, co-owner of Kona Stories Book Store on the Big Island of Hawaii, said that lately all of her store's bestselling sidelines have been educational children's toys. Popular lines include games and toys made by Hape Toys, SmartMax, Learning Resources, Melissa and Doug and Folkmanis Puppets. When asked about any recent surprises, McConnell said that when she first ordered Snoozies non-skid slippers, her business partner said there was no way anyone on the island would buy them. As it turns out, McConnell sells "boxes of them." She also said she couldn't believe "how strong [cards] stay even in a digital world." Her bestselling card line is Leanin Tree, followed by locally made cards with a Hawaii theme. While their low price point means they aren't the store's bestselling items in terms of dollar value, McConnell said that when it comes to number of items sold, cards win "hands down."

Products from Zen Hens at Kona Stories.

She reported that generally speaking, the most popular item in her store is the Hawaiian sea turtle, which she can sell in any form, whether that be printed on towels and cards or as stuffed animals, wind chimes and paper weights. She's also had great success with products made by a local craftswoman who owns a company called Zen Hens. She sews napkins, coasters, pencil bags, baby blankets and more out of Hawaiiana fabric and McConnell described them as "consistent, enduring products" that people come back for year after year. Her all-time bestseller, McConnell added, is a fabric bowl that serves as a hot pad for a bowl of hot soup.

For Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, Geomatrix magnetic building bricks have been a "retail tour de force" according to store owner Kenny Brechner. Brechner called the toys, which can also be found under the name Neotec, "terrific," and added that they absolutely deserve the huge sales. Recently Devaney, Doak & Garrett has brought in Tartan Cloth notebooks made by Waverley Scotland and distributed in the U.S. by McPherson and Company; Brechner called the notebooks "fabulous."

Over the past six months or so, Brechner said that book pins from a variety of suppliers, but especially Ideal Bookshelf, have been remarkably popular. In the same span of time his store has done "really well" with Shakespeare Bard Buttons from Literary Supply Co. When asked about any recent surprises, Brechner fittingly mentioned Surprizamals, which are sets of plush animal toys that come in surprise packs. Brechner noted that perhaps he shouldn't have been so surprised by their popularity as "the unboxing thing is very real." And as far as perennial favorites go, Brechner said that the Whirl-O by Regal Games will always sell. He remarked: "Long may it spin." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Philippe de Baleine

Philippe de Baleine, a "prominent French journalist and magazine editor who pursued a parallel career as a prolific author, often writing under a pseudonym," died June 7, the New York Times reported. He was 96. Author of some 50 novels and nonfiction books, de Baleine received two prizes from the Académie Française, including one for Voyage Espiègle et Romanesque sur le Petit Train du Congo (1993), which "chronicled a trip of more than 300 miles aboard a train that connected Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, to the city of Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic Ocean."

The work was one of several books in which he recounted journeys on historic railroad lines in West Africa. In the 1990s, de Baleine began writing a detective series about the British royal family under the pseudonym Margaret Ring. He also wrote 10 detective novels under the pseudonym Philip Whale.

He was the editor-in-chief of Paris Match in the 1970s and '80s, and subsequently ran the French version of the women's magazine Marie Claire and the French scientific monthly Sciences & Vie, among other publications. As a journalist, he reported from West Africa and Southeast Asia, where he covered the first Indochina war, the Times noted.

"What he loved the most was long-form reporting, because those stories would send him far away for a pretty long time," said François Pédron, a friend who worked with de Baleine at Paris Match for about 15 years. "He would have peace for two months, and he was happy with that."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Second Death of
Edie and Violet Bond
by Amanda Glaze

GLOW: Union Square & Co.: The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda GlazeGet ready for a gratifyingly spooky historical fantasy with thrilling acts of female rebellion. Twins Edie and Violet Bond are powerful mediums traveling with a group of spiritualists who, in shows that purport to channel the dead, covertly promulgate their socio-political opinions. Laura Schreiber, executive editor at Union Square & Co., was delighted to work with debut author Amanda Glaze: "Amanda's ability to depict 19th-century misogyny and the reclaiming of female power feels so relevant to our current dialogues surrounding young women's mental states, autonomy and right to speak for themselves." The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond is transportive, in every sense of the word. --Emilie Coulter

(Union Square & Co., $18.99 hardcover, ages 12-17, 9781454946786, October 4, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported



Ann Bramson Retires from Workman Publishing

After 26 years at Workman Publishing, Ann Bramson has retired. Bramson worked for Workman in its very early years and returned in 1997. From 1997 to 2015, she served as publisher of Artisan, and from 2015 to the present, she was executive director, special projects, Workman Publishing. Friday, June 29, was her last day.

Bookshop Chalkboards of the Day: Celebrating the 4th

Sidewalk chalkboard signs were one of many ways indie booksellers celebrated Independence Day, including:

Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, N.C.: "Patriotic.... today & everyday. #allarewelcome."

I Am Books, Boston, Mass. "Happy 4th of July! We will be open until 5 p.m. for all your independent reading needs."

The Neverending Bookshop, Bothell, Wash.: "Let us dare to think, speak and write." --John Adams.

Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.: "If you're like us, you're having some really complicated feelings about what it means to be living in the United States right now. We encourage you speak out, to resist, and to educate yourselves about how you can be a voice for the voiceless right now and always."

Sassafras on Sutton, Black Mountain, N.C.: "MochAmerica Great Again (a delusionally delicious treat)."

'I Want to Be a Bookstore Cat'

John Warner

"When I was 10, I wanted to be a writer. That one (knock on wood) seems to be working out. But as 50 beckons, I have a new dream, and I'm admitting it here publicly for the first time: I want to own my own bookstore," John Warner wrote in a Chicago Tribune column where he weighed the pros and cons of a career switch.

Warner's mother had been co-owner the Book Bin in Northbrook "from the time I was a year old to the year I graduated college, so I have a good idea as to what I would be getting into if I were to own a bookstore," he noted. "Which is why I realize that while I would like to own a bookstore, I don't actually want to have to run the bookstore. Running a bookstore is actually far too much work and would take a category of knowledge that is well beyond me."

Warner acknowledged that his real goal is to be "more of a presence, swanning around the store, interacting with customers, dropping bon mots about books they may be perusing, perhaps cutting loose with an unsolicited anecdote about a particular writer.... When I am exhausted from the trials of producing my latest masterpiece, shoppers will find me on a couch, napping, illustrating one of the real inside bits of the life of a writer."

Upon further reflection, Warner realized that "in the end, I don't want to be a bookstore owner, so much as a bookstore cat--you know, the ones who act like they own the place."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Sedaris on Colbert's Late Show

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: David Sedaris, author of Calypso (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316392389).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Chelsea Clinton, author of She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History (Philomel, $17.99, 9780525516996).

This Weekend on Book TV: Mohammed Al Samawi on The Fox Hunt

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, July 7
7 p.m. Scott Stern, author of The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women (Beacon Press, $28.95, 9780807042755). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

8 p.m. Kristin Lawless, author of Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System Is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250078315), at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)

8:50 p.m. Clint Watts, author of Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (Harper, $27.99, 9780062795984). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

10 p.m. Mohammed Al Samawi, author of The Fox Hunt: A Refugee's Memoir of Coming to America (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062678195). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, July 8
12:10 a.m. Gary Krist, author of The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles (Crown, $27, 9780451496386). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

10 p.m. Nick Brokhausen, author of We Few: U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam (Casemate, $32.95, 9781612005805).

11 p.m. Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke (Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385542012), at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, N.C.

Books & Authors

Awards: Wales Book of the Year

Robert Minhinnick won the £4,000 (about $2,930) Wales Book of the Year Award for the third time for his poetry collection, Diary of the Last Man, 25 years after first winning the prize, the Bookseller reported. He also won the Roland Mathias Poetry Prize.

Judge Carolyn Hitt described Diary of the Last Man as "environmentalism turned into elegy.... It's so powerful, so political. These are serious poems for serious times... that will stay with you and make you think about what we're doing to the planet."

Celebrating books across three categories (poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction) in both English and Welsh, the ceremony saw 10 winners claim a total prize fund of £12,000 (about $8,795). Check out the complete list of winners here.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, July 10:

Clock Dance: A Novel by Anne Tyler (Knopf, $26.95, 9780525521228) centers on an older woman flying across the country to care for a family she's never met.

Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501135941) explores the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II.

The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman (Norton, $26.95, 9780393635201) looks at how a blue stronghold went red.

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter (Liveright, $35, 9781631491177) collects letters written during Mandela's 27 years in jail.

Eden by Andrea Kleine (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328884084) follows two sisters who were abducted as children.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, $28, 9780399180989) is a fantasy retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin."

The Fifth to Die by J.D. Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544973978) continues the 4MK police thriller series.

The Garden Party: A Novel by Grace Dane Mazur (Random House, $27, 9780399179723) takes place during a wedding rehearsal dinner with two very different families.

A Gathering of Secrets: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo (Minotaur, $26.99, 9781250121318) is the 10th mystery with Police Chief Kate Burkholder.

My Diarrhe by Miranda Sings (Gallery, $24.99, 9781501192166) is the satirical diary of a YouTuber.

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (Delacorte, $18.99, 9780553522396) concludes the And I Darken series.

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland (First Second, $19.99, 9781626721500) is the second and last graphic novel in the Spill Zone duology.

Nevada Days: A Novel by Bernardo Atxaga (Graywolf Press, $16, 9781555978105).

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, based on the memoir by John Callahan, opens July 13. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a quadriplegic who regains the use of his arms and becomes a cartoonist. The film, directed by Gus Van Sant, also stars Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black. A movie tie-in edition (Morrow, $15.99, 9780062836960) is available.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
Convenience Store Woman: A Novel by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Grove Press, $20, 9780802128256). "Keiko Furukura has worked at her local convenience store for 18 years. Every day, she ensures that the shelves are tidy, the hot food bar is stocked, and the featured items are adequately displayed. She greets every customer with a cheerful 'Irasshaimase!' and no one notices that she's never fit in anywhere else. Murata draws lush descriptions of the beauty of order and routine out of simple, spare prose, and every page crackles with the life she's created. Because of the humor, the wit, the almost unbearable loveliness of it all, Convenience Store Woman, a small book about a quiet life, makes an enormous impact on the reader." --Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesca Ramsey (Grand Central, $27, 9781538761038). "Franchesca Ramsey hadn't planned to be an activist, but that was before her insightful and seriously funny YouTube video What White Girls Say... to Black Girls was viewed more than 12 million times. She was inundated with media requests along with both fan and hate mail. After some missteps, she decided to use her voice and her talent to fight injustice. Determined to provide ways for us to listen to each other, Ramsey, who will soon have a show on Comedy Central, has written an insightful book that brings us laughter as well as tools for understanding our differences and our shared humanity." --Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

The Last Ballad: A Novel by Wiley Cash (Morrow, $15.99, 9780062313126). "Ella May has never had much of anything. She labors long hours in a textile mill in North Carolina trying to feed her four young children on nine dollars a week. When Ella sings one of her songs at a meeting of workers who are hoping to form a union, she finds herself something of a local celebrity. Written in beautifully evocative prose, this novel about bigotry and labor unrest in the 1930s exerts a powerful impact that pulls the reader into the vortex of the struggle for social justice. It deserves a place of honor in the canon of great Southern literature." --Alden Graves, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.

For Ages 4 to 8
Brave Enough for Two by Jonathan D. Voss (Holt, $17.99, 9781250127488). "At its heart, this is a story about comfort zones, trust, bravery, and, most importantly, friendship--a soul-warming story to share with those you love any time of the day. Perfect for fans of Winnie the Pooh and The Velveteen Rabbit, Brave Enough for Two is a modern classic in the making." --Ashlee Null, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty (Putnam, $16.99, 9781524740009). "An excellent beginning to a story kids will become immersed in! The protagonist, Only Fallow, cannot just see when people are lying, she can't tell a lie herself without it being incredibly painful. When news of Only's abilities reaches the king, he commands her to work at his side to parse out traitors and corruption at court. Heartseeker's every chapter is action-packed and the stage is set for a blockbuster second book. I cannot wait!" --Nichole Cousins, White Birch Books, North Conway, N.H.

For Teen Readers
Anger Is a Gift: A Novel by Mark Oshiro (Tor Teen, $17.99, 9781250167026). "Anger Is a Gift is a feat worthy of all the awards and accolades it is sure to receive. Mark Oshiro has written a fully intersectional book with characters ranging across gender, sexuality, disability, and mental health and covering topics such as systemic racism, disability access, police brutality, anxiety, first love, and more. With fast-paced and compulsively readable writing, Anger Is a Gift is a much-needed addition to the literary canon. Fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and All American Boys will enjoy this novel." --Shauna Sinyard, Park Road Books, Charlotte, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Horse

Horse by Talley English (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9781101874332, August 7, 2018)

A girl in her early teens, a punchy thoroughbred horse and a father who leaves his family for a younger woman--a familiar tale. In the able hands of Gertrude Claytor Poetry Prize-winner Talley English, however, this scenario plays out with sensitivity and the graceful prose of a poet. Her first novel, Horse, takes place in rural Virginia, where Teagan French lives with her brother and parents on a farm with a menagerie of horses, dogs, barn cats, occasional adopted geese and other stray critters. In this seemingly idyllic family life, Teagan struggles to find her place in the world--taking long horseback rides on the old pasture horse Zepher, with her mother alongside on the docile mare Duchess.
No surprise, the French family is not as mellow as it seems. Teagan's father is a high school principal nursing a midlife hankering for a fast horse, a sports car and an erotic fling. Until he abruptly leaves, he's largely just a weekend fix-it kind of guy, "even though it always made him angry in the end, or at the beginning, depending on how complicated the thing was." Teagan's mother is a preschool teacher, horsewoman and the rock of the family, who can "nurse a horse, take care of cats and dogs, and a house, and a farm, and two children." Obsidian (nicknamed Ian) is her father's impulse buy: a 16-hand thoroughbred gelding trained for freewheeling fox hunt jumping. Charlie is the typical older brother with his first driver's license and an attitude.
When Zepher has to be put down, Teagan begins to ride Ian even though he is too much horse for her. If she can't have her father, she can at least have his horse. Sensing Teagan's increasing detachment, her mother agrees to send her and Ian to a nearby boarding school with a highly regarded riding program. Together, Ian and Teagan become a working team--"removed from the turmoil of her house, the unsettling absence of her father, her brother's interminable silence, her mother's sad face and pretense that life was going on as usual."
English knows too much to end this girl-and-her-horse tale with a wall full of show ribbons and a neat family reconciliation. In one of the first-person chapters set in the future, Teagan rummages through boxes of childhood detritus with the clarity of maturity: "There isn't enough time to go back in time... what I want is to move on, to move forward, and also to take a shower." Horse is no National Velvet. It is a sensitive story of a young girl coming to grips with her broken family--and yes, a horse helps her find her way. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Shelf Talker: In an accomplished debut novel, poet Talley English captures a family coming unraveled and leaving its teen daughter to find her way with the help of a stalwart thoroughbred.

KidsBuzz: Schiffer Kids: Big P Takes a Fall (and That's Not All) by Pamela Jane, illus. by Hina Imtiaz
Powered by: Xtenit