Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 20, 2023

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber


RISE Bookselling Conference Begins in Prague

Before the inaugural RISE Bookselling Conference, organized by the European & International Booksellers Federation, officially began in Prague yesterday morning, attendees took part in a Saturday afternoon tour celebrating the city's cultural and literary heritage. There were stops at several bookstores--Kavka Art Books and Knihkupectví Ostrov, among others--and visits to landmarks like the Charles Bridge, the astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall, Franz Kafka's birthplace and the city's oldest surviving synagogue. A reception with food and drinks followed in Prague's Little Quarter.

Malin Persson Giolito

The conference's first day began with a keynote talk by Swedish author Malin Persson Giolito, whose fourth novel, Störst av allt (Quicksand), was a break-out bestseller, and she predicted a strong future for physical books and bricks-and-mortar bookstores despite myriad challenges, including social media and online streaming services.

In the afternoon, author Lawrence Schimel discussed having two of his children’s books, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime, banned in Hungary and Russia due to their depiction of same-sex parents, and how solidarity from around the world helped him get through such a difficult experience.

Lawrence Schimel

The day concluded with a moving, energetic and very amusing keynote talk by comedian, author and broadcaster Robin Ince, who talked about his love of bookstores and "book people," and the capacity for books to foster compassion and expand a reader's worldview.

Panel discussions covered topics including sustainable bookselling, launching bookstore day celebrations, creating diverse and inclusive bookstores and much more. More about the RISE Bookselling Conference will appear in upcoming issues of Shelf Awareness. --Alex Mutter

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton

The Irish Book Trade Conference: A Report

BrocheAroe Fabian, owner of River Dog Book Co., Oconomowoc, Wis., reports on the Irish Book Trade Conference 2023:

Thanks to RISE Bookselling, the European & International Booksellers Federation program, nine non-Irish booksellers traveled to Cork for the Irish Book Trade Conference, held February 27-28. Joining the more than 80 Irish booksellers and publishers were two booksellers from Norway, two from New Zealand, one French bookseller and four American booksellers: Pamela Bailie, Hipocampo Children's Books, Rochester, N.Y.; Carrie Bertz, Bookies Bookstores, Chicago & Homewood, Ill.; Meg Wasmer, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass.; and me.

The camaraderie of book industry people is universal--the joy of Irish booksellers and publishing professionals seeing each other in person for the first time since before the pandemic was reminiscent of the joy felt by American booksellers at Winter Institute in Seattle just the week before.

RISE booksellers and staff, including (front row, l.) Pamela Bailie, Hipocampo Children's Books, (back row, second from l.) Meg Wasmer, Copper Dog Books, and (back row, fourth from l.) BrocheAroe Fabian, River Dog Book Co.

Pride in Irish literature was notable throughout the conference, both at the publisher tables on the trade show floor and during the bookshop tour, which featured Dubray, Eason, Vibes & Scribes and Waterstones. In addition to having its own personality, each store had at least one section and many faceouts highlighting Irish literature. When American indie booksellers think of local authors, self-published authors selling books on consignment often come to mind first. Witnessing the pride Irish booksellers have for Irish literature has inspired River Dog Book Co. to create a book list highlighting Wisconsin authors, something new for the store despite having held many events with Wisconsin authors.

That close connection between Irish bookstores and local authors was also underscored during the "Bookshop Events--Back on the Road" panel, when Irish booksellers were shocked to hear that some independent bookstores in the U.S. have authors sign event contracts that include required publicity and promotion efforts the author must provide. U.S. and Irish booksellers agreed that bookseller-to-community direct word-of-mouth (talk up events with customers in-store and at other events) and author promotion via social media and newsletters are the most effective ways to ensure event attendance and book sales, and it drove home how crucial the store-author relationship is.

Other sessions addressed a range of topics:

A keynote debate on the value of books highlighted that a perfect storm of supply-chain issues, rising printing costs, Brexit, a possible looming global recession and the increasing cover price of books is a concern just when people may have less money to spend on non-essential items. Still, attendees were encouraged by the explosion of new readers thanks to #BookTok, Colleen Hoover and several popular trends inspiring people to read the hottest titles and authors of the moment.

An analysis by Nielsen of Irish consumer market sales and trends showed that fiction, especially literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, romance and sagas, and graphic novels are up, with record sales for the Irish print book market, including these top five titles: It Ends with Us and It Starts with Us  by Colleen Hoover; The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid; Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes; and Forever Home by Graham Norton. Most nonfiction categories are down, with the exception of memoirs thanks to bestsellers like Prince Harry's Spare).

A state of the union address by Bookselling Ireland, Publishing Ireland and the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland highlighted that there has been a 3%-5% increase in overall membership and in independent bookstore locations in 2023, with 111 indie businesses operating 138 locations in the Republic of Ireland and 18 indie bookstores/locations in Northern Ireland.

A few key takeaways from the conference education sessions include:

A combination of concentrated digital marketing/social media presence (as in, pick one platform and invest time and effort there, rather than spreading a presence thinly across multiple social media accounts, and commit to sending e-newsletters) and community word of mouth are offering the biggest ROI for community building, sales pipeline and spreading the word about a shop's existence and store programming.

Irish diversity, equity and inclusion efforts have focused primarily on inclusion and representation of local/heritage languages such as Irish and Welsh and making safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community to work in bookshops and see themselves represented in the literature. This is a great place to start, especially as book banning aimed at LGBTQ+ books is increasing globally, but it was acknowledged this is only a starting point.

Having a formalized staff training and promotion program can help create dedicated, long-term/career booksellers and bookstore owners. In France, there's a two-year education/hands-on learning certificate program one must go through to become a bookseller, and in Ireland, several stores mentioned having up to a 10-month training/on-boarding program for new booksellers. At the conference, the BA launched a series of resources members can access via the BA website to assist with staff training and development.

And last, here's advice for booksellers applying for a RISE Bookselling opportunity: pack your walking shoes, bring store stickers or other small giveaway items, and leave at least half a suitcase empty for all the books you'll be bringing home. Find out more about applying for a future RISE Bookselling conference opportunity at

The 2023 Walter Awards: Books Save Lives

(standing, l.-r.) Jacqueline Woodson, Sabaa Tahir, Andrea L. Rogers, Sonora Reyes, Ibi Zoboi, Angela Joy, Janelle Washington, Amina Luqman-Dawson; (front) Ellen Oh (all photos by Nancy Anderson Cordell)

The eighth annual ceremony for the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature was simultaneously livestreamed and held in person at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library in Washington, D.C., last week. The award, given by nonprofit organization We Need Diverse Books, recognizes "diverse authors whose works feature diverse main characters and address diversity in a meaningful way." 2018 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jacqueline Woodson served as emcee for the event, which began with​ ​a​ symposium​ ​on​ ​diversity​ ​in​ ​children's​ ​literature.​ WNDB founding member and CEO Ellen Oh moderated a panel ​on "Books Save Lives,"​ ​which featured 2023 Walter honorees Sonora Reyes (The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School, Balzer + Bray), Sabaa Tahir (All My Rage, Razorbill) and Ibi Zoboi (Star Child, Dutton Books). The panel was followed by the presentation of awards in the "Younger Readers" and "Teen" categories and speeches by winners Angela Joy and Janelle Washington (Choosing Brave, Roaring Brook Press) and Andrea L. Rogers (Man Made Monsters, Levine Querido). Award-winner Jeff Edwards (Man Made Monsters, Levine Querido) and honoree Christina Soontornvat (The Last Mapmaker, Candlewick) were unable to attend. 

Jacqueline Woodson

"We are here today," Woodson began, "to celebrate the winners and honorees and celebrate the life of Walter Dean Myers." She paused. "I can't believe I get so choked up, but of course I do--this is family. It was hard saying goodbye to Walter, but he lives on in this moment." The U.S., she said, "is experiencing a rash of book bans and censorship which, more often than not, target diverse books and authors of color." The theme this year, "Books Save Lives," is "because we believe in the power of diverse books."

Ellen Oh's first question for the panelists got right to the point: Is there a book that saved your life? For Tahir, it was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. But the first book she saw herself in was Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen. Tahir was in fourth grade when she read the title and it was the first time she had seen Muslim characters in a book: "it felt like finding a secret." She loved it so much, she asked the librarian if she could buy it. "No," the librarian said, "But you can lose the book." Tahir was too afraid to "lose" the book but has since received a signed copy from Cohen.

For Zoboi, who grew up in New York City, it was Breath Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat. "I don't want to say 'saved my life,'" Zoboi clarified, but it "gave me a raison d'être." After "hearing so many negative portrayals of Haiti, I knew that the media was telling lies about the country I was born in." The book was validating: "To see Edwidge Danticat celebrating on a national level let me know that my personal story, as niche as it may seem, can be celebrated. In that moment, I decided I wanted to be a writer."

Reyes said Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee "literally" saved their life. "I was in a mental hospital at the time that I read it. I just really needed something lighthearted that centered the trans experience in a way that wasn't about the oppression." Reyes said that being in the hospital can be particularly terrible for queer and trans people: "Every time I go to the hospital, it's a lot of misgendering and a period of having to go back into the closet." And so Meet Cute Diary was exactly what they needed at the time. "I had never experienced something so unapologetically joyful."

Panelists Sonora Reyes, Ibi Zoboi, Sabaa Tahir, Ellen Oh

The conversation, which ended with questions from teen members of the audience, delved into the themes of the authors' books while also covering the larger topic of book banning. When Oh asked the panel what they'd like to say to the young people in the room about those working to remove literature from schools and libraries, Zoboi promised hope: "I really believe that we will always be storytellers. Without our stories, there wouldn't be books. But without books, there will still be stories." Tahir assured the students that there are adults fighting for them and their access to literature: "We will keep yelling until you are ready to join that shout."

After the panel, the awards ceremony kicked off with a speech by special guest Amina Luqman-Dawson, 2023 Newbery Medalist (Freewater, Jimmy Patterson) and former WNDB mentee. "It makes me emotional to hear Jacqueline introduce me," she started. "The last time she emceed this event, I was sitting in the audience, clutching my manuscript." Luqman-Dawson said she was there "to speak to the youth. To really focus on you all. It is a great honor to address you today." Those who ban books, she said, tell people they are looking out for young people--that children and teens "need to be protected from feeling bad about themselves." She waited a beat. "If book banners truly cared about how bad young people feel, we'd be talking about gun control, right? We'd be talking about how to best protect kids and not have them go into educational environments filled with fear." The teens yelled and clapped enthusiastically. "This war on books is not about how young people might feel bad or uncomfortable. It's not even truly a war on books--it's a war to control what young people think, what you know and what you believe. It's not the ideas of the people like me, the people who write the books, [that the book banners] are afraid of. It's about your ideas because they know your ideas can--and likely will--change the world."

Woodson hugged Luqman-Dawson then took the podium again. She reminded the audience that the inaugural Walters Awards took place in 2016. That year, the committee received "just under 50 submissions." In 2022, the committee "received just under 500" titles. She then handed out awards.

Janelle Washington

"Younger Readers" winners Angela Joy and Janelle Washington both focused on the "bravery" in their book, Choosing Brave, for their speeches. Washington spoke of going to the library as a child and how she "felt the right books would call out" to her. They did and "this magical feeling introduced me to new authors, illustrators and genres not presented to me in school." She felt seen and connected through literature--it is "our connections with each other that can give us the strength to be brave in the face of everyday adversity."

Angela Joy

Joy told the crowd that, when she started writing the story of Mamie Till-Mobley in 2017, she got some "side-eye." "There's a healthy slice of America that wouldn't like to see [Mamie's] story at all--it would be so much more convenient to let sleeping dogs lie." But "the problem," she said, "is that the hatred that killed Emmett Till is still with us. Innocent lives are still being lost with bubblegum and skittles in pocket." As a country, Joy said, "we admire bravery. We value bravery." So she, her editor and Washington "knew this was a theme that kids could latch onto." Joy was in the midst "of editing Choosing Brave when George Floyd was murdered. It was devastating for me. Minneapolis [Joy's hometown] was my safe space. I was down for the count. There were days I didn't want to get up. My editor would say, 'We have to be like Mamie and choose brave.' " She ended her speech with an answer to a question she often hears from white parents: When should they teach their kids about racism? "The future leaders of tomorrow's hate groups," she said, "are being taught as babes in arms. Maybe we should be just as intentional in what we teach our babies." Joy, who is also a professional singer, closed with a rendition of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific: "You've got to be taught to hate and fear./ You've got to be taught from year to year./ It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear./ You've got to be carefully taught."

Andrea L. Rogers

"To say that standing here in front of you to accept an award named after Walter Dean Myers is an honor is an understatement," began Andrea L. Rogers, citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and winner of the "Teen" category. "I got serious about writing books for children because I had children who were faced with the same lack of story by us and about us that I had experienced 24 years previously." Her children would tell their friends and playmates that they are Cherokee and would receive the response, "you can't be Indian, they're all dead." So, Rogers said, "for me, reading provided an escape but writing provided me a way to say, 'We are still here.' In this way, I get to live. I wrote myself into existence. I write, therefore I am."

After the ceremony, WNDB offered signing opportunities with all the authors in attendance; books were provided by Politics and Prose bookstore. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Zaffiris Joins Open Road as CFO/COO

Robert Zaffiris has joined Open Road Integrated Media as CFO/COO, succeeding Charles Gallagher. In a letter to staff announcing the changes, chairman and CEO David Steinberger said that Gallagher is leaving "because of family commitments in Bethesda, Md., that make it very challenging to consistently spend significant time in the New York office."

Steinberger thanked Gallagher for his work, saying that "he has played a key role in positioning Open Road for significant growth and record revenues. As many of you know, Charles and I worked together extensively in the past, and we had anticipated his role here to be compatible with his family obligations. But it has turned out that balancing those commitments has been more challenging than expected."

Zaffiris was most recently CFO/COO at Shakespeare & Co., which he joined in 2019 as chief development officer. Before that, he held a variety of jobs at HarperCollins, including chief financial officer, international; head of global strategic corporate development; and senior v-p, worldwide finance. He also worked previously with Steinberger, who said that Zaffiris, who is based in the New York area, "brings extraordinary expertise in finance, operations and strategy to the position."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Oblong Books Hosts John Sayles

Oblong Books, Millerton & Rhinebeck, N.Y., hosted filmmaker and author John Sayles for his historical adventure novel Jamie MacGillivray (Melville House) at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, Conn. Pictured: Helen Seslowsky, events head for Oblong Books, with Sayles.

Cool Idea of the Day: Book Vending Machines in Schools

Sleepy Dog Books in Mount Pleasant, Mich., has set up book vending machines in the halls of two local elementary schools, Second Wave Media reported.

The vending machines, located in Fancher and Mary McGuire Elementary schools, contain more than 300 titles and are part of the school's Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program. Rather than take cash, the vending machines take book tokens, which students can earn for "making positive choices in their learning environment."

Jenny and Riley Justis, owners of Sleepy Dog Books, opened the bookstore in 2022. Jenny Justis told Second Wave: "By providing the machines and partnering with the District to bring the latest in book titles to the halls of these schools, we are hopeful to drive student interest in reading and passion for physical books."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Farnoosh Torabi, Dr. William Li on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Farnoosh Torabi, author of A Healthy State of Panic: Follow Your Fears to Build Wealth, Crush Your Career, and Win at Life (Atria, $27.99, 9781982199197).

Tamron Hall: Tessa Bailey, author of Secretly Yours: A Novel (Avon, $17.99, 9780063238985).

Good Morning America: Dr. William Li, author of Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer (Balance, $30, 9781538753903).

Today Show: Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships (TarcherPerigee, $28, 9780593539279).

The View: Daymond John, author of Little Daymond Learns to Earn (Random House Books for Young Readers, $19.99, 9780593567272).

Rachael Ray: Ronnie Woo, author of Did You Eat Yet?: Craveable Recipes from an All-American Asian Chef (Harvest, $32.50, 9780358581697).

Books & Authors

Awards: Lammy Finalists; Republic of Consciousness Shortlist

Finalists for the 2023 Lambda Literary Awards in 35 categories have been announced and can be seen here. Finalists and winners will be celebrated at the Lammy Awards in New York City on June 9.


A shortlist has been released for the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Pressesi in the U.S. and Canada. The five titles on the shortlist will split $15,000 equally, with 50% to the press, 50% to the author, or where applicable 1/3 each to the press, author and translator. The winner "gets bragging rights." This year's shortlisted publishers are:

Restless Books for Blood Red for by Gabriela Ponce, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
A Public Space Books for God's Children Are Little Broken Things: Stories by Arinze Ifeakandu
Transit Books for A New Name, Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
New Vessel Press for Pollak's Arm by Hans von Trotha, translated from the German by Elisabeth Lauffer
Coach House Books for The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr

Book Review

Review: The Last Animal

The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel (Riverhead Books, $28 hardcover, 288p., 9780593420522, April 18, 2023)

In The Last Animal, award-winning novelist Ramona Ausubel (Awayland) tells the wondrous and tender story of two teenaged daughters and their widowed mother in the aftermath of their father's death. Eve and Vera have always been close, but since their father died, it's felt increasingly like all they have is each other. Their mother, Jane, is doing the best she can, but she's also busy trying to carve out a space for herself in a male-dominated biology field. When Eve and Vera are forced to tag along on their mother's scientific expedition to Siberia, they think it will just be another few months of watching her be patronized by her colleagues. That is, until the girls unearth a rare mammoth, entirely intact, in the permafrost. What follows is a fantastical journey into the kind of life may or may not be possible after death, and the equally fantastical experience of becoming a woman in a world of men.

The world of The Last Animal is both strikingly recognizable and yet laced with magic, a place where things Ausubel's characters can barely imagine exist just beneath the surface of everyday life, and yet the things they want most remain ever out of reach. Such a world--which balances on the edge of magical realism--combined with Ausubel's quietly evocative prose gives the novel a perpetual sense of longing. This longing, in Ausubel's descriptions, is often housed in the body. A formless yearning means a character's "feet and fingers itched. She felt bitten. She ached," just as love "jag[s] through [her] like an electric storm." Like this world's magical elements, feelings that go beyond articulation find expression in the tangible, the scientific, the biological.

While Ausubel's world is captivating, it is her core characters, and particularly sisters Eve and Vera, that make The Last Animal memorable. Their dynamic is natural but never simplistic, reflected in how they speak to each other with a frankness of emotion that they don't share with others. And though Eve, Vera and Jane's relationships all shift over the course of the novel, there is a continuity of feeling that grounds the reader in Vera's perspective, in particular. Vera's ongoing sense of being both an essential piece of her sister's life and yet always on its outskirts captures the novel's overall commitment to what it means to be on the fringes, able to see things others can't but never fully incorporated into the whole. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: A fascinating exploration of a family fighting to find themselves and each other after encountering the unknown, The Last Animal is a vulnerable meditation on what binds us.

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