Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 9, 2020


Little Simon: Spring into these illustrated chapter books tailor-made for new readers and make learning to read a blast!

Shadow Mountain: Miracle Creek Christmas by Krista Jensen

Graydon House: The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

Grand Central Publishing: What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Columbia Global Reports: The Socialist Awakening: What's Different Now about the Left by John B Judis

Mira Books: Her Dark Lies by J T Ellison

News

Bookshop, Hummingbird Sales Skyrocket; Europa, Sourcebooks Programs Highlight Booksellers, Educators

Sales at Bookshop.org continue to grow. Founder Andy Hunter said that the site is selling about 8,000 books a day and has more than 450 bookstores on the platform. Sales have risen 2,000% in a month, and Bookshop has raised more than $400,000 for distribution to independent bookstores. (It also just added a store locator two weeks ago that helps funnel more sales to directly benefit Bookshop customers' local stores.) Some 75% of Bookshop sales are from bookstore affiliates, so most of the sales growth is from people rallying around their stores.

For a venture that launched early this year, it's been a wild time. "We basically experienced two years' worth of normal growth in about three weeks," Hunter said. "We are a tiny team, though we are adding staff for customer support as we struggle to ramp up with the demand. It's stressful, but gratifying to be useful and helping booksellers right now."


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At Hummingbird Digital Media, which is an American Booksellers Association Marketplace partner for e-books (Hummingbird also sells downloadable audio), sales in the last four weeks have risen 1,315% over the previous four weeks, according to president and chief visionary officer Stephen Black Mettee. For the year to date, sales are up 1,000%.

Hummingbird's bookstore count has jumped 25% since the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. although there are still some bookstores that haven't signed on.

Mettee's take: "Some bookstores had been slow to embrace e-books and audiobooks. I think as we come out of this--and we will--we'll find bookstores making digital sales a more important part of their business. That will just make independent bookstores stronger overall. A silver lining in a particularly dark cloud?"

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Europa Editions has launched "Our Brilliant Friends," an after-dinner book club and watch party that meets every Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern on Zoom, an hour before the HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet airs. Tickets are available for a suggested donation of $5, and all proceeds will go to the #SaveIndieBookstores campaign launched last week by James Patterson, the American Booksellers Association, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and Reese Witherspoon's book club.

"Our Brilliant Friends" features a panel conversation among prominent Ferrante fans, followed by a brief reading by translator Ann Goldstein from Elena Ferrante's new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, which will be published September 1. At 10 p.m., attendees are encouraged to stick around in the Zoom chat as they watch and react to the newest episode of My Brilliant Friend.

The first iteration of "Our Brilliant Friends," held on Monday, April 6, was co-hosted by Europa Editions and the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn, N.Y. Panelists included translator Goldstein; Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation; Noreen Tomassi, executive director of the Center for Fiction; and Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions. The event had more than 700 RSVPs; Ferrante readers from four continents joined the call.

For the April 13 event, co-hosts include McNally Jackson, New York City; Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; and City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, Calif. Guests at future events will include Alexander Chee, Sarah Treem (The Affair), John Freeman (Freeman's), Ann Goldstein and Lauren Groff.

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In conjunction with the publication of the children's picture book A Thousand No's by DJ Corchin, illustrated by Dan Dougherty, Sourcebooks is launching a "My Teacher Said YES!" sweepstakes, in which families can nominate teachers "who are going above and beyond during the Covid-19 pandemic."

The publisher explained: "So many kids are hearing no right now. NO! You can't go to school. NO! You can't go to soccer. NO! You can't go to ballet. Yet so many teachers are saying YES! Amid everything going on, educators are finding new ways to teach, to guide, to help, and to comfort their students." Thus the sweepstakes aims to "recognize and celebrate these tireless educators."

From now through June, students and parents can nominate their elementary, junior high and high school teachers by posting a photo or video and sharing how their teacher has made a positive impact during the pandemic. Sourcebooks will randomly select three teachers during the period, and each winner will receive a $500 prize. Three runners-up from each grade level will receive a signed copy of A Thousand No's for their classroom. For more information, click here.

"What better way to launch a book about perseverance and innovation than to recognize teachers during this unprecedented time?" said author DJ Corchin. "They're overcoming incredible obstacles with resolve, compassion, and even a bit of magic. I'm thrilled to be part of this campaign celebrating a group of true professionals who selflessly work to bring out the best in us all."

Valerie Pierce, director of retail marketing and creative services at Sourcebooks, added: "Sourcebooks believes that books change lives, and we are constantly looking for ways to create opportunities for readers to engage with our mission statement. We believe this campaign will provide little rays of hope by reminding everyone to say yes to kindness. We can't wait to see the lovely posts that kids and parents create together!"

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Kepler's Books & Magazines, Menlo Park, Calif., has launched Books by Mail, a partnership with the Menlo Park Library, Menlo Park Library Foundation and the Friends of Menlo Park Library. Through the program, library users can receive new copies of requested library books at their homes, at no cost, and can keep them as long as they want.

In the first test phase, an e-mail making the offer was sent to the approximately 500 library "power users" who had books on the libraries' hold shelf before they and Kepler's had to close to the public. Kepler's will fulfill the orders--one or two per library patron. The store had already deployed its web orders team to work from their homes to handle the surge of web orders the store has been receiving from the community, and "this new partnership is adding even more business for our team to handle," said Kepler's CEO Praveen Madan.

The program allows the partners to continue to serve "our social missions by bringing books to people at their homes" at a time when the bookstore and libraries are closed to the public, Madan said.

He added that there's been "an avalanche of interest just with the first small offer."


Grove Press: Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart


Regionals Rally: Zoom Meetings, Resource Exchanges, NAIBA's Matching Grant

Calvin Crosby, executive director of the California Independent Booksellers Alliance, reported that in the three weeks since Governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order, California indies have pivoted their businesses in myriad ways, from relying on Ingram Direct to Home for web fulfillment to local delivery and curbside pickup. 

The closest thing to a constant among member stores, he continued, is the move to online storytime sessions, virtual author events, digital book clubs, live-streamed book recommendations and similar efforts. Many stores are creating book and gift bundles for Easter and Passover, and there is widespread messaging about buying gift cards now to use when stores are open for browsing again.

CALIBA has started a weekly town hall meeting, held every Tuesday morning via Zoom. The meetings have no set agenda, and booksellers have used it as a place to share what they're going through as well as best practices. Crosby and the CALIBA team, meanwhile, have been consolidating information and posting it on the alliance's website. Town halls are being planned for sales reps and for the California Children's Bookselling Alliance.

Crosby said CALIBA is working on a draft of recommended language for stores to use to petition their local governments with an argument for being classified as essential; bookstore owners can reach out to him directly if they're interested.

The CALIBA board of directors has been adamant that for as long as the crisis goes on, all indies in California should be considered as CALIBA members, with full access to the organization's resources and support.

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According to Linda Marie Barrett, assistant executive director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a few states within the alliance's territory have not issued stay-at-home orders, so member stores are in various modes of operation. Most of the stores SIBA has heard from, however, have at least closed their stores to browsing and are offering things like curbside pickup, home delivery and online ordering.

Several stores have reported that online sales are booming, while others have been using social media to drive sales of staff picks and branded merchandise. Some stores are beginning to venture into virtual events, and still others are using the downtime for various projects, like rebuilding their websites. All sorts of games have become very popular, but are almost impossible to source.

SIBA is offering office hours daily, 1-2 p.m. on Zoom. Barrett said more booksellers are taking part each day, and they share what's going on at their stores and in their communities, as well as best practices. The association is also sending out daily heads-up e-mails, has created a Covid-19 page on its website and is collecting and sharing resources from the ABA and elsewhere. SIBA has started a survey on the impact of the pandemic among member stores and is still collecting information.

Other programs and initiatives that SIBA has launched include Bookseller Chill, a six-week series on coping with anxiety that is open to members of all regional associations; webinars on managing an unexpected crisis and supporting your online store; and Reader Meet Writer, an author event series for member stores held over Zoom. Just a week in, Barrett reported, and already 50 stores have taken part.

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Members of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, said executive director Eileen Dengler, are getting creative with the ways they're selling books, and much of what they're able to do depends on their location and state and local guidelines. Stores are hosting virtual author events and book clubs, doing curbside pickup and local delivery, and embracing online sales, be it through their own web platforms, IndieCommerce, Bookshop or Square. Social media use has ramped up as well.

Dengler noted that many are wondering how long it will take to recover, and whether indies can count on continued publisher support until things are back to normal. Every bookseller, she added, is very appreciative of the efforts and communication coming from the ABA and the various regionals.

NAIBA has hosted Zoom chats for member booksellers and is starting a weekly social hour, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. NAIBA is helping to share information and is encouraging booksellers to join in all the Zoom calls taking place throughout the industry, especially ABA's coffee breaks and marketing meet-ups. Dengler has also reached out to stores individually to share resources and let them know about what other stores are doing, and is doing more direct-to-member e-mails with important information.

NAIBA has donated $25,000 to Binc's Help a Bookseller drive, and today is announcing another $25,000 matching donation pledge to #SaveIndieBookstores, which should bring in another $50,000 for the campaign. The NAIBA board has also voted to extend membership by one year for all current members.

Dengler added: "I hope publishers see who the real booksellers are in their supply chain. Who, in a crisis, continued to sell their books and promote their authors and make books an essential part of life."


House of Anansi Press: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson


How Bookstores Are Coping: Deliveries; Online Orders; 'Book Doctors'

John Cavalier, co-owner of Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, La., reported that there is a state-wide stay-at-home order in effect until at least the end of April, but the law does allow business owners to tend to routine business so long as it is closed to the public and personal interactions are limited. 

He added that he and his wife, with whom he owns and operates the store, live only a few blocks from the shop, so they can still receive all of their regular shipments and mail. The store's business model at present is "anything but brick and mortar," and curbside pickup, online ordering and free home delivery are all being offered. Cavalier said his customers "have been fantastic and generous."

Cavalier said he and his wife have had to lay off the entire staff and they've applied for the Paycheck Protection Program to try to get everyone back on payroll as quickly as possible. For the time being, they are doing fine, he continued, but the sooner they are back on payroll the sooner they can "try to recapture some normalcy." In the meantime Cavalier has been thinking about what the optimal online workflow will be once staffers return.

Cavalier said sales have been a "drop in the bucket" compared to normal, and when schools were closed on March 13, that ended the store's book fair season, which means $60,000-$70,000 in anticipated revenue is gone. Day-to-day sales are down significantly and ebb and flow based on online support and word of mouth.

When asked about virtual events, Cavalier said his store has never been an events-driven bookstore; the school market and book fairs were their specialty. He and his wife are concentrating their efforts on trying to get some online book fairs rolling with the help of local school librarians.

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Clarissa Murphy, manager of the MIT Press Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., said the store has been closed for weeks, as she and her team are all MIT staff, so when the college sent home all nonessential personnel, that included the booksellers. 

While it's closed, the store is selling books through its Bookshop.org and Libro.fm pages and MIT Press is doing virtual author events. In the meantime, Murphy and the bookstore team are working on projects like building a new website for the store, redesigning the store's newsletter, building customer programs and generally planning for the future. Said Murphy: "Taking the time to hash out ideas and future planning has been very valuable."

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Page 1 Books, Albuquerque, N.Mex., updated customers Tuesday on the store's latest status: "Currently, we are working to open a new e-commerce shop via a partnership with the American Booksellers Association. This has taken a little longer than anticipated as ABA has been swamped with small bookstores trying to stay afloat during this time, but should be ready by week's end! Once this new site is ready you'll be able to buy new books and have them shipped directly to your door, or buy Page 1 gift certificates for when we are allowed to open again. We're waiting until this new site is up before we update our main site for April, so excuse the out-of-date materials! Besides this new site, we're also looking at becoming an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which will allow you to browse their catalog and order books from them while supporting us as well! Stay tuned on that front, but in the meantime, check out Libro.fm/page1....

"Lastly, as I am working from home, my cat Kona has been promoted to bookstore cat. While Kona doesn't read much (as a kitten she was told to only read serious books and her parents never let her read graphic novels) she's definitely been a good morale booster during this time, so expect to see more pictures of her in the future!"

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Before and after: The Book Catapult, San Diego, Calif., shared photos on Facebook of Monday's online order fulfillment. "This morning's stack of orders to be processed.... bear with us if you're one of the amazing souls shopping thebookcatapult.com! Thank you! We're on it, we swear." And in an update: "That's what a morning's orders look like. What we have in stock at least. Maybe 1 1/2 mornings, I dunno. What day is it?? Love in the Time of Coronavirus, y'all."

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"Here are two 'older,' used, young adult, retired medical workers working hard in the operating room of a local bookstore to get the best books into the recently washed hands of our great community!" Jim and Ginny Donahue, owners of the Mitten Word Bookshop, Marshall, Mich., posted on Facebook. "They will operate on books for all ages from 1 to 99! Funny books, Serious books, True books, Not-so true books, History books, and Poetry books, you name it. They also are doing frequent local deliveries, though neither are trained obstetricians!"


University of California Press: Beethoven, a Life (1st ed.) by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable


Obituary Note: Jean Little

Canadian children's writer Jean Little, who published more than 50 books, including Dancing Through the Snow, Mama's Going to Buy You a Mockingbird, From Anna and Orphan at My Door, died April 6, CBC reported. She was 88. Little's books often featured children with physical disabilities or facing difficult personal circumstances.

"I try to be realistic and not dodge things that I think are really important to children," she told CBC in 1990. "I remember very clearly, being a child. I remember whole incidents and I remember how I felt and what I said to myself lying in bed and the daydreams I had. What it was like for me being a child is still very much what it was like for children today."

She was a key author in creating and writing the popular Dear Canada series, which told fictional stories about young girls at various moments in Canadian history, CBC noted. She wrote one of the first two titles in the series, Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope, which won the 2001 CLA Book of the Year for Children Award. She wrote four more titles in the series.

Her other books included His Banner over Me, which was inspired by her mother's childhood and her parents' missionary work, as well as two memoirs: Little by Little and Stars Come Out Within. Scholastic Canada has one more planned release, a picture book titled Maya and the Monarch, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, that will be published in 2021.

In 1974, Little was awarded the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, which recognizes an author for their entire body of work. She received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal and was nominated numerous times for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. She was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1993.

"Her grammar was impeccable. She spoke well, she wrote well," friend and picture-book writer Jo Ellen Bogart told Quill & Quire. "You couldn't hang out with a better person, as far as thinking about writing and what it means, and what it does for people. We talked our way through so many books for all those years."


Reflections on Jean Little

For many children, meeting Jean Little was perhaps the first time they'd met an author, but almost certainly the first time they'd met an author with a seeing-eye dog. (She was born with scars on her cornea, partially blind, and her vision worsened as the years went by.) When her book Hey World, Here I Am! came out in 1986, she was traveling on her book tour with her seeing eye dog, Zephyr, and explained to the children that she did her writing with a talking computer called SAM. (They always had lots of questions for her.)

Hey World, Here I Am! marked the return of the narrator from Kate and Look Through My Window. But here, Kate Bloomfield became a mascot for the growing Whole Language Movement. Teachers were turning away from textbooks and toward trade books. Kate's poem "After English Class" expressed how teachers and their students felt about the way textbooks had taken the joy out of literature:

I used to like "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
I liked the coming darkness,
The jingle of harness bells,
breaking--and adding to--the stillness,
The gentle drift of snow...

But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.
The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep--
They all have "hidden meanings."

It's grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,
I don't think I'll bother to stop.

Kate also wrote of notebooks and family squabbles and the first signs of spring. Her poem "Louisa, Louisa," about her best friend's six-week-old baby sister, still makes me tear up: Kate holds baby Louisa and tells her of all the things she has to look forward to, good and bad. Jean Little, a former teacher, never forgot what it was like to be a child, or to be among children. She wrote of anger, disappointment, joy and surprise in ways that validated children. In my copy of Hey World, Here I Am! she inscribed, "Keep reading a Little." You can count on it. --Jennifer M. Brown


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Jigsaw Man
by Nadine Matheson

GLOW: Hanover Square Press: The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley Thriller) by Nadine MathesonAfter some time off, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley returns to field duty with London's Serial Crimes Unit only to find two dead people--pieces of them, that is. The dismemberment reminds Henley of serial killer Peter Olivier, who cut up his victims with a jigsaw. But Henley apprehended him two years earlier, and he's serving life in a high-security prison. Which means there's a copycat killer and Henley must face Olivier again to ask for help. Nadine Matheson's The Jigsaw Man is "a modern Silence of the Lambs," says Hanover Square Press editor John Glynn, "complete with a kickass protagonist and a villain who steals the show." He adds that "Nadine's experience as a criminal defense attorney allows her to inhabit her characters in a visceral way." Readers will experience this thriller the same way, with a punch. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis

(Hanover Square Press, $27.99 hardcover, 9781335146564,
March 16, 2021)

CLICK TO ENTER


#ShelfGLOW
Shelf vetted, publisher supported

 


Notes

Image of the Day: Reading with the Mayor

The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, recently hosted a local dignitary to read children's books with socially distanced bookseller Rob Eckman. "What a treat to have Mayor Erin Mendenhall join us for virtual story time today!" the bookstore noted. "She and Rob shared some of their favorite books, as well as an ovation-worth joint reading of our favorite and yours, The Wide Mouthed Frog! Watch it now right here on Facebook! And remember--stay six feet apart, even when reading together!"


Zibby Owens, Author, Podcaster--and Major Binc Supporter

Zibby Owens is an author, host of a literary salon and the creator and host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books. Vulture has called her "New York's Most Powerful Book-fluencer." A few weeks ago, after reading an article in Shelf Awareness about the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), she made a generous leadership gift to Binc. We spoke with her recently to learn more about it.

Tell us about yourself.
I've always been an avid reader. When I was young, I would often write fan letters to authors c/o their publishing houses and my mom would mail them for me. I became pen pals with the author Zibby Oneal and met her for tea at the Plaza Hotel. I wore a blue silk dress with '80s power shoulder pads. It was a major highlight for me, and ever since I've always thought of authors as rock stars whose words have the power to transport you.

I wanted to be a writer, and when I was just starting high school I wrote an article for Seventeen magazine that received a lot of letters. I thought I was on my way. During college, I interned at Vanity Fair magazine--but was put into the contracts department, and knew I'd never get to write for them. I went back to business school, and on 9/11 lost my best friend in the WTC attack. I wrote about it for the school newspaper; people were shocked at how willing I was to put myself out there. But really what I learned was if I was going to be killed at my desk, it should be for something I genuinely care about, which was writing and books.

How did you come to donate this leadership gift to Binc?
When Covid-19 hit, I kept thinking about how I could help. I opened a Bookshop.org storefront and started hosting live events on social media to talk about books, and it is helping people during this time. Then I heard about Binc through Shelf Awareness, and thought about people who work in bookstores. Binc is not a big faceless corporate entity, it helps specific individuals. They seemed like a really smart charity, and I felt that I could trust them.

Why are bookstores and booksellers so important?
Bookstores are my favorite places in the world, and the people who work in them are the soldiers in the war that I care most about. They are the caretakers of the literary world, the true purveyors of book discovery. That's not to say that a website can't sell books--but there's something very different and so much better about finding a book through from a bookseller that no algorithm can replicate. Indies are in a tight spot right now, and my heart goes out to them. I've always felt that they are my tribe.

What are your favorite bookstores?
Book Hampton, East Hampton, N.Y., and Berry and Co., Sag Harbor, N.Y.

What's next for you?
We're working on launching a new online magazine, We Found Time. It is a literary retreat for anyone who prizes connection and relishes that nod of recognition when they read something that resonates with them. It will have five new exclusive author essays a week about what we feel we don't have time for, and yet do it anyway. Such as work out, eat, breathe, sex, read.

Zibby, we just want to thank you for being such a bright spot in all this darkness. Your contribution to Binc had us all cheering and gave us hope.
You're welcome!! Thank you!


Dance Challenge: #BooksellerHappyDance

A Twitter dance challenge was issued from the U.K. to U.S. indie booksellers by the Snug Bookshop, Bridgwater, which posted: "So it's taking off in the UK... what say you #bookstores of the @ABAbook #USA? #booksellerhappydance."

Earlier, the bookshop had tweeted: "Everytime you buy a book from an independent bookshop, the bookseller does a happy dance like this. #booksellerhappydance @BAbooksellers I challenge @StripeyBadgers and @Bookbugsdragon1.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Haylie Pomroy on Good Morning America

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Haylie Pomroy, author of Cooking for a Fast Metabolism: Eat More Food and Lose More Weight (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358160281).


This Weekend on Book TV: John M. Barry on The Great Influenza

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

Saturday, April 11
1:05 p.m. Alexandra Gillies, author of Crude Intentions: How Oil Corruption Contaminates the World (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780190940706).

5:40 p.m. John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (Penguin Books, $19, 9780143036494). (Re-airs Sunday at 2:10 p.m.)

7:10 p.m. Zach Norris, author of We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities (Beacon Press, $24.95, 9780807029701).

10 p.m. Michelle P. King, author of The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work (Atria, $27, 9781982110925). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Book TV looks back at books about pandemics. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m.)

Sunday, April 12
12:30 a.m. David Plouffe, author of A Citizen's Guide to Beating Donald Trump (Viking, $25, 9781984879493), at Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pa.

10 p.m. Martin Garbus, author of North of Havana: The Untold Story of Dirty Politics, Secret Diplomacy, and the Trial of the Cuban Five (The New Press, $26.99, 9781620974469).


Books & Authors

Awards: Walt Whitman Poetry Winner

Threa Almontaser won the 2020 Walt Whitman Award for her manuscript, The Wild Fox of Yemen, which will be published by Graywolf Press in April 2021.

In addition to publication of her poetry, Almontaser will receive a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy, as well as $5,000. The Academy of American Poets will purchase and send thousands of copies of the book to its members and she will be featured on Poets.org and in American Poets magazine.

Judge Harryette Mullen said: "The spirit of Whitman lives in these poems that sing and celebrate a vibrant, rebellious body with all its physical and spiritual entanglements. Formally and linguistically diverse, these bold, defiant declarations of 'reckless' embodiment acknowledge the self's nesting identities, proclaiming the individual's intricate relations to others, the one in the many and the many in the one. Ultimately, they ask how to belong to others without losing oneself, how to be faithful to oneself without forsaking others. Exuberant dialogues incorporate communities of known and unknown interlocutors along with translations of the Yemeni poet Abdullah Al-Baradouni."

Almontaser is a Yemeni American writer, translator and multimedia artist from New York City. She holds an MFA from North Carolina State University and teaches English to immigrants and refugees in Raleigh, N.C.


Reading Group Choices' Most Popular March Books

The two most popular books in March at Reading Group Choices were Women Rowing North: Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age by Mary Pipher (Bloomsbury) and A Good Neighborhood: A Novel by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin's Press).


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 14:

Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir by Madeleine Albright (Harper, $29.99, 9780062802255) is the memoir of the former Secretary of State.

Masked Prey by John Sandford (Putnam, $29, 9780525539520) is the 30th thriller with Lucas Davenport.

Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two: A Novel by Ann B. Ross (Viking, $27, 9780525560517) is the 21st Miss Julia mystery.

Margot and the Moon Landing by A.C. Fitzpatrick, illus. by Erika Medina (Annick Press, $18.95, 9781773213606) is a picture book about a young girl in love with space who wakes up one morning only able to recite Neil Armstrong's famous speech from the moon landing.

Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9781368041867) is a post-apocalyptic YA novel in which Life and Death begin a ruthless competition centered around one small, Oklahoma town suffering in the Dust Bowl.

Paperback:
Mayhem: Unanswered Questions about the Tsarnaev Brothers, the US Government and the Boston Marathon Bombing by Michele R. McPhee (Steerforth, $17, 9781586422615) revises and updates a previously published investigation into the Boston Marathon Bombing.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
The Animals at Lockwood Manor: A Novel by Jane Healey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780358106401). "During World War II, Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor to take care of specimens from a natural history museum in London. The hosts of the large manor, the controlling Major and his anxious daughter, Lucy, welcome Hetty and the specimens but don't fully understand her. As time passes, there are ghosts, unexplained visitors, fears, and moving animals that make the job of safekeeping the animals and fossils difficult. This book is a page-turner, a thriller, a love story, and a moving story with surprises." --Lauren Zimmerman, The Writer's Block Bookstore, Winter Park, Fla.

Hardcover
We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel by Quan Barry (Pantheon, $26.95, 9781524748098). "This is such a fun romp! It has everything you could possibly want in a book: field hockey, witches, and '80s bangs that have literally taken on a life of their own. Set in Salem in the 1980s, we follow a group of high school field hockey players as they struggle with their new dark powers and attempt to end their losing streak. One of the strangest, most satisfying books I have read in a long time!" --Hillary Smith, Copperfield's Books, Calistoga, Calif.

Paperback
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury, $18, 9781635574760). "Madden has no limits when it comes to the ones she loves--her cool and free older friends, her Internet-famous first girlfriend, her mother, her father, and us, the fortunate readers. She accomplishes one of the great feats of a memoir: in telling the story of her life, she translates its remarkable aspects (for one, her father worked for Jordan Belfort and was, yes, a wolf of Wall Street) while making the commonplace (love for one's parents) remarkable. Her prose is a Lisa Frank-racetrack-Hawaiian shirt phantasmagoria that I couldn't get enough of. And, man, that last section--it'll knock you loose." --Molly Moore, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

For Ages 4 to 8
Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana, illus. by Raul Colón (Make Me a World, $17.99, 9781524717544). "This book is too gorgeous for words! I absolutely loved it. The illustrations are works of art and perfectly balance the text. A stunning book for bedtime with a special nod to Carl Sagan fans. We're all made of star stuff." --Brandi Stewart, Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim (Kokila, $16.99, 9780525554974). "Yumi Chung has a dream of being a stand-up comedian, but her parents aren't on board. Suddenly, Yumi finds herself with a chance to attend a summer camp with her all-time favorite comedian, except everyone thinks Yumi is someone else. This book is hilarious, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at once. And in the end, you will absolutely be standing up and cheering for Yumi Chung!" --Sarah True, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

For Teen Readers
Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin, $17.95, 9781616208967). "Haunting and magical, Tigers, Not Daughters follows the lives of three young women one year after the death of their eldest sister, Ana--and it seems her presence still lingers. There's Iridian, the writer; Rosa, the quiet observer; and Jessica, who strives to become the embodiment of who Ana once was. Now Ana leaves ominous signs and messages for her sisters, but whether she's warning them or antagonizing them, none can say. Mabry's writing is so lyrical and enrapturing, I would have been happy to follow the Torres girls wherever their intuitive hearts took them long after the last page." --Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup (Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 hardcover, 368p., 9781472958228, May 5, 2020)

William Shakespeare took simple ideas and wove them, with rich detail, into poetry and prose that astoundingly still resonates centuries later. Throughout much of his work, he layered in empathy and understanding about life and death.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the grim reality of death was pervasive. The average life expectancy in England during Shakespeare's time was roughly age 38. Commonplace in the era were widespread illness, contagious disease and plagues; starvation and violent excesses; murder and suicide; venereal diseases and deaths from childbirth; witchcraft; war and public executions. With that in mind, how could Shakespeare not weave the drama of lurking death, complete with blood, gruesomeness and gore, into his stories--tragedies, histories and comedies--that played out on the Renaissance stage?

These facts drew chemist and author Kathryn Harkup (A Is for Arsenic) to explore facets of death in the Bard's dramatic works and to examine death through the detailed prism of analytical science. Did Shakespeare capture the essence of death with accuracy? Were the hangings, burnings at the stake and beheadings prevalent in his plays about Henry V and Henry VI rendered authentically? Were the poisoning in Hamlet, the snakebite that did in Cleopatra and the catastrophic emotional grief inherent in Romeo and Juliet authentic? How and where did William Shakespeare gain his knowledge and insight--and how might he have come to understand the complex vulnerabilities that lead to processes of death?

Harkup leaves no stone unturned in her immensely thorough and compelling distillation of the Bard's work, Death by Shakespeare. She starts with his humble beginnings in the 1500s and his rise to prominence, setting his ascendency amid the challenges of the time and the context of other playwrights of his era. From there, she cites specific works, examining the role of doctors, quacks and apothecaries in many of his plays, from Dr. Caius in The Merry Wives of Windsor to the female practitioner Helena who successfully treats the king of France after male physicians have failed in All's Well that Ends Well. Through an intricate dissection of Shakespearean plays, Harkup breaks down and analyzes methods of death, destruction and peril, and delves into how Elizabethan actors might have been bloodied up for battles of war using lye or slow coagulating sheep's blood; how the 33 stab wounds that murdered Julius Caesar were re-enacted on stage; and if a real skull might have been used (whose?) when Hamlet delivered his famous soliloquy.

Harkup's expertise leans toward the scientific. Her riveting storytelling, however, is refreshingly accessible. Her narrative will attract and intrigue readers who appreciate the macabre, eager for the enriching wisdom offered by two masters in their fields. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A fascinating, thorough examination and scientific analysis of notable deaths that pervade the stage works of William Shakespeare.


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