Also published on this date: Wednesday, October 27, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Bright Burning Things

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Heartleaf Books Coming to Providence, R.I., Next Spring


Next spring, sisters and librarians Caroline Vericker and Mads Vericker will turn their pop-up bookstore Heartleaf Books into a bricks-and-mortar store in Providence, R.I. The Verickers have found a 2,300-square-foot space in the city's West End/Armory neighborhood, right across from the Dexter Training Ground park, and are eyeing a tentative opening date of March 2022. 

They've chosen to make Heartleaf Books a cooperative, and are in the process of raising funds for the store as well as searching for board members and founding members. The pair has launched a campaign with Kiva, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, Calif., that provides crowdfunded loans with 0% interest to new businesses around the world. The sisters are aiming for a loan of $9,500, and in just a few days have raised $2,400.

Caroline Vericker (l.) and Mads Vericker

Mads Vericker explained that they chose the co-op model because they want the store to be "community owned and operated" as well as "owned by the people who work there." It will be both a consumer co-op and a worker-owner co-op, and Vericker pointed out that this model gives them some fundraising options that aren't available to private ownership. Next month, for example, they'll be applying for a loan from the Cooperative Fund of New England.

"We want consumers to be able to invest from the very beginning," Mads said, adding that there is a lot of "momentum" in Providence as far as co-ops are concerned. A local coffee shop recently went co-op, and a new cooperative grocery store opened. "The neighborhood is becoming a little co-op corner."

The bookstore, which debuted as a pop-up shop at the Providence Flea market in July, sells titles for all ages while centering books by people of color and by queer authors. Inititally they sold only used books, but that was more of a "convenience to get started." The bricks-and-mortar store will have an inventory mix of about 75% new titles and 25% used titles, with Vericker noting that some genres are particularly tricky to source used.

Elaborating on Heartleaf's inventory plans, Mads Vericker said she wants to curate a collection of metaphysical titles, astrology books and books about witchcraft. She's particularly interested in books on those subjects published by women of color and queer people, which is happening more and more these days. "My sister," she continued, "is an expert on fiction," with an "amazing knowledge of authors" and a knack for connecting with them on social media.

Houseplants, meanwhile, will play a big part of the store's nonbook plans. Vericker has a green thumb and more than 80 plants in her home; ideally she would like about 20% of the store's sales to come from plants. The owners also have plans to partner with local presses to sell art, zines and self-published work.

Vericker said they plan to make their space available for any kind of community event, from traditional author events and book clubs to things more out-of-the-ordinary. They're looking to partner with local schools on book fairs and with a nearby cafe and arts space to host events at the bookstore.

So far, Vericker reported, the response to their plans has been fantastic. While Heartleaf was still only a pop-up, shoppers would frequently ask them when the store is opening, and people in the West End neighborhood have told them how much they want and need a bookstore. There are some community members who are already "really in our corner," and there are a few folks interested in being founding members.

"Our two biggest skeptics are our parents," Vericker remarked, laughing. But on a recent Saturday when Caroline was unavailable and their mom helped out at the pop-up, they sold around 100 books and she began to come around. "It was really cool to show her this is a viable thing." --Alex Mutter

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NYC Mayor de Blasio, Lin-Manuel Miranda Celebrate Drama Book Shop Day

Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the Drama Book Shop Day proclamation to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Lin-Manuel Miranda in Midtown to honor Hamilton's creator and his efforts to put Broadway back in the narrative after months of pandemic-related closure, as well as to present him with a proclamation marking October 26 as Drama Book Shop Day, amNY reported. 

The legendary bookstore, now located on 266 West 39th St., had been in operation since 1917 until it was forced to close in 2018. The reopening of the Drama Book Shop in a new location last June was the result of an effort to save the shop led by new owners and Hamilton veterans Miranda, director Thomas Kail, lead producer Jeffrey Seller and theater owner James L. Nederlander.

"So, everybody, this is a joyous place," de Blasio said. "And this represents something really wonderful for this city as we're coming back. Drama Book Shop, I'm feeling, like, incredible New York vibes of like, what makes us who we are. We are the great city of arts and culture. We are a city of creativity. We are a city of strivers and believers, and the fact that this place has come back to life, resurrected to keep that tradition alive, is incredibly beautiful....

"And Lin-Manuel, I think you could say this was another home for you, the original incarnation then, now this, giving us a sense of belonging and a sense of hope. We're going to talk about this place. We're also going to talk about how important it is for New Yorkers to go to these places and spend your money here. I'm going to be very blunt, I hope you don't find this crass.   

"No, but the fact that there are people in this city who with their own heart and soul created bookstores and theaters and places of profound and unique culture, we can never take that for granted as New Yorkers. We can't assume it's going to be a part of our life, we have to make it a part of our life. There's lots of wonderful ways to spend money, but I want to really urge people as we get ready for the holiday season, focus on our local stores, our mom-and-pop stores, our unique New York City stores, the places that are about us and our people, that's where you should put your money where your mouth is. You love New York City. You love our culture. You love our neighborhoods. Spend your money where it's going to help preserve who we are....

"Before I turn to Lin-Manuel, I want to express gratitude to him and everyone who saved this place because just coming in here, I'm feeling like--you could just feel the presence of the history.... But this is a symbol of our rebirth, it really is, and something precious is happening here that's back. Everyone, look, if you love the theater, if you love books, if you love New York City, come to the Drama Book Shop and experience the greatness of this place. Come and see what it's all about." 

After thanking the mayor, Miranda said, "I'm incredibly proud on behalf of me and my co-owners to accept this proclamation. Places like Drama Book Shop are the backbone of what makes New York City so special. I used to sit on the floor of the old Drama Book Shop back in its old location when I was in high school.... When I could not afford Broadway tickets, I would sit on the floor of the Drama Book Shop and read the librettos and listen to the scores. I welcome you to utilize this space as a resource to gather and to dream."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Carolan Workman Retires from Workman Publishing

Carolan Workman

With the sale of Workman Publishing to Hachette Book Group on September 23, Carolan Workman, executive chair and president of Workman Publishing, has retired.

Most of her professional life was spent at Workman Publishing, which she joined almost 50 years ago, to work with her husband, Peter Workman, who founded the publisher in 1968. As the company recounted, "Having two young daughters, she wanted to start slowly at the company, working part time and focusing on one discrete area of the business that she could do on her own. And so, she took Workman international, attending her first Frankfurt Book Fair in 1977, where she sat, alone, at a little folding table with 10 books behind her on a shelf, and where she knew no one and no one had ever heard of Workman.

"Under Carolan's leadership, Workman International grew and grew. Today it accounts for 14% of the company's revenue, with 4,000 translated editions in languages from Albanian to Vietnamese, co-editions throughout the world, and Workman's own English language editions sold everywhere from Australia to Estonia to Qatar to the West Indies. However, Carolan counts as her singularly greatest achievement the sale of French rights to The Silver Palate Cookbook--the first American cookbook ever to be translated into French. (It flopped, alas.)

"As a corporate officer, she also took part in many other aspects of the business, including directing the company's charitable initiatives and working on special projects, as well as involvement in day-to-day corporate life. In 2013, after the death of Peter Workman, she stepped into the role of executive chair and president, presiding over the company and its long-term strategy and hiring its senior v-p and publisher, Dan Reynolds. When the pandemic came, she played an especially critical part in helping the company meet the challenge of working in the virtual office while still retaining its morale and energy."

Carolan Workman commented: "Workman Publishing was the greatest gift I could ever wish for. It fit me perfectly, never went out of style, lasted forever, and was something that I used and loved and treasured every day. It has never failed to make me happy and proud. Although I will miss it profoundly, I'm confident that Dan Reynolds, Workman's senior v-p and publisher, and Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group, will be brilliant custodians of Workman's uniqueness and culture--and increasing success."

Reynolds added: "Carolan was the heart and soul of Workman. She knew every employee and their stories, planned every event, schmoozed with all the reps, authors, and buyers, weighed in on acquisitions and publishing decisions--what felt like Workman and what didn't. There are signs throughout our offices helping visitors and new hires find their way to various departments. Carolan had a sign pointing to her office. It just said 'Carolan'--because it didn't need to say anything else. She may be retired, but for us to stay valuable and relevant and growing in our new role as part of Hachette, we will need to keep the spirit of Carolan with us."

International Update: Frankfurt Book Fair Draws 73,000 People, 'Beloved' Canadian Indie Woozles Relocating

Despite the pandemic, which kept most Americans away, the 73rd Frankfurt Book Fair, held last week, drew 36,000 trade visitors from 105 countries and 37,500 private visitors from 85 countries, and some 2,013 companies from 80 countries were present in the exhibition halls, at the literary agents' center, at the new workstations or as digital exhibitors. Besides the usual in-person events and attractions, for the second year in a row, the fair had a solid virtual program, with 27 sessions on Frankfurt Studio: Inside Publishing, which was viewed more than 15,500 times by people in 97 countries.

Fair president and CEO Juergen Boos said, "After 18 months, Frankfurter Buchmesse represented a new start and, considering the travel restrictions in place around the world, it far exceeded our expectations. It just shows how resilient and creative our industry is. Many exhibitors and trade visitors expressed satisfaction at the quality of their interactions. Thanks to our digital programme for professionals, we were able to build a bridge to participants who were unable to travel this year."

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, chairwoman of the Börsenverein, the German book trade association, added: "The joy of seeing people once again and the feeling of optimism were what made this year's book fair special. The industry has emerged from the pandemic stronger than before and it used its time at the fair to engage in in-person interactions, exchange ideas on important industry topics and make new business contacts. Supported by a wide range of digital offerings, books were given a highly visible platform. In turbulent times, important social topics were also on the agenda. It thus also became evident that there are social issues which we have to--and will continue to--debate intensively, such as combatting racism and how to respond to extreme political positions in society and at book fairs."

Among highlights: the guest of honor was Canada, whose pavilion was opened by the Governor General Mary May Simon and which showcased Canada's literary and cultural scene. Some 60 Canadian authors and illustrators participated in the country's program at Frankfurt, some of them in person.

Next year's Frankfurt Book Fair takes place October 19-23.


Beloved Canadian children's bookstore Woozles in Halifax, N.S., "is saying goodbye to its iconic yellow building off Spring Garden Road in Halifax after 43 years--but the story of Woozles is far from finished," CBC News reported. The bookshop officially closed Monday afternoon as the staff prepares to move to a new building on Shirley Street in the city's West End. 

"Our cute little yellow building with the green door is actually an old building, and it was taking more and more time and attention for us," said owner Liz Crocker, who had reached the point where she had to ask: "Do we save this building, or do we save ourselves?"

On Facebook Monday, Woozles posted: "We waved farewell to our last, loyal customer on Birmingham street at 2 p.m. today, with a confusing assortment of both giggles and tears. Thank you for 43 years of warm support in this cozy spot. We'll see you soon on Shirley street!"


Vietnamese bookseller Mao Bookstore was profiled recently in the Hanoi Times, which reported that "starting with just a small table offering books at the intersection of Dinh Tien Hoang and Dinh Le streets in the 1990s, the married couple, Pham Thi Mao and Le Luy, are considered the 'founders' of the busy book trade in Dinh Le street today."

After a few years, they bought a small apartment on the second floor at No. 5 Dinh Le and opened Mao Bookstore. "It was just like yesterday," Mao said. "There were only a few state-owned bookstores in the early 1990s so we decided to open a private one."

Recently the bookshop has been renovated, adding a new reading corner for customers. Le Ngoc Anh, daughter of Mao and Luy, said: "The goal of the renovation is to create a nice old space which maintains the 1990s' style of the house and the bookstore and provides more area for books so that customers can look up more easily, as well as offer a good free reading place for book lovers." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Michael Kesler 

Michael Kesler, who published four books, including a memoir of his World War II experiences, died August 23. He was 97. Born in Dubno, Poland (now Ukraine), Kesler and his sister Luba fled their family home in 1941 to escape the Nazis and traveled 3,000 miles to Uzbekistan. Over the course of four years, they suffered yet persevered in their quest to survive. 

After the war, Kesler spent a year in a displaced person's camp in Germany, and then was awarded a scholarship from the B'nai B'rith Association to Colby College in Maine. He transferred to MIT, where he earned three degrees, and later a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from NYU. 

Kesler retired in the 2000s due to health issues after a long career as a chemical engineer. He then embarked on a new venture as a nonfiction writer, beginning by editing his late wife's account of surviving the Holocaust and finding a new life in the U.S. as a Harvard-educated pediatrician. Kesler followed that up by publishing a memoir of his World War II experiences and a self-help book dealing with when cancer strikes a family. 

His latest book, The Remnant: On Burning Wings to a Displaced Persons Camp and Beyond, which was published last April by Vallentine Mitchell (U.K.), concerns the remnant of Polish Jewry who survived the War by fleeing to the Soviet Union. Kesler was a part of that remnant and felt it imperative to share his story in light of the world's ongoing refugee crises. 


Happy Fifth Birthday, Roundabout Books!

Congratulations to Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore., which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Halloween, October 31, with discounts, fun treats and drinks. Since the bookshop opened in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood in 2016, it has grown between 12%-40% each year and "I'm thrilled to say that this month we paid off our start-up SBA loan," said owner Cassie Clemans. 

Roundabout Books currently has five employees, including Jenny Cornutt, who has been with the store since it opened and is "an extremely valued bookseller, sidelines buyer and mystery book club leader," Clemans added. "Our other incredible staff consist of Julie Swearingen, event manager, Sara Rishforth, bookseller and social media manager, Kathy Johnson, bookseller and storytime leader, and Katie Duggan, bookseller and helper extraordinaire."

The bookstore hosts weekly author events and book clubs that are open to the public and a small café serves book-themed lattes and local treats. 
"The thing I'm most proud of is the connections we've made within the Bend community," said Clemans. "Our customers are so supportive and continue to find ways to support us and introduce new people to our store. We would not be here without them. I treasure our location, which is in the heart of Bend's growing west side, nestled in a residential neighborhood and surrounded by three schools within walking distance. My goals for the next five years are to expand the store square footage so we can play host to bigger author events, expand sections that need the extra space, and offer lots more café and cozy seating around the shop."

IPG Adds Seven Publishers

Independent Publishers Group has added seven new publishers to its Trafalgar Square Publishing and IPG Spanish divisions:

Marshall Cavendish International, Singapore, the general interest trade publisher with a history that spans more than five decades. It publishes in a variety of subjects. Distribtion with TSP began July 1, 2021.

Banipal, with headquarters in the U.K., promotes the work and readership of contemporary Arab writers in English and English translation. TSP will begin distribution on November 1, 2021.

Tablo Tales, an Australian imprint whose first series features the work of women writers like Claire Messud and Lauren Elkin. TSP will start distribution on November 1, 2021.

Garnet Publishing Ltd., with headquarters in the U.K., has a focus on the Middle East, publishing books on architecture, art, economics, travel, culture, and history. TSP begins distribution on November 15, 2021.

Major Street Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, which publishes books on personal, professional, and career development. TSP begins distribution on January 1, 2022.

Editorial Ekeka, Buenos Aires, Argentina, which spotlights the best of Latin American talent to unite cultures and promote transformation through their books. IPG Spanish will begin distribution for Editorial Ekeka on December 1, 2021.

Antoni Bosch Editor, Barcelona, Spain, which specializes in ringing high-quality economics, science, and music books to its readers. IPG Spanish begins distribution on February 1, 2022.

Personnel Changes at Inkyard Press; Simon & Schuster

Brittany Mitchell has been promoted to senior marketing manager at Harlequin's Inkyard Press. She was previously marketing manager.


At Simon & Schuster:

Olivia Wilson is joining the special markets team as manager, national accounts.

Caroline Aaron is joining the indie team as telesales account manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rachael Ray on the Drew Barrymore Show

Good Morning America: Bryant Terry, editor of Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora (4 Color Books, $40, 9781984859723).

Drew Barrymore Show: Rachael Ray, author of This Must Be the Place: Dispatches & Food from the Home Front (Ballantine, $32, 9780593357217).

Watch What Happens Live: Padma Lakshmi, author of Tomatoes for Neela (Viking Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780593202708).

Tonight Show: Chrissy Teigen, author of Cravings: All Together: Recipes to Love (Clarkson Potter, $29.99, 9780593135426).

Movies: One True Loves

Additional cast members have been announced for One True Loves, a film based on Taylor Jenkins Reid's bestselling novel and directed by Andy Fickman (Playing with Fire). Deadline reported that Lauren Tom, Michael O'Keefe, Tom Everett Scott, Cooper van Grootel, Oona Yaffe and Phinehas Yoon are joining a cast that includes Simu Liu, Philippa Soo, Luke Bracey and Michaela Conlin. The film, which was written by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Alex J. Reid, is currently in production in North Carolina. 

"We are all so thrilled to have the phenomenal Lauren Tom and Michael O'Keefe joining this already amazing cast," said Fickman. "And any time I get a chance to work with Tom Everett Scott, I jump on it. They are all already bringing their A-game! Sarah Finn and Jason Stamey are beyond brilliant casting directors. We needed to search for young Phillipa Soo, young Luke Bracey, and young Simu Liu. They searched everywhere and landed on three stunningly perfect actors to portray the younger versions of these characters."

Books & Authors

Awards: Forward Poetry, Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Winners

The Forward Arts Foundation announced that Luke Kennard's Notes on the Sonnets won the £10,000 (about $13,610) Forward Prize for Best Poetry Collection, while Caleb Femi's Poor took the £5,000 (about $6,805) Felix Dennis Prize for debut collection and Nicole Sealey's "Pages 22-29, An excerpt from The Ferguson Report: An Erasure" topped the £1,000 (about $1,360) best single poem category.

Judge Shivanee Ramlochan called Kennard's book "an extraordinary thing. It is an invitation to link contemporaneity with the very rigid way many students are forced to study Shakespeare. This book could transform that relationship in a profound, funny and moving way."

Poor is "extraordinarily powerful and lyrical," said judge Tristram Fane Saunders, adding that Femi "demonstrates a wonderful control of the sound of the line. You can open the collection on any page and read a selection aloud and you will get a 'wow' response from anyone."


Toni Ann Johnson won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for her collection Light Skin Gone to Waste, which will be published by the University of Georgia Press in the fall of 2022. The prize "seeks to encourage talented writers of short stories by presenting their work to a wider readership," and winners are offered publication of a book-length collection and $1,000.
Flannery O'Connor series editor Roxane Gay said: "Toni Ann Johnson's Light Skin Gone to Waste is one of the most engrossing short story collections I've read in recent memory. These interconnected stories about a black family living in a predominantly white suburb of New York City are impeccably written, incisive, often infuriating, and unforgettable. At the center of many of these stories is Philip Arrington, a psychologist who tries to reshape the world to his liking as he moves through it, regardless of the ways his actions affect the people in his intimate orbit. With a deft eye for detail, crisp writing, and an uncanny understanding of human frailties, Toni Ann Johnson has created an endlessly interesting American family portrait."
This year's runners-up were Elsewhere by Oindrila Mukherjee, Skylark by William Smith, Magdalena Is Brighter Than You Think by Grace Spulak, and The 28th Parallel by Eric Weintraub. 

Reading with... Cherie Priest

photo: Libby Bulloff

Cherie Priest is the author of two dozen books and novellas, including the horror novel The Toll, the gothic Maplecroft and the Clockwork Century series, beginning with Boneshaker. She has been nominated for the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, and she won the Locus Award for best horror novel. She lives in Seattle, Wash., with her husband and a menagerie of exceedingly photogenic pets. In her new mystery, Grave Reservations (Atria, October 26, 2021), a psychic travel agent teams up with a Seattle PD detective to solve a murder.

On your nightstand now:

The nightstand is presently overflowing, because I haven't had a lot of bandwidth for leisure reading over the last year or two. But I am gradually working my way through The Unidentified by Colin Dickey; I love his nonfiction, especially his weirder leanings--and I often walk away from his books wishing fervently that I'd written them myself. I'm also fortunate enough to have an ARC of The Violence by Delilah Dawson, who is always top notch; and I have Chuck Wendig's new one queued up, The Book of Accidents, which is phenomenal so far.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything with any mystery element. My reading was tightly restricted when I was young, but I discovered (and hoarded) Encyclopedia Brown stories and anything Nancy Drew. Later I twigged on to Doyle and Christie, and I read most of their respective canons before I was in high school.

Your top five authors:

In no particular order, Terry Pratchett (especially the Witch novels); Dashiell Hammett (especially the Continental Op stories); Barbara Hambly (her gothics are my comfort reading); Caitlín Kiernan (all of their novels, but Kiernan is also one of the only short story writers I regularly keep up with); and I'm having too much trouble narrowing down another half dozen folks for a fifth. I'd hate to leave anyone out--so let's call number five a wild card spot, eh?

Book you've faked reading:

At the risk of incurring considerable wrath, I've never read any Brontë, Austen or Alcott from cover to cover. I realize that these folks write beloved classics, but I've always bounced right off them--I don't know why, and I wish it were not the case.

Book you're an evangelist for:

God help me if I ever finally shut up about Colin Dickey's Ghostland. I shove it in front of anyone who enjoys or writes ghost stories, and I think it's brilliant.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Any given one of the half dozen editions of Dracula that I own. The prettier and more ridiculous the better. I will not be taking questions at this time.

Book you hid from your parents:

Almost all of them. My parents divorced when I was small, and I lived with my mother; she permitted only Christian fiction and literature in her house. On the upshot, her definition of "literature" was broad enough to include "any author who is dead," so I still got a lot of reading done via my very sneaky father. However, any contemporary fiction of the time--especially genre fiction--was strictly verboten. This was a problem for me, as I was very keen on horror, fantasy and television show tie-ins--particularly anything related to Star Trek or the TV show Beauty and the Beast.

Book that changed your life:

Too many to list, if I'm honest. From a writing standpoint, though, I'll say it was Dracula. I thought I understood something about writing tension and gothic spookiness until I read it and realized that I was still struggling with 101-level skills and was not yet ready for my doctorate in the subject.

Favorite line from a book:

The last line of Grendel by John Gardner: "Poor Grendel's had an accident," I whisper. "So may you all."

Five books you'll never part with:

I've toted a couple dozen boxes of "I can't part with these" books through almost 30 moves--several of which were back and forth across the country. I could never narrow it down to five.

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

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. Either that, or maybe Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum.

Book Review

Children's Review: The 1619 Project

1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, illus. by Nikkolas Smith (Kokila/Penguin, $18.99 hardcover, 48p., 9780593307359, November 16, 2021)

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water is both a joyful and painful ode to Black Americans whose history did not begin with the whips and chains of enslavement, but rather with a "proud origin story."

When a girl must trace her roots for an assignment at school, she tells her grandmother she is ashamed that she can track down only three generations of her family. Her grandmother gathers the family to explain. What follows is a tale of the people who, before they arrived here 400 years ago, "had a home, a place, a land"--who, before they were enslaved, were free.

When the girl's ancestors spoke, they had "their own words/ for love/ for friend/ for family." They were "good with their hands... good with their minds" and they had rich lives filled with industry and joy. "And the white people took them anyway." As her grandmother explains, this is not an immigrant story with "promises, whispered from mouth to ear,/ of seeing each other soon." The people were taken from their home and allowed "no things." But they had their "histories and bloodlines/ and drums pulsing in their veins." Packed as they were "in dark misery," kidnapped "strangers chained together," they realized that the strangers "were their people now." Thus, a new people was "born on the water," forebears of those who are fighting now for progress so that the U.S. may "live up to its promise of democracy."

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson (Love Is a Revolution; Ways to Make Sunshine) employ a series of stirring free-verse poems that uplift as much as they devastate. Their moving words successfully shape Hannah-Jones's 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning The 1619 Project into a picture book accessible to all ages. Artist Nikkolas Smith uses a broad range of Central West African details to craft illustrations full of movement and expansive emotion. Smith's paintings respond to the individual poems with, in his words, "a visual representation of the infectious joy, heartbreaking struggles, and triumphant legacy of my ancestors." The three creators have together produced an unflinching look at the people who were stolen from their lives, lost so much and, though repeatedly beaten back, survived in a new land. It's a story vital to the U.S.'s survival as a nation, because what the grandmother tells her family regarding their ancestors is true for everyone who lives in the U.S. today: "Their story is our story." And it needs to be heard. --Lynn Becker, reviewer, blogger, and children's book author

Shelf Talker: This picture book account of the rich, proud origin story of Black Americans, adapted from the 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winner, is both profoundly joyful and deeply painful.

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