Also published on this date: Wednesday, May 22, 2019: Maximum Shelf: The Dearly Beloved

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford

News

Andy Perham to Succeed Michael Tucker as Head of Books Inc.

Andy Perham

Andy Perham, current director of operations of Books Inc., will succeed Michael Tucker as president and CEO when Tucker retires on October 31. Books Inc., which was founded in 1851 and calls itself the West's oldest independent bookseller, has 10 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, including eight neighborhood bookstores and two Compass Books locations at San Francisco International Airport.

Perham began his bookselling career nine years ago with Books Inc., as a part-time bookseller. He was the store manager of the Berkeley store for two years and has been director of operations of the company for the past six.

George Seamer, current operations manager and former store manager of Compass Books in Terminal 3 at SFO, will succeed Perham as director of operations.

Perham commented: "Books Inc. has an extraordinary history of bookselling dating back to the Gold Rush and California's nascent statehood. Under Michael Tucker's tenure as CEO, Books Inc. has experienced remarkable growth in the number of communities we serve, the professional development of exceptional booksellers, and our leadership within the industry. I'm honored to carry that tradition forward at Books Inc. with community bookstores that reflect their neighborhoods and promote a literate and informed society."


Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>


Street Noise Books Founded

Street Noise Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., has been founded to publish illustrated and graphic nonfiction for young adults. The press's first six titles will appear next year; it then plans to publish six to eight titles a year. The books will have a radical, intersectional feminist, queer and inclusive vision, and seek to provide a platform for the voices of marginalized people.

Among the first titles:

  • Stupid Black Girl: Essays from an American African Living in New York, a collection of narrative essays from Aisha Redux, with artwork created by Brianna McCarthy in response to the essays.
  • I'm a Wild Seed: Memories of Oppressed Queerness, a graphic memoir by Sharon Lee De La Cruz, sharing an understanding of queerness and its meaning for a woman of color.
  • Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir, a graphic memoir by transgender artist Bishakh Som that explores themes of gender and sexuality, memory and urbanism and love and loss.

Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter


HMH Books & Media Launches Fast Track

In response to the decision by Baker & Taylor to leave the retail wholesale business, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media has launched Fast Track, a program for independent bookstores that were affected by the B&T decision.

Under the offer--which lasts until October 1, for all front and backlist orders--the publisher provides expedited account setup for new accounts that were working with B&T; special offer on the first order; no minimum order quantities; and free outbound shipping. In addition, HMH is offering the opportunity to order backlist under new terms. Interested stores can contact their rep or reach out via Indie Fast Track.

"HMH is committed to our independent bookstore partners and to a flourishing retail marketplace," said Ed Spade, v-p, sales and national accounts. "We're glad that we can offer the Fast Track program to streamline new account set up and initial ordering for these valued indie accounts and we're grateful for the support they provide for our books and authors."

Contact IndieFastTrack@hmhco.com for more information.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry


Obituary Notes: W. Glenn Duncan; Mark Saunders

W. Glenn Duncan, the Shamus Award-winning author of the Rafferty series of hardboiled private eye novels, died May 7. He was 78. The six-novel series includes Rafferty's Rules, Last Seen Alive and Shamus winner Fatal Sisters, as well as a seventh title, False Gods, written by his son, Bill Duncan.

In a tribute, writer Paul Bishop said that the news "was particularly poignant for me as I conducted the last published interview with W. Glenn Duncan with the aid of his son, Bill. In the past couple of years, Bill has not only been able to get his father's six Rafferty books back into print, but has also taken over the Rafferty mantle as he continues the character in books of his own. Bill has also become a friend."

Bishop also noted that Bill Duncan had recently sent out an e-mail to fans of his father's expressing gratitude "to each and every one of you for the joy you brought to Dad in the last couple of years, as he got to know the true breadth of support for Rafferty and all the other characters he created. I know I've said it before, but I'll never forget that you did that for him. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." In a compelling tribute to his father, he also wrote a scene featuring Rafferty and his cohorts as they say their own goodbye to their creator.

Asked in the 2017 interview why Rafferty remains a cult favorite among hardboiled fans, W. Glenn Duncan replied: "Wow, I really don't know. All I can say is that I had a helluva lot of fun writing each story and I guess that probably comes through in the reading. It surprises me that they seem to have stood the test of time, but I believe it's all down to the relatability of the characters, which was the easy part. Once I got started, the characters and the situations they found themselves in would tell me what they wanted to do next. I just let them be themselves and didn't force them anywhere."

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Mark Saunders, director of the University of Virginia Press, died this past weekend of a heart attack. He was 52.

"A book lover and salesman from the start," the Press said, Saunders began his book career at Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., where he bought small press and university frontlist and backlist and arranged reading series and author events. He then became East Coast sales rep and eventually national sales manager at Columbia University Press. In 1995, he joined the marketing department at UVA Press, then became director of marketing and sales. He was named director in 2013.

Among his many achievements at the Press, it said, was "his central role in establishing its Rotunda electronic imprint, which put the Press at the forefront of innovation in digital scholarship." He was also involved in the Association of University Presses and wrote the novel Ministers of Fire, published by Ohio University Press's Swallow Press imprint in 2012.

The Press added: "Mark was a true renaissance man, and outside of work his passions included not only writing but traveling, carpentry, the outdoors, boating at his house in Maine, reading, the arts, politics, taking time in his garden, playing with his dogs and looking after his cats and tortoise, and all things sports, including coaching his three children who meant the world to him. At UVa Press, we will remember him as a man of great intelligence and wit, always ready to make us laugh while leading us to the right decision. Most importantly, he was a devoted family man and a great friend."


Seattle Indies Deal with the Rising Minimum Wage, Part 5

This is the latest installment in our series examining how independent booksellers in Seattle, Wash., have adjusted to the city's rising minimum wage; see previous articles here.

When Danielle Hulton and her husband, David Hulton, started Ada's Technical Books & Cafe in 2010, they were newcomers to the world of bookselling. Both had a background in technology, specifically electrical and computer engineering, and for the first few years the store was entirely a bookstore, one that Hulton said she's always described as a "general bookstore that specializes in science and technology."

In 2012, around the time that the store's original lease was up, Hulton came to the realization that diversifying the business would make it a much more stable year-round venture. Hulton and her team took the opportunity of moving into a new storefront to add a cafe and coffee shop and, eventually, co-working and events spaces. Despite having so many facets to the business, Ada's has only two types of staff, which Hulton referred to as front-of-house and back-of-house. Employees with culinary experience and who work in the kitchen are back-of-house, while everyone else is front-of-house; they do everything from serving coffee to selling and shelving books.

"We used to have two different starting wages," recalled Hulton. "One for front-of-house, one for back-of-house. It was a very complicated system." Until 2017, Ada's accepted tips, the majority of which went to front-of-house employees. As a result, back-of-house staff had a higher starting wage. But of their own volition, front-of-house employees decided to give a small percentage of their tips to back-of-house staff in the sake of fairness. Front-of-house staff actually wrote a contract to that effect, which new employees had to read and sign when they joined the staff.

For the first few years after the minimum wage law came into effect, the fact that Ada's accepted tips actually gave the store a bit of a cushion, in that it put them on the slowest mandated schedule. Despite that cushion, Hulton and her general manager ultimately decided to stop accepting tips because the system was "confusing to customers, confusing to staff and not fair to everybody." It also didn't help, Hulton added, that there was a lot of "weird legal stuff around tips."

With tips no longer accepted, there is now a single starting wage for all new staff, whether they're front-of-house or back-of-house. Before this decision came into effect, Hulton and her general manager pulled every employee's pay checks, estimated what they would all be making, including tips, and added about 10 cents per hour, to ensure that no one would be making less because of the lack of tips. Remarked Hulton: "We did that for the whole staff."

Perhaps the single greatest effect that the minimum wage increase has had on Ada's has pertained to staffing. As a result of the rising wage, Hulton has had to employ a leaner staffing model than she would prefer. In particular, she said, the store recently came off of a schedule that Hulton realized was "way overstaffed" in terms of front-of-house employees.

"That was the hardest realization that I've had in the last nine years," said Hulton. "We have this really stable staff of amazing people, but we can't afford everybody."

While that realization and its repercussions have been difficult, Hulton said that thanks to having such a stable staff she's been able to be "really honest" explaining what the company can afford. She noted that she's always found it "easy to overstaff," and reining that in is something she continues to work on as far as business management is concerned.

Hulton said that in general, she is very supportive of a higher minimum wage, and she feels strongly that people should be able to make careers out of bookselling or being a barista or being a chef. But while supportive of higher wages generally, she was concerned from a business standpoint about the minimum wage law's implementation. One of the clearest ways to help offset the increased payroll costs is to raise prices on things like food, drinks and non-book products, which to Hulton has always seemed slightly counter-intuitive. "We're raising the minimum wage so staff at places like Ada's could afford to shop at places like Ada's," she said. "But with raising prices, that's not happening."

Discussing her background in engineering, Hulton noted that it is a very different industry in terms of benefits and pay rates, even at the small engineering firm she worked at before founding Ada's. She's tried to provide her employees at Ada's with similar benefits, including health insurance for full-time employees, paid parental leave and subsidizing her staff's transit cards, but as costs continue to rise, those may be in jeopardy. "That is one thing that's a concern," she said. "We want to provide those but we're really fighting to be able to afford it."

Seattle as a whole, Hulton continued, is "really struggling" with the explosive growth it's seen over the past decade. She said she still feels that there may have been a better way to try to attain a livable wage, but it was nevertheless good to have a phase-in period. She noted, though, that with the wage increase, "it wasn't like we just solved this problem." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Image of the Day: Pete Holmes at WORD

WORD Brooklyn hosted comedian Pete Holmes (2nd from l.) for the launch of his new book, Comedy Sex God (Harper Wave), to a sold-out crowd at the nearby William Vale Hotel. Holmes was in conversation with fellow comedian John Mulaney. Pictured: Holmes and Mulaney with WORD staff, including owner Christine Onorati (c.).

Kate Scott Joining MIBA Staff

Kate Scott

The Midwest Independent Booksellers Association has hired Kate Scott for the position of program specialist, helping to "develop and execute exceptional programs and events for all our members, including Midwest Connections, publisher marketing and event registration." She will begin acclimating to her new role June 3 and be fully on board effective June 24.

Since 2013, Scott has been events coordinator  at Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa. Before that, she was director of the Oneota Film Festival, and worked in marketing at Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.

Recently, she helped MIBA execute its inaugural Spring Roadtrip, which took place in Decorah in conjunction with Dragonfly Books. Observing that Scott planned and hosted the meeting from start to finish, MIBA executive director Carrie Obry said, "I was so impressed by her meticulousness and attention to detail. She went above and beyond all expectations."

Dragonfly Books owner and MIBA board president Kate Rattenborg noted that Scott helped the bookstore cultivate exceptional relationships with publishers: "While we'll miss the talent she has brought to Dragonfly for years, I'm very excited to support Kate as she develops her career in independent bookselling." Scott may be reached at kate@midwestbooksellers.org.


Mayor Honors Doylestown Bookshop with Proclamation

Doylestown mayor Ron Strouse proclaiming Doylestown Bookshop the "Most Loved Bookstore in Pennsylvania."

During Monday night's Doylestown Borough Council meeting, Mayor Ron Strouse announced a public declaration honoring the Doylestown Bookshop for its recent selection by Reader's Digest as Pennsylvania's representative in a feature on the "Most Loved Bookstore in Every State."

The mayor's proclamation reads, in part: "A vibrant community, a healthy community, an educated and informed community, and a cultural community is, in a very central way, defined by its bookstore. In the era of e-books and Amazon, the thriving independent bookstore takes on more significance.... Our Doylestown Bookshop does that in small and individual ways, as a business dealing with customers. It does it in bigger ways, actively working with Discover Doylestown to honor and promote our community."

Bookshop owner Glenda Childs, along with her husband, daughter and granddaughter, as well as staff and customers, attended the council meeting for the presentation. The Doylestown Bookshop celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and opened sister store the Lahaska Bookshop in 2017.

"If there's one thing that Doylestown Bookshop prides itself on, it's how well it preserves the legacy of family-run, small-town bookstores," Reader's Digest wrote. "Whether you want to bring your child to one of the interactive storytimes or comb through the quirky odds and ends tucked between bookshelves, there's always something new to discover here."


Chalkboard of the Day: Cream & Amber

Celebrating "Spring Vibes" with books and beer last week, Cream & Amber bookstore in Hopkins, Minn., shared a photo of its sidewalk sandwich board, noting: "Happy Friday! See you today for coffee, lunch, sweet treats, book browsing, happy hour, and conversations with friends."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dan Abrams on CNN's New Day

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Laura Gassner Otting, author of Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life (Ideapress Publishing, $24.95, 9781940858760).

CNN's New Day: Dan Abrams, co-author of Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy (Hanover Square Press, $27.99, 9781335016447). He will also appear on MSNBC's the Beat with Ari Melber.

Ellen: David Mizejewski, author of National Wildlife Federation: Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife (Creative Homeowner, $19.99, 9781580118187).


Coming Attraction: The Art of Racing in the Rain

20th Century Fox has released the official trailer for the upcoming film The Art of Racing in the Rain, based on the bestselling novel by Garth Stein. The film, directed by Simon Curtis, follows a witty and philosophical dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) and his best friend and owner, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), an aspiring Formula One race car driver. The Art of Racing in the Rain also stars Gary Cole, Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan, and will be released August 9 by Walt Disney Studios.



Books & Authors

Wellcome Book Prize Suspended

Wellcome Collection has suspended the Wellcome Book Prize after a decade "to allow the team to reflect and to plan for the future of the prize." Earlier this month, Will Eaves was named winner of this year's £30,000 (about $38,190) award for his novel Murmur.

"We're extremely proud of the success of the prize, which celebrates exceptional works of literature that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives," the organization said. "Wellcome Collection regularly reviews core programs and initiatives so we can make sure they remain relevant, impactful and responsive to our audiences. Following the success of the 10th year of the prize, we've decided to take a pause and reflect, just as we did in 2013. Wellcome remains committed to supporting writers and great writing on health and what it means to be human, and this pause will allow us to review what we've achieved so far and ensure we continue to achieve our goal."


Awards: Man Booker International Prize; Rathbones Folio; Caine Prize for African Writing

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth from Arabic, won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, which "celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world." The £50,000 (about $63,515) award is divided equally between author and translator. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,270). Alharthi is the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English and the first author from the Arabian Gulf to win the prize.

Chair of judges Bettany Hughes called Celestial Bodies a "book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over. Interweaving voices and timelines are beautifully served by the pacing of the novel. Its delicate artistry draws us into a richly imagined community--opening out to tackle profound questions of time and mortality and disturbing aspects of our shared history. The style is a metaphor for the subject, subtly resisting clichés of race, slavery and gender. The translation is precise and lyrical, weaving in the cadences of both poetry and everyday speech. Celestial Bodies evokes the forces that constrain us and those that set us free."

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Raymond Antrobus won the £30,000 (about $38,110) Rathbones Folio Prize, which honors "the best work of literature of the year, regardless of form," for his debut collection, The Perseverance. This is the first time the award has been given to a poet.

Chair of judges Kate Clanchy said: "We chose eight books we loved in different genres and deciding between them was painful. In the end it came down to two books and a tense vote. Alice Jolly's Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile, is a feat of voice... a startling, original work of remembrance. In the end, though, we agreed on Raymond Antrobus's The Perseverance, an immensely moving book of poetry which uses his D/deaf experience, bereavement and Jamaican/British heritage to consider the ways we all communicate with each other. It's an exceptionally brave, kind book; it seemed, in our atomized times, to be the book we most wanted to give to others, the book we all needed to read."

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Finalists have been announced for the £10,000 (about $12,700) Caine Prize for African Writing, recognizing stories that tackle "the ordinary in an extraordinary manner" and celebrating the diversity of the African short story writing tradition. The winner will be named July 8. This year's shortlisted authors are:

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for "Skinned"
Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for "The Wall"
Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for "Sew My Mouth'"
Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for "It Takes a Village Some Say"
Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria) for "All Our Lives"


Reading with... John Mutter

John Mutter began his book career at Publishers Weekly, where over a 24-year span he worked in the news department, was paperback review editor and was executive editor of bookselling. In 2005, he co-founded Shelf Awareness. In writing a Reading with... column, he has used his power as editor-in-chief to toss out all the usual questions and make up his own.

Sign of working in the book business foretold:

At Klein's, one of the two bookstores (both long gone) in my hometown, Westport, Conn., all backlist was shelved by publisher, which I thought was normal and which gave me an early appreciation for imprints, particularly Vintage, Modern Library, Scribner and Schocken. 

First book ever special ordered (from the Remarkable Book Shop in Westport):

During high school, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The First Forty-Nine Stories with a Brief Preface by the Author from Scribner, because his early stories were so finely crafted they made me want to write. 

Biggest regret/most embarrassing moment in my book career:

Declining to review Maus by Art Spiegelman. In my meager defense, it was the 1980s, and many people didn't know what a graphic novel was--or appreciate it.

Authors who have been wonderful to meet (and have written some pretty good books, too):

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Paul Rusesabagina, Barack Obama, Katherine Applegate, Isabel Allende, Keith Hernandez.

The joys and perils of meeting authors:

On one hand, hearing Eudora Welty read aloud "Why I Live at the P.O." at an AAUP meeting in New Orleans in the 1980s made the story come alive and enabled me finally to finish it--and read her other wonderful work with her voice in my mind. On the other hand, because I was a fan, I looked forward to having to ask John Updike some work questions after he won the National Book Award for fiction in 1982, but he so turned me off (he was tall but his nose didn't have to be so upturned...) that I never read another book by him.

Odd connection with one of the best writers of our time:

My sole one-on-one conversation with Margaret Atwood consisted of her in earnest salesperson mode telling me about the wonders of the LongPen, her remote signing invention, at the London Book Fair in 2007. I didn't realize how witty and hilarious she is until hearing her speak at the ABA's Winter Institute in January 2019. 

Odd book reading experience and achievement:

Knowing by heart the very beginning and very ending of Ulysses by James Joyce but not having read much in between.

Unusual book club I've belonged to:

What we called the Bookless Book Club whose two criteria of membership were never having belonged to or been invited to join a "real" book club and no assigned reading (although our conversations usually involved a lot of discussions about books--while sipping wine).

Most memorable press conferences ever attended (both at the Frankfurt Book Fair), in rooms with hundreds of overactive journalists:

One, in 1998, featured Jose Saramago, the only calm person in the place, who a few hours earlier was boarding a flight to return to Spain when it was announced he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, leading fair organizers to bring him back for the impromptu press conference; and in 2000, Leni Riefenstahl, at age 98, coy and mysterious and way too glib about crimes against humanity.

Favorite kids' books as a child:

Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman (which became especially resonant during the years my wife was an editor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art); The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, Homer Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey; Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell; and (not a book but about books) the Authors Card Game. 

Favorite kids' books as an adult reading to his children:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

Major children's book disaster:

Attempting to read aloud The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss to two young animal lovers.

Favorite authors:

Christopher Isherwood, Jane Austen, E.M. Forster and Doris Lessing. Also, many Russians, but only some of The Russians: Leo Tolstoy (I've read Anna Karenina in English and German and wish I could read it in Russian), Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Mikhail Lermontov, Isaac Babel, Mikhail Sholokhov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Leon Trotsky (not sure I agree with all his politics, but he had a flair for writing).

Favorite works of history and nonfiction:

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond; To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson; Let History Judge by Roy A. Medvedev; The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes; Down Under (published in the U.S. as In a Sunburned Country) by Bill Bryson; Apollo 13: Lost Moon (originally Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13) by Jim Lovell; The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy; The Hot Zone by Richard Preston; Longitude by Dava Sobel; Cod by Mark Kurlansky; The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture by Ruth Benedict; An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood by Neal Gabler; Billy Wilder in Hollywood by Maurice Zolotow; Haywire by Brooke Hayward; Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks; I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer; Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor; and The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes.

Favorite mystery authors, mysteries and espionage tales:

The Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (this couple created Scandinavian noir and I can't recommend their 10 joint titles enough); the Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell; the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr; John le Carré's George Smiley books; Dashiell Hammett; Raymond Chandler; Agatha Christie; Patricia Highsmith; Ben Pastor; Stieg Larsson; Joseph Kanon (excellent publisher makes excellent writer!).

Favorite screenwriter (oh and director):

Billy Wilder (so many wonderful films with amazing dialogue).

Recommended books by book world friends:

Former bookseller Suzy Staubach whose latest book, A Garden Miscellany: An Illustrated Guide to the Elements of the Garden, is appearing in October; former bookseller Marina Antropow Cramer, whose Roads: A Novel I was lucky enough to read in parts as it was being created; book publicist Kim Dower, aka Kim-from-LA, whose poetry (her most recent title, Sunbathing on Tyrone Power's Grave, was published in March) is stunning.


Book Review

Children's Review: Moth: An Evolution Story

Moth by Isabel Thomas, illus. by Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury, $18.99 hardcover, 48p., ages 6-10, 9781547600205, June 25, 2019)

Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus's Moth, about the transformation of the peppered moth (Biston betularia), is endowed with such a sense of wonder, the evolution story is almost elevated to the realm of myth.

It all begins "with a little moth... waking up from a long winter's sleep." After it "wiggle[s]" and "jiggle[s]," "uncurl[s]" and "unfurl[s]," the "salt and pepper" creature emerges. But "hungry predators" lurk nearby--the moth quickly flies away, joining other peppered moths looking for food while trying "not to get eaten themselves." Most have "speckled, freckled wings," although there are a small number who are born with "wings as dark as charcoal." As the sun rises, the peppered moths settle onto nearby trees. The salt and pepper variety blend right in, but the charcoal ones stand out against pale, "lichen-covered branches." Thomas's poetic yet pragmatic text asks, "Who was the best hidden? Who would survive?" Because the speckled, freckled moths have the best camouflage, they're the ones with the highest survival rate. They lay eggs and "pass on their salt and pepper wings." Until the world changes.

With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, people build factories, burn coal "to power magnificent machines" and use steam trains "to take things here... there... and everywhere." The air fills with "smoke and soot." In this "darker" world, which moths have the best camouflage? The "darkest" ones, with their "charcoal-colored wings," now live long enough to lay eggs and pass on their wing color to offspring of their own. Fifty years later, there are "as many peppered moths as ever," but they're mostly the darker, charcoal-colored moths. The "speckled, freckled" ones are rarer because "the moths [have] adapted to changes in the world." But then things change again. Cities begin to green up their acts. "Year by year by year," the air becomes cleaner and "trees shed their sooty bark." The "speckled, freckled" moths can once again blend in, and "today, both colors of moth find places to hide and survive."

Combining watercolors, crayon, acrylics, collage and Photoshop, Egnéus creates stunning visuals that feel soft and organic, yet also intricate and precise. Creative use of color, light and shadow, in addition to intriguing textures and bold shapes, make each spread fascinating to behold. Even the cover outdoes itself--silver foil highlights evoke the feel of ethereal moths shimmering in the moonlight. Back matter condenses the evolution of the peppered moth into two pages of historical facts. A deeply fulfilling look at the ups and downs of natural selection, this chronicle of the peppered moth remains one "of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, of survival and hope." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Shelf Talker: The principles of natural selection and adaptation take on a mythic quality in this picture-book look at the evolution of the peppered moth.


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