Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Grand Central Publishing: The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Clavis: Fall Preview

Amulet Books: Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party (Marya Khan #1) by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Ani Bushry

Charlesbridge Publishing: Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom; Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Shadow Mountain: To Capture His Heart (Proper Romance Victorian) by Nancy Campbell Allen

Zest Books (Tm): Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Quotation of the Day

'We All Need to Be More Bookshop'

"Over the years the [Booksellers Association] has rightly focused on the decline in independent bookshop numbers, but--with Blackwell's likely to be sold, and probably to Waterstones--it is the near demise of the mid-sized bookshop chain that has most marked out how this business has changed over the past few decades....

"Still, we shouldn't be too negative. While demand for the product remains high, bookshops have a chance daily to demonstrate their value-add. Other retailers 'need to be more bookshop,' the BA's head of policy and public affairs Laura McCormack is reported to have said on reading the document. She is right. We all need to be more bookshop."

--Philip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, in a recent letter commenting on the BA's new Booksellers as Placemakers report

Graphic Mundi - Psu Press: Hakim's Odyssey by Fabien Toulme and Hanna Chute


Growing Pains at Tattered Cover Detailed in Local Press

Tattered Cover, Westminster

Feature stories, one in the Denver Post and the other in Denverite, have outlined tensions at the Tattered Cover in the wake of the sale of the bookseller a little over a year ago. Some former and current staff members have made a range of allegations: morale is down; employees are overworked and pay hasn't risen commensurate with the work and promised gains; staff is doing more than in their job descriptions; some longtime staff were let go; too much emphasis is placed on sales over other considerations; and change is destroying qualities that for decades made Tattered Cover a special place to work, despite low pay. Some charges focused on CEO Kwame Spearman, who was accused of bullying, misogyny, abusive language and more.

Since the change in ownership in December 2020, Tattered Cover has opened a store in Westminster, a shop at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, and a popup at the Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree. In addition, it moved its Lower Downtown location to McGregor Square, a new development next to Coors Field. Tattered Cover now has seven locations and some 140 staff members, and it recently announced it will open a store in Colorado Springs.

Kwame Spearman

In long written rebuttals to both the Denver Post and Denverite, Spearman said that Tattered Cover has had severe financial problems for years and that the company needed either to grow or to cut costs, which would result in many layoffs. As he said to the Denverite, "We chose to grow. By adding more stores, we're hoping to provide more revenue--which will help us get to a point where we can pay people what they deserve."

And although both stories referred to widespread resignations, Tattered Cover's human resources department said that in the past year, 15% of full-time and 28% of part-time staff had left--rates below those of many retail businesses during the pandemic.

Spearman also denied the personal accusations of bullying and swearing at staff, saying that the conversations as reported by former staff members weren't accurate. He also pointed to monthly employee surveys that act as a conduit for staff to convey their opinions to the owners. An outside investigator was hired to look into complaints about Spearman's behavior; he has issued a report but because of confidentiality rules, it hasn't been made public.

Among the complaints, many had to do with the move of the downtown bookstore, when some staff members said they weren't given safety glasses and were asked to do unsafe work involving saws and nailing, and work not in job descriptions. Spearman noted that he could have furloughed staff for the two months between the store's closing and reopening but paid them instead and gave them additional paid time off.

Other issues included decentralizing the receiving department so that Tattered Cover's stores received shipments directly, which some staff members objected to. Others pointed to the stress of opening several new stores, leading to exhaustion among employees.

Pay was a continuing theme. Entry-level booksellers start at $16 an hour, which is slightly above Denver's new minimum wage, which was raised at the beginning of the year to $15.87. Many employees say they expected more increases, while Spearman has said the company needs to become financially stable.

Ebony Magazine Publishing: Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments by Carell Augustus

Sarah Baker Named SCBWI Executive Director

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker has been elected executive director of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, succeeding SCBWI co-founder Lin Oliver, who retired at the end of January. Baker previously was associate executive director and has worked for the organization since 2011.
"Alongside our members, I hope to make improvements that are rooted in community feedback and good process so that our changes are lasting and meaningful," Baker said. "The world and our industry are changing quickly, and I promise, both as SCBWI's executive director and as a children's book creator myself, to lead a team that is always growing and learning, and searching for new ways to elevate the art and reach of children's literature."

In the wake of the change in leadership, SCBWI is also refocusing its staff through promotions and new responsibilities.
Baker noted that in a letter to the membership last week, "I listed empowering staff, improving customer service, streamlining processes, and leveraging strategic partnerships amongst my objectives. I'm thrilled to announce the promotions of five of our staff members in accordance with this objective. Kim Turrisi, Tammy Brown, Sarah Diamond, Avery Silverberg and Laurie Miller have taken on new and crucial responsibilities and have done so with passion and energy, inspired by the mission of SCBWI and the vibrant community we work for. As I ask more of them, I do so with confidence that they will exceed expectations. I'm so excited for all that our tight-knit team can accomplish together on behalf of the children's book community."
Turrisi is now director, programming and content; Brown is director, marketing and communication strategy; Diamond is senior manager of awards and publications; Silverberg is social media manager; and Miller is manager, events and special projects. In addition, Chelsea Hall has been hired as administrative assistant. Joshua Smith, director of web development, database manager, and Brandon Clarke, logistics coordinator, continue in their current roles.

Blair: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays

Black Odyssey Media Launches

Film and media studio Black Odyssey has launched Black Odyssey Media, a publishing venture dedicated to books by "hybrid creatives representing the Black experience, with a cross-functional concentration on novelizations and works that can be adapted for film or television." Black Media Odyssey will publish some 10 titles annually in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and e-book formats. Titles will be sold and distributed by Kensington Publishing.

Shawanda Williams

The venture has been founded by literary agent, independent producer and author Shawanda Williams, who is also known by her pen name N'Tyse. Kreceda Tyler is overseeing acquisitions, with support from editorial associates Mandy Schultz and Brandie White.

Williams said, "The duality of being an author and having served the market as a literary agent for nearly nine years has allowed me to assess the industry from a unique vantage point. While some archaic paradigms have been replaced, there is still scant representation of BIPOC in the mainstream marketplace. However, with the vital support of our new partners, I hope that Black Odyssey can shift the trajectory as we usher in more diverse voices to cater to an underserved market."

She noted, too, that "in our current digital era and with the emergence of streaming platforms, the appetite and demand for creative content have soared, and a writer's aspiration to see their works on screen has never been more tangible. It's a surreal, yet humbling awakening for creatives right now, and I want Black Odyssey to lead in this new elevation as we use our influence to amplify Black storytellers in both literature and film."

Steven Zacharius, president and CEO of Kensington, said, "Whether she's writing her popular novels as N'Tyse, identifying talent as an agent, or developing innovative cross-media platforms for amplifying diverse voices, Shawanda Williams has a singular perspective and a keen sense of what the market wants. We have a history of success together--both in the books we've acquired from her as a literary agent, as well as her own novels published by our distribution client, Urban Books--so when she first came to Kensington with her vision for Black Odyssey Media, we immediately wanted to be a part of it."

Black Odyssey Media's inaugural list will make its debut in summer 2023 and includes American Gunner by Eddy Clark with D. Andrea Whitfield, inspired by a true crime; Women Cry in the Dark, Too by J.L. Blalock, a relationship drama; and The Accidental Queen by L.R. Jackson, a romance.

Obituary Note: Valerie Boyd

Valerie Boyd

Valerie Boyd, author of Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (2003), the first biography of Hurston in 25 years, died February 12. She was 58. Boyd was also the editor of the upcoming book Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker 1965-2000, which will be published April 12 by Simon & Schuster, and was working on an anthology titled Bigger than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.

A journalist and cultural critic, Boyd was the former arts editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and her work was published in numerous anthologies, magazines and newspapers. In 1990, she founded EightRock, a journal of black arts and culture; and in 1992 she co-founded HealthQuest, the first nationally distributed magazine focusing on African-American health. Boyd was an associate professor and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. 

"Valerie Boyd was one of the best people ever to live, which she did as a free being," said Alice Walker. "Even though illness was stalking her the past several years, she accompanied me in gathering, transcribing, and editing my journals Gathering Blossoms Under Fire, and stood with me until the end, though she will be with us in spirit only for publication on April 12, two months after her passing. This was a major feat, a huge act of love and solidarity, of sisterhood, of soul generosity and shared joy, for which she will be remembered; as she will be remembered with immense gratitude for her extraordinary biography Wrapped in Rainbows of our revered and irrepressible Medicine Ancestor, Zora Neale Hurston."
Dana Canedy, senior v-p & publisher of Simon & Schuster, commented, "We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Valerie Boyd. Boyd was a tremendous talent who touched so many with her generous spirit and deep commitment to storytelling. We regret that she didn't live to see Gathering Blossoms Under Fire published and in the hands of readers, but we will honor her work, and her legacy will not be forgotten."

"Valerie Boyd's towering prose, gentle spirit and moral compass will be greatly missed by all of us," said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. "She possessed a rare combination of gift and grit, a colleague who, once she set to a task, never let go. Her work with our MFA program set the course for what has become a family of writers--a family that grieves today, but also celebrates what she helped to build."

Charlayne Hunter-Gault observed that not only was Boyd a distinguished writer, "Valerie was, herself, wrapped in rainbows, as the light she shed on all who came in contact with her made them better people.... What made Valerie's light shine so bright without being blinding was her always calm demeanor and her unhurried, thoughtful responses to sometimes difficult questions.... It is my fervent hope that one (or many) of those who benefitted from Valerie's teaching will one day follow in both Valerie and Zora's footsteps, and as Valerie quoted Zora... 'be brave enough to undertake' a detailed account of her journey.' "


Valentine's Day Bookshop Wedding Proposal: Blue Cypress Books

"At the risk of being emotional (which is a thing we usually avoid), one of the absolute best parts of being a bookshop is getting to be a part of y'all's lives through big and small moments," Blue Cypress Books, New Orleans, La., posted on Facebook Monday. "We help new parents pick out their baby's first board books, and we help those same babies find their freshman English class required reading years later. We get to see people fall in love with reading for the first time, and we get to help people find just the right book to remember why they loved reading in the first place. We watch friend groups grow up and apart and back together, we see kids come here for college, fall in love with NOLA, and stick around. We see first dates, and date #137, and sometimes we even get to be a part of very romantic poetry night proposals.

"We're not crying! You're crying! Okay, we ARE crying but only a little bit because of how overwhelmingly grateful we are to be a part of your lives. Join us in congratulating tonight's lovely newly engaged couple, and thank you to a wonderful part of our BCB community, @chefkevinbelton and @jerseympc for this video!!"

'Bookish Bustling After Hours... in Warp Speed'

"What do just 5 minutes of our bookish bustling after hours look like in warp speed? See for yourself!" Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., shared an action-packed video. "Our workdays don't end right when we lock up at the end of the day. Rather, we turn the music up and work at least another hour, receiving, rearranging, tying up loose ends from the day, shelving, vacuuming, and so much more."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tomika Brown-Nagin on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Tomika Brown-Nagin, author of Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality (Pantheon, $30, 9781524747183).

NPR's Here & Now: Amina Luqman-Dawson, author of Freewater (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9780316056618).

TV: All the Secrets of the World

20th Television has optioned Steve Almond's upcoming novel All the Secrets of the World to adapt as a TV series. Deadline reported that the Gotham Group, which is under a first-look deal at 20th, is producing, and Jon Feldman (Monarch, Designated Survivor) will write the adaptation and serve as showrunner. The novel is set to be published by Zando on April 19. 

"I'm thrilled and downright amazed to be working with the folks at 20th TV and the Gotham Group in adapting All the Secrets of the World into a series," said Almond. "I've been a fanboy of Jon Feldman's work for years, and discussing the novel with him felt like a Vulcan Mind Meld. He understood, at every level, what I was hoping to achieve with Secrets, and I could immediately see that his vision for the series would both honor the book, and deepen its impact."

Books & Authors

Awards: SoA Translation Winners

Eight literary translators shared £19,000 (about $25,990) in awards at the Society of Authors' annual Translation Prizes, with Sarah Death winning for the third time by taking home the Bernard Shaw Prize for her translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson, edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson.

Prizes were awarded for translations from Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, German, French, Dutch, as well as for a debut literary translation from any language, with the winners announced in an online ceremony sponsored by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society. Check out the complete list of SoA Translation winners here.

Reading with... Ibi Zoboi

photo: Joseph Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi is the author of American Street, a National Book Award finalist; Pride; My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich; the picture book The People Remember (illustrated by Loveis Wise); and the Walter Award-winning novel-in-verse Punching the Air, co-written with Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. She is also the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America. Her middle-grade nonfiction debut, Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler, is now available from Penguin/Dutton. Born in Haiti and raised in New York City, Zoboi lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.

On your nightstand now:

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers's The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois is an 800-page tome that makes me feel like a super reader. It's been a very long time since I've dived into a work of fiction this long, but I'm up for the challenge. I had to read a lot of books as a judge for the National Book Awards, so this year I worked on my reading stamina. Jeffers's language and epic storytelling style pulled me right in, and after reading a few pages, I'm ready to jump into my current work in progress. Good sentences and sweeping metaphors are inspiring, no matter what genre I'm working on. They remind me of what can be done with words and language.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite books as a child happen to be the ones that I can remember. In the fourth and fifth grades, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Blubber by Judy Blume. In middle school it was Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I'm sure I would have actual favorites if I had more access to books as a child. We didn't have a bookstore in my neighborhood, and I didn't go to my local library often because my mother was busy working. I think I got the Judy Blume books from my classroom, and Stephen King books were all over the place. I think my mother picked them up at the supermarket.

Your top five authors:

Octavia Butler for her visionary and unapologetically truthful storytelling.

Toni Morrison for how she captures the breadth and depth of the Black American experience.

Edwidge Danticat for how she portrays the Haitian experience with such grace, beauty and love.

Jacqueline Woodson for how she writes for all children with compassion.

Alice Walker for writing The Color Purple, which is one of my absolute favorite movies.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't do that. I'm always proud to say if I haven't read a book, especially ones by white men. I never had to fake read in high school, either. I managed to get by on SparkNotes for assigned reading like Shakespeare's King Lear and Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. It was way cooler to admit to not having read those books and then ace the tests.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, about African shapeshifters who keep their power and magic across time and space, while having their own power struggles. This book says so much about patriarchy and the true, innate power and magic of women.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The dark-skinned girl with all those beautiful colors and jewelry--absolutely stunning!

Book you hid from your parents:

Change "book" to "boys" and I'll tell you about the YA memoir I'm going to write.

Book that changed your life:

Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. I loved that book so much that I looked up everything about the author and found out we share a birthday. That's when I realized that I wanted to do whatever she does for a living.

Favorite line from a book:

"There is no self to save apart from us. What would my life be like alone like a beast of prey?" --from Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah. I had to read that book in college for a course on African literature. It follows a group of young people in pre-colonial Ghana who escape being captured by European sea merchants. The book's main character says this line when her friends realize that she knew what was happening all along, but never told them. They asked her why she hadn't saved herself.

Five books you'll never part with:

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Beloved by Toni Morrison 
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
and one more brand-new fave: Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

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

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. After seeing the recent movie adaptation by Ava Duvernay, I want to revisit this book and read Meg as a Black girl. It will change how I experience this wonderful story.

Book Review

YA Review: Lakelore

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99 hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9781250624147, March 8, 2022)

Lakelore, the eighth YA novel by Anna-Marie McLemore (Mirror Season), is an exquisite and impassioned story about two neurodivergent Mexican American teens, both queer and nonbinary, who find solace in a magical lake world.

Sixteen-year-old Bastián Silvano crafts alebrijes (figures of mythical creatures) as an outlet for their ADHD-related anxiety. Bastián pours their "worst moments"--the excessive time spent worrying about telling relatives about taking testosterone; saying "I hate this family" after their abuela's reaction to their name change--into the painted papier-mâché. Then they release the alebrijes into a magical world under the lake, a "sea-foam bubble" of shimmering darkness, glittering stars and towering water star grass. There, the mythical animals come alive and stay beneath the surface. That is, until the day Lore Garcia appears, and the lake world slips into the real world, bringing with it the alebrijes and "proof of how often [Bastián struggles] with the ordinary work of existing."

Lore's family has relocated to Bastián's town after Lore hurt someone at school. As "a brown nonbinary kid... [in] a mostly white town," they need a "sparkling review" from their learning specialist to avoid being labeled "a lost cause." Lore hopes the review will say "no one would ever guess that [they're] dyslexic." The learning disability has earned Lore jeering taunts from classmates and insensitive urging from a teacher that Lore should "just sound it out." These memories haunt Lore as the clatter of the lake world mysteriously floods their home. Only the two teens can see the lake world, so only they can figure out why it's following them to land. But stopping the lake's persistent and triggering reach would mean baring their deepest shames.

Lakelore delivers mesmerizing magical realism, brilliant portrayals of gender transitioning and genderfluidity (the teens devise "daily gender forecasts" such as "a perfectly folded T-shirt" or "my abuelo's dictionary") and sensitive representations of living with ADHD and dyslexia. Bastián and Lore exhibit enduring patience with the other's expression of neurodivergence. The candidness and specificity with which each divulges how they think, how hard they work and how racism affects them stems from McLemore's experience as a nonbinary Mexican American diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. Through alternating first-person points of view, this magnificent YA novel urges acceptance and support, reminding readers that different isn't wrong, it's beautiful. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: Two neurodivergent and nonbinary Mexican American teens are the only ones who can see an underwater world that is encroaching on reality in this compassionate YA novel.

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