Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 17, 2021


Atheneum Books: Bulldozer's Christmas Dig by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster

Other Press: Lemon by Yeo-Sun Kwon, translated by Janet Hong

Ballantine Books: The Maid by Nita Prose

News

Pamlico Books Opens in Washington, N.C.

Pamlico Books, a general-interest independent bookstore, has opened in Washington, N.C. Owners Tom and Deb Ryan, both former teachers, carry books for all ages and for every interest, along with a selection of toys, gifts and games. They decided to open a store of their own after moving to Washington and learning that there was no independent bookstore.

The 1,400 square-foot shop is located on one of Washington's two main shopping streets, in a historic building that required significant renovations. Tom Ryan noted that the highlight of said renovations was restoring the building's original tin ceiling.

He added that the Washington community has been enthusiastic about and supportive of their efforts, and "almost every customer who has come in has said how glad they are to have a bookstore again."

The owners hope gradually to expand their event offerings and become "stitched into the community fabric." They'll offer free college counseling workshops, children's storytime sessions and events with local authors and reading groups.


House of Anansi Press: Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan


B&N Closes North Dallas Store 

Barnes & Noble has closed its store at Preston Royal Village shopping center in Dallas, Tex., "after it was unable to reach a lease agreement with its landlord, Edens, that would allow the store to remain open," the Morning News reported, adding that B&N is looking for another location nearby. 

"We have truly enjoyed serving our customers from this location for the past 15 years and appreciate their loyalty and support," B&N spokeswoman Amelia Mulinder said. "However, we were unfortunately unable to reach a commercial agreement with our landlord to keep this store open.... We hope to reopen in a new location as close as possible to this one, as we are doing with newly designed stores in many communities nationwide. We hope that one will be back in the area before too long."


GLOW: Clarion Books: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman


International Update: England's Covid-19 Restrictions Extended, Norway's 2020 Book Sales Up

Members of the British book trade said they are disappointed and will have to adapt after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the easing of England's final lockdown restrictions until July 19, the Bookseller reported. The government had planned to lift all restrictions June 21, but will extend them to allow for a two-week review.

Some indie booksellers must rethink events they had planned, while Burley Fisher Books, Hackney, which was due to have a physical launch in July, is remaining cautious. "I felt fairly certain that the lifting of restrictions would be pushed back, so we don't have any substantial planning until September," said owner Sam Fisher. "Our big concern would be the festival we are throwing in October, but that's still looking like it will probably be able to go ahead."

Patrick Neale of Jaffe & Neale, Chipping Norton, noted that while the shop had some outdoor events planned and is trying to figure out how to proceed, "I really don't want an autumn or winter lockdown, so would prefer to knock this on the head now. I am more concerned that the rest of the town is suffering so that a visit to Chipping Norton is less appealing. Otherwise book sales remain strong."

Sanchita Basu de Sarkar, owner of the Children's Bookshop, London, commented: "It's very disappointing that we can't hold our in-store events yet--but I'm not surprised, and have been prepared for this for a few weeks now. And it's for the best--what we really can't afford is another wave or localized restrictions coming six weeks later."

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Norwegians increased their book purchases during the pandemic, with new statistics showing that sales rose by 9% in 2020. The European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported that the increase resulted in sales of approximately NOK5.4 billion (about $6.4 million). Physical book trade and online book trade are added together in the statistics, showing growth of 3.3%. Sales of streamed books now represented 7% of the total market. Compared to 2019, the number of listens in Storytel, Fabel and Ebok plus increased by 26%, to 6.6 million.

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Dutch wholesaler CB (Centraal Boekhuis) has launched a campaign to encourage booksellers to return their received book boxes so that they can be reused, EIBF NewsFlash reported. The text "Grant this box a second date'" is printed on the new CB boxes, and the company hopes to recover more empty boxes than is already the case and to save more cardboard. --Robert Gray


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!


How Bookstores Are Coping: Nontraditional Business Model; 'Plans and Back-up Plans'

In Long Beach, Calif., Bel Canto Books resides in a larger retail collective called The Hangout, owner Jhoanna Belfer explained. Belfer's bookstore spans around 400 square feet of The Hangout's 4,000 square foot total, and Belfer noted that the collective dropped its mask requirement pretty much as soon as the state of California officially loosened its pandemic restrictions on Tuesday.

Things are now essentially on the honor system, Belfer continued, with people deciding for themselves whether they need to wear a mask. Noting that she plans to continue wearing one for the immediate future, Belfer said she agrees with the honor system choice, feeling it is "unreasonable to ask businesses to police the public."

While it's only been a short while since those restrictions were lifted, she's observed that roughly half of the collective's shoppers are still wearing masks. She emphasized that throughout the pandemic, community members have been very good about wearing masks and respecting business owners who are still asking for them.

Belfer opened Bel Canto Books in November 2019, just a few months before the pandemic began. Asked what it was like navigating the first few months of the pandemic as such a new store, Belfer answered that Bel Canto's nontraditional business model proved a blessing. At the time the physical store was a single bookshelf in The Hangout, which made it very easy for her to "take the inventory home and work from home."

Before setting up shop in The Hangout, Bel Canto Books operated as a pop-up book club, with Belfer creating curated book lists for customers based on their reading preferences. When the store had to close down last spring, Belfer pivoted back to that model, though she began delivering books to customers located in Long Beach. She also started a strong virtual author events series, and on that subject Belfer added that she doesn't plan to have any in-person events until at least the end of August.

Prior to the pandemic, Belfer had hoped to expand Bel Canto's event offerings. So long as things continue to return to normal, she's looking forward to starting author dinners and hosting community workshops on topics like financial literacy for young people and crafting college essays. At the same time, Belfer will continue to work on the store's Give Back campaigns. She's run two such campaigns so far, one to benefit AAPI organizations and another to create a children's library at a local affordable housing complex.

Looking further ahead, Belfer will continue to "wait this out" and see where the store stands at the end of the year. At that point she'll consider her options, including opening a free-standing store of her own or partnering with more businesses in Long Beach.

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Changing Hands in Tempe

At Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., 2021 has been good so far, reported co-owner and CEO Cindy Dach. The stores' numbers are strong, especially for the First Draft bar. It took the biggest hit during the pandemic but is "finally back and operating with great sales." Hours are still reduced compared to pre-pandemic operations, but with in-person author events on hiatus, those hours work for Changing Hands's current business model. 

In early 2021, the bookstore "went through a process of rewriting all of our job descriptions," to reflect how booksellers' roles have changed during the pandemic. That reevaluation process has not only changed "how we think about what we do," it's also changed workflow. Dach noted that the leadership team and managers meet much more often now compared to past years, and even though things are gradually returning to normal, the store is "still recovering and learning." They frequently discuss "lots of plans and back-up plans as we look further out in the calendar."

Asked whether the store has relaxed mask requirements or occupancy limits in recent weeks, Dach explained that "as soon as our mayors lifted the mask requirements, we had to follow." Despite most customers being wonderful about following the store's mask mandate, there were some "serious altercations" with anti-maskers, and some Changing Hands staff members were "traumatized from the experience."

Changing Hands, Phoenix

Staff members still wear masks, and customers are encouraged to wear them, but staff members are not required to approach a customer who enters the store without a mask. The majority of customers, Dach added, still do wear masks. And as far as occupancy limits go, summer is the slow season in Arizona, so that has taken care of itself.

On the subject of resuming in-person events, Dach said Changing Hands has already started hosting some small "meet-and-greet" book signings with timed entries. Those are being hosted in the store's meeting room, and she emphasized that these are not "sit-down, lecture-style events." The store has a ticketed event coming up in July that will start after hours and has a capacity limit. The Changing Hands events team is touching base frequently about requests and opportunities for events, and it "really is a day-by-day discussion." --Alex Mutter


Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani


Obituary Note: Martha Jane Thomas

Martha Jane Thomas

Martha Jane Thomas, a writer and editor who went on to manage Flying Cloud Booksellers, Easton, Md., died May 4, the Baltimore Sun reported. She was 60. Mary Kelly, her daughter, said Thomas "was always reading. She had a giant stack of books all over the houses." 

Thomas lived in New York City for 12 years, working for a UNICEF publication. She worked in special publications for the New York Times and the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts magazine, for which she won a Folio magazine award. She moved to Baltimore in 2002 and became a freelance writer.

Her life partner, Chris Rigaux, observed: "She liked writing about food and she was good at it. In her late 50s, she began moving into writing fiction as well.... Martha had an ability to connect with people on a sensitive level. She had high standards in her writing and in culture. She brought a New York sensibility to Charm City. She found lot of things to savor about Baltimore."

The Sun noted that when "a chance arose for her to apply to manage and select books for a new, independent bookstore in Easton, she applied and was chosen to open the Flying Cloud Booksellers."

"The bookstore offer was nothing she had done before. It was perfect for her," Kelly said. "She did all the stocking and got the store set up."

Tracy Ward, director of the Easton Economic Development Corp., added: "Martha put this incredible bookstore together. People were amazed by the collection. Her knowledge of the literary world was deep, but she also made the right choices in the jazz music and food areas.... Martha had a curious, positive spirit and uplifting energy. She was eager to go out and learn what Baltimore had to offer in her years there."


Artemesia Publishing, LLC: The Last Professional by Ed Davis, illustrated by Colin Elgie


Notes

Anderson's Bookshop's Pride Display

The downtown businesses in Downers Grove, Ill., are celebrating Pride Month, and Anderson's Bookshop joined the parade with this colorful window display. Children's manager Kathleen March, said, "I love that we are able to be a part of the community, proudly stating, 'We see you, we love you for who are and you are welcome here.' " 


Sterling: Dracula: Deluxe Edition by Bram Stoker, illustrated by Edward Gorey


Chalkboard: Vermont Book Shop 

Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt., shared a photo of the shop's exterior and sidewalk chalkboard message ("Dogs welcome. Well-behaved humans tolerated"), noting that it's the "dog days of June. It's spectacularly nice outside today. All the books inside the store would like to be rescued and taken outside the store." 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Matthew Logelin on the Kelly Clarkson Show

Tomorrow:
Kelly Clarkson repeat: Matthew Logelin, author of Fatherhood (Grand Central, $16.99, 9781538734407).


This Weekend on Book TV: Peter Osnos

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, June 19
1 p.m. Elizabeth McGowan, author of Outpedaling the Big C: My Healing Cycle Across America (Bancroft Press, $28.95, 9781610885140). (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m.)

2 p.m. Sam Apple, author of Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection (‎Liveright, $28.95, 9781631493157).

4:15 p.m. Dianne Stewart, author of Black Women, Black Love: America's War on African American Marriage (‎Seal Press, $30,  9781580058186).

6:55 p.m. Annette Gordon-Reed, author of On Juneteenth (‎Liveright, $15.95, 9781631498831). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

8 p.m. Steven Johnson, author of Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer (Riverhead, $28, 9780525538851).

9 p.m. Thomas Hager, author of Electric City: The Lost History of Ford and Edison's American Utopia (Abrams, $28, 9781419747960).

Sunday, June 20
6 p.m. Tsedal Neeley, author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere (Harper Business, $29.99, 9780063068308).

7 p.m. Peter Osnos, author of ‎An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen (Platform Books, $25.95, 9781735996806).

7:55 p.m. Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein, authors of Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment (‎Little, Brown Spark, $32, 9780316451406).

10 p.m. Carol Anderson, author of The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635574258).

11 p.m. Jeff Shesol, author of Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War (Norton, $28.95, 9781324003243).



Books & Authors

Awards: CILIP Carnegie, Kate Greenaway Winners; Miles Franklin Shortlist

Jason Reynolds won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for children's literature for Look Both Ways; and Sydney Smith's Small in the City took the Kate Greenaway Medal for excellence in illustration. The winners each receive £500 (about $710) worth of books to donate to the library of their choice, a golden medal and the £5,000 (about $7,100) Colin Mears Award. The prizes are judged by children's librarians across the U.K.

Ellen Krajewski, chair of the judging panel, commented: "This year's Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal winners are compelling stories told from a child's viewpoint that deliver a powerful emotional punch. Look Both Ways is a breathtakingly gripping collection of intertwined stories brimming with humor, empathy, and humanity.... Small in the City is an evocative and immersive book which tells quite an ordinary story in such an extraordinary way that it surprises you."

Reynolds said that his book is "an examination of autonomy, it's this idea that every child has a different journey and it's all about the fact that despite those journeys we are all interconnected. One people. One race. Having similar experiences and yet different experience altogether."

Smith commented: "This book does not have an easy ending, but it does end with a hug as does any journey worth taking. I believe that will be one of the most beautiful rewards at the end of our difficult journey. The promise of reuniting with a friend and having a laugh or sharing a hug with a loved one. All with the knowledge that we got through this together. And that it was well worth it."

Manjeet Mann's Run, Rebel and Sharon King-Chai's Starbird were named winners of the Shadowers' Choice Award, voted for by members of the 4,500 school reading groups who shadow the medals.

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The shortlist for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award, "reflecting the rich and diverse fabric of Australia's cultural landscape," have been announced:

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott
At the Edge of the Solid World by Daniel Davis Wood
The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey
Lucky's by Andrew Pippos
The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts

The winner of the $A60,000 (US$46,230) prize will be announced July 15.


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
Local Woman Missing: A Novel by Mary Kubica (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778389446). "Mary Kubica's best one yet! The first chapter of this book had my heart pounding. I enjoyed trying to solve the multiple mysteries throughout all of the twists and turns, without being able to put it all together until the very end. A thrilling and satisfying read." --Mary Salazar, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C.

The Kingdoms: A Novel by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635576085). "What a strange, unputdownable book. The Kingdoms weaves characters freed from time and space and memory, rebuilding our world as we know it and inviting us into a delicious story of love and loss." --Hannah Oxley, Mystery to Me, Madison, Wis.

Paperback
Catherine House: A Novel by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House, $16.99, 9780062905673). "Spend three years completely removed from the outside world at Catherine House, and you'll be unstoppable. Inspired by secret societies, scientific experimentation, and the mysteriousness of finding ourselves, Catherine House is sure to haunt readers." --Stephanie Skees, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo.

For Ages 3 to 7
Brave as a Mouse by Nicolo Carozzi (Random House Studio, $17.99, 9780593181836). "This book is downright wonderful! The illustrations are crisp and timeless, the story clever and fun. Brave as a Mouse feels like an instant classic." --Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.

For Ages 8 to 12
The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga (Balzer + Bray, $16.99, 9780062956675). "Jasmine Warga delicately explores many versions of grief in this novel. She has created something special with Cora and Quinn's friendship, and even though so much sadness is found within these pages, there is ultimately hope as well. The Shape of Thunder should be required reading." --Brad Sells, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

For Teen Readers
A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia (Quill Tree Books, $19.99, 9780062367297). "Rita Williams-Garcia immerses the reader in pre-Civil War life in Louisiana, making it impossible to ignore the ways white people of all social classes exerted their power over enslaved people and justified their atrocities. A book that will stay with you long after you finish the final page." --Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 22:

Dream Girl: A Novel by Laura Lippman (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062390073) follows a bedridden author who receives a call from one of his own characters.

Geniuses at War: Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the Dawn of the Digital Age by David A. Price (Knopf, $28, 9780525521549) chronicles the creation of the world's first digital electronic computer.

Never Pay the First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win by Marshall Allen (‎Portfolio, $24, 9780593190005) gives tips to navigating the U.S. healthcare industry.

What's Done in Darkness: A Novel by Laura McHugh (Random House, $27, 9780399590313) follows a woman whose past abduction may help find a missing person.

All the Water I've Seen Is Running: A Novel by Elias Rodriques (Norton, $26.95, 9780393540796) finds former high school classmates reunited by a friend's death.

How to Tell Stories to Children by Joseph Sarosy and Silke Rose West (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22, 9780358449270) gives storytelling advice from two early childhood educators.

Witchshadow by Susan Dennard (Tor Teen, $18.99, 9780765379344) is the fifth title in the YA Witchlands series.

Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani (First Second, $14.99, 9781250156372) is a middle-grade graphic novel featuring a time-traveling jukebox.

Paperbacks:
Inheritors by Asako Serizawa (Anchor, $15.99, 9781984897879).

Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates (HarperCollins, $12.99, 9780008381110).

Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance by Jessamyn Stanley (Workman, $15.95, 9781523505210).

Love Scenes by Bridget Morrissey (Berkley, $16, 9780593201152).

This Shining Life: A Novel by Harriet Kline (‎Dial Press, $18, 9781984854902).


Book Review

Review: China Room

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota (Viking, $27 hardcover, 256p., 9780593298145, July 13, 2021)

China Room, the outstanding third novel by Sunjeev Sahota, ends with a black-and-white image of an older woman holding a crying infant. That photo--displayed in a dining room in China Room--is the dual narrative's pivotal connector: a "great-grandmother... who'd travelled all the way to England just so that she might hold... her newborn great grandson." Sahota magnificently weaves together the stories of rural Punjabi ancestor Mehar and her British descendant, whose "I"-voice reveals both his story and the stories he can never know.

In 1929, 15-year-old Mehar is one of three girls wed to three brothers. None of the brides knows which is her betrothed; all are controlled by the men's widowed mother, Mai. The girls share the china room--named for Mai's wedding dowry plates--to sleep, except when Mai summons one wife to join one husband in a "windowless chamber at the back of the farm," so dark that the girl still can't distinguish the brother she's with. In the light, clever Mehar listens closely, determined to discern which husband is hers. Pearls, procured to encourage fertility, will cause both boundless joy and everlasting tragedy.

Seventy years later, Mehar is gone when her 18-year-old great-grandson arrives from England to spend the summer before university with an uncle and his wife. He's "too skinny, too pinched, too drawn," and his all-too-obvious alcohol (and more) addiction causes his removal from his relatives' house to the abandoned ancestral home. There he finds shelter and solace in the china room. An iconoclastic woman doctor and an opinionated teacher become unexpected regular visitors. Stories and companionship will heal his soul.

While Sahota's 2015 Man Booker Prize shortlisted The Year of the Runaways was a polyphonic, sprawling epic, China Room is comparatively spare, but dense with intricate layers. The autobiographical details are literally pictured here: that photo belies a family legend about veiled ancestors; Sahota is British Punjabi; his shopkeeper father did have knee surgery in 2019, sending Sahota home to help. As author, Sahota brilliantly plays with access to knowledge, to history. Mehar is intelligent but powerlessly illiterate; she will never control her own story, much less her very life. Her great-grandson eventually shares her same (trapped) space; he is ignorant about his own past. In revealing their narratives, Sahota grants virtual omniscience to his readers, but complicity comes with appeals to engage more deeply with contextual issues that continue to plague contemporary society, including child marriage, gender inequity, multi-generational trauma, ongoing hate crimes. China Room is no effortless read, but one that promises to haunt and illuminate. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Sunjeev Sahota's magnificent third novel features a dual narrative that reveals the lives of a rural Punjabi bride and her British great-grandson who returns to their ancestral home 70 years later.


Deeper Understanding

Panel Discussion: The Classics Illustrated

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, adapted by Fred Fordham, illustrated by Aya Morton (Scribner, $30, 9781982144524)
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby continues to be an English class mainstay in American high schools, a text that many, even self-proclaimed "non-readers," look upon fondly. Fred Fordham, who adapted Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, teamed up with illustrator Aya Morton to re-create the classic novel for Scribner, Fitzgerald's original publisher. In a pale color palette that evokes the moneyed, halcyon summers of Long Island, and with art deco-inspired drawings, Morton welcomes readers back into a familiar text.

Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan appear in three-piece suits when they are out on the town or attending a party, and tennis shorts when they are spending a leisurely afternoon on their sprawling properties. Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker, in pearls and long, slinky gowns, spend their days with wine in hand. Morton's eye for fashion and interior decor aids the reader in becoming fully immersed in the era, while Fordham's economical reworking of the original text reflects a deep intimacy with Fitzgerald's work.

How to Handsell: For those who wish they could step into a time machine to the Jazz Age and for lovers of the classic American story about a tragic love and the false panacea of consumer goods.

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1: Dune by Frank Herbert, adapted by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, illustrated by Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín and Bill Sienkiewicz (Abrams ComicArts, $24.99, 9781419731501)
Collaborators Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have written multiple books in the distinctive universe of Frank Herbert's science fiction classic Dune. Here they join forces again with the aim of adapting the beloved novel while staying within the bounds of the original Dune canon. Although Herbert and Anderson say they weren't interested in adding their own "special stamp" to the story, the nature of graphically adapting a classic, especially one as complex as Dune, requires a keen editorial eye in selecting the right text to tell the story and capture the atmosphere. Most importantly, a graphic adaptation also requires passing half of the burden of worldbuilding to the illustrators, who in this case must translate a novel that lives in the imaginations of so many.

The first entry in a planned three-part adaptation, Dune translates the part of the original Dune that is primarily exposition. The slow plotting and rumination that make up much of this first adaptation provide an excellent opportunity to fill in all of the extraordinary details of this space opera through illustrations of the sandworms, the armor and robes, and the Sardaukar. With serene blues for the planet of Caladan and stunning sulphurous neons for Arrakis, veteran illustrators Allén and Martín aid the reader in understanding the vastness of this world.

How to Handsell: With Denis Villeneuve's star-studded Dune film adaptation coming this fall, this graphic novel is a visually compelling entry point into Frank Herbert's famed universe.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, adapted and illustrated by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal (SelfMadeHero, $24.99, 9780955816925)
In Bulgakov's cult classic, a smooth-talking devil and his acolytes--the naked vampire-witch Hella, the rotund and fedora-clad Azazello, and the talking black cat Behemoth--parade around Moscow during the Stalinist period, systematically sowing chaos and unmasking the follies of Muscovites. Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal capture the dark and mischievous spirit of The Master and Margarita in the text they pull from the novel, but it is the illustrations that animate this adaptation.

This version, like the original novel, weaves the Jesus-like tale of Yeshua Ha-Notsri into a contemporary Moscow timeline. The features of the characters are rich in detail, the texture of Ha-Notsri's beard and the discoloration around his eyes almost lifelike. The skies are blue and open, despite the injustices that occur beneath them. To contrast, most of the sections that depict Moscow are in black and white. They are more impressionistic, the features of these characters are more vague and occasionally caricatured. The city appears claustrophobic, reflecting the shallow ideologies beneath the veneer of intellectualism and consumption in 1930s Moscow.

How to Handsell: For readers who have already read The Master and Margarita, the impressive visual sensibilities of Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal create a worthy graphic companion to the classic satire.

Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës by Isabel Greenberg (Abrams ComicArts, $24.99, 9781419732683)
In a creative melding of adaptation and biography, Isabel Greenberg illustrates the Brontë siblings' juvenilia alongside the real events of their childhoods. Readers are granted a view of the young Brontës' lives that reflects the tragedy and mundanity of their shared childhood, but also demonstrates the means by which they imagine themselves into other worlds.

With pens, ink vials and paper, Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne sit by their fireplace plotting, debating and dreaming in acts of collective imagination. They transform the vast English moors surrounding their home into Gondal, Angria and Glass Town. They populate their fictional landscape with characters like Zamorna, Lord Northangerland, Mary Percy and Quashia Quamina, each with their own rich history and narrative function. The dramas that unfold in Glass Town--stories of courtship, love, war and deception--are grand, inchoate products of pure childhood imagination. The lush fictional worlds that the young Brontës conjure together become as real to them as their waking worlds and follow them well into adulthood.

How to Handsell: Greenberg's illustrations, in deep purples and reds, are as moody and dreamlike as the Brontë canon. With this humane and enchanting portrait of Yorkshire's most prominent literary siblings, Greenberg secures her place among extraordinary talents in contemporary comics. --Emma Levy, freelance writer


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