Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 7, 2014


Andrews McMeel Publishing: Dkmh: Poems by Dacre Montgomery

From My Shelf

Harper: The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Powerful Images of Women

Tomorrow is International Women's Day. This year's theme is "Inspiring Change"--encouraging "advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way [and] challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change."

National Geographic has just published Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment ($30), a compilation of images and commentary from 11 female photographers. These women have all challenged the status quo with talent and courage; no longer must they "act like ladies," but have, in the words of Chris Johns, editor-in-chief of the magazine, "explored the world with their cameras, wanting to know. Wanting to see. Wanting to show." And they do, from a bamboo garden at Japan's Kodaiji temple to a despairing Nepali bride being carried to her new husband's village to a very young Georgia beauty pageant contestant in diapers to a leopard in an Okavango Delta baobab tree.

The cover photograph by Stephanie Sinclair is of Nujood Ali, who in 2008, at age 10, did the unimaginable: obtained a divorce in Yemen. Yet the following photographs are of Yemeni child wives--age eight, but married at age six; brides ages 11, 12, 13. Sinclair follows that with "sister wives" at Mormon settlements in Texas and Utah.

Erika Larsen immersed herself in Sami culture in the Arctic Circle for four years to produce stark, lovely images: a man chanting to his reindeer, a Sami boy and his dog, and a herder mourning the loss of two reindeer that starved after locking horns--the frozen thrust of horns against the snow, the red stripe on the man's cloak mimicking the blood on the bodies. Lynsey Addario says, "I try to bring a new perspective to stories," and she does, with a man on a bridge over the Tigris in the early morning mist, feeding gulls. Unexpected and riveting. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Kentucky Book Festival Online: November 9-14th, 2020


Book Candy

Book-Related Movies; Most Influential Authors

Post-Oscar screen time for readers. Word & Film suggested "7 pre-movie must reads for 2014" and Mental Floss offered "6 books that took forever to become movies." If you're in the mood for some small-screen reads, the Huffington Post had "10 book recommendations based on your favorite TV shows."

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Katherine Rundell, whose novel Rooftopper just won a Blue Peter Children's Book Award, recommended her "top 10 orphans" in literature, "from Harry Potter to Alex Rider," for the Guardian.

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Noting that the "result of the fusion of online and offline reading is that writers are becoming less reclusive burrowers and more influential public figures, carrying on a dialogue with their readers," TheRichest.com offered its choices for the "5 most influential authors of our time."

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If you've been paying close attention to the new series True Detective, you may want to check out Buzzfeed's reading list "of dark, weird and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO's True Detective should read."

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Beginning next Monday, March 10, is the first round of the Suvudu Cage Match 2014, a March Madness-style sci-fi/fantasy tournament that invites writers to create fictional battles for iconic characters, sharing their ideas of how the fight would play out. The result is five spirited weeks of matches, leading up to one winner selected by fans. This year's theme is page vs. screen. Check out the official Cage Match 2014 bracket and event launch video.

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"Tiny book dioramas made by adults" were showcased by Flavorwire.


Graywolf Press: Congratulations to Natalie Diaz and Tsitsi Dangarembga!


The Writer's Life

Dave Barry: Peanut Butter Sandwiches and No Complaints

photo: Daniel Portnoy

Popular humorist Dave Barry's newest book is You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About (Putnam, $26.95), entertaining essays based on Barry's life, including "What Women Want," an exploration of why Fifty Shades of Grey has become such a success, and "Seeking WiFi in the Holy Land," a surprisingly poignant tale of the Barry family's trip to Israel.

The book doesn't offer any actual advice on parenting, though there is a hilarious essay called "Sophie, Stella and the Bieber Plan," in which Barry's daughter and her best friend plan a foolproof way to meet the teen idol: "Me: You know, Justin Bieber doesn't have any idea who you are. Sophie: Not yet."

Do you miss writing a weekly column?

I do not. I did that for a long time, and I do not miss it. I wrote before that, and started writing the column in the mid-'70s. It was the best job I ever had, but I was really ready to stop, and I felt like I wanted to write more fiction. It was a good idea to stop before I had to.

How has success changed you?

I started a newspaper and moved on to teaching effective writing courses--I thought that was going to be my job for the rest of my life. I'd write freelance humor columns as a hobby, but my day job would be teaching businesspeople how to write a memo.

When it turned around in the early '80s, when my column started to take off (after five or six years of assuming it wouldn't work), it was really wonderful! You can sit around in your underwear and write about boogers and you'll never need to stop!

Writers are supposed to suffer. I have no complaints about my life. I wish I had taken better care of my gums. If I could go back in time, I would tell me to take better care of my gums. Heck, I would go back and tell Hitler to take care of his gums.

Your essay "How to Become a Professional Author" is actually the worst advice possible.

Just do the exact opposite. I wanted to take on all the misconceptions people have about writing. This is as close as I come to an inside joke, but most successful writers reading that chapter will know where I come from. Write what you know, and I know this subject very well. It was easy for me to skewer it, and I haven't seen it done much. 

Why did you take a trip to Israel?

My wife and daughter are Jewish, and we belong to a Reform temple. This temple has a trip every year to go to Israel. I wasn't thinking about writing about it until I got there. It was exotic and interesting enough when we got there, so I kept a little diary day to day. My big worry was that there's so much tension around the Middle East, and people with really strong views, that maybe a humor writer shouldn't mess with it. But I tried to take it strictly from the point of view of a guy that doesn't know much about it. 

The journal wasn't jokey at first; I wrote just so I would remember. If I saw something fun to write about, like camel riding, I'd make some humorous notes. It was fun. I love doing travel writing--I'm the father of a 13-year-old-girl, and my wife is a traveling sportswriter.

How do you justify writing an essay that essentially reinforces the stereotype that women love to talk while men mainly watch sports?

I believe there's a powerful reason for that stereotype. I'm always stunned by how many things my wife has to talk about. She actually has things to talk about--she thinks more than I do, she has more friends than I do, she has a lot more going on in her mind. My wife could fill 240 pages in an hour, while this book took me a whole year. 

What's your least favorite thing about being a writer?

You don't know what it is you're going to create. I'm envious of people that know exactly what they have to do--the task is there before them. With writing, you know what the task is, you just don't know how to do it. There's a certain insecurity. Each time you come out with a new thing, this one might suck. You'll get bad reviews, stuff like that. 

I think you get used to that for the most part. I stopped reading reviews many years ago--nothing good comes of it except you feel horrible with bad reviews and okay with good reviews. In the end, the book will sell what it sells, and your next book will do what it does. If I'm sent a great review, then I'll read it. 

What's your favorite part?

Without question, the freedom and flexibility. I have to laugh when writers talk about how hard it is, the pain. Do you really feel that way? You get to sit down and people pay you for it? All the jobs that you could have, humor writer is even better. I sit there all day long, looking out my window and these cars go by doing important things. I'm in here with nothing to do but make peanut butter sandwiches. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor


World Editions: The Bitch by Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman


Book Review

Fiction

Redeployment

by Phil Klay


Recent American wars have made the term "redeployment" a household word. Soldiers are moved around, withdrawn and redistributed in one big seemingly endless war. Phil Klay's stunningly fine and poignant debut collection of short stories, Redeployment, uses the word "war" both as military language and as the world his characters inhabit. These 18 often-brutal stories are told by varied narrators, and the tone throughout is understated, quiet, reserved--in counterbalance to the horrific events being described.

Klay, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, writes little about the policymakers here; his focus is on the men who have to enforce those policies, who have sacrificed for others' decisions. In the final story, "Ten Klicks South," Klay writes powerfully about dead soldiers coming home. Personal effects are gathered, wedding rings removed, bodies prepared for transport. "And as it was unloaded off the bird, the Marines would have stood silent and still, just as we had in Fallujah. And they would have put it on a C-130 to Kuwait. And they would have stood silent and still in Kuwait. And they would have stood silent and still in Germany, and silent and still at Dover Air Base. Everywhere it went. Marines and sailors and soldiers and airmen would have stood at attention as it traveled to the family of the fallen, where the silence, the stillness, would end."

On the crowded shelf of war literature, alongside The Iliad, The Red Badge of Courage, The Things They Carried and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, we can proudly add Redeployment. Sadly, it's a never-ending list. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An candid, understated collection of wartime short stories from a Marine Corps vet.

Penguin Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594204999

Houghton Mifflin: The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige


All Our Names

by Dinaw Mengestu


Juxtaposing a placid life in one Midwestern college town against the chaos of post-colonial Uganda, MacArthur Fellow Dinaw Mengestu (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears) places his new novel, All Our Names, at the crossroads where American excess and comfort clash with the violence and backbiting of revolutionary Africa. The story centers on Isaac, a rebel intent on overthrowing Uganda's corrupt president. We follow him through the naive eyes of the young Ethiopian narrator who comes to Uganda with 13 names, handed down from previous generations. "I was the first in our village to have thirteen names," he explains. Isaac just calls him Daniel.

Daniel dreams of a university life, but Isaac's charismatic influence draws him into the fight. His only means of escape is a falsified Kenyan passport in Isaac's name. Now living in the United States under a false identity, he's taken under the wing of a second narrator: Helen, a young white social worker hardened with the hopelessness of her vocation. In the disillusioned young man, she finds her humanitarian impulses renewed--and her romantic impulses awakened.

With neatly drawn parallels, Mengestu contrasts the seemingly benign obstacles facing a poor black immigrant in the U.S. with the seemingly corrupt obstacles facing him in Africa. His former life at odds with the life they could build together, they learn the hard lesson that the past is not easy to undo. Helen describes this wisdom: "Loving someone and feeling loved in return was the best exercise for the heart, the strength training needed to do more than simply make it through life." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A moving story of love, loyalty and renewal in a world that needs as much as we can get of all of them.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385349987

The Orchard of Lost Souls

by Nadifa Mohamed


As harrowing and bleak as war and violence are, it takes a masterful writer to mine such an environment for hope. In The Orchard of Lost Souls, the Oxford-educated Somali native Nadifa Mohamed (Black Mamba Boy) does just that, broaching a real tragedy with fictional artifice and enlivening a cast of characters so full and lifelike the reader might be sad to lose their company at the novel's close.

Mohamed's rendering of a country on the brink hits readers like a piece of reportage: she spares no details describing the homelessness, violence and famine than ran rampant in Somalia during the late 1980s. Despite it all, the novel finds balance in its characters' humanity. The three women at the heart of the story weave into and out of each other's lives like ants trapped in the same maze. Deqo, a nine-year-old orphan, seeks family in the confines of a brothel; Filsan, a 30-something government soldier, tries to climb the professional ranks and shed her past; Kawsar, a 50-something widow, clings to the friendships and way of life that seems to slip through her hands, little by little.

Through all three stories, Mohamed's use of color is salient, a landscape painted in aqua blues, desert oranges and wine-red dyes whose geography is as vibrant as its culture. The language is one of the novel's major draws, but you'll keep reading for the women at the center--three compelling and evocative characters whose humanity persists in the face of inhuman tragedy. --Linnie Greene, bookseller at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., and freelance writer

Discover: An epic set in 1980s Somalia, following three strong women of varying ages as they navigate the chaos of war.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 9780374209148

Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time

by Dominic Utton


Disgruntled commuters everywhere will rejoice over Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time. The novel, based on British journalist Dominic Utton's own experiences, centers on "Dan the man," a husband and new father who moves to the English countryside and commutes, via train, to his job at the Globe newspaper. Fed up with 14 months of chronic delays, Dan, a writer, tracks down the e-mail address of the railroad director, Martin Harbottle, and fires off an e-mail expressing his frustration: "My boss was annoyed with me when I arrived in London; my wife will be annoyed with me when I arrive home again in Oxford. And none of it's my fault. It's your fault." 

The goal of each subsequent letter--99 e-mails in all--reflects, in tone and length, the duration of Dan's daily inconveniences due to chronic railroad service delays. Dan believes that if his time has to be wasted, so, too, should the director's, who sporadically writes back to Dan with cautious reserve. What begins as an electronic gripe session spirals into a largely one-sided memoir, where Dan opens up about his life, sharing his tastes in music, his impressions of fellow commuters, scandalous current events and politics at his newspaper, the challenges of his home life (especially his wife's post-natal depression) and the temptations of alcohol and a potential extra-marital entanglement. All of this adds up to form a wholly original--and very entertaining--modern epistolary novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A commuter e-mails his angst against the Oxford-London rail line and starts a correspondence with the railroad director.

Oneworld Publications, $15.99, paperback, 9781780743721

Mystery & Thriller

Why Kings Confess

by C.S. Harris


Novels set during Great Britain's Regency are often romantic, glossing over the difficult nature of life in the early 19th century. Not so C.S. Harris's mysteries. Her Sebastian St. Cyr series--of which Why Kings Confess is the ninth novel--offer a glimpse into the seamy side of Regency life, complete with high infant mortality, brutal living conditions and vicious crimes.

St. Cyr, only surviving son of the Earl of Hendon, can't help getting involved when a Frenchwoman is found wounded in an alley near the body of a Frenchman whose heart was cut from his chest. Though his wife, Hero, is mere days from delivering a breech baby, Sebastian is determined to find out who attacked Alexi Sauvage and murdered Damion Pelletan. He soon realizes Alexi is hiding something, and that they've met before. She was a doctor in the Peninsular War and has no reason to trust him, a former British soldier. Even more interestingly, he discovers Pelletan was in London with a secret delegation sent to broker a peace deal between Britain and Napoleon's France.

Harris brings the politics of the French and British to life, inviting the reader to analyze the real historical figures and to sympathize with both the Bourbons and Napoleon's supporters. In addition to the accurate history and the intriguing mystery, longtime fans of the series will be happy to see new developments in the personal lives of Sebastian and his friends. Why Kings Confess is historical mystery at its finest. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A Frenchman is found with his heart cut out, and the pursuit of his killer leads Sebastian St. Cyr all the way to the French throne.

NAL, $24.95, hardcover, 9780451417558

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band

by Frances Washburn


Sissy Roberts is the girl everyone tells their problems to, whether she likes it or not. But, as she says to the reader on the opening page of Frances Washburn's The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band, "no one so far has confessed to me that they killed Buffalo Ames at the Scenic Fourth of July Rodeo." The novel, despite being framed around Buffalo's murder and the subsequent FBI investigation (which mostly consists of bothering Sissy for answers), is entirely Sissy's story.

Though the FBI man sent to her corner of the reservation doesn't believe in her ignorance, Sissy really doesn't know who killed Buffalo that night--and she doesn't know what she's going to do to get out of this town and off the rez. Her interest in solving the murder is half-hearted; she is more concerned with solving the mystery of her own future and ducking lackluster marriage proposals from the shallow pool of men on the rez. But the two will prove to be interconnected.

The strengths of this slim, quirky novel are Sissy's strange mix of tenderness and sass, and Washburn's grasp of the rez and its sense of inertia. For all the frustration that Sissy and the other diverse, well-wrought characters experience, however, the final result is moderately uplifting, like the music Sissy delights in throughout. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A slim, evocative, entertaining tale of strange happenings on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

University of Arizona Press, $16.95, paperback, 9780816530823

Food & Wine

The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes, and Dessert

by Michele Scicolone


Michele Scicolone (The Sopranos Family Cookbook, The Italian Slow Cooker) describes The Italian Vegetable Cookbook as an homage to her formative influences that "took a lifetime to write." Although Italy is known mostly for pasta, Scicolone believes fruits and vegetables have always been at the heart of Italian cooking. Historically, Italy was often impoverished, with meat reserved for special occasions, leaving room for the bounty of the fertile land and long growing season. While Scicolone's recipes feature vegetables and fruits in starring roles, this is not a vegetarian cookbook--anchovies, pancetta and chicken stock often add a splash of flavor--though many of the recipes are so substantial, meat will not be missed.

Cooks of all experience levels will be comfortable. Unlike French cooking, Italian recipes are not restrained by strict rules and readers are invited to make substitutions whenever desired. Scicolone includes a helpful section on storing produce, including how to wash greens and which fruits should be stored at room temperature. Tips on what to look for when buying, including why frozen peas are usually necessary and which canned tomatoes are best, round out the introductory section before she reveals her cornucopia of recipes--from truffle Parmesan bigne and herbed hoat cheese-ricotta crostini, to mushroom ravioli with pine nut, butter and sage sauce or beet and ricotta gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, plus delectable desserts like hazelnut cake with chocolate-espresso sauce. The Italian Vegetable Cookbook would be a welcome addition to any kitchen. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Michele Scicolone highlights vegetables' strengths with simple ingredients and easy preparation.

Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, hardcover, 9780547909165

Biography & Memoir

His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir

by Dan Jenkins


When Dan Jenkins was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, only the third writer to be so honored, he said he'd been covering sports, especially golf, "for the last 60 years, and I guess I'll keep doing it until I topple over." First, though, he needed to write his autobiography. His Ownself is pure Jenkins: lively, sarcastic, funny, chock-full of stories and anecdotes and opinions, lots of them. He's old school--bars, smokes and dames; it's all nostalgic, the past a "kindler, gentle day."

Jenkins grew up in Fort Worth, Tex., during the Depression, but his family did well and he was insulated from it: "Sometimes, I envy my own childhood." He cut his writing teeth on the likes of Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker and James Thurber. He's written primarily for newspapers, along with Playboy, Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. Of his successful football novel, Semi-Tough, he says, "I had the title before I had the novel." He's from the Howard Cosell school of sports journalism--say it like it is. Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are more important to him than Tiger Woods; he labels the comparison of Woods's "comeback" to Hogan's as "nonsense." Babe Zaharias, the "greatest female athlete in history," could tell as many "unprintable jokes as Sam Snead." Tennis anyone? Jenkins yearns for the years when Wimbledon was alive and well, the days of McEnroe vs. Borg or Navratilova vs. Evert--"before tennis died, in other words." His "semi-memoir" is great fun for sports fans. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An idiosyncratic, witty, opinionated memoir from the old-school sportswriter Mike Lupica called "greatest of them all."

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385532259

Everything Is Wonderful: Memories of a Collective Farm in Estonia

by Sigrid Rausing


Sigrid Rausing spent a year on a collective farm on the west coast of Estonia in the mid-1990s, doing fieldwork for her Ph.D. in social anthropology. Her time there yielded an academic book, History, Memory, and Identity in Post-Soviet Estonia: The End of a Collective Farm. "Much as [that book] excluded the personal," she writes, Everything Is Wonderful "excludes the academic," containing Rausing's remembrances, after nearly 20 years, of time spent in an unusual cultural landscape and the questions that remain with her.

The tone of this slim memoir is quiet and unobtrusive; engaging in participation observation is the anthropologist's aim. Rausing contemplates the legacies of the Soviet Union in Estonia as a country and a culture, and in the village she lived in. As a parallel, she considers her own cultural identity as a Swede living in England who finds herself at home in a place where Estonian Swedes once made up a sizable and powerful minority, before the Nazis sent them to Sweden in a "perhaps overly collaborative" evacuation.

Rausing's subjects include the everyday tedium and alcoholism of a small village in a deeply depressed region; they include dream interpretations, and loving descriptions of natural settings, despite the monochromatic winter that occupies most of the year. Interactions with her neighbors and friends are rendered with an eye for irony. Yet for all its bleak detail, Rausing's work resonates with nostalgia as well. "I was tired, and often hungry," she recalls, "but even now, twenty years later, I miss those long quiet walks in that melancholy and restful landscape." --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: The personal side of an anthropologist's year in post-Soviet Estonia.

Grove Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802122179

History

The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj

by Anne de Courcy


In The Fishing Fleet, Anne de Courcy (The Viceroy's Daughters) takes on the Raj--a period lasting from 1858, when the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the crown, until 1947. During that time, women as young as 16 were packed off to India because, as de Courcy explains, "the gently born, softly brought up middle-class woman... was ill-equipped to support herself" and the pool of potential husbands at home was dwindling. The alternative was eternal spinsterhood.

De Courcy draws on reams of letters, memoirs and diaries, in addition to a comprehensive bibliography of all matters Raj. This embarrassment of riches at times threatens to overwhelm her narrative, which can get repetitive with details of finery and merrymaking. The most compelling parts of The Fishing Fleet focus on the trip out and the anecdotal reminiscences. Despite the inconveniences of sea travel, waves of women continued to arrive in India, where the ratio of men to women was 4 to 1. If a girl wanted a husband, she could find one, or he would find her. If the man was in a hurry to get back to his plantation, an acquaintance might lead to a proposal in less than two weeks.

Then, the miseries really began. Wives were often stuck in isolated outposts, with the nearest woman five miles away. Disease was rampant, sometimes striking in the morning and causing death by evening. Despite all, these stalwart English girls stuck it out and came to love India. Perhaps this is one of the reasons there will always be an England. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: The plight of the single women who left England to find a mate among the surplus of single men in India during the Raj.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062290076

Children's & Young Adult

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

by Lois Ehlert


This succinct memoir is just right for a five-year-old, yet meaty enough to inspire adults. Caldecott Honor artist Lois Ehlert reveals the sources of her ideas, her planning stages and her wonderful collections of words, photos, paints and fabric swatches.

"When I was little, I read all the books on the library shelf, and I thought maybe someday I could make a book," she begins. A collage butterfly alights on a black-and-white photo of herself as a child of perhaps four or five. A collage image of a banded bunch of asparagus (from Eating the Alphabet) acts as a picket fence between a photo of Ehlert's parents ("returning home after hunting for wild asparagus") and a picture of the house where she grew up. Her mother sewed, her father had a basement workshop and, in a corner of the house, he set up a folding table for young Lois: "It was my spot, a place to work and dream." Ehlert shows her "spot" then and now, with more similarities than differences; she draws a linear progression from childhood play to adulthood creativity.

Ideas are everywhere, she tells children. Her sister's cat brushing her ankles inspired Feathers for Lunch. A walk is an opportunity to go "looking for good stuff" (such as seedpods, crab apples and pumpkin seeds, all of which made their way into her books). Ehlert reveals not only studies for her books but also lessons for a life well lived--observing, collecting, playing and creating. Brava! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A compact, skillfully designed scrapbook-cum-memoir that takes young readers deep into the roots of Lois Ehlert's creativity.

Beach Lane/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 72p., ages 5-10, 9781442435711

A Home for Mr. Emerson

by Barbara Kerley, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham


How fitting that the man who preached self-reliance would feel most at home in his own house. The team behind Those Rebels, John and Tom once again introduces young readers to a figure who helped shape American thought: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).

On the endpapers, quotes from the poet and essayist encourage both an inner life ("Insist on yourself; never imitate") and a life looking beyond oneself ("Love the day. Do not leave the sky out of your landscape"). Mr. Emerson greets readers at the front door of his house, inviting them in. Next, he stands at the window of his study, his children and wife nearby, looking out at the town he held dear: "More than anywhere else, Ralph Waldo Emerson loved his home in Concord, Massachusetts." Though the audience may not be familiar with the man at the forefront of the Transcendentalist movement, they will relate to his dedication to doing the things he adored. In college, he enjoyed reading and writing and wondered, "Could he build a life around these things he loved?"

Kerley and Fotheringham emphasize Emerson's internal journey and its outward manifestation: "Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world.... Build therefore your own world." He read, wrote and lectured, and also served as volunteer fireman, and, in an especially humorous depiction, was appointed "hog reeve, rounding up wayward hogs." His dedication to his community is repaid tenfold during a house fire, when his neighbors rescue books, journals and other valuables. Copious endnotes provide opportunities for further research. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An engaging introduction to a great poet, essayist and shaper of American thought.

Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 8-12, 9780545350884

The Miniature World of Marvin & James

by Elise Broach, illus. by Kelly Murphy


Elise Broach's transitional reader about the stars of her longer novel Masterpiece is just right. It's long enough for children to feel accomplished at its completion without feeling overwhelmed; it hits the right balance of text and illustrations, and it deals with a common dilemma that seven- and eight-year-olds face.

James Pompaday is going away with his family on vacation. Will he still care about Marvin (a beetle) as much when he returns? And what will Marvin do while James is away? The book centers on Marvin, who helps James pack by crossing things off the boy's list, and makes sure James does not forget his book:  "Marvin can't read, but he is good at crossing things off." Marvin misses James, but his mother suggests that Marvin team up with his cousin Elaine. Kelly Murphy's humorous drawings depict the beetles seeking adventure in Mr. Pompaday's pencil sharpener, diving into a soft bed of wooden shavings, and narrowly escaping when a pencil blocks their exit. When Marvin overhears Mr. Pompaday say that he's glad James is making friends, he fears that the boy has forgotten all about him. Yet James returns, saying, "I wish you could have gone with me." James and Marvin are happiest when they're together--and don't mind admitting it.

This wise and funny book will provide much-needed reassurance to children facing a vacation spent apart from their BFFs, and will likely lead them on to James and Marvin's further adventures in Masterpiece. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A transitional reader starring the boy and beetle from Masterpiece, in a tale about the strength of true friendship.

Holt, $15.99, hardcover, 112p., ages 6-9, 9780805091908

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September 15, 2020

ISBN:
9781644389430

List Price:
$20.99

 

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