Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 29, 2011

Zonderkidz: The Smallest Spot of a Dot: The Little Ways We're Different, the Big Ways We're the Same by Linsey Davis, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

From My Shelf

Night of a Million Books

World Book Night is coming to the U.S.! Mark your calendar: April 23, 2012. 

Imagine being given 48 copies of one of your favorite books for free to give to anyone you want. That's the basic idea behind World Book Night, which was held for the first time in the U.K. this past March 5. Participants chose one of 25 titles, and then received 48 copies of the book and gave them out to anyone they wanted. During the first World Book Night, some 20,000 people gave away a million specially printed books--40,000 copies each of the 25 titles that included Life of Pi by Yann Martel, New Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Beloved by Toni Morrison. All parts of the book world came together to support the effort, including publishers, booksellers, writers and, last but not least, readers. Just in the past few months readers in the U.K. nominated titles for next year's U.K. World Book Night. The final list of 25 titles for 2012 will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. 

We're also excited because the newly appointed CEO of World Book Night U.S. is Carl Lennertz, who is leaving his post as v-p of retail marketing at HarperCollins. Throughout his career in bookselling and publishing, Carl has been a friend to bookstores and readers and a passionate advocate of books and authors. We know he'll bring that enthusiasm to this program, and we congratulate him on his new position.

Readers, naturally, are the ultimate winners from this great news. World Book Night allows book lovers to pair word-of-mouth recommendations with actual books. It's sure to be an unforgettable combination.

For now, we don't have a lot of details, but we know that the American Booksellers Association is a sponsor and that a steering committee is being formed. We'll keep you up to date as the program develops. --Bethanne Patrick

Arcade Publishing: On Wine-Dark Seas: A Novel of Odysseus and His Fatherless Son Telemachus by Tad Crawford

Great Reads

Further Reading: Next to Love

Ellen Feldman's Next to Love is a new novel about the effects of World War II on a group of three women friends from Massachusetts--and the effects of that war on their country and society, too.

While there are certainly many stories about the home front during World War II, this week we're taking you across the pond and introducing three novels about how people in different parts and social strata of Great Britain handled a war that hit home for them in visceral and brutal ways.


Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient may be set in an Italian villa, but its truest subject is how the supposed nationality of the heavily bandaged patient being cared for by a nurse named Hana, who is loved by a Sikh sapper named Kip, has changed societies around the world. All sorts of ties to Great Britain, from armaments to spycraft to education to commerce, are examined through the lives of characters from and in other countries.


In The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies, characters trump plot, but that's perfectly all right, since we all know how the war finished. His tale of the small-town Welsh barmaid, Esther, and her German POW friend, Karsten, is based on a Welsh concept of place known as cynefin, beautifully demonstrating the pull of geography on the human psyche. The novel is about being from somewhere, but it's also about each person's ties to time and circumstance.


You may have loved the film adaptation of Atonement by Ian McEwan, but do yourself a favor and read the book so that you are able to see McEwan's prose vision of how Briony Tallis's childish spite changes several lives through the war and afterwards. The author's command of his wartime scenes allows them to remain background without seeming inauthentic. One of the most compelling things about this great novel is how it seems as though it was written in 1946 rather than 2001.

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified


Marcia Clark Inside the Writer's Loft

The annual Mystery Writers Conference held at Book Passage's Corte Madera, Calif., store always features genre superstars who serve on its faculty--Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Ridley Pearson and Elizabeth George have all taken part. But at this year's event, held over the past weekend, a debut novelist stepped into that spotlight: Marcia Clark. Yes, that Marcia Clark. (Her new Twitter address is @thatmarciaclark, because @marciaclark was already taken.)

Channeling his best James Lipton, Tony Broadbent, author of The Smoke and Spectres in the Smoke, who just signed with MP Publishing for the third in the series, presided over an event Book Passage called "Inside the Writers Loft with Marcia Clark." Her debut novel, Guilt by Association, published by Mulholland Books in April, features Rachel Knight, a workaholic district attorney who lives in Los Angeles's famed Biltmore Hotel. Why the hotel? "Because I don't like to do dishes," explained Clark.

Clark, who was raised on Nancy Drew and is still an avid reader in suspense fiction, gave one reason for taking the dive into writing novels: "Through the cover of fiction you can say much more about the truth."

After asking a litany of questions that delved into details of Clark's life--causing her to call it "the scariest interview of her life"--Broadbent got the Berkeley-born Clark to talk about starring in her Staten Island high school's production of The Man Who Came to Dinner (as the temptress) and learning Hebrew, French and a little Arabic to apply for a position at the State Department (which promptly asked about her typing). Then he approached the "elephant thundering into the room." Obviously, O.J.

"You're part of the American story," said Broadbent. "You've danced, you've waited tables," he continued, brushing quickly past her two marriages to ask about her two sons, who are 21 and 19. Clark drew a gasp from the audience when she shared that they were "five and two during the trial."

Broadbent asked the former D.A., who won 19 out of 20 homicide trials, to address the assessment of her mentor in the D.A. office, Harvey Giss, that celebrity and money can buy impunity from the law.

Clark said such a cloud started with Rodney King. "It's all connected," she said. "Simpson came along not long after that." In her O.J. summation, Clark told the jury that this was not payback time; Johnny Cochran stressed that their verdict went far beyond the courtroom.

Clark said she learned about a year ago--from an unnamed person who interviewed the jurors and is writing a book Clark said she cannot wait to read--that the first straw vote in the O.J. Simpson case was 10-2. "I had always assumed the two not guilty votes were by white women," said Clark. Turns out, one was black, and she told the unnamed author that the other jurors impressed upon her what dire ramifications her vote could bring. "She said, 'this is not going to be on me,' " Clark recounted.

A la Lipton, Broadbent closed the session with the "questionnaire."

Favorite word? "Guilty."

Least favorite word? "Moist and ointment; nothing good's following those words."

What gets her going? "Justice."

Makes her happy? "Love."

Favorite curse word? "Douchenozzle; it's in the second book."

Sound she loves? "Laughter."

Sound she hates? "Phone ringing at 2 a.m."

Profession other than her own she'd like? "Probably actress."

Profession she'd least like? "Politician."

What she wants to hear at the Pearly Gates? "Aaaaall, right."

Clark's next Rachel Knight novel will be titled Guilty by Degrees. --Bridget Kinsella

A Lawyerly Literature List

No objections. The American Bar Association Journal featured 30 lawyers recommending 30 books. There's less light reading here than you might find on most beach-reading lists (Leadership on the Federal Bench: The Craft and Activism of Jack Weinstein by Jeffrey B. Morris, anyone?), but wouldn't you be charmed to know that your attorney might read The Little Prince because it's recommended here as a book that "connects you with your own being so you're looking inward rather than outward?"

Awards: Bulwer-Lytton Prize for Bad Writing

A "disturbing description" by American academic Sue Fondrie won this year's Bulwer-Lytton prize for bad writing, the Guardian reported. The winning submission: "Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

This was the shortest winning sentence in the history of the award, "proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy," said the organizers. Fittingly enough, Fondrie relayed her feelings about the win through her Twitter account: "My life is a little brighter knowing I'm the Worst Writer of 2011. It's only fitting that someone who teaches people how to teach would be a bad-writing winner."

Ridiculous Book Titles

The "15 most ridiculous book titles ever" were showcased by the Huffington Post, which wrote: "They say don't judge a book by its cover? Well, we're judging." No wonder: Whether the subject is a touchy one (The Joy of Uncircumcising!) or a smelly one (Fart Proudly! by Benjamin Franklin--we kid you not), these titles might bring out any reader's inner censor.

'Do You Have Any Stories About How Kids Really Are?'

"Once a month a lumbering green van pulled up in front of our tiny school. Written on the side in large gold letters was State of Maine Bookmobile. The driver-librarian was a hefty lady who liked kids almost as much as she liked books, and she was always willing to make a suggestion. One day, after I'd spent 20 minutes pulling books from the shelves in the section marked Young Readers and then replacing them again, she asked me what sort of book I was looking for.

"I thought about it, then asked a question--perhaps by accident, perhaps as a result of divine intervention--that unlocked the rest of my life. 'Do you have any stories about how kids really are?' She thought about it, then went to the section of the Bookmobile marked Adult Fiction, and pulled out a slim hardcover volume. 'Try this, Stevie,' she said. 'And if anyone asks, tell them you found it yourself. Otherwise, I might get into trouble.' "

--Stephen King, reflecting upon his discovery of William Golding's Lord of the Flies in the Telegraph's edited version of King's introduction to an upcoming centenary edition of the novel.

Book Candy: Vacations for Readers, Cover Archive

If "vacation" to you means "read all the time," you'll want to check out this Life Goes Strong feature on Five Great Vacations for Readers. From the Nines Hotel in Portland, Ore., with a Library Room curated by the superb independent bookseller Powell's, to the very cool "Hot Type" program at Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico, writer Irene S. Levine has collected some delightfully different options for readers who might not want to take part in a group retreat.


They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but they never said you can't contemplate lots of different book covers. The Book Cover Archive, "A Steady Beta," offers thousands of eye-popping and thought-provoking book-jacket designs. You can search by title, author, publication date, even illustrator/designer's name, and more, but perhaps the simple "Randomize" is the best: sometimes a particular cover shows up a few times in a row, but always surrounded differently, allowing you to really compare and contrast the elements of cover design that you love. Which attract you? Which repel? Which fascinate? Warning: expect to get lost for quite some time on this site. 

Book Review


The Full Moon Bride

by Shobhan Bantwal

In the hands of a less capable writer, The Full Moon Bride would be indistinguishable from other chick lit filling beach bags this summer. Shobhan Bantwal (The Dowry Bride) departs from her previous works on serious issues plaguing Indian women to write a quirky love story that is heck of a lot of fun, because protagonist Soorya, a New Jersey-born Indian lawyer, isn't the usual high-achieving career woman for whom a good man is hard to find.

First, she's a 30-year-old virgin. Soorya also lives in a mansion with her affluent parents and doting grandmother, who, with their marigold-festooned prayer rooms and elegant saris, are charmingly steeped in Indian culture. Or not so charming? Unlike most single ladies, Soorya doesn't use or the bar scene to find companionship, but is subjected to "bride viewings" where she is gussied up like a prize samosa and scrutinized by young men (of questionable eligibility) and their judgmental parents.

Soorya, a former ugly duckling, gets rejected multiple times, which causes her already low self-esteem to take a nosedive. But wait--Soorya's painful dieting (plus a nose job from her plastic surgeon daddy) pay off. As the intriguing story unfolds, the vulnerable, guarded Soorya finds herself courted by three suitors: a dashing Indian playwright, a flirtatious computer programmer and a lawyer who finds her hotter than spicy curry. You'll be rooting for the blossoming Soorya to accept the right man--and finally accept herself. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: This utterly delightful novel by Shobhan Bantwal takes an irresistible inside look at an Indian woman dating in America.

Kensington, $15, trade paper, 9780758258847

Next to Love

by Ellen Feldman

Women's friendship novels are as plentiful as World War II novels, but Ellen Feldman has skillfully and tenderly merged the two in Next to Love, the story of three friends in a suburban Boston town, pals since kindergarten, who are just old enough to be of marrying age when Pearl Harbor changes the world. South Downs is idyllic on the surface, but a class hierarchy reminds Babe of the side of town she's from, allows Millie to settle easily into the house her in-laws provide, and prevents any of them from questioning the justice of Naomi cooking and cleaning for the town's wealthy.

The men go to fight and we share their experiences through letters home, while life in South Downs reflects the tragedies and impact of the war. Some return, some don't; children grow up; marriages are tested. The women experience the isms of the 1950s and '60s--racism, patriotism, anti-Semitism and a foreshadowing of feminism--and the author gracefully reveals these social groundswells through the prism of the small-town families. In her fourth historic novel (Scottsboro;The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank; Lucy), Ellen Feldman once again creates rich, credible characters who invite readers to share moments in history and imagine--even wish--we were there with them. I was framing reading group prompts before I finished the book. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

Discover: Three small-town friends whose lives span pre-WWII through the tumultuous postwar decades.

Spiegel & Grau, $25, hardcover, 9780812992717

When We Danced on Water

by Evan Fallenberg

A chance encounter at a coffee bar in Tel Aviv rescues two lost souls from the abyss in Evan Fallenberg's (Light Fell) carefully crafted When We Danced on Water. Teo, 85, is hardened and domineering, an influential choreographer whose life is riddled with sadness and sorrow. Vivi, a 40-something waitress with latent, "interdisciplinary" artistic talent, is completely stalled in her life and her work. The nature of art is what brings these lonely, disillusioned souls together; it is also what will tear them apart. When their paths cross, a transformation is sparked in each of their lives--but not before they are forced to resurrect the past and face down long-repressed demons. 

As Vivi and Teo slowly start to form a friendship, the reader is drawn into their stories from the past. Teo was a dancer with great promise who forfeited love to pursue his career, only to have it stolen in wartime by a Nazi brute, while Vivi, an Israeli soldier, forsook her family and the traditions of her Jewish faith for a lover who would later betray her. 

The sensitivity that Fallenberg brings to the sections about Teo's life as a dancer in the Danish Royal Ballet, in the wings and on stage, is passionately evocative--as are the terrifying scenes of his captivity during the war. In the end, it is Teo's story that takes center stage and ratchets up the dramatic tension--past and present--for both Vivi and Teo, until the plot unravels into a surprising conclusion of forgiveness and rebirth. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: The nature of art brings two lonely souls together, then tears them apart. Or does it?

Harper Perennial, $14.99, trade paper, 9780062033321

Mystery & Thriller

The Killing Song

by P. J. Parrish

How far would you go to catch the murderer of a loved one? For journalist Matt Owens, no distance is too great in pursuit of the man who abducted his younger sister from a dance club and brutally murdered her. When Matt realizes the killer downloaded a violent song onto his sister's iPod, he believes it holds the key to finding the man. The lyrics lead him from Florida to France, where his search connects him with a beautiful inspector obsessed with finding the same monster, revealed to the reader as a professional cellist. Matt and Eve's hunt takes them from upscale apartments to a Scottish castle to the catacombs beneath Paris. Can they stop the murderer before he plays his killing song again?

The two sisters who write as P.J. Parrish prove conclusively that two heads are better than one. The Killing Song alternates between the viewpoints of the flawed hero and the deranged killer. Matt may be a top reporter, but the loss of his sister forces him to realize he needs to change if he's ever to find happiness in his personal life.

Despite the deep emotional elements, though, Parrish keeps the reader's feet to the fire with unrelenting tension. While the graphic murder scenes will bring on chills, the true artillery lies in the detailed insight into the killer's twisted mind as he performs his murders with the same concentration he brings to his music. You may never view classical music the same way again. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: The heart-pounding hunt for a musician-turned-serial killer.

Pocket Books, $7.99, mass market, 9781439189368

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Spell Bound

by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has enthralled fans of her Women of the Otherworld series for a decade, using her gift for mystery, fantasy and the creation of butt-kicking heroines. What better way to commemorate the occasion than with a new installment that brings together all the beloved characters from the series?

Losing her powers is the last thing Savannah Levine needs. Between the witch-hunter stalking her, the demi-demons pestering her, the new movement to make the existence of supernaturals public knowledge and her secret love for her best friend, Adam, she has enough on her plate. But when she wishes she could trade her magic to help an orphan, a mysterious force takes her up on the offer. Now Savannah must face multiple dangers armed only with her wits and willpower.

Definitely not a starting point for the first time Otherworld visitor, Spell Bound explores the connections between former favorites like Hope, Jaime, Elena and Clay, placing everyone in peril and giving everyone a part in the coming battle. Armstrong delivers a fierce punch of action as Savannah uses her hand-to-hand skills to save herself from assassination and abduction attempts. Stripping Savannah of the power she relies on allows readers to see her humanity. She must come to terms with both her insecurity and pride if she's going to save the day, not to mention her relationships with friends and family. You'll cheer Savannah on as she learns that her greatest strengths come not from her magic, but from herself. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: Another action- and magic-packed sensation from Kelley Armstrong.

Dutton, $25.95, hardcover, 9780525952206


Fall from Pride

by Karen Harper

Karen Harper (Dark Angel) launches a new romantic suspense series set in Ohio Amish Country. Each installment in the proposed trilogy will feature a different pair of heroes and heroines. In book one, Fall from Pride, Harper introduces Sarah Kauffman, a young, single Amish woman who has been granted permission from church elders to paint murals that resemble typical Amish quilt squares on some of the barns in the area. The hope is that her work, publicly showcased in the Home Valley Region, will increase tourism, as even the Amish aren't immune to the faltering economy. But what begins as a means for Sarah to pursue her art turns destructive when the barns featuring her work suddenly start to be burned down.

Two very different worlds collide when State Arson Inspector Nate MacKenzie, a rugged Englischer or auslander (outsider), drives into town in his high-tech SUV past horse-drawn buggies to investigate the situation. Sarah serves as MacKenzie's guide among the Amish community and together, the two set out to reel in the suspected serial arsonist. The fast-paced mystery is filled with a host of red herrings and dead ends. Everyone becomes a suspect. And as the fires continue to wreak further devastation, the danger and tension deepen and the mutual attraction between Sarah and MacKenzie heats up as well. Harper gradually reveals shared experiences of her hero and heroine, making the pull and tug of their seemingly star-crossed romance as enticing as the elements of suspense. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A new romantic suspense series where two worlds collide when a serial arsonist starts torching barns in Ohio Amish Country.

Mira, $14.95, trade paper, 9780778312499

Graphic Books

Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes

by Ray Bradbury, Ron Wimberly

Jim Nightshade is a dark-haired, brooding youngster drawn to the seductive lure of grownup life; blond Will Halloway is content to "go with the flow" and stick with the path set before him. Both steal away into the night one October to observe the carnival as it rolls into town, despite being warned of an impending storm by a lightning salesman they encounter along the way. The carnival's triple-edged dose of pain and suffering, longing and despair, aging and death, bring the combative natures of good and evil into sharp focus in Ron Wimberly's graphical adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, a dark fantasy that examines the emotions of adolescents on the cusp of adulthood.

Wimberly, a Brooklyn comic artist known for his work on Swamp Thing, Deadman and Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, brings Bradbury's words to life on a black-and-white canvas, communicating the fear and wonderment of the man-child. Although Wimberly's graphical translation leaves visible gaps, his work delivers on the sense of unlimited possibility so essential to Bradbury's original work. Bradbury's stature in the pantheon of fantastic literature remains intact, and those who wish to restore his stories to a new generation need only remember their own sense of childish wonder. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A classic tale of good and evil, of longing and acceptance from Ray Bradbury, master of fantastical literature, rendered graphically and successfully by Ron Wimberly.

Hill & Wang, $15.95, trade paper, 9780809080441


Oyster Culture

by Gwendolyn Meyer

With Oyster Culture, Gwendolyn Meyer dives into the rich history of oyster farming in West Marin, a northern region of California. She offers up a fascinating volume that combines oyster history, oyster factoids, oyster recipes and--of course--oyster culture.

Meyer, who lives in the area, explores the story of the oyster from its growth from larva to spat to seed oyster--did you know an oyster's sex is ultimately determined by the temperature and salinity of the water in which it grows?--within the context of the history of oyster farming in California, and West Marin in particular. And, as understanding oyster culture would be impossible without understanding the many ways in which oysters are consumed, she then provides enticing recipes and wine pairings.

Couple all of this with Meyer's outstanding photography and gorgeous page design and you have a book that will make anyone long for the delicate crack of the oyster's layered shell and the chilled, briny flavor of the meat inside. Perhaps you're lucky enough to live near West Marin and can enjoy a fresh, local oyster. The rest of us will have to be grateful for advent of refrigeration and rapid transit, which, as Meyer notes, changed the oyster industry--and the oyster culture--of the United States for good. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A briny tale of oyster culture coupled with recipes and rich photography that is sure to make mouths water.

Cameron & Company, $19.95, trade paper, 9780918684875

A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation

by Jeremy Ben-Ami

In 2008, Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former adviser to Bill Clinton and Howard Dean, founded J Street, a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" advocacy group to counter what he saw as the stifling of the true American Jewish voice on Israeli affairs. According to Ben-Ami, most Jews support continuing negotiations for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and other neighbors, but are silenced by powerful hard-line interest groups that prevent all but the most strident U.S. voices being heard internationally. J Street has been embraced by some, but also attacked as "anti-Israel," as well as disinvited to public panels and debates.

With this new manifesto, Ben-Ami declares and explains his loyalty and deep ties to the modern Jewish nation. He also convincingly argues that J Street's positions represent both the mainstream of American opinion as well as the best of Jewish progressive tradition.

Ben-Ami describes his great-grandparents fleeing from Russia to Palestine to join the fledgling Zionist movement; his grandparents helping to found Tel Aviv--but this is no richly textured historical memoir. Ben-Ami breezes over personal anecdotes such as his narrow escape from the 1997 Jerusalem market bombing, using the story only to describe how it cemented his resolve to help end the violence.

The rest of the book is dedicated to a well-laid-out and breezily readable argument for J Street's approach to peace. Ben-Ami presents study after study showing that the Jewish American community is much more liberal than the traditional groups--such as AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League--that politicians look toward for guidance. Although he sometimes seems overly optimistic--underestimating the depth of anti-Semitism in some quarters, for example--Ben-Ami's well-reasoned book shows why many believe the ideas of J Street deserve a place at the bargaining table. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A convincing, optimistic manifesto by the founder of the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group J Street.

Palgrave MacMillan, $26, hardcover, 9780230112742

Children's & Young Adult

Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, Olympians #3

by George O'Connor

With this third book in the Olympians series, George O'Connor proclaims, "Let me just state this up front--Hera is my favorite goddess." And it shows. He characterizes Hera as a complex character with passion and emotion. She gains our sympathies from the start, when she refuses to be treated like the string of women she has seen Zeus with before, and agrees to be his queen only if he'll marry her. This more mature entry in the series is better suited to a young adult audience, given the nature of Zeus and Hera's tensions. Zeus sires children outside their marriage, including a boy named Alcides, who's abandoned by his mother for fear of Hera's wrath. Hera promises to save his life if Zeus will agree that, as a man, Alcides be subjected to 10 labors. The child would later be known as Heracles, meaning "the glory of Hera." O'Connor aptly makes the point (through Jason of the Argonauts) that Heracles would not be the legend he is without Hera's tests.

The first two action-packed labors (to kill the lion of Nemea and then the hydra of Lerna) merit nearly a half-dozen pages each of action-packed panel illustrations. The triumphs firmly establish Heracles's intelligence and strength. For all Hera's resentment of the affair that produced Heracles, her appreciation of his accomplishments comes through, too. She not only fulfills her promise to grant him a place in Olympus if he can complete his tasks, she welcomes him and offers her daughter Hebe as his bride. O'Connor gives detailed, often playful notes about his well-researched sources for another stellar addition to his top-notch series. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A stellar addition to the author-artist's graphic novel series about the Greek gods and goddesses that gives a balanced portrait of Zeus's famous bride.

Neal Porter/First Second, $9.99, trade paper, 80p., ages 12-up, 9781596434332

Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School

by David Mackintosh

The boy narrator of this wry tale with a gentle message discovers that you can't judge a person by his appearance.

Marshall Armstrong arrives in Ms. Wright's elementary school classroom with a jacket and tie and a straw hat on his head. "He looks different to me," says the redheaded narrator, wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Ms. Wright seats Marshall in the front row, next to the narrator. David Mackintosh (Rex) gets the observations just right. The narrator notes that Marshall's hair "reminds me of driving in the countryside to visit Grandma," and a circular image shows tiny cars driving through his part line. All of Marshall's foods come neatly packaged ("We call it 'space food' "), and he reads the newspaper rather than watch TV. When Marshall invites the class to his birthday party, the redheaded boy suspects the worst ("We won't eat fancy birthday cake or drink soda... and he'll make us read the newspaper with his dad").

The illustration of Marshall Armstrong's spectacular house, in an explosion of color, however, indicates the fun in store for the birthday guests. Mackintosh's orderly compositions, with plenty of white space early in the book, morph into kinetic pictures in tropical colors--much like the surprises awaiting Marshall's classmates. The kids rebuild a train set, play hide-and-seek throughout the house and look at "the sky through a telescope, and through a microscope at the cut on Jane's arm." The good-natured humor of the picture book will quickly make it a favorite with children, while the moral will please the adults who read with them. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A tale of a proper-seeming pupil whose exterior hides an inner adventurer.

Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781419700361

The Summer I Learned to Fly

by Dana Reinhardt

Dana Reinhardt's (How to Build a House) exceptional novel captures the essence of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Drew Robin Sole, called "Birdie" by her mother, does not believe in riding her bike without a helmet or swimming where there's no lifeguard. But during the summer of 1986, 13-year-old Drew, who narrates, "throws caution to the wind." Drew's mother has just opened the Cheese Shop on Euclid Avenue. Mrs. Mutchnick, "a grandmotherly type with... [an] ever-present bun," crosses the street from her fabric store to give Drew a gift: a pet rat. Drew names him Humboldt Fog, after her favorite kind of cheese, and calls him "Hum." She takes him everywhere, including the Cheese Shop. One day, Hum escapes, and that leads her to Emmett Crane, a boy her age hiding behind their shop's Dumpster.

Reinhardt carefully constructs the narrative to reveal Drew's gradual awakening and growing independence. She discovers a book of lists in her father's handwriting (he died when she was three), and here's the line that "lodged itself inside [her] like a feather: 'Fears: that I'll never see my Birdie learn to fly.'" Her mother, who loves her daughter "madly," starts spending more time away from home. Drew's friendship with Emmett leads her further from her usual path: "I was seeing my world, the world I thought I knew every corner of, from a new perch." Drew realizes that learning to fly doesn't mean leaving the familiar behind, it means appreciating them from new heights. Perfection. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An exceptional novel, narrated by Drew Robin Sole, about the summer she moves from childhood to adulthood.

Wendy Lamb/Random House, $15.99, hardcover, ages 12-up, 9780385739542


Author Buzz

The Marriage Auction
(Season One, Volume One)

by Audrey Carlan

Dear Reader,

What would you do for 3 Million Dollars? Would you auction yourself off for marriage to the highest bidder, sight unseen? Four women did… and this is their story.

Arranged marriages. A woman on the run. Family drama. Twins vying for the same bride. It's all part of the deal when you enter into The Marriage Auction.

Read the phenomenon that has been the #1 story across Amazon's new Kindle Vella serialized reading platform for over a year! With close to two million reads already, The Marriage Auction promises a spicy, romantic, thrilling adventure, with forced proximity, taboo undertones, found family, and four loves stories that will fill your heart to bursting.

These are the types of love stories that will stay with you for years to come. Happy reading, friends!


Available on Kobo

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
January 24, 2023


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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