Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

For Love of Family. And Microwaves

My favorite part of leafing through my grandparents' old cookbooks is finding annotations on sauce-spattered pages. Beside one cocktail recipe, my grandmother noted the party where she'd served it. My grandfather's handwriting, below, notes: "Darn good, too!"

So much of the joy of cooking stems from associations with loved ones we're cooking for, and those we've learned from. In that spirit, these cookbooks celebrate legacies and recipes across eras and borders. And, as ever, also celebrate microwaves.

Grow kitchen confidence and perspective on cooking (and recipes themselves) with Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (and Love My Microwave) (Clarkson Potter, $35) from David Chang and Priya Krishna (Indian-ish). Sage advice: "Next time you're craving your mom's pho, or your dad's enchiladas, don't e-mail them for a recipe, go and cook with them in their kitchen. Spend that quality time asking questions about how the dish came about, and why a certain ingredient is used." Dawn Perry offers similarly practical, candid guidance threaded with gratitude in Ready Set Cook: How to Make Good Food with What's on Hand (No Fancy Skills, Fancy Equipment, or Fancy Budget Required) (Simon & Schuster, $30).

Further honor legacies by tucking into Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen's spectacularly beautiful, movingly rendered In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean (Ten Speed, $35). Likewise beautiful, sincere and expansive: The Eat Offbeat Chefs' The Kitchen Without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs (Workman, $24.95). Finally, re-create dishes from a restaurant that re-creates dishes from a home encompassing multiple continents, with Jason Wang and Jenny Huang's Xi'an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York's Favorite Noodle Shop (Abrams, $35). All darn good, too. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Catherine Price: Taking Fun Seriously

photo: Colin Lenton

Catherine Price is a writer and speaker whose work considers the surprising science behind things we often take for granted, such as vitamins, cell phones and even fun. Price's How to Break Up with Your Phone is the handbook for stepping away from all-consuming devices, and her new book, The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again (reviewed below), helps readers identify experiences that will harness the power of fun.

Let's start with the question you ask at the start of the book: When was the last time you had fun?

Ah, yes, [laughing] I'm happy to report that I've had a lot of fun and in totally unexpected contexts. I went to the dermatologist this morning, and--

Not typically fun, right?

Not typically fun, no. But my dermatologist is very easy-to-laugh, and we had this fun conversation joking around about my sensitive skin. I recognize that doesn't sound fun, but it was! For a more traditional example of fun, I went to a finger-picking guitar class last night, where the fun came from making music together and interacting with people who have become a real community for me. Both, though very different, were examples of what I call True Fun.

How has your understanding of fun changed through the process of writing this book?

When I first started this project, I was more focused on what I would call Peak Fun experiences, those moments you will remember for years. What I hadn't recognized was that I was having moments of Everyday Fun that I wasn't appreciating or labeling as such. Once I put effort into noticing those smaller moments in my everyday life, I realized I have a lot more micro-moments of fun sprinkled throughout my days than I ever would have thought. I'm not going to remember that dermatology appointment for the rest of my life, but the fun we shared was worth paying attention to.

You define "True Fun" as "the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow." If you were forced to prioritize only one, which would it be?

Obviously, I love all three states, and each of them is really great on its own. Even if you don't hit all three at once, aiming at playfulness, connection or flow ["a term used in psychology to describe experiences in which you are fully engrossed... to the point that you lose track of the passage of time"] is going to set your life in a better, more engaged direction. But if I had to pick one, I would say flow because you can't really connect or engage in playfulness if you're not in flow with someone. Anything that distracts us is going to pull us out of flow, so I think that flow is the foundation of fun, and our biggest task is to remove the obstacles that keep us from flow. For most of us, that obstacle is our phones.

In the book, you unpack the relationship between time and money, work and consumerism, but the obvious critiques to your argument are often tied to these things: How can I focus on fun if I have to work multiple jobs just to stay afloat? If I can't afford the things I find "fun," does that mean I'm doomed to a life unlived?

There is, firstly, an assumption that your basic needs are met. You're not going to be able to prioritize fun if you don't know where your next meal is coming from, or if you don't know how you're going to pay the rent. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid structure that outlines steps to reach your full human potential, and the bottom tier is those essential needs: food, shelter, safety and security. Moving up the pyramid, you can focus on emotional connections and a feeling of purpose and then self-actualization, or being your true, authentic self. What my research uncovered was that fun isn't just a side effect of those things; fun is the cause. The more fun you're having, the stronger your relationships are going to be, and the more you're going to feel like your true, authentic self because you'll be fully present in your own life.

We've been manipulated into thinking we need to have a lot of material possessions to have fun. It's just not true. We're encouraged to buy new gadgets that are marketed to us as fun, when in fact, we could have a lot more fun for a lot less money if we took a step back and asked ourselves "what are the people and situations and activities where I find fun the most frequently?" and work to build those into our lives.

Do you think that if today's adults were to embrace fun, they could aid the next generation in choosing a more enriched life?

There is a mental health crisis with America's youth right now. And in large part, that's due to perfectionism and the pressure to perform. Many kids aren't being given the chance to do things just for the sake of enjoyment. If adults can let go of that mentality, we would both enjoy our lives more in the present and also show them a different way to live. I think you'd have people who are happier and more confident and empowered to make positive change in the world. We all have this potential for growth and experience, but we tend to shut ourselves off from it as we get older. When we prioritize fun, we often find ourselves as beginners again, continuing to grow and evolve.

Throughout the book, you encourage your readers to see themselves as unfinished people who still have things to learn and do.

Yes, we're not finished! Why not keep changing and learning? So much of what we do, whether it's throwing ourselves into work or exercising or entertainment, it's to avoid the existential thoughts that come in moments of stillness. True Fun is the antidote to all that.

Your website invites readers to take a Fun Personality quiz, which made me wonder: What's your fun personality?

I'm a Fun Organizer, someone who organizes activities to create fun for other people, which can be great, but the downside is you get so wrapped up in the logistics that you forget to have fun yourself. The other types are the Fun Generator, who bring the fun no matter the situation. And then, the Fun Accelerator--not the source of fun themselves, but their presence accelerates the fun. The Fun Seeker finds fun events or activities to try. Of course, each of us can have more than one personality type, but the quiz gives readers ways to connect or discuss these ideas together.

Though the book has a lightheartedness about it, it could also be therapeutic, especially for those who don't see themselves in any of those personalities. There may be readers who need to be reminded of the power of fun in their lives, and they may just rediscover themselves in the process.

That really is my hope. The first section is "Fun, Seriously" because fun is really powerful and should be taken seriously. It has the power to change people's lives, and the world, for the better. --Sara Beth West, librarian and freelance reviewer

Book Candy

Happy Holidays

Open Culture screened "an Oscar-winning animation of Charles Dickens's classic tale, A Christmas Carol (1971)."


The Guardian invited readers to "Christmas parties that never happened: the best festive revels in literature."


"How Mrs. Claus embodied 19th-century debates about women's rights" in stories and poems. (via the Conversation)


"10 holiday movies and what to read after," courtesy of the New York Public Library.


"In Victorian England, ghost stories were a beloved Christmas tradition," Mental Floss noted.


Hunter S. Thompson "sets his Christmas tree on fire, almost burns his house down (1990)." (via Open Culture)

Great Reads

Rediscover: Eve Babitz

Eve Babitz, "the voluptuous bard of Los Angeles, who wrote with sharp wit and a connoisseur's enthusiasm of its outsize characters and sensuous pleasures--from taquitos to LSD--and found critical acclaim and a new audience late in life," died December 17 at age 78, the New York Times reported. Babitz was 30 when her first book, Eve's Hollywood, "a memoir in shardlike essays, was published in 1974." She would go on to write five more books, including autobiographical novels like Sex and Rage (1979) and L.A. Woman (1982); essay collections like Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh and L.A. (1977), as well as magazine articles. Babitz got sober in the 1980s and published her sixth book, the essay collection Black Swans, in 1993.

Babitz became a recluse after an accident in 1997, but during the past decade she has had a revival, "with a generation of young book influencers like Emma Roberts, Instagram's Belletrist, trumpeting her work, reissued by several publishing houses starting in 2015," the Times wrote. In 2010, Lili Anolik began pursuing Babitz, a quest that became a Vanity Fair article in 2014, and then a personal biography, Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. (2019). NYRB Classics published I Used to Be Charming, a collection of previously printed essays and one new work, in 2019.

Book Review



by Marissa Stapley

In the amusing, often poignant Lucky, Marissa Stapley's fourth novel, Luciana "Lucky" Armstrong's entire life has been one big con, bilking people out of their money, sometimes their friendship or love.

Lucky was born into the con game. As an infant, her father, John, rescued her from the church steps where she'd been left, and then talked a nun into giving the baby her gold crucifix. Lucky's childhood was spent in deceit, crisscrossing the country as John bamboozled people. When they had enough money to stop, John either gambled it away, had duped the wrong people or became restless, as he does after they briefly live with a rich widow who's in love with him. At age 26, Lucky's skills as a con-woman surpass those of her now-imprisoned father. When the Ponzi scheme she and her boyfriend, Cary, hatched in Boise fails, the couple escapes to Las Vegas, where Cary disappears with their money. Lucky has another problem--the lottery ticket she bought in Idaho is worth $390 million. But she can't claim the money without being arrested or killed by hardened criminals on her trail.

Stapley alternates the clever, high-stakes plot between the past and present with breakneck pacing that shows how each character, except the lovable dog Betty, plays out a con. Strongest is the intriguing depiction of Lucky, who thrives on the thrill of the con, but longs for a "normal" life--though she has no idea what that means or how to achieve it. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

Discover: This amusing novel stars a young con-woman on the run who holds a $390 million lottery ticket.

Simon & Schuster, $17, paperback, 256p., 9781668002452

Mystery & Thriller

Silent Parade: A Detective Galileo Novel

by Keigo Higashino, trans. by Giles Murray

Physics professor Manabu Yukawa's weirdness, science-mindedness and commitment to coaxing rather than directing the police toward answers have been his calling card throughout the Detective Galileo books (The Devotion of Suspect XSalvation of a SaintA Midsummer's Equation), and these qualities abound in Keigo Higashino's first-rate Silent Parade, the fourth title in the series. As the novel begins, the Shizuoka Prefectural Police have just found the remains of Saori Namiki in the ruins of a "trash house" that recently caught fire; an examination of her bones determines that a skull fracture was the cause of death for the young woman, who disappeared three years earlier, when she was 19.

The other remains found at the house were those of the old woman who lived there, whose son, Kanichi Hasunuma, was a suspect in a case that the Tokyo police worked 23 years earlier involving the murder of a 12-year-old girl. Now chief inspector, Kusanagi approaches this new case hell-bent on forging a connection between the two--a task made all the more difficult when Hasunuma is murdered.

Higashino (MaliceNewcomerUnder the Midnight Sun) nimbly employs a wandering point of view to let readers access the minds of key characters, from the Tokyo detectives who lean on the bemused Detective Galileo to the individuals who loved the two young murder victims and whose opportunities to seek revenge are of particular interest to the police. Silent Parade is a twist-and-turn mystery in which, for some characters, Detective Galileo is an enigma unto himself. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: The terrific fourth title in the Detective Galileo series finds the physics professor helping the Tokyo police solve two related murders committed two decades apart.

Minotaur, $27.99, hardcover, 352p., 9781250624819

The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden

by Kate Saunders

Victorian England's favorite lady detective returns to investigate a confounding case of triple murders in The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden by Kate Saunders. Set in the colorful theater community of London's gritty West End in the mid-1800s, this entertaining mystery is the third in a series starring Laetitia Rodd, a widow with a famously dry wit, razor-sharp observations and a fondness for dead bodies. Narrated by Mrs. Rodd herself, the story is a tragedy in several acts, beginning with a long-ago murder and ending in a series of shocking twists that rattle the entire theater world.

The genteel Mrs. Rodd lives in quiet, cozy domesticity in London's Hampstead neighborhood. She takes on occasional investigative work to support herself, often at the behest of her brother, a famous barrister known for his dramatic court performances. Engaged to help a former actress, Sarah Transome, obtain a financial settlement from her estranged husband, Mrs. Rodd ventures across the city to meet her client. Before long, she is immersed in the complicated drama of the Transome family. When her client is implicated in a murder investigation, Mrs. Rodd teams up with her onetime nemesis, Scotland Yard's Inspector Blackbeard, to solve the crime.

Saunders (Laetitia Rodd and the Case of the Wandering Scholar; The Secrets of Wishtide) has crafted a devilishly complex plot swirling with "rampant flimflam" on the part of unreliable witnesses. The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden will delight established fans of Mrs. Rodd, while readers new to the series can enjoy this latest installment as a standalone novel. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: A Victorian lady sleuth is drawn into the underbelly of London's theater world to help prevent an innocent woman from being hanged for murder in this entertaining mystery.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781408866924


An Accidental Odyssey

by K.C. Dyer

In An Accidental Odyssey, K.C. Dyer (Finding Fraser; 80 Days to Elsewhere) has created a sunny romance that retraces the journey of Odysseus across the Mediterranean. As it begins, Gia Kostas is a bit depressed that her internship as a food writer has just ended. On the other hand, her wedding to wealthy publishing scion Anthony Hearst is just three months away. The pandemic seems to be mostly over, New York City is returning to normal, and Anthony and Gia are planning an extravagant wedding.

But then Gia's dad, professor Aristotle Kostas, whom she hasn't spent much time with since her parents' divorce, has a ministroke. Extremely stubborn, he checks himself out of the hospital and vanishes, leaving behind the medicine he's supposed to take. Gia impulsively grabs it, and hops on a plane to Greece in pursuit of him, much to Anthony's irritation. But as she joins his quest to find Odysseus's exact travel route, Gia is enjoying getting to know her father better. And the fact that her father's handsome colleague, Dr. Raj Malik, accompanies them for part of the journey definitely doesn't hurt.

An Accidental Odyssey is lighthearted but also mindful of how the pandemic cost many lives and drastically affected tourism in Greece. It neatly balances romance and current reality. As Gia and her dad get to know each other and learn more about themselves, Gia realizes that she's much more capable than she thought. Atmospheric and full of luscious food descriptions, this novel is a perfect way to armchair travel. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Discover: In this adventurous romance, a woman finds herself falling for her father's colleague as they travel in search of historical links to Odysseus.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 400p., 9780593102060

Biography & Memoir

Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story of the Photographer Nanny

by Ann Marks

Ann Marks's passion for genealogical research and solving mysteries is on full display in Vivian Maier Developed, an analytical, thoroughly researched biography of an enigmatic photographer who was never afforded an audience for her work during her lifetime.

Vivian Maier, an American of French/German extraction, was a free spirit who came from a lineage plagued with challenges--mental illness, bigamy, poverty, substance abuse. Neglected and shunned by her family, Maier--solitary and morbidly private--carved out a life of her own. Employed as a nanny and caretaker, she dutifully tended to her charges while pursuing photography, mostly street photography, as a fine art. Marks makes the case that Maier was never able to secure the right connections to pursue a professional career. Therefore, she honed her craft in obscurity--leaving behind a massive body of work discovered only in 2007, two years before her death. When her storage lockers in Chicago went into arrears and were auctioned, a trove of 140,000 images and 45,000 undeveloped negatives were discovered. Through the efforts of one local photo dealer with a good eye and a keen business sense, Maier's unrecognized artistic genius was finally launched into the public. 

With wisdom and respectful insight, Marks shares pivotal details of Maier's life--her many travels, those who crossed her path and what drove her artistic dedication--as well as nearly 400 of her photographs, reproduced in these pages. Drawing on documents and ephemera, along with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs from the Maier archive, Marks perceptively probes the emotional, psychological and intellectual depths that created and sustained one of photography's greatest masters. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This perceptive, in-depth biography considers enigmatic Vivian Maier, a masterful street photographer who visually captured the human condition.

Atria, $40, hardcover, 368p., 9781982166724

Psychology & Self-Help

The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again

by Catherine Price

After months of lockdown, with uncertainty piling upon boredom, science journalist Catherine Price offers a remedy in The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again. Price, known for revealing the science behind ordinary things, came to this research after a revelatory moment of scrolling through her phone while feeding her newborn. It also builds on her How to Break Up with Your Phone, and readers familiar with that book might notice Price treading similar ground as she explains how social media and smartphones have hijacked our attention and changed the definition of "fun." This book responds to those saying, "I've put down my phone. Now what?" For Price, the answer is "True Fun," not the empty facsimile offered by the latest app.

Price compiles evidence for the ways focusing on fun is a path to flourishing, a way to feel fully alive. With a practical and systematic approach, Price gathers research and resources while crafting a shared vocabulary of concepts that readers can use to discover (or perhaps recover) their Fun Personality or Fun Magnets--the elements that tap into their distinctive chemistries of fun. Uniting everyone is a focus on presence and attentiveness, requirements for True Fun as well as a life well-lived. Perfect for a season of reflection and growth, Price invites readers on a journey that will make it easy to answer the question: "When was the last time you had fun?" --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Discover: Perfect for a season of reflection and growth, The Power of Fun invites readers on a journey toward "True Fun."

The Dial Press, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780593241400

Performing Arts

The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera

by Matthew Aucoin

Bubbling at the core of every song, every book and every poem exists the magnificent and ethereal jewel that humans have grown accustomed to describing as art. But what is "art"? Why does "art" affect us? How can one begin to describe the concept of "art," when "art," itself, is impossible to describe with rational logic and intellectual reasoning? The answer to the last of these questions resides within the question itself: it is impossible. But rarely is this "impossibility" better illuminated than in Matthew Aucoin's deeply insightful and delightfully entertaining work, The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera.

Aucoin, a conductor, composer, pianist, MacArthur Fellow and writer of this impressive collection of informative musings on opera's past, present and future, weaves a powerful love story between art and opera: the former, a concept whose depths will never be fully probed, and the latter, a medium that is all too often misjudged as something snobby, unobtainable and belonging to the distant past. Dancing between topics such as the historical and artistic importance of Orpheus and Eurydice, the working relationships between Stravinsky and various librettists, and the operatic ramifications of Walt Whitman's poetry, The Impossible Art serves as a valuable guide to those who seek a more intimate relationship with art, with opera and with the mysteries of the human soul that reside within the realm of artistic creation--no matter how impossible that realm may be to approach. --Eamon Stein, reader, writer and filmmaker in Seattle, Wash.

Discover: This collection serves as a valuable guide to those who seek a more intimate relationship with art, opera and the mysterious "impossibility" that lies at the core of every artistic creation.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780374175382


Call Us What We Carry: Poems

by Amanda Gorman

Poet Amanda Gorman (Change Sings) captured the attention of the nation when in January she became the youngest inaugural poet in history. In her lyrical, piercingly honest collection of more than 70 poems, Call Us What We Carry, Gorman offers insights about life during the "overcrowded solitude" of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing racial reckoning in the U.S. and the challenges--fraught yet beautiful--of being human.

Gorman is concerned with narrative and memory, wondering, "How can we possibly begin the story of what has happened to us?" and admitting, "The hardest part of grief/ Is giving it a name." She reflects on masks, isolation, fear and grief, using a variety of formats--blank verse, brief rhyming pieces, even erasure poems--to make space for tragedies old and new. She does not mince words about the country's treatment of Black people: "Whoever said we never die/ In our dreams obviously/ Has never been Black." She touches on slave ships, racial profiling, police brutality and the weight of being constantly othered as a Black person.

Over and over again, Gorman insists that the only answers to humanity's problems are found in true community: "Like a page, we are only legible/ When opened to one another." As in her inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb" (included in this collection), Gorman turns consistently toward light and hope: "On this meaningful morn, we mourn & we mend./ Like light, we can't be broken, even when we bend." At once heartbreaking and deeply healing, Gorman's collection calls readers to their best selves, even--or especially--in the face of great loss. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman offers incisive, lyrical insights on race, the pandemic and the human community in her 70-poem collection.

Viking, $24.99, hardcover, 240p., 9780593465066

A Different Distance: A Renga

by Marilyn Hacker, Karthika Naïr

Poets Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Naïr, living mere miles from each other in Paris, were forced like so many to reckon with isolation despite proximity during the pandemic-necessitated lockdown of 2020. Their response became A Different Distance: A Renga, a collaborative collection drawn from Japanese poetic tradition. That spring, the friends began exchanging poems, responding every few days to each other's words throughout that unprecedented year and into March of 2021. Like passing a baton in a relay, each poem picks up a word or phrase from the close of the one before, carrying it into its lines, transforming it into something new. This technique increases the feeling of dialogue, not just between the poets but between the poems themselves. The result is a vivid correspondence and an emotional archive of the particularities of those days.

In addition to the realities of lockdown, the two poets write the rest of their experiences into being, from chemotherapy and trips to the baker to watching TV and worrying about family and friends abroad. While some of the references may be unfamiliar to readers in the United States, the reality of shared loss--"Grief edged by new,/ enforced distance, by/ the lack of touch, of last rites"-- or the bright laughter of children at play--"COVID-Age/ tag in our courtyard:/ not more than two at a time"--will reinforce shared experiences. Spare but alive, these poems capture the common feeling of isolation and distance and the importance of human connection. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Discover: Two poets collaborate to create a renga, vivid poems in dialogue alternating between their voices, as they capture feelings of distance and intimacy during the pandemic.

Milkweed Editions, $16, paperback, 96p., 9781571315519

Children's & Young Adult

Light for All

by Margarita Engle, illus. by Raúl Colón

Former Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle (Your Heart, My Sky) masterfully blends inspiring symbolism with sobering reality in Light for All, a picture book that both celebrates and exposes the hardships of the immigrant experience. Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator Raúl Colón (Imagine!) splendidly fills the pages with his signature colored-pencil art, inviting readers into landscapes and locations near and far.

"From land to land/ brave travelers arrive/ with hopes, dreams, skills/ and determination," Engle's text begins. Colón populates the opposite page with an international cast presented in sepia tones, with the funnels of a large ship in the background. Colón's point of view pulls outward with the page turn to show the ship heading into New York Harbor. U.S. shores enable "wondrous" reunions, but reminders of destruction and devastation loom. Engle projects "the promise of jobs" that beckon the next talented generations of "doctors, scientists,/ artists, singers, students, cooks,/ and farmers," but also realistically reveals "we have to struggle to be accepted,/ because some people don't understand/ the need/ for equality." She also acknowledges the "long, bitter story of the U.S., a history/ that began with cruel invasions,/ stealing from Native people,/ and bringing enslaved captives." And yet "gentler waves of arrival followed,/ with newcomers welcomed, so that now/ we're part of the Statue of Liberty's/ promise."

Although both were born in the U.S., Cuban Ukrainian Engle and Puerto Rican/U.S. Colón's prolific artistic outputs have repeatedly emphasized their Latinx backgrounds and experiences. That heartfelt empathy is clearly reflected here, in lingering words and vibrant art as they embody Liberty's light, "creating/ shared hope/ for all." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: This vibrant picture book both celebrates and elucidates the challenges of the immigrant experience for youngest readers.

Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster , $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781534457270

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, illus. by Nikkolas Smith

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.

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 shape Hannah-Jones's 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning The 1619 Project into a picture book accessible to all ages. Artist Nikkolas Smith uses a 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

Discover: 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.

Kokila/Penguin, $18.99, hardcover, 48p., 9780593307359

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