Also published on this date: Wednesday, February 27, 2019: Maximum Shelf: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Disney-Hyperion: Straight on Till Morning: A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell

St. Martin's Press: Mind Over Weight: Curb Cravings, Find Motivation, and Hit Your Number in 7 Simple Steps by Ian K. Smith

Candlewick Press: Just Because by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Arsenault

Random House: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Workman Publishing: Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, Sexy, and Smart--Until You're 80 and Beyond (Second Edition, Revised, 2nd) by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge and Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, Sexy, and Smart--Until You're 80 and Beyond (Second Edition, Revised, 2nd) by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge

Quotation of the Day

Daunt on Amazon: Don't Let the Fox in the Coop

"Amazon is a commercially driven organization of extreme vigor, and everything indicates that that internal dynamic within its nature... Amazon is definitely a fox, but publishers control this industry, they have the talent, and content, as long as they do their job, by protecting and nurturing that talent and live alongside high street bookshops in relative harmony [the book trade can weather the storm]... but do not believe that [Amazon is] anything other than a fox, and don't let them in the coop."

--James Daunt, Waterstones managing director, in his opening keynote speech at the Scottish Book Trade Conference yesterday (via the Bookseller)

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Firewatching by Russ Thomas


News

WNBA's Pannell Award Nominees

Nominees have been unveiled for the 2019 Pannell Award, which is co-sponsored by the Women's National Book Association and Penguin Young Readers Group to recognize bookstores that "enhance their communities by bringing exceptional creativity to foster a love of reading and books in children and young adults." One Pannell Award is given to a general bookstore and one to a children's specialty bookstore. This year's Pannell nominees are:

General Bookstore
57th Street Books, Chicago, Ill.
Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Philadelphia, Pa.
Books Inc., San Francisco, Calif.
Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Casa Camino Real Book Store, Las Cruces, N.Mex.
East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.
Gathering Volumes Bookstore, Perrysburg, Ohio
Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio
Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, Calif.
Let’s Play Books, Emmaus, Pa.
Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C.
Octavia Books, New Orleans, La.
Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, Ariz.
Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif.
Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho
Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif.
The Book Cellar, Lake Worth, Fla.
The Book Tavern, Augusta, Ga.
The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt.
The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City
Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash.
Titcomb’s Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass.
Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, N.H.
Towne Book Center, Collegeville, Pa.
Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.
Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, Middletown, Conn.

Children's Specialty Bookstore
Books of Wonder, New York, N.Y.
Charlie's Corner, San Francisco, Calif.
Hicklebee's Book Store, San Jose, Calif.
Hooray for Books, Alexandria, Va.
Linden Tree Books, Los Altos, Calif.
Monkey See, Monkey Do... Children's Bookstore, Clarence, N.Y.
Second Star to the Right Books, Denver, Colo.
Square Books Jr., Oxford, Miss.
The Briar Patch, Bangor, Maine
The Reading Bug, San Carlos, Calif.

The Pannell Awards will be presented May 31 during the BookExpo Children's Books and Author Breakfast. Each of the two winners receives a $1,000 check and a signed, original piece of artwork by a children's illustrator.


Familius: Now Part of the Workman Family!


Story on the Square Opens in McDonough, Ga.

Story on the Square, a new independent bookstore and bar in McDonough, Ga., has officially opened, the South Metro Neighbor reported. The bookstore half of the business sells both fiction and nonfiction for children and adults, with particular emphasis placed on food, gardening, culture and Southern and local history. The bar half of the business, meanwhile, is called Rough Draft and sells craft beer, wine and an assortment of food.

"There's been a real renaissance when it comes to independent bookstores," owner Stephanie Gordon told SMN. "People are moving away from big box retailers and are looking for localism. It's a romantic idea to spend a rainy day in a bookstore with a glass of wine."

Gordon, who is also a physician, has been working toward opening Story on the Square since 2016. That year, while part of a leadership program in Georgia that saw her working with politicians, educators, civil servants and entrepreneurs, she was asked what she would do for a career if she wasn't a doctor and could do anything she wanted. Immediately, Gordon thought of opening a bookstore and bar.

Not long afterward, Gordon and her husband purchased an 8,000-square-foot building on McDonough's town square that dates back to 1900 and was once a Masonic Lodge. The bookstore and bar are located on the ground floor, while the second floor features a large events space that can be rented out. Over the past few years, Gordon did an extensive amount of renovations on the building and even hired a historical contractor and preservationist to guide the process.

When it came to opening Rough Draft, Gordon actually had to work with the city council and local government to change the town's liquor laws. Up until very recently, the town essentially only allowed for restaurants to serve alcohol. Gordon and her husband helped establish a new category for taverns or bars, which did not previously exist in McDonough.

Gordon told SMN that during a soft opening a few weeks ago, some  250 people stopped by to check out the new business. The shop and bar are now open seven days per week.


BINC - Double Your Impact


PEN America Literary Award Winners Honored

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah accepting the PEN/Jean Stein Award.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black (Mariner Books) was honored with the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award at Tuesday night's PEN America Literary Awards ceremony in New York City. The judges called Friday Black a "brilliant debut collection of short stories" that "brings a new voice to old, vexing issues that continue to haunt American life: violence, racism, consumer lust, and more.... At turns horrifying and funny, tender and savage, these stories stick with you, probing the American psyche and persistently asking more of us."

Honorees for lifetime achievement were announced earlier this month. Other award winners named at the event included:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ($25,000): Bring Out the Dog by Will Mackin (Random House)
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): Against Memoir by Michelle Tea (Feminist Press)
PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000): In a Day's Work by Bernice Yeung (The New Press)
PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing ($10,000): Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb (Chelsea Green)
PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award ($25,000): Kenneth Lonergan
PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey by Rowan Ricardo Phillips (FSG)
PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography ($5,000): Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry (Beacon Press)
PEN/Open Book Award ($5,000): Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Atria)
PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): Love by Hanne Ørstavik, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken (Archipelago Books)
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): A Certain Plume by Henri Michaux, translated from the French by Richard Sieburth (NYRB)


Sterling Publishing: Smart Plants: Power Foods & Natural Nootropics for Optimized Thinking, Focus & Memory by Julie Morris


Sidelines Snapshot: Journals, Lip Balm, Dice and Bookmarks

At Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kan., Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figures from FCTRY have been "flying off the shelves," according to sidelines buyer Anastasia Metzger. O-Balm-A lip balms from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild have been a hit as well. The store's most popular puzzle over the last few years has been the Ideal Bookshelf puzzle from Chronicle; other items from Ideal Bookshelf, including boxed cards, planners and notebooks, have proven popular too. In the realm of children's sidelines, Watermark "sells a ton" of Very Hungry Caterpillar-branded items from Out of Print, and "anything dinosaur related" is always huge--examples include figures from Toysmith and puzzles from Mudpuppy. Plush and puppets are reliable sellers, with Metzger reporting that Folkmanis, Douglas Cuddle Toys and MerryMakers Dolls are all popular lines.

Locally and regionally made sidelines are some of the store's biggest sellers, and several of those items are produced by Watermark itself, including mugs, tumblers, T-shirts, magnets and more all featuring the Wichita flag. The store sells candles made by Bungalow 26 that are each themed on Wichita neighborhoods; "punny" Wichita stickers; shirts and jewelry from Heartlandia; and Chicken Poop lip balm (which contains no poop). Book-related gifts, Metzger said, are the store's most reliable sidelines: Peter Pauper Press and Emotion Gallery bookmarks, Book Darts and Book Seats, as well as reading glasses and reading lights.

Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron's Books in Lititz, Pa., reported that his store is in a town full of independent gift shops, and most of his sidelines are book-themed in order to avoid competing directly with those gifts shops. Over the holidays, Dickinson brought in licensed items from elope and said he's been pleased with the customer response. Dickinson keeps Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who licensed items, such as hats, ties and scarves, in an area that serves as a transition between the children's section and the board game section. Dickinson said he and his colleagues call it the "Nerdvana" section, and noted that other Harry Potter items, including those made by Out of Print, are also popular.

When it comes to the store's tabletop games section, which is dubbed "Of Dice & Pen," Dickinson said he no longer considers those games to be sidelines, as they have become such a prominent part of the store not only in terms of sales but also in terms of events. Dungeons & Dragons items do very well, and Dickinson said that he is "constantly re-ordering dice." The store sells individual dice out of a large jar as well as dice sets, and "D&D players can never have too many dice or dice bags." He added that they order dice from several different companies, including game and hobby store supplier FLGS Distribution.

In Manzanita, Ore., Cloud and Leaf Bookstore always does well with blank greeting cards, and owner Jody Swanson reported that the Mincing Mockingbird line has been especially popular lately. Swanson carries several different card lines made by local artists, all of which sell pretty well, but she pointed to a line of small, hand-painted watercolor cards made by artist Tammy Litwinchuk as one of the most popular things in the store. They sell well throughout the year, as do bookmarks painted by Litwinchuk. About three years ago, Swanson ordered Cloud and Leaf T-shirts and said she is always pleasantly surprised when they sell. Through some trial and error, she's realized that the black shirts tend to be the most consistently popular.

Perennial favorites include flipbooks by Fliptomania, Recharge book lights by Mighty Bright and Seven Year Pens by Seltzer Goods. Field Notes journals and Decomposition notebooks by Michael Roger are also always popular. Swanson added that when it comes to the latter, which are inexpensive at about $7 per journal, she will often to check to make sure she has plenty of them in stock and then turn around and find them "suddenly gone." --Alex Mutter


Obituary Note: Peter Pugh

Peter Pugh, founder and chairman of Icon Books, died February 24, the Bookseller reported. He was 76. Pugh founded the nonfiction publishing house, a member of the Independent Alliance, in 1992, starting with just four titles in the Beginners series (now called "Introducing," with about 90 titles). The publisher features works across popular science, history, psychology and current affairs. Recent bestsellers include The Etymologicon and The Billion Dollar Spy.

"Peter was immensely proud of what Icon had achieved and we will honor his legacy by continuing to build on his creation," said managing director Philip Cotterell.

Pugh's son, Alex, will take over immediately as chairman and his wife, Felicity, will be appointed alternate director.

Cotterell added: "If there was one word which encompasses everything that Peter was, it is 'generous'.... Peter was like something from the 1950s but was also so switched on. He was very hands on and would come into the office regularly so was involved in the day-to-day running and this was reflected in the enthusiasm the staff had for him. He was active until the very end. He was the quintessential gentleman and absolutely charming, an absolute one-off. I don't think we'll see his kind again."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The New Husband
by D.J. Palmer

Nina Garrity's husband disappeared, and is presumed dead. He's been supplanted by the local history teacher, Simon Fitch, who moves in with Nina and her two teenagers, Connor and Maggie. Everyone loves Simon, except Maggie, but why does she dislike him so? Jennifer Enderlin, St. Martin's executive vice-president and publisher, says, "What I really love about this book is that the author (though male) just nails the point of view of teenage girls. And while you know the new husband is up to no good, it's really hard to guess exactly how he is able to slide into their lives so perfectly." We've read this story before: Grieving widow. Seemingly perfect savior. But D.J. Palmer, in The New Husband, gives the familiar a shocking twist that is a stunner. --Marilyn Dahl

(St. Martin's Press, $27.99 hardcover, 9781250107497,
April 14, 2020)

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Notes

Image of the Day: Where the Crawdads Sing

Last week the Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo., hosted a sold-out evening with author Delia Owens (Where the Crawdads Sing; Putnam). Guests enjoyed food from a local restaurant that included dishes mentioned in the book, and there was a lively q&a with the author. Pictured: Novel Neighbor events manager Amanda Ball, director of operations Andrea Scarpino, Delia Owens and retail manager Alicia Gregov.


MIT Press to Distribute no place press

MIT Press has begun handling worldwide sales, marketing and fulfillment for no place press, which was founded in 2017 and has offices in San Francisco and New York.

no place press is "committed to publishing intrepid titles in art and culture," the publisher says on its website. "Working collaboratively with a select group of contributors, we endeavor to support critical, challenging and non-instrumentalized perspectives on a wide range of contemporary and historical cultural subjects. Connected by a shared critical mindset more than a specific discipline, we work with artists, art historians, poets, designers and writers to realize projects that may fall outside the scope of the typical channels of reception and distribution associated with their respective fields."

The press plans to publish between four and six titles a year. Spring releases include Frank O'Hara Sketchbook by Bill Berkson; Glen Park Library by Pamela M. Lee; Hello Leonora, Soy Anne Walsh by Anne Walsh; and For Want of a Nail by Amy Franceschini, Michael Swaine and Futurefarmers.


Personnel Changes at DK; Holiday House

Lauren Paley has joined DK as associate marketing manager, DK Travel.

---

Alexa Higbee has joined Holiday House as associate publicist. She was previously sales & marketing associate at David R. Godine, Publisher.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Pipher on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Mary Pipher, author of Women Rowing North: Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing as We Age (Bloomsbury, $27, 9781632869609).


Movies: Native Son

HBO Films has released a teaser trailer for Native Son, based on Richard Wright's novel, and said that April 6 will be the debut date for the Rashid Johnson-directed drama "that the premium cabler made a splashy deal for last month at Sundance where the film had its world premiere," Deadline reported.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, the film stars Ashton Sanders, Bill Camp, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Elizabeth Marvel, David Alan Grier, and Sanaa Lathan. Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman of Bow and Arrow Entertainment produced Native Son, with Stephanie Meurer as an executive producer.


Books & Authors

Awards: JQ Wingate Literary Winner

Françoise Frenkel's rediscovered Holocaust memoir No Place to Lay One's Head won the £4,000 (about $5,300) JQ Wingate Literary Prize, which is "awarded to the best book, fiction or nonfiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader."

Jewish bookseller Frenkel escaped Berlin for France in 1939, before fleeing to Switzerland. Her account of her desperate flight from the Nazis was first printed in 1945, then vanished from public view before being rediscovered in 2010 in southern France. The English version, translated by Stephanie Smee, was published by Pushkin Press in 2018, 43 years after the author's death.

Noting that the book "captured our hearts on so many levels," chair of judges Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said Frenkel's "compelling narrative of how she navigated the world she loved as it disintegrated around her, is told with poignancy and extraordinary empathy for those who helped her hide and escape.... What also stood out for us was the fact that Françoise Frenkel's memoir was originally published in French in 1945 and then forgotten in the post-war haze. Only recently was a copy discovered by chance and translated to English. So this is not only a redemptive story of refugees and fleeing terror, but also a reminder that books too can cross borders and speak to new generations, if only they fall into the hands of those to whom the book is dedicated: men and women of good will."

Pushkin Press publisher Adam Freudenheim commented: "On behalf of Françoise Frenkel, who died over 40 years ago at which time this book was out of print and entirely forgotten, I'm delighted that her memoir, penned shortly after her dramatic escape from Vichy, France, to Switzerland during World War II, has received this year's JQ Wingate Prize. It is also a testament to Stephanie Smee's fine translation, which allows it to reach a worldwide readership. Frenkel's passion for books and for literature but above all for life is an inspiration to all of us, now more than ever."


Reading with... Joseph Scapellato

photo: Ryan LeBreton

Joseph Scapellato is the author of the story collection Big Lonesome (2017) and the novel The Made-Up Man (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 5, 2019). He earned his MFA in fiction at New Mexico State University and has been published in Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, Post Road and other literary magazines. His work has been anthologized in Forty Stories, Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction and The Best Innovative Writing. Scapellato is an assistant professor of English in the creative writing program at Bucknell University. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and lives in Lewisburg, Pa., with his wife, daughter and dog.

On your nightstand now:

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, The Ensemble by Aja Gabel, The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine and Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. (My nightstand is a little crowded!) All four have got me hooked.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A three-way tie between My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. Each takes the reader right into the center of a richly wondrous world.

In My Father's Dragon, the protagonist, who is only ever referred to as "my father," travels to an island to rescue a baby dragon. His journey is adventurous and fun, but the narrator's use of retrospective distance--the fact that the father's childhood is long gone--gives the book a quietly beautiful note of elegy.

What I love about the D'Aulaires' books (aside from the incredible illustrations) is how they respect a kid's intelligence. In mythology, bad things happen for bad reasons, and sometimes the bad results of those bad things can't ever be undone. Baldur, murdered by Loki, can't come back from the dead, even though the gods get the stones to weep; Daphne, transformed into a tree to escape her would-be rapist, Apollo, can't turn back into a person. Even the most sheltered childhood can be terrifying and irreversible and unfair. Not every children's book represents this reality in an approachable way.

Your top five authors:

This is an impossible question! But here's my answer, for today: Russell Hoban and Clarice Lispector amaze me. They're myth-minded writers who aren't afraid of sentence-level poetics, who consistently make the abstract concrete and the concrete abstract. Laura van den Berg and Charles Yu write work that is somehow able to abound in intellectual firepower, and at the same time, hang close to the heart; their fiction is magnificently real, even when it "isn't." And Richard Brautigan will always be a writer who I return to when I need to recharge myself. (I intentionally haven't read all of his books yet because I want to save some for when I really need them.) Everything that I've said about the previous four writers applies to Brautigan, too; all I'd add is that he occasionally pushes his work so hard that it fails, which I love and admire and respect.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm woefully deficient in 19th-century English-language classics. At various points in my life, I have, by saying nothing, permitted highly cultured colleagues of mine to conclude that I've read any number of novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Henry James and the like. (I'm not proud of this!)

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz by Russell Hoban. According to my Internet order history, I've given this book to at least six people over the last 10 years. When I first read it, back in 2008, I was absolutely stunned. Hoban was doing what I wanted to try to do. He's somehow able to make his language enact--not just impart--a range of unanswerable emotional/existential mysteries, the shores of which his characters continually shipwreck themselves upon. And he's funny!

Book you've bought for the cover:

Quite a few titles from Open Letter Books (Frontier by Can Xue), Archipelago Books (Distant Light by Antonio Moresco) and Black Ocean (At Night by Lisa Ciccarello). And let me tell you: the covers do not deceive. These three presses consistently put out spectacular (and beautifully designed) prose and poetry.

Book you hid from your parents:

In high school, I bought Numerology: The Complete Guide by Matthew Oliver Goodwin. For some reason, I was embarrassed at the thought of my parents finding it. It's not that they would've put forward some sort of unreasonable religious rejection--it's that they would've lost respect for me. So I stashed it in my bedroom.

I still have this book. I just looked at it, moments ago, for the first time in a decade. Tucked between the pages are sheets of scratch paper on which I exhaustively calculated the Life Path, Expression and Soul Urge numbers for friends, family and ex-girlfriends. Apparently, when it came to the occult, I was willing to do math.

Book that changed your life:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I read it in high school, though not for any class. I knew that white settlers orchestrated the genocide of every Native American people they encountered, but it wasn't until I read that book that I was given a sense of the harrowing extent of the genocide's sustained intentionality. This was never a story that my teachers discussed in any meaningful way in grade school, junior high or high school. This book opened my eyes to the fact that my generation had been raised on an unforgivably simplified version of American history.

Favorite line from a book:

In the introduction to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky refer to a moment when Tolstoy, responding to critics, declared, "The hero [of this novel] is truth." I love this statement. I love how it's bold and idealistic. I even love how it's perhaps a little pompous or absurd. Whether or not such a statement can be true about a novel (or a poetry collection, or a work of nonfiction), a book in which the "hero" is "truth" is the kind of book that I want to read--the kind of book where the writer is committed to taking the risk of telling the truth-as-they-have-felt-it, where the book's style, however strange and unconventional it might be, is ecstatically in the service of that truth.

Five books you'll never part with:

When I was in junior high and high school, I played a lot of tabletop roleplaying games: mainly Dungeons & Dragons, Cyberpunk 2020, Werewolf, Mage, Vampire and Rifts. Although I don't really play anymore--my very oldest friends and I get together for a one-night session of Cyberpunk 2020 maybe once a year--I still can't quite bring myself to sell or donate my RPG books. For me, they've always been emblems of potentiality, invitations to endlessly co-create characters, worlds, stories. I know this doesn't make sense, but if I were to get rid of them, I would be saying no to something that I've made it my job to say yes to.

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

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. In this experimental post-apocalyptic novel, the narrator speaks in an imagined future version of English.

Here's the first sentence:

"On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen."

When I read this book for the first time, I was struck with so much confused delight that as soon as I finished a chapter, I immediately reread it, partly because I wanted to understand more of the language, and partly because I wanted to understand why I loved not understanding everything about the language.

I won't ever be able to have that experience with this book again.

Books you love reading to kids:

My daughter is two years old and loves books. (Thank goodness!) There are so many excellent books for toddlers, but I especially love sitting down with Silly Sally by Audrey Wood, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, and Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr. My daughter is now old enough to participate in reading--she loves to finish sentences--and each of these books can make a lovely game of that.


Book Review

YA Review: Dig

Dig by A.S. King (Dutton, $17.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 14-up, 9781101994917, March 26, 2019)

For 200 years, Gottfried Hemmings's family owned a Pennsylvania potato farm. By the time Gottfried's fifth child was born, the farm had been divided up among him and his siblings. Gottfried sold his portion to developers. He and his wife, Marla, now have "more than ten million dollars in the bank"--which they refuse to share with their grown children or grandchildren because they want them to be "independent."

The Shoveler is 16 years old and has moved 17 times. His mother has "trouble with money," so she buys cheap food (potatoes) and steals the expensive stuff, and digs through people's garbage for credit card and Social Security info. They've moved to Pennsylvania because his mom has "business" here, but she won't tell him what. "The only constant in my life other than my mother," The Shoveler thinks, "is our potato pot."

CanIHelpYou?'s family is affluent. But CanIHelpYou?'s best friend is one of the few black boys in her neighborhood and her parents make it very clear they're not okay with that. So CanIHelpYou? works at Arby's and sells drugs ("potato cakes" at the drive-thru) to provide for herself, refusing to take money from those "nightmare racists."

Loretta lives in a camper with her mother, her father--whom her mother occasionally kicks out but always lets back in--and a lunch box full of fleas. Loretta spends her time alone, training her Flea Circus, acting for an audience only she sees. Malcolm's father is dying from cancer. In between chemo treatments, father and son take trips to Negril. When in Pennsylvania, though, Malcolm stays with grandparents Marla and Gottfried. He hates it: he's uncomfortable with their bigotry and their wealth. The Freak's father "said tampons and pads were too expensive when she got her period, so she's used everything from a menstrual cup to random washcloths." The Freak spends her time "flickering," traveling instantly between places, helping Malcolm dig up secrets and giving Loretta a new dress when her dad starts commenting on her legs.

As with many of A.S. King's (Still Life with Tornado) young adult novels, it takes time to get a handle on Dig. The perspective moves among the five teens; the connections grow clearer as the story unfolds. Dig's surrealism highlights the realism in the teens' tragic experiences. Though not easy, Dig is hopeful--these teens recognize how the racism and privilege of previous generations have shaped their lives and they work to be better. Brutally candid, Dig is well worth the intellectual and emotional investment. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: A.S. King's newest work for young adults is a surreal, painfully open depiction of how the privilege and unconscious bias of one generation affect the lives of the next.


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