Also published on this date: Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Maximum Shelf: The Book of V.

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Shadow Mountain: Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Flatiron Books: His & Hers by Alice Feeney

Scribner Book Company: An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee

Chronicle Books: Cross Country: A 3,700-Mile Run to Explore Unseen America by Rickey Gates

Other Press: This Little Family by Inès Bayard, translated by Adriana Hunter

Beacon Press: Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Viktor E. Frankl

Roost Books: How to Wash the Dishes by Peter Miller

St. Martin's Press: The Unwilling by John Hart

News

Newbery and CSK Author: Jerry Craft, New Kid

Jerry Craft
(photo: Hollis King)

Earlier this week, Jerry Craft won both the Coretta Scott King Author Award (which goes to an author who demonstrates "an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values") and the John Newbery Medal for New Kid (HarperCollins). Craft's win marks the first-ever Newbery Medal for a graphic novel.

Congratulations! You had something of a massive morning! You won the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and your book New Kid became the first graphic novel to be awarded the Newbery Medal. How are you feeling?

I am feeling truly honored. And very appreciative of the amazing graphic novels that helped to pave the way for my graphic novel to earn prestigious awards such as these: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and anything by Raina Telgemeier, to name a few.

What has it been like seeing the response this title has received from adults and children?

I had such a hard time breaking into children's book publishing that I started my own company and began publishing children's books in 1997. Almost three dozen titles! It wasn't until 2014 that I got to illustrate a book for Scholastic: The Zero Degree Zombie Zone written by Patrik Henry Bass.

But the response to New Kid, from both adults and children, has been absolutely amazing! My intent was to create the same feeling that I had when I took my sons to see a movie like Shrek. I laughed hysterically at some parts, while my two sons laughed at completely different scenes. But we all came away happy! I think I have as many adult fans as I do kid fans.

Did you have any idea, when creating this book, that it would strike a nerve with readers? That it could affect so many people?

I had hoped so, and that was my intent, but I really had no idea until I started getting my first reviews. Only then did I begin to realize that people were understanding exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted to create a book with an African American protagonist that would be as universal as, say, Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I still remember how happy my sons were when they read and re-read each book. But the best part is that my fans are kids, teachers, librarians, parents... it has been truly amazing! And so many have shared stories of how in some way, New Kid has changed their outlook on how they relate to others. I couldn't ask for more than that!

And why did you want to tell this story in this format? What pulled you toward making the personal so visual?

The only thing that I enjoyed reading in my youth were Marvel Comics. And much to the contrary of my teachers' opinions, they did not rot my brain. In fact, they boosted my vocabulary and my desire to read. So, when I DID have to read a "real book," I was more than capable. I wanted to pay this gift forward and embrace confident readers while also comforting reluctant readers.

Is there anything specific you would like readers to take with them once they've finished the book?

Just to realize that there is no ONE way to be anyone... I just wanted to encourage kids, and adults (we need it more than kids) to look at others with a renewed sense of compassion and empathy.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf readers?

Thank you sooo much for your support. It's hard to imagine that this time last year, New Kid wasn't even in stores. And less than a year later, I've been honored with a Kirkus Award, a Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery! But as much as I would LOVE to celebrate, I'm on deadline to finish New Kid 2, which will be called Class Act, and will follow Jordan and his friends (and Andy) through their eighth-grade year. It's back to work for me! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Berkley Books: Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay


Caldecott and CSK Illustrator: Kadir Nelson, The Undefeated

Kadir Nelson
(photo: David Walter Banks)

Earlier this week, Kadir Nelson won both the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award (which goes to an illustrator who demonstrates "an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values") and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Congratulations! You received both the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and the Caldecott Medal for The Undefeated. (The book also received a Newbery Honor!) Like all of your books, this really shows how a picture book can be a work of art. How did you approach illustrating this work?

I created the paintings with vignettes set against the blank page, similar to some of the covers I've painted for the New Yorker featuring Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I liked the juxtaposition of images against stark white backgrounds. I initially thought that painting the images without backgrounds might speed the process, but I was mistaken because they took just as long but, coincidentally, I loved the way each image sat on the page, and it gave the book a different look than all of my other books.

What drew you to this book? Why did you want to illustrate it?

I loved the power and conciseness of the text. Kwame is a master with words, rhythm and storytelling. And The Undefeated was immediately attractive to me as an artist. Illustrating The Undefeated was a no-brainer. It fits squarely within the work that I do and aspire to do.

The Undefeated is extremely powerful. Do you think that's why it is resonating with readers? Is there more that draws readers in?

I think the marriage of text and art in this book is just the right mix. The spaces between each work well together. Poetry leaves a lot of white space on the page, and so does the art. It was a serendipitous alchemy and, fortunately, readers have responded positively to it.

You are no stranger to accolades from the CSK: in 2004 you received an Illustrator Honor for Thunder Rose and again in 2005 for Ellington Was Not a Street; you received the 2007 Illustrator Award for Moses and, in 2009, you received both the CSK Author Award and Illustrator Honor for We Are the Ship. You did this again in 2012, receiving both the CSK Author Award and Illustrator Honor for Heart and Soul. And then, in 2013 and 2014, you received two more CSK Illustrator Honors for I Have a Dream and Nelson Mandela. To ask the most general of questions (I apologize), how does it feel to be winning this award now? Does your history with the award or the stage of life you're currently in affect how you approach it?

I'm grateful to receive the CSK award each and every time. Even though I put everything I have into each work, accolades like this are not guaranteed, so I'm thrilled to receive this honor and I will enjoy every moment it brings.

You received a Caldecott Honor in 2007 for Moses and another one in 2008 for Henry's Freedom Box. Now, a little over 10 years later, you're receiving your first Caldecott Medal. Again, general, but how does it feel to become a Caldecott Medal winner? And to win for this book?

I'm still shell-shocked by the news, but tremendously grateful to all the librarians and professionals who supported and heralded this book. Not sure if it will all ever sink in, but I'm cherishing this moment. I'm very proud of The Undefeated and happy that more readers will have access to it.

Is there anything else on your mind after these exciting events?

A three-year national tour of the original artwork from The Undefeated will begin on February 1 at the Calvin Art Gallery at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. The exhibition is free and open to the public, and these paintings will be on view for the public to see in person, so I'm excited that the new accolades will further elevate the book and the accompanying artwork! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Ingram: Direct to Home, Never Miss a Sale


Lee & Low's 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey

Children's publisher Lee & Low has released a four-year update to its original 2016 study of staff diversity in the publishing industry. The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) had four times as many participants as it did in 2016: 7,893 respondents representing more than 150 companies; this included the additions of university presses and literary agents, as well as the already reporting small, medium and "Big Five" publishers. The DBS "gathers statistics on publishing staff, literary agents and reviewers in four major categories--gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability--with the new goal of ascertaining whether the industry is becoming more inclusive over time."

The updated survey reveals that 76% of respondents identify as White/Caucasian, slightly down from 79% in 2016--a change that data analysts have deemed not statistically significant. Some 7% identify as Asian American, 6% as Latinx, 5% as Black/African American, 3% as multiracial and 1% as Other.

"The lack of change from last DBS to this one is largely disappointing, although there were pockets of change that are worth celebrating," said publisher Jason Low. "The effort to make the book community more inclusive is ongoing and requires intentional culture changes and expanding opportunities at every level of our industry."

See the full study results and methodology here. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


GLOW: Avid Reader Press: Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life by Christie Tate


Poets Oak Cliff Bookshop Opens in Dallas

Poets Oak Cliff recently opened at 506 N. Bishop Ave. in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas, Tex., and plans to host a grand opening February 1, the Oak Cliff Advocate reported. The store is owned by writer Marco Cavazos with business partners Kelsi Cavazos and Russell Hargraves. They also own the adjacent Cigar Art together.

Originally envisioned as a writers space, the project evolved into a bookstore with a focus on poetry. "Our vision is to be a community bookshop," Hargraves said. "We're not looking for a huge footprint or a giant online presence. We're just looking to amplify Oak Cliff's literary culture, while doing something we love."


Berkley Books: Not Like the Movies by Kerry Winfrey


Wi15: Reimagining the Backlist Canon for Our Time

"What sets our relationships to our communities is how we look at backlist," said Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, San Francisco, Calif., to open the Wi15 education session "Reimagining the Backlist Canon for Our Time." Joining him on the panel were Derrick Young of MahoganyBooks, Washington, D.C.; Rio Cortez of the Schomburg Shop, New York City; Clarissa Hadge of Trident Booksellers, Boston, Mass.; and Alena Jones of the Seminary Co-op, Chicago, Ill.

Yamazaki added that "a large part of what we do is to include our staff, my colleagues, in the process and in selecting books and circulating frontlist catalogues, and we also over time have created staff-curated sections."

Rio Cortez, Paul Yamazaki, Clarissa Hadge, Alena Jones, Derrick Young

Noting that the area where MahoganyBooks is located is about 97% black, Young said, "For us, it's really been about trying to make sure that our customers have access to the majority of books they can't find anywhere else.... In terms of curating that backlist, we have had that conversation with customers and want to know what they're looking for, but also we have a set vision on the titles and authors that are requisite reading for every person that comes to the store." The bookshop's Essential Reads section reflects that effort.

Seminary Co-op has "a very, very deep backlist and it's something that we're truly committed to," Jones noted, adding that "any of us up here would say that one of the most important sources for learning about backlist is our customers." Addressing the Western canon specifically, she said that at the Co-op there is a strong bias for the Western canon because the bookshop deals with coursebooks for the University of Chicago, "so one of the things we try to do is stock new and backlist titles looking at who's engaging with the Western canon in radical ways right now."

At the Schomburg Shop, the indie bookstore arm of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, "we focus and buy our books related to the black diaspora, whether they're writers from the black diaspora or books about the global black experience," Cortez observed. In addition, "something that has been really fun and engaging with our community has been recent backlist.... We get a lot of requests and recommendations for regular, everyday things, not necessarily centered around black history, but maybe written by a black person, like a book about plants or astrology."

As children's book buyer, Hadge focuses on #OwnVoices telling their stories and a large part of her time is spent "going through Edelweiss and trying to tag things and see what my booksellers have tagged." Because a high percentage of her staff are students, "it's obviously easier to have these discussions. They're more open about having suggestions of the alternate titles that they're looking for.... With the rise of social media, I'm a Millennial and I feel like I'm still ages behind all of the Gen Zers. The conversations that are being had on social media between students, in the classroom and outside the classroom, there's so much to learn from that."

City Lights features several spaces in the store for recommendations "that we call pop-up sections," Yamazaki noted. "The only thing that I ask of the staff is they draw from our backlist." He also said an aspect of the bookshop that is relevant to the reimagined backlist canon discussion "is that half our staff is of color and one of the reasons that's so is they recognized themselves when they first came into the store because of the books we carry. They were more receptive to coming in on a regular basis; they didn't have to feel they were marginalized. This was a core part of what we did. In many cases, they ended up working for us."

"I love to challenge people," Young observed. "I love to engage in conversation and get people to think. So when it comes to how we select our books, especially for Essential Reads, what I'm thinking of for each grouping, from young kids up to adults, is what are those key moments, themes, that come to African American life that they need to know well.... and if it interests them it creates more questions for them, so they can go and find more books about that topic." --Robert Gray


Life Drawn: Little Josephine: Memory in Pieces by Valerie Villieu, illustrated by Raphael


Wi15: Boosting Sales with Genre Titles

At Winter Institute 15 last week in Baltimore, Md., four booksellers from around the country discussed how to grow a store's customer base and boost sales by selling everything from fantasy and romance to poetry and pop culture.

Amber Brown, inventory manager at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., Emily Hall Schroen, co-owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., and Danny Caine, owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., made up the panel, while Jenny Cohen, co-owner of Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River, Ore., moderated the discussion.

Caine reported that his store sold more than 1,000 books of poetry in 2019, constituting around 2.6% of his sales last year. One way of looking at it, he said, was that poetry paid his electrical bill for 2019--and then some. Compared to general fiction and nonfiction, he continued, poetry is very backlist-heavy and "not as frontlist-obsessed." Staff picks are crucial, as is having at least a couple of staff members who read the genre, and he likes to maintain a permanent display for any genre that serves as an introduction to the category. For poetry, that display features "poetry for people who don't like poetry."

On the subject of "essential titles" for that genre, Caine said any poetry section needs to have all of Mary Oliver's books, as well as classics like the complete poems of Emily Dickinson or a collection of Robert Frost poems. For finding great poetry collections beyond those sorts of perennial classics, Caine suggested consulting things like LitHub's best poetry of the decade list, and he noted that he makes sure to stock the finalists for prizes like the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

One of the benefits to building a romance section, Schroen said, is that if you manage to snag a romance reader, "you will have them forever." In addition to their loyalty, romance customers "read voraciously," and are the kinds of shoppers who will bring a stack of books up to the register. Romance is another genre that is very backlist-heavy, and for long-running series Schroen said she likes to carry the first few volumes, along with the most recent one. One of the best things to happen to romance in recent years, she continued, is the genre becoming accessible to more general readers. Modern romantic comedies, like The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory or The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, are seeing a surge of popularity right now, and they make great entry points to the genre.

Schroen added that the "current nonsense with the RWA notwithstanding," [a summary of which can be found here] many local and regional Romance Writers of America chapters are still functioning, and hosting events with local romance writers is one of the best ways to build an audience for the genre. She also warned that romance readers need to feel welcomed--if they sense any disdain because of their reading choices, they won't come back.

Brown reported that over the past nine years, Quail Ridge's science fiction & fantasy sales have increased 139%, and since she joined the team in 2016, the store has increased the size of its inventory from four bays to seven. A major factor in the growth of her store's genre sales has been genre-focused book clubs, which began with a horror book club. While some staff members were initially skeptical, the horror book club has become one of the store's most popular, and led not only to the creation of a dedicated horror section but several other genre book clubs.

When it comes to the pop-culture genre, Brown explained that this can include anything from celebrity memoirs to cookbooks associated with a popular YouTuber. She recalled that when Antoni Porowski of Queer Eye released the cookbook Antoni in the Kitchen, there was an indie-exclusive tea towel available that only 13 bookstores signed up for. Quail Ridge received more than 70 online orders for that cookbook, because Queer Eye fans "really wanted" that tea towel. Her store has sold more than 200 copies of a cookbook associated with the YouTube channel Binging with Babish, and she expects to sell at least 350. She added that pop-culture trends can drive sales of more than just books: anything with Bob Ross, Mr. Rogers or Ruth Bader Ginsberg on it, whether books, mugs or even finger puppets, sells almost immediately. --Alex Mutter

Berkley Books: Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave


Notes

Image of the Day: The Daily Show with Charles Yu

Trevor Noah joined author Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown) backstage on Monday night before recording an interview for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Yu will appear at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y., in conversation with Celeste Ng and Thessaly La Force, on Thursday, January 30, at 7 p.m.; Books Are Magic will sell books at the event. Click here for tickets.


Cool Idea of the Day: Little Free Libraries Inspired by Jojo Moyes

As part of its promotion for Jojo Moyes's novel The Giver of Stars, about the Packhorse Librarians from the WPA period, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking created hand-painted Little Free Libraries as a way to bring books into communities, as the Packhorse Librarians did. Moyes donated one to her village, and it sits outside the Fitchingfield Post Office.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Amy Rigby on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Amy Rigby, author of Girl to City: A Memoir (Southern Domestic, $17, 9780578536163).

Tomorrow:

Today Show: Ann Napolitano, author of Dear Edward: A Novel (The Dial Press, $27, 9781984854780).

The View: Tommy Davidson, co-author of Living in Color: What's Funny About Me (Kensington, $27, 9781496712943).

Movies: The Black Kids

Wanuri Kahiu is set to direct, and Allison Davis to adapt, a film based on the upcoming debut YA novel The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. Deadline reported that the book "is a coming-of-age story of a wealthy African-American teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Los Angeles riots."

The Gotham Group, which most recently produced Disney+'s Stargirl, optioned the book, which will be published September 1 by Simon & Schuster. Deadline noted that "Kahiu's previous film Rafiki was banned in her native Kenya for a time ahead of its world premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it made history as the first Kenyan film selected. It explored LGBTQ issues in a country that criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults."

The film's success helped Kahiu land gigs in the U.S, Deadline wrote. Managed by Gotham Group, she will direct Millie Bobby Brown in The Thing About Jellyfish for Made Up Stories, and is adapting Octavia Butler's Wild Seed for Juvee Productions and Amazon. She is also currently attached to direct HBO's pilot Shade, which is being produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Davis (OWN's David Makes Man) is a former senior writer and story producer at Google and associate artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in New York.



Books & Authors

Awards: PEN America Literary Finalists; Costa Book of the Year Winner

PEN America announced finalists for the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards, which will confer more than $330,000 to writers and translators whose exceptional literary works were published in 2019. The winners will be announced March 2 at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, hosted by Seth Meyers, in New York City. Check out the complete list here.

---

Jack Fairweather won the £30,000 (about $39,215) Costa Book of the Year award for his book The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz, which was honored during the same week the world marked the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, the Bookseller reported.

Chair of judges Sian Williams said, "One of the reasons that we loved it so much is it reads like a thriller, it doesn't really read like a biography at all and yet you don't feel as though it's over-dramatized in any way. The facts speak for themselves and they are incredibly well researched--about 3,000 different sources--and I think as a journalist that appealed to me, just how well researched it was.... This is a story that none of us had heard before and it just deserved to be shouted about."

Anna Dempsey won the Costa Short Story Award for "The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community."


Reading with... Phillipa Chong

photo: Christina De Melo

Phillipa Chong, author of Inside the Critics' Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, January 14, 2020), is assistant professor of sociology at McMaster University.

On your nightstand now:

Mastering your Adult ADHD by Steven A. Safren et al. The book was clearly written in a way to enable adults with ADHD to read along. I am studying its structure so that I can make my own writing more accessible for all types of readers.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Perfect Pigs: An Introduction to Manners by Marc Brown and Stephen Krensky (1982). I am a Pig under the Chinese zodiac and so is my mother. And it was one of the books that we bonded over. I remember how thrilled she was when I brought it home from the school library. She even bought the actual book so we'd have a copy at home. That was a big deal and I knew it was a special book. We also love good manners.

Your top five authors:

This is good for anyone looking for people who write about complicated social issues in an accessible way:

Sarah Sobieraj has this amazing literary quality to the way she writes about the state of journalism and political discourse--even in her research articles, which is an unforgiving form.

Steven Shapin writes beautifully about the history of science and wine!

Amin Ghaziani's There Goes the Gayborhood is frustratingly well-written.

I love Parul Sehgal's essays and I appreciate her care with the historical and cultural weight of words, which I am all about as a cultural sociologist who takes care when naming my concepts.

Elaine Liu runs the blog, Laineygossip.com. And when some stuff goes down in the creative industries that requires some honest, direct, intersectional thinking--that's where I like to go. I've particularly enjoyed her writing on Serena Williams.

Book you've faked reading:

I like to think of it as I haven't gotten to these books yet. I WILL read them, Shelf Awareness! But books have their own timing, too. You know a book is right for you. So you pick it up. And maybe it sits on the shelf for two years. But then depending what you're thinking about or going through, life dictates the right time to connect with it. I've had research projects that span five years from inception to when I actually start working on it in earnest. Those crisp moments when I have exactly the right title to turn to on my book shelf... feel excellent.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing by Claire Kehrwald Cook. It's just a really handy book for anyone looking to be less wordy. I should have consulted it more when I wrote my own book, honestly. Going back to basics is never a bad thing!

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't think I've ever done this because so many nonfiction and academic books have bad covers, but good insides! #dontshootthemessenger. I might do this if I read more Harlequin romances. #CanLit

Book you hid from your parents:

Anything self-help because they would take it as a denunciation of their parenting skills. There are a lot of spines turned backwards in my home bookshelf. Surprise!

Book that changed your life:

My first (unpublished) book, a Grade 3 research project entitled Ladybugs, was everything. I remember learning about the different categories by which to organize our research findings (e.g., food and mating). And a whole world of order and adventure opened up to me.

Favorite line from a book:

"It's a structuring structure." --Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production. (A lot of academics are LOL-ing right now.)

Five books you'll never part with:

Economy and Society, Parts I and II by Max Weber
Captivate by Vanessa van Edwards
The Field of Cultural Production by Pierre Bourdieu
Art Worlds by Howard S. Becker
Inside the Critics' Circle by ME, of course! Because I was totally that six-year-old who knew she wanted to--and was going to--write a book. And here we are.

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

I don't know that I want to read it again, but a really profound experience I had was when I read E.B. White's Charlotte's Web for the first time as a child. I remember it was the first I felt really complicated emotions as a young kid, but in a very safe way. I didn't have words for it. But the art let me experience and play with it.

Your first memory of reading:

I remember not knowing how to read. And I remember learning how to read. The space between the letters suddenly got really slippery and I could decode letters into words and then sentences. The whole universe unlocked.


Book Review

Children's Review: I Go Quiet

I Go Quiet by David Ouimet (Norton Young Readers, $18.95 hardcover, 48p., ages 6-8, 9781324004431, March 3, 2020)

"Sometimes, I go quiet." A girl--hood up, slumping forward in resignation--walks to school, where "I don't know how I am supposed to be./ I am timid. I am small./ How should I sound?/ How should I look?/ When it's my turn/ to speak,/ I go/ quiet." One can hardly blame her. The paintings in I Go Quiet, by musician and debut author/illustrator David Ouimet, depict a gloomy, factory-evoking school where from the front of every child's desk hangs a dehumanizing white mask that the kids wear to some sort of assembly. Think Hogwarts by way of George Orwell.

The girl feels set apart from everyone else: "I am different./ I am the note/ that's not in tune./ I go mousy. I go gray." Sure enough, while the girl's mask has pointy ears like the other kids', hers also has whiskers and a mouselike snout. During the assembly, a spotlight shines down on her: she's caught without her mask on. She flees to the reassuring isolation of the rear of the auditorium. Later, sitting alone at a table in the cafeteria ("I would leave if I could fly"), the girl imagines her escape on the back of a hybrid beast that lofts her into the air. In the real world, she turns to books: "When I read, I know there are languages that I will speak."

Why does I Go Quiet deserve to be on top of a stack of picture books about how reading is power and imagination is liberating? Consider, for example, a double-page spread showing the masked kids marching up and down the school's stairwells. The image resembles a cross section of a machine, each child a dead-eyed cog. Ouimet seems to be speaking (and painting) not about one person's anxiety--he doesn't individualize the girl by giving her a name or parents--but about a larger concern: the seductiveness of conformity, the threat of human obsolescence through automation. From the moment the girl arrives at school until she heads home that night, Ouimet's illustrations are dichromatic: slate and cream, sepia and black, and so on. But on her walk home ("When I am heard/ I will build cities/ with my words"), she sees a moonlit city in color. Later, from her bed, she looks out her window. Outside is a pair of white birds--a change from all the black ones that haunt prior pages, and perhaps a sign of hope. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: In this distinguished picture book set at an industrial-looking school, a shy girl longs to have full command of her voice.


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