Also published on this date: Wednesday, May 13, 2020: Maximum Shelf: Cuyahoga

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 13, 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

In Memoriam: S&S President and CEO Carolyn Reidy

Carolyn Reidy

We are deeply saddened to report that Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, died suddenly yesterday morning of a heart attack. She had turned 71 on May 2.

Reidy joined S&S in 1992 as president of the trade division, became president of the adult publishing group in 2001 and was promoted to head of the company in 2008. Before joining S&S, she was president and publisher of Avon Books, and earlier worked at William Morrow and Random House, where she was publisher of Vintage Books and associate publisher of the Random House imprint. She began her publishing career in 1974 in the subsidiary rights department of Random House. She graduated from Middlebury College and then received a master's and doctorate in English from Indiana University.

After the news of her death was announced, shocked and grieving people from around the book world offered tributes and shared memories of a woman known for her publishing and marketing savvy, her business acumen, her curiosity, her way of urging all to do their best, her rapport with people, her great laugh and sense of humor, and her lovely personal touch, which included sending handwritten notes of thanks and congratulations to staff, authors and others in the business.

In the official announcement of her death, Dennis Eulau, executive v-p, operations, & CFO of S&S, wrote in part, that Carolyn was "both an exemplary leader and a supremely talented and visionary publishing executive" who in 28 years with the company was "a vital and energetic force... leading us to unprecedented growth on both the domestic and international fronts, and steering us through the transition to publishing in the digital era.

"As a publisher and a leader, Carolyn pushed us to stretch to do just that little bit more; to do our best and then some for our authors, in whose service she came to work each day with an unbridled and infectious enthusiasm and great humor. Her fierce intelligence and curiosity, and her determination to know everything about a given subject if it could help us to be better, were matched by her complete and total accessibility: she wrote congratulatory notes to employees when they were promoted, and colleagues in every corner of our company always felt that they had a first-person relationship with her, and that they could reach out to her to discuss any subject and receive a thoughtful response in return...

"A fierce leader, loyal friend and passionate supporter, Carolyn inspired me and challenged me every day that we worked together. She had the rare combination of business acumen and creative genius that made her a once-in-a-lifetime publishing executive. She walked through life with an abundance of joy, and loved to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones of her colleagues and friends with great generosity and fanfare. That so many of us at Simon & Schuster have been friends and colleagues with her for many, many years says everything about the kind of person and leader she was, and we will all miss her terribly."

In a statement (via the Bookseller), Ian Chapman, CEO and publisher of Simon & Schuster UK and International, said in part, "Carolyn was empowering, inspiring, approachable to every member of the company... I learned and was still learning from her every day and I know that I will continue to hear her voice in my ear, full of wisdom, candour, humour and determination. Carolyn was truly international in her outlook, too, and relished her visits to London, to Sydney and to New Delhi when we opened our office there.... Even 3,500 miles away Carolyn was a constant and vital presence in our publishing lives. I speak for everyone in the companies that I oversee when I say that we all owe Carolyn a tremendous amount and will miss her beyond measure."

Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, which owns S&S and has said it is interested in selling the company, told the Wall Street Journal: "Carolyn was a passionate and beloved leader, who helped make Simon & Schuster what it is today: one of the most successful and respected consumer publishing houses in the business."

Bob Woodward, a longtime S&S author, told the AP that she was "one of the great publishers and book people of all time" and praised her as "both tough and generous."

Jennifer Egan, who is an S&S author and president of PEN America, said in part, "PEN America joins the entire literary community in mourning the incalculable loss of Carolyn Reidy, a primal force in publishing and a longtime supporter of our organization--both in her capacity as Simon & Schuster CEO and personally--as well as a revered and beloved champion of writers. Carolyn was a literary giant, a leader who artfully navigated the upheavals of publishing to amplify a wide range of voices reflective of our lived world. Curious, kind, and ever approachable, she was that rare publisher who would send a handwritten letter to a writer, praising her most recent book. Carolyn believed in every story she touched, and ushered our works into the wider world with passion, care, and decades of expertise.

"Carolyn was also a champion of free expression who embraced her role as a publisher in encouraging and protecting it. In a speech she gave to PEN America two years ago [when she was a PEN America Publisher Honoree], she said, 'In our country, too many voices are marginalized, or powerless, and through our choices of what to publish we have the ability and the obligation to help change that.' By embodying those principles, Carolyn expanded the literary universe of countless writers and enriched American culture. While her loss is enormous, equally so is the shining example of her legacy."

We at Shelf Awareness can tell you from years of personal experience that working with Carolyn, and especially seeing her, was always a treat. From our earliest days, her belief and support in what we were doing filled our tanks. She was always candid, wise and uncompromising in her expectance of excellence. Every time we met with her she'd have marching orders for the Shelf, and she kept us on our toes to the point where at times, we felt like honorary S&S employees. But she always did it with the goal of helping the industry, and encouraging us to be the best Shelf we could be. She was the embodiment of everything you could hope for in a "big cool friend" with the added bonus of her warmth, fun and generosity. We will especially miss her laugh, no BS demeanor and her amazing tips about her beloved Paris.


Grove Press: Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart


Walker Books and Candlewick Acquired by Trustbridge Global Media

Walker Books and its global subsidiaries, which include Candlewick Press, have been acquired by Trustbridge Global Media, the global children's content company formed in 2016 by growth equity firm Trustbridge Partners. Prior to the sale, Walker was majority-owned by trusts for the benefit of the group's officers and employees and their families.

The acquisition was called "an important step forward" for the Walker group of companies, which includes Walker Books UK (London); Candlewick Press (Somerville, Mass.); Walker Books Australia (Sydney) and Walker Productions (London), "with enhanced ability to access new markets and is expected to help accelerate the company's growth and expansion in publishing and other media."

Both companies emphasized that the transaction was completed on the same terms that had been negotiated earlier this year, before the Covid-19 global pandemic hit. Walker and Trustbridge said they "see this as a long-term investment in the creation of intellectual property that will be enjoyed for generations."

Walker was first approached by Trustbridge about the acquisition "based on their shared commitment to building quality content for children and Walker's global reputation," according to the announcement, which noted: "It is expected that the sale will strengthen Walker by providing a stronger capital base for expansion while also preserving the culture of the company as an independent and creatively-led organization." The group's business strategy will remain focused on promoting its multiple lists of titles for children and young adults, as well as the development of key franchises and properties via licensing and multimedia development.

No changes to operations are contemplated. The group will continue to be led by longtime managing director Karen Lotz, with Roger Alexander continuing as non-executive chairman. The Walker Group is expected to remain headquartered in its current Vauxhall, London offices and its subsidiaries will retain their respective sites as well.

"We are tremendously excited to be working with Karen Lotz and her colleagues," said Dan Sullivan, vice-chairman of Trustbridge Partners. "Walker and Candlewick represent an exceptionally strong strategic fit for TGM, where the highest priority is placed on building children's content of quality and enduring value for young people around the world.”

Lotz commented: "For the past 40 years, Walker has charted an independent path into markets around the world under the twin guiding lights of quality and a commitment to the primacy of reading in the lives of children and young adults. Now we are looking forward to an exciting new chapter as part of the Trustbridge family. On behalf of our hardworking and devoted staff, as well as our incredibly talented authors and illustrators, the directors and Trustees are delighted to know that the future of the company will be supported to its full potential in this generous and compelling way."


House of Anansi Press: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson


Romance Bookstore Opens in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Sleepless in Laguna, a romance bookstore and gift shop, has partly opened in Laguna Beach, Calif. Owners Joe Anzenberger and Lisa Ann Reed had planned a "normal" opening in March, but were unable to because of the state's stay-at-home order, Patch reported.

Last Friday, after Orange County began allowing "low-risk" business to reopen for curbside service, Sleepless in Laguna opened outdoors, which included having curbside tables with books and gifts for people to browse. The items included packaged gifts suitable for Mother's Day. The store had disposable gloves "for those who want to thumb through a title." It is also selling online.

Sleepless in Laguna features a selection of romance titles and gifts. (The store says its specialty is "a good love story, and in particular the Romance genre.") Anzenberger and Reed told Patch that during the lockdown period they tackled a large number of hurdles, "from the ordinary permit and city issues to figuring out how to sell books amid the coronavirus crisis."


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


Lit. Bar's Santos Joins NYC Reopening Council

Noëlle Santos, owner of the Lit. Bar in the Bronx, has been appointed to New York City's small business reopening advisory council. On Facebook, Santos posted: "I'm proud to be appointed to NYC's Advisory Board and help shape our reopening alongside these brilliant leaders. The Bronx is the epicenter of COVID-19's epicenter; rest assured I will be shaking the table on behalf of our community's small businesses, families, and city-wide bookstores." 

Noelle Santos

In anticipation of the gradual reopening of businesses in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio put together 10 industry-specific advisory councils. EATER reported that the reopening strategy for the city's restaurants and bars will be guided by the small business advisory council, led by deputy mayors Vicki Been and Phil Thompson.

According to the mayor's office, the advisors will act as "critical links" to guide city officials on best reopening practices. Each member will also be responsible for disseminating information about the reopening among their local communities.

EATER noted that "small businesses located in the Bronx have been particularly underrepresented in local financial aid disbursements throughout the crisis," citing a Gothamist report that out of the $20 million in relief loans provided by NYC's Small Business Services, Bronx business owners have received only $80,000, or about 1% of the total aid available.


How Bookstores Are Coping: Reopening with Limits

In Summerville, S.C., Main Street Reads has been open for browsing for limited hours since last week. Owner Shari Stauch reported that because her store is only 1,000 sq. ft., she's allowing one customer in at a time, and she's been working in the back while one of her two staffers is at the register. Stauch has installed a plexiglass shield at the cash wrap and she and her staff are doing "lots and lots of cleaning" after every customer leaves the store.

She's added tables throughout the store, where customers can leave books they've taken off the shelves, making it easier to find and sanitize them. Stauch has also purchased a UV wand, which can sanitize books without getting them wet. The table idea, Stauch added, came from one of the ABA's Zoom calls, while the UV wand idea was a tip from another bookseller.

Stauch and her staff are wearing masks, and she's asking customers to wear them as well. Most of her customers have come in already wearing masks, although there have been a few "walk-ins" without them. In those instances, Stauch explained, she tells customers that while they're welcome to look around this time, they should absolutely wear masks if they return.

Since reopening for browsing, she's seen a slight uptick in sales, but it's gone from around 10% of her normal sales to 20%. Many of her customers are choosing to stick with curbside pickup or direct-to-home orders, and while Stauch said her community has been great about supporting the store, some 70% of her business usually comes from tourists. Generally speaking, she added, she's doing a lot less business but much more work.

While in Baltimore, Md., for Winter Institute in January, Stauch created a Bookshop affiliate page, and she said she's now so glad that she did. It was "completely dead" for a while, but when things started to shut down in earnest in early April, people began flocking to it. Looking ahead, Stauch wants to host more online events, including a Zoom happy hour, and she's trying to figure out ways to work around the industry's disrupted distribution channels and supply chain.

 

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Last Friday, many businesses throughout California were able to reopen on a limited basis provided they limit operations to curbside pickup. However, DIESEL, a bookstore in Brentwood and Del Mar, have still been offering curbside pickup throughout the shutdown, said co-owner John Evans. 

Evans reported that he and co-owner Alison Reid have viewed themselves as essential, and their plan is to keep doing what they've been doing. They have no intention of opening any more than they already were. Hopefully people will now be more aware that they're available for pickup, though Evans did say he was concerned that there might be some confusion among shoppers about what this reopening really means.

In March and April, Evans and Reid tried to suspend all of their shipments except for those coming from Ingram, and stopped ordering frontlist titles almost entirely. Over the past couple of weeks they've begun slowly reopening things with various publishers and ordering frontlist on a limited basis.

At the Brentwood store, which is located in West Los Angeles, things have been much busier than Del Mar, which is near San Diego. As busy as the Brentwood store is, and as much as Evans and Reid have been working, sales are hovering at only 20%-30% of normal. The hope and expectation is that business will increase over the weeks to come, and he and Reid are working with staff members to figure out who is coming back and when.

There's no clear indication yet of when California bookstores might be able to reopen for browsing, but Evans said that when they do, they plan to limit the number of customers in store at a time and have staff and customers wear facemasks. Beyond that, he continued, it seems "pretty impossible" to predict what the summer and fall might look like for their own stores, let alone the industry.

"I'm deeply worried that so many bookstores are going to go bankrupt and close," said Evans, noting that he has not received a PPP loan or gotten any relief from landlords. His hope, he added, is that this crisis helps show the industry's structural inequities "in high relief," and helps galvanize booksellers to make change, "with or without publishers."

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Dorothy Pittman, owner of Horton's Books & Gifts in Carrollton, Ga., said she reopened for browsing as soon as the state allowed, which was on May 1. Throughout the month of April she was doing online orders and curbside pickup, and she set up a cart outside so people could still grab newspapers.

Under the state's reopening guidelines, 10 people are allowed in for every 500 sq. ft., and Pittman reported that occupancy has not been an issue. There are disinfectant wipes at the doors, so customers can sanitize when they enter and when they leave, and Pittman and her small team are wiping down doors, shelves and carts frequently. Pittman is not requiring customers to wear facemasks, though she does recommend it.

"We give the customer the option," said Pittman. "If they want to wear their mask, they can. If they want to sanitize, they can."

While things have been a little slow since she reopened, a lot of people have said they're glad the store is open for browsing again. Horton's is located in downtown Carrollton, near many restaurants, and Pittman hopes that as more people return to restaurants, she'll start seeing more foot traffic.


International Update: U.K. Booksellers Divided on Reopening; Contact Tracing in N.Z.

Booksellers in the U.K. are divided regarding whether they will reopen if permitted to do so by the government as part of a phased exit from the coronavirus lockdown. According to a survey by the Bookseller, close to a third of respondents, "including a mix of independent and chain booksellers, said they would go back to work, if allowed, but 29% said they would not, while 36% said they did not know." The survey is still open.

"I would not feel safe working in such close and frequent contact with customers," one bookseller said, while another responded: "If safety precautions are suitably in place, then a tentative return is acceptable and understandable. Whether the boss of a (large) independent will ensure such measures without strong public pressure is a question that remains to be answered. I foresee a return fraught with anxiety. I am preparing for some period of work in which conditions aren't satisfactory, and expect that active pressure from staff to improve measures will be required."

Topping booksellers' priorities list of measures that need to be put in place was a strict monitoring of the number of customers allowed in the store, the implementation of social distancing rules, and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment.

Sheryl Shurville, co-owner of Chiltern Bookshops in Chorleywood and Gerrards Cross, said: "If we can open on June 1, that's still weeks away. We have bought our plastic screens, we've got our face masks, we are set to go really. We have two smallish shops that could easily manage one or two people--whatever the guidelines prescribe--coming into the shop."

Richard Drake, owner of Drake-The Bookshop in Stockton, observed: "It must be a crazily difficult thing trying to balance health and economy, and I guess we will find out that on a small scale come June. Our main concern is everyone's safety.... It will be interesting to see how quickly people feel comfortable enough to visit the high street again."

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Add contact tracing to the list of responsibilities for some booksellers. Another Chapter Bookshop, Wellington, New Zealand, posted on Facebook: "The change to Level 2 this week means we are able to re-open on Thursday. Yes, we're back! As required of us, we will be asking all our customers to provide details for a contact tracing register."

Muirs Bookshop and Café, Gisborne, shared a photo of its chalkboard listing Alert Level 2 rules, including #4: "We do need to record your name + number. This is not a pick-up attempt!"

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"Another step towards the normal that we knew (with social distancing)," Kool Skool-The Book Store, Gurugram, India, noted in sharing a Facebook post from Penguin Random House India featuring several photos to announce: "Some exciting news from us! Our warehouse is resuming operations under strict social distancing norms, as set by the government. We'll soon have your favorite books #BackToBookstores so that you can continue to #ReadFromHome!"


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)

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#ShelfGLOW
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Notes

Kidlit Coronavirus-fighting Ideas

Children's and YA authors are carrying on producing quarantine-entertainment for their kid, tween and teen readers. Starting today, YA authors Dhonielle Clayton and Nic Stone will, in Stone's words, "chat it up with some of our favorite 2020 debuts (and a couple of 2019s that changed my life, don't @ me)." Every day at 2 p.m. EST for the rest of May, Clayton and Stone will host an Instagram live featuring an upcoming author. Also on Instagram is Christian Robinson's Sunday Making Space video posts--each episode features "a special theme (gratitude, friendship, perseverance, caregivers), an art activity and sometimes a special guest." (These videos can also be found on YouTube.) Eileen the Storyteller, Mother of Puppets, hosts bilingual Spanish/English KidTime StoryTime read-alouds of picture books on YouTube.

The collaboration between Penguin Young Readers, Random House Children's Books and PBS Kids, "Mondays with Michelle Obama," is being extended with four new storytimes on Monday, May 18, and Monday, May 25. "Mondays with Michelle Obama" will be livestreamed simultaneously on the PBS Kids' Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as on Penguin Random House's Facebook page, and will remain available for viewing on all of the platforms.

Groundwood Publishing put out a call to its Spring 2020 authors and illustrators to create content to help entertain and educate families stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Readings, interactive lessons, a poetry contest and more can be found here and by searching for the hashtag #ReadingApartTogether on social media platforms. The HarperCollins Children's School & Library Hub continues regularly to post new content, and Magination Press, the American Psychological Association's children's book imprint, is offering free resources on its website "from authors and psychologists to help caregivers manage their kids' stress and anxiety, while developing mindfulness." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Bookstock2020 Starting This Weekend

Bookstock 2020, an online books and music festival spearheaded by Eddy Nix, musician and owner of Driftless Books and Music in Viroqua, Wis., will run this coming weekend, May 15-17, with the goal of celebrating musicians and independent bookstores while raising money for both.

Indie booksellers, authors and musicians are all invited to participate. Musicians can record individual songs or entire sets, while authors and booksellers can record messages about their own or their favorite bookstores. Messages by and about specific bookstores will be played between sets during the festival, and participating indies are encouraged to try to team up with local musicians. Donations will go directly to participating bookstores and musicians.

More information can be found here.


B&N's May Book Club Pick: All Adults Here

Barnes & Noble has chosen All Adults Here by Emma Straub (Riverhead) as its May national book club selection. The book will be the focus of a live event on B&N's Facebook page featuring Emma Straub in conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert on Tuesday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

Jackie De Leo, vice president, bookstore, called All Adults Here "a multigenerational novel about one family and how we never stop growing up. [It] is a tale of the complexity and unbreakable bonds of family that our readers are sure to enjoy, and we hope everyone is able to join us at our virtual event next month."

"I'm totally thrilled for All Adults Here to be the May Barnes & Noble Book Club selection--it's an incredible honor for one of the biggest bookstores in the world to pick my novel," said Emma Straub. "I can't wait to celebrate with a big, very glamorous virtual event in June! My friend Elizabeth Gilbert is an expert in so many things--love, forgiveness, family--and I know we'll have a fantastic conversation."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mo Willems on Tonight

Today:
Fresh Air: Dr. David Fajgenbaum, author of Chasing My Cure: A Doctor's Race to Turn Hope into Action: A Memoir (Ballantine Books, $27, 9781524799618).

Tomorrow:
Tonight Show: Mo Willems, author, most recently, of Time to Pee! Board Book (Hyperion, $7.99, 9781368047661).


TV: The Lying Life of Adults

Netflix and Fandango are partnering to develop a series based on The Lying Life of Adults, the latest novel by Elena Ferrante. Released by Edizioni E/O in Italy last November, the book will be launched globally in 25 countries September 1 and published in English by Europa Editions U.S. and U.K.

"Elena Ferrante books have inspired and captivated audiences in Italy and around the world, and we are thrilled to bring her latest endeavor to the screens of our global audience," said Felipe Tewes, director of local language original series at Netflix. "We are also excited to continue our partnership with Fandango, and invest in more unique Made in Italy stories that we believe will resonate in Italy and around the world."

Fandango's founder Domenico Procacci commented: "We are very happy to continue telling the world of Elena Ferrante. The Lying Life of Adults, published by our friends at E/O,  tells another, close but different, part of that world. It will be a great adventure and we are happy to partner with Netflix, with which we now have a strong and consolidated relationship."



Books & Authors

Awards: Joyce Carol Oates; Helen Bernstein

Daniel Mason has won the $50,000 2020 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, which honors a "mid-career author of fiction who has earned a distinguished reputation and the widespread approbation and gratitude of readers" and is administered by the Simpson Literary Project. Mason is the author of The Winter Soldier (Little, Brown), among other works of fiction.

Simpson Literary Project chair Joseph Di Prisco called Mason "a transporting writer of prodigious imagination and power. He writes with such immense confidence that readers are invited to take the leap--into the past as well as into themselves. In fact, he challenges us to re-think the very concept of historical fiction. Because in his breathtakingly beautiful prose, he simultaneously compels us to reimagine and re-engage our present world. 'Timeless' is a descriptor often casually invoked by reviewers, though it is most deserving in the case of Daniel Mason's enduring work. He elegantly represents the Prize's aspirations, because he is an emerged writer whose prospective, continual emergence promises to be limitless."

Joyce Carol Oates said, "The Winter Soldier is a deeply moving, imaginatively audacious achievement: the evoking of a bygone world with such precision, such richness of detail and empathy, the reader is reminded of those scenes in Tolstoy's War and Peace that bring us into the very narrative, as if we were, not readers peering back into an historic past, but contemporaries of that past caught up in its heartrending drama. Those with a particular interest in the history of medical science will be fascinated by Daniel Mason's young doctor's medical adventures in the most primitive of settings--the battlefield."

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Rachel Louise Snyder has won the New York Public Library's $15,000 2020 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury Publishing).

The Library said that "No Visible Bruises frames an urgent and immersive account of the scale of domestic violence in our country around key stories that explode the common myths--that if things were bad enough, victims would just leave; that a violent person cannot become nonviolent; that shelter is an adequate response; and most insidiously that violence inside the home is a private matter, sealed from the public sphere and disconnected from other forms of violence. Through the stories of victims, perpetrators, law enforcement, and reform movements from across the country, Snyder explores the real roots of private violence, its far-reaching consequences for society, and what it will take to truly address it."

The paperback version of No Visible Bruises will be released June 9.

Runners-up were:
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Random House)
Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon (Random House)
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle (Viking)
The Outlaw Ocean: Journey's Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina (Knopf)


Reading with... Rebecca Stead

photo: Faye Bender

Rebecca Stead is the author of When You Reach Me, which won the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction; Liar & Spy, which won the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction; and Goodbye Stranger, which was a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book for Fiction. She lives in New York City with her family and can be found on Twitter. The List of Things That Will Not Change is available from Wendy Lamb/Random House Children's Books.

On your nightstand now:

From the Desk of Zoe Washington (a middle-grade novel by Janae Marks), Alone with All That Could Happen (a book about writing by David Jauss), War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (I'm auditing a class at Columbia), the Horn Book and the New Yorker. I like to have a range of choices at bedtime.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was very young, I loved Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban, which is the first book I remember reading to myself.

Later, I loved Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Paula Danziger and stories about kids like me--preferably sensitive, apartment-dwelling kids with divorced parents.

Still later in childhood, I fell for science fiction and fantasy--Robert A. Heinlein's Red Planet was a particularly special one for me.

Your top five authors:

A true "top five" feels impossible, but some of my greatest reading joys were brought to me by Alice Munro, Junot Díaz, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri and Kazuo Ishiguro.

If you're guessing that I love short stories, you're right. A beautiful, intimate short story makes me feel closer to the world.

Book you've faked reading:

War and Peace. And I was really determined to read it! (See above.) I can't seem to get past part 1. I will keep trying.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard. I have never read another book as uncompromised as this novel about a young boy's experience in the Warsaw Ghetto. I didn't cry at all while reading it, and then found myself utterly swamped about 10 minutes after I finished.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can't think of one!

Book you hid from your parents:

I didn't hide it because I was allowed to read anything, but I'm part of the first Forever... (by Judy Blume) generation. I knew the page on which a certain thing happened and lent my book to fifth- or sixth-grade classmates, who may have hidden it from their parents.

Book that changed your life:

I felt changed by Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. It enlarged me, somehow, and made me feel like a different kind of reader--a reader who could jump. I read it in high school and wrote my senior paper on it. I would not, however, want to reread that paper now.

Favorite line from a book:

"Which, of course, Mrs. Bobbin knew. Better than the duchess." It's the last line of William Steig's Brave Irene. I love that book and I'm always moved by the ending because it confirms what you knew all along, which is that Irene's heroism is all about her love for her mom, not the duchess.

Five books you'll never part with:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Drown by Junot Díaz
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
Alice Munro's Selected Stories

All are subtle, complicated, beautifully crafted and, for me, hugely affecting. This is what inspires me as both a reader and a writer.

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

Either A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle or Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But there's a catch: I want to read them again for the first time as an 11-year-old. I believe in the semi-magical childhood-reading window (yes, I just invented that). I love books now, of course, but the experience of reading books as a child was powerful in a way I can't recapture as an adult.


Book Review

Children's Review: Nana Akua Goes to School

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illus. by April Harrison (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780525581130, June 16, 2020)

As Nana Akua Goes to School begins, Zura's teacher tells the kids about the following Monday's Grandparents' Day celebration: "Each of you will bring your grandparents to school so they can share what makes them special." Lucky for readers and for Zura, her grandmother has a fascinating cultural tradition that, in her first book for kids, Tricia Elam Walker presents with extraordinary grace and nimbleness.

Nana Akua is plenty special: she grew up in West Africa and gives Zura fantastic hugs. But Nana Akua is also special in a way that makes Zura nervous. When the old woman was a child in Ghana, her parents permanently marked her face so that she would match her tribal family. Zura knows that the marks "represent beauty and confidence," but one day at the park she saw a child point to Nana Akua and say, "That lady looks scary."

After Zura invites Nana Akua to the celebration, she admits her concern: "What if someone at school laughs at you or acts mean?" Nana Akua has an idea. She suggests that on Monday they bring along the quilt that she made for Zura's bed, which features traditional Ghanaian symbols--"Even though they are not exactly the same as the marks on my face, they can help explain them."

The text of Nana Akua Goes to School has a treacly moment or two, but this is offset by the clear-sighted storytelling. Walker anticipates young readers' questions with Mr. Rogers-like perceptiveness. Nana Akua tells the class, "Most Ghanaian parents don't celebrate in this way anymore, but it was once an important tradition." She offers a contextualizing insight: "In this country I often notice people who put tattoos on their body that have special meanings." Then Nana Akua produces some makeup so that she can give the kids temporary face marks inspired by the symbols on Zura's quilt.

The story's quilt motif carries over into April Harrison's (What Is Given from the Heart) mixed-media collages. Leaning heavily on chartreuse, lavender and robin's-egg blue, she cobbles together elements that have their own distinct patterns and textures, giving each page a patchwork look. All of Harrison's illustrations are dazzlers, but Nana Akua Goes to School's most striking image has to be the close-up of the old woman's kind face, the soft parallel lines on her cheeks prominent. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: In this eye-opening picture book, a girl has mixed feelings about bringing her Ghanaian-born grandmother, whose face bears tribal marks, to school for a Grandparents' Day celebration.


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