Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

On Reading The Grapes of Wrath

In April 1939, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was published by Viking Press. It became a bestseller, and won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. This month, Penguin is releasing a 75th-anniversary hardcover edition featuring the original cover illustration.

I read the novel in college in the late '60s and thought it very good but not great. A few years later, when struggling in graduate school, married, with a baby and two jobs, I read it again. I was floored. It spoke to me as it hadn't before. I realized just how sensitively and powerfully Steinbeck had captured the plight of the Joad family and so many others who were starving and homeless and trying desperately to get to California in order to survive.

Susan Shillinglaw brings this out beautifully in her excellent On Reading The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin, $14, paperback). She says we come back to this book because "Steinbeck asks us to open our hearts." His words are "urgent and essential for a compassionate world." She draws comparisons with the country's homeless today, and makes a reference to Syria in 2000 when farmers with dry wells abandoned their homes; a severe drought from 2006 to 2011 accelerated the exodus, paralleling "the 1930s croppers in Dust Bowl Oklahoma." She points out that Steinbeck's novel "considers the ecology of human relationships, layer by layer," how humans are bound to one another and their habitats.

She reminds us that Tom Joad was no reformer--he has no answers, no solutions. He's just a man struggling like so many men and women. But he asks us to care: "Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there."

The Grapes of Wrath--relevant then and relevant today, 75 years later. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Pearl Cleage: Claiming It All

photo: Albert Trotman

In Things I Should Have Told My Daughter (our review is below) Pearl Cleage shares unvarnished selections from two decades of her journals, starting in 1970. They reveal a young woman sorting out her feelings about the life she has and the one she wants. It's as though she is confiding in us as she struggles with her career and marriage, her desire to write and above all, her need to be authentic, all filtered through her awareness of racism and feminism.

Cleage was raised in the public eye in a family committed to social justice. Her father was a prominent civil rights leader and pastor. He founded the Shrine of the Black Madonna Church and Cultural Center, which is still committed to social justice. Her mother was a teacher. In 1969, she married Michael Lomax, an Atlanta politician and, later, president of the United Negro College Fund. They divorced in 1979; she remarried in 1994. Lomax is the father of Cleage's daughter, Deignan Njeri, who years later recommended that Cleage burn her journals because the facts of her life were already public and the emotions behind them messy. She didn't; instead, she has published excerpts in this forthright and revealing memoir. In 2011, she placed more than 50 boxes of her journals and other papers with Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

You're a well-known novelist and also a celebrated playwright--you won five AUDELCO Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway in 1983. How are the two forms different?

The theater is collaborative. Once the play is written, you become part of a band of people all working to bring it to the audience--the actors and stagehands and director and scene designers. I like that process. You write a novel by yourself, and reading it is a solitary experience. The content is not necessarily dictated by the form. I wrote my first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, because it was an idea that would never work as a play; it had too many settings and could never fit into a two-hour production.

And you hit pay dirt: Oprah selected it for her book club in 1998.

I first sent it to an editor who rejected it. She said it was terrible and would never work and no one would publish it. So a friend helped me find an agent. She called the next day and said, "This is wonderful; I will sell it by the end of the week." And she did. So I always tell young people not to take that kind of criticism to heart; it could be wrong.

What was it like to go back to the journals you kept and visit yourself as a younger woman?

It was a very emotional experience, to see how unprepared I was. I was a very protected child and a very protected wife, and when I got divorced, I couldn't do anything for myself. I was terrified. I'd give myself assignments. For example, I would park my car downtown and walk around just to prove I could do it, despite being afraid. It took practice. But it's also a life-long lesson: you always have to practice being free and being brave.

The subtitle of your book is "Lies, Lessons, and Love Affairs." What are the "lies?"

Lies are all the things you say to other people that aren't true, that don't reflect who you really are. It's your public face. It's not that I lied to people in the sense of telling them things that weren't true. It's more that I'd withhold information and let people believe I was someone I wasn't, or thought something I didn't. Years ago, I found a copy of Adrienne Rich's book Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying at Charis Books. It lays out all the ways women lie, like avoiding the question or changing the subject or saying what people want to hear. It pushed me to stop doing those things. Only good things happened when I stopped.

You've always been an activist, starting with your work in the civil rights movement and then later with feminism. How are they related?

Yes. In the 1970s, I was very conscious of race, given who my parents were and how I was raised.

I started thinking about gender when I got married. It was very life-altering. I started to recognize the patterns and learned what feminism was and how to use it to live my life. For example, there were things about working for Mayor Jackson (Atlanta's first African American mayor) that weren't good for me. If I had been thinking only about race, I would have worked for him longer. An awareness of gender issues made it easier to accept that I had to leave, which was difficult but necessary.

How did you square feminism with your affairs with married men?

If you are a serious feminist, you come up against your own hypocrisy if you do things like have affairs with married men. It's not honorable, and feminism helped me realize that was something I no longer wanted to do. Of everything I've done in my life, the affairs are what I have the most regrets about and would change, because it's such a lie and so dishonorable.

You are also very upfront about drinking and smoking pot. You don't edit your life or add introductions to your chapters to put them in perspective. Why take that approach?

Of course, I was very conscious of not betraying trust and exposing people's lives. But you can't go back and pretend that you knew then what you know now. It does a disservice to young women looking for life advice if we pretend we didn't do those things. It puts their goals out of reach. I decided to do this book because I am 40 years older than the young women I meet now, and my life is going well. But I was messy, too, when I was 23. We sometimes sanitize things to the degree that it's not helpful. We can't pretend our lives did not include the full range from the respectable to what we'd like to hide. You don't achieve because you pretend to be someone you're not. I want people to think "She did a lot"--but I would never have accomplished what I did if I'd lived the life others thought I should live. You have to be authentic about who you are.

Your daughter suggested you burn your journals when you were thinking about what to do with them. Has she read the book?

(Laughs) No, but she's fine with it. I offered to let her read the manuscript and she said no, she'd already ordered it, which she's never done with my other books.

Looking for the truth is a theme of your journals. Any final thoughts on what it means to you now compared to then?

The truth--that's the whole thing; that's what life is. I've learned to tell the truth, most of all to myself. The exciting thing about life is that you learn more as you go along. But it also gets less complicated as you get older. You no longer need to decide whether to tell the truth. You just peel back the layers. You have to figure out who you are. It robs your life of so much richness not to claim it all. I think I'm engaged in living a really interesting life now. I remember as an 11-year-old kid wanting an interesting life, and living this way, with truth, is how I've been able to have it. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Books About Americans in Paris; Tote Bags for Book Lovers

Flavorwire highlighted the "25 essential books about Americans in Paris," noting that "Americans have been traveling to Paris to be appreciated for their poetic struggle for years, and a whole Seine's worth of books have come along to share the story."


Hateship Courtship, the new movie version of Alice Munro's story, has just been released. Word & Film dug in the film archives for "beyond Hateship: 9 big movies based on short stories."


Rebeccca Westcott, author of Dandelion Clock, chose her "top 10 diary books" for the Guardian, noting that "books based on diaries give a reader something really special."


"15 adorable children's books for your little architect" were showcased by Buzzfeed, which noted that "some kids wonder how babies are made and some kids wonder how you get a bridge to stay up in the wind. These are for the latter."


The blog Whizzpast highlighted "the 13 greatest opening lines from novels of the 1950s."


For bibliophiles, there "is one corner of the fashion world that we've staked out and made our own: the canvas tote bag." With that in mind, the Huffington Post found "17 tote bags book lovers will absolutely adore."

Book Review


And the Dark Sacred Night

by Julia Glass

Unemployed college teacher Kit Noonan is suffering from ennui, and his frustrated wife suggests he'll remain directionless until he answers the question that's haunted him all his life: Who was his father? Like Julia Glass's four earlier novels, And the Dark Sacred Night is a multigenerational family saga; fans of her earlier works will be delighted that likable bookseller Fenno McLeod (of Three Junes and The Whole World Over) is back, playing a significant role.

Kit's mother, Daphne, has never provided a clue to his paternity, so he leaves his wife and children behind in New Jersey and begins his search with her ex-husband. Jasper, a ski slope entrepreneur in Vermont, is eager to reconnect with the stepson he's hardly seen in years. While Kit therapeutically immerses himself in Jasper's life of skis and dog sleds, Jasper shares what he knows of Kit's roots, which propels Kit to contact his biological grandmother.

Along with engaging characters, colorful East Coast locales and revelations of knotty, long-held secrets, Glass incorporates social issues relevant to Kit and his rapidly expanding family, including care of the elderly, still-raw sorrows of World War II, gay rights and the complications of unwed motherhood. Using a then-and-now construction--from Kit's parents' and grandparents' youth to the present--Glass reveals Kit's parentage early on, but the reader is still surprised by the complications his quest unearths. As familial love prevails, new relationships form, and Kit finds his place in the world. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif.

Discover: A saga spanning three generations of a family's history, sparked by one man's efforts to discover who he is.

Pantheon, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307377937

Zebra Crossing

by Meg Vandermerwe

Chipo, the narrator of Meg Vandermerwe's debut novel, Zebra Crossing, stands out like a zebra among ponies, her pale skin and white hair marking her as freak and an oddity in her native Zimbabwe. To some, she is bad luck, the devil's vessel. To others, she's a potential talisman to be coveted, a collection of body parts worth thousands of dollars on the black market. When her beloved mother dies after a long illness, Chipo and her older brother, George, flee to South Africa in search of a new beginning. "Borders rhymes with orders," Chipo tells us, "A border is where you swap home for hope." The 2010 World Cup is rapidly approaching in Cape Town, bringing with it the world's attention and the excitement of a potential economic boom. Instead of a land of welcome and opportunity, however, Chipo and her brother are confronted with a hostile, challenging environment with little room for outsiders. No stranger to bigotry and abuse, Chipo finds herself embroiled in a shady business venture with a snake-oil salesman who exploits superstitious World Cup gamblers.

Zebra Crossing reminds readers that cities often present a very different face when the world is watching. As Chipo says, "Xenophobia is a long word. Complicated, arrogant. It thinks it is smarter than other words. It is a bully." Vandermerwe elegantly conjures the unpleasant underbelly of a familiar moment in recent history, while managing to avoid heavy-handed moralizing. Chipo amounts to more than her chances of redemption, and Zebra Crossing is a story for outsiders anywhere. --Emma Page, bookseller at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Mass.

Discover: A simple, powerful novel about soccer, South Africa and a girl who doesn't belong.

Oneworld Publications, $16.99, paperback, 9781780744308

When the Cypress Whispers

by Yvette Manessis Corporon

Since childhood, Daphne has loved spending summers on the Greek island of Erikousa with her grandmother. Gentle and wise, Yia-yia has always nourished Daphne's body and soul with her simple, hearty food and her retellings of the ancient Greek myths. When Daphne, now a young widow struggling to raise a daughter alone and run a successful Greek restaurant in New York, returns to Erikousa, she expects to revel in the same simple pleasures the island has always offered her. But as Daphne prepares to marry again, Yia-yia and the island have a few new secrets to tell--secrets that will force Daphne to rethink the path her life has taken.

Yvette Manessis Corporon's debut novel, When the Cypress Whispers, deftly evokes the delectable sights, sounds and smells of the Greek heritage she shares with her characters. While the romantic plotline feels predictable, even routine, the supporting cast (including the literal, loud Greek chorus of Daphne's friends and family) is fresh and entertaining. Yia-yia's renditions of several Greek myths, all involving women faced with life-altering choices, are both charming and germane to the story. But the heart of the novel lies in Yia-yia's own experience of love, loyalty and sacrifice during the dark days of World War II.

Sun-drenched, evocative and a wee bit magical, When the Cypress Whispers is both a perfect beach read and a compelling portrait of a family of strong women. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An evocative debut novel of family, war, love and sacrifice set on a sun-drenched Greek island.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062267580

Light Shining in the Forest

by Paul Torday

Light Shining in the Forest by Paul Torday (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) begins as an eccentric, dreamy tale of an ineffectual pencil-pusher and a family distraught over a missing child whose trail has gone cold. A forester named Geordie works alone on a clear-cut at the English-Scottish border and remembers his missing stepson. A smarmy, self-satisfied career bureaucrat named Norman revels in his latest assignment: in a new pilot program of the British government he is given the title of "Children's Czar" to the North East region, along with a hefty salary and a fine office and nothing to do. He sits at his fancy desk sipping lattes and waits to receive a mission that never comes.

Geordie's stepson has been missing for months; but when more children go missing in a sleepy town nearby, an ambitious young journalist wonders if a children's czar might be just the one to show some concern. Despite Norman's repeated protest that his job is "strategic, not operational," he is eventually goaded into action. When the unlikely team of journalist and bureaucrat initiates an investigation into the missing children, Light Shining in the Forest begins to accelerate into a thriller of great suspense and intensity. What started as a story of a surreal forest and quiet distress becomes a terrifying view into the mind of a monster, with religious overtones and paranormal possibilities and a panicked journey into the heart of the forest. Torday delights in creepy details as he turns his created world on its head; readers will be tempted to stay up late to finish reading but will need to keep all the lights on. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A disturbing thriller of missing children in a small English town, masquerading as a quiet tale about political red tape.

Phoenix, $14.95, paperback, 9781780222240

Solsbury Hill

by Susan M. Wyler

Jane Austen's books have inspired innumerable continuations and sequels, but the Brontë sisters' novels have fewer retellings. In Solsbury Hill, Susan M. Wyler takes the dark love story of Wuthering Heights and updates it into a contemporary romance.

Life has been straightforward for Eleanor Abbott. She's a successful clothing designer living in Manhattan, and is sort-of engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Miles. But then Eleanor catches Miles cheating and gets a call from her nearly forgotten Aunt Alice, who is dying in Yorkshire. Distraught by Miles's perfidy, Eleanor heads to Trent Hall, her family's ancestral English home, and is quickly absorbed by its isolated, windswept allure.

Eleanor discovers secrets about her family--including rumors that Trent Hall inspired Emily Brontë's beloved novel and that she herself is descended from Emily. She also discovers surprising insights about herself, including an attraction to Mead, her aunt's adopted son. Aunt Alice's dying days remind Eleanor of her own mother's death, sending her on a voyage of reminiscence and self-discovery.

Written in a romantic, spare style, Wyler's novel clearly harks back to its inspiration: Eleanor sleeps in a bedroom within a bedroom, and the dark-haired, inscrutable Mead is actually named Meadowscarp (a synonym for Heathcliff). Solsbury Hill doesn't have the same gothic gravitas as Wuthering Heights, but with its lonely moors, ghostly apparitions and conflicted heroine, Solsbury Hill's literary roots are strong. Wyler's more happily romantic take on the tragic story makes for an enjoying and approachable read. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A modern romance fraught with all the tension of Wuthering Heights.

Riverhead, $16, paperback, 9781594632365

Mystery & Thriller

The Intern's Handbook

by Shane Kuhn

Shane Kuhn's debut novel may have an innocuous title, but the titular instruction manual is far from toothless. The handbook is written by John Lago for the new employees at Human Resources, Inc., a placement agency for assassins who pretend to be interns in order to infiltrate major corporations and eliminate targets. John is about to turn 25, forced retirement age for  HR employees--any older and the interns would draw attention. He wants to pass on his knowledge and survival skills so the new recruits can avoid the "all-inclusive interrogation and torture package" at Guantanamo Bay. He details his final assignment, which he initially worried wasn't a challenging-enough swan song. He was all kinds of wrong.

John is an appealing narrator, a hit man with his own code of honor about collateral damage that sometimes puts him at odds with his elusive boss, Bob, who may or may not have John's best interests in mind. Fans of Duane Swierczynski's Charlie Hardie trilogy and Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper should enjoy this witty, deadly thriller. The pace may induce whiplash and some of the action is over the top; that's easily overlooked because the darkly comic story is so fun and w(h)acky. Just when John thinks he knows where his last job is headed, it jinks in an unexpected direction. The biggest surprise (for both the near-retiree and readers) is how affecting the journey turns out to be. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A wild and crazy fictional guidebook written by a young assassin on the cusp of retirement.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781476733807


Three Weeks with Lady X

by Eloisa James

Eloisa James (A Duke of Her Own) continues her ravishing Desperate Duchesses series in this sexy romp between a decidedly ungentlemanly hero and a heroine who's as self-sufficient as her peers are dependent. Lady Xenobia's unconventional parents left her with little more than a title and her bizarre first name when they apparently abandoned her and then died in a carriage accident. Now a grown woman who goes by her middle name, India, she wants to marry on her own terms, which means earning her dowry by whipping out-of-date households into shape with new furnishings and better staff. Someday her prince will come and find her amply prepared, but he's certainly not Thorn Dautry, her brash and disturbingly sensual new employer.

The bastard son of a duke, Thorn rose from his boyhood occupation as a riverside scavenger to acquire a fortune. His plans to snatch up a docile, nurturing nobly born bride require a veneer of class, so India's services are required. As they move from flirtation to friendship to more, Thorn begins to realize his Lady X isn't the lady wife he imagined for himself, but she is the one he has to have.

James achieves a lovely balance between the provocative and the endearing. The spicy, teasing relationship between Thorn and India gets entertainingly caustic, but readers who crave sweetness can still get their fix from a charming secondary romance. This compassionate examination of two walled-off hearts breaking through to each other sparkles like diamonds in the Thames. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The spicy love story of a reluctant social climber and the strong-willed beauty commissioned to fashion him into a gentleman.

Avon, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 9780062223890

Biography & Memoir

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs

by Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage kept a journal long before her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, was chosen for Oprah's Book Club. Writing journal entries helped her clarify her thoughts, and she recorded everything from her exuberant reactions to movies and books to her growing feminist awareness and her relentless examination of her own sense of purpose.

Cleage returned to her journals when her adult daughter suggested she burn them, arguing that they were too emotional to be reliable and her tumultuous life and accomplishments were already public. Cleage had worked with Atlanta's first African-American mayor as communications director, written a popular column and had been the wife of a prominent local figure before divorcing and finding eventual literary success. But in the entries, Cleage was confronted with her younger self: unprepared for her life and fearful enough of claiming it that she regularly reminded herself to "be very bold." The journals--selections from which became Things I Should Have Told My Daughter--reveal her struggle to reconcile her public profile with her growing feminism and her private yearning for personal and artistic freedom.

Cleage offers no apologies. Her affairs with married men, her marijuana use and her accomplishments are all present, unedited and unvarnished, without the editorial gloss of hindsight or rationalizing context. The result can occasionally be confusing but provides a powerful emotional immediacy and a full portrait of a woman increasingly unafraid of her ambitions, willing to expose her less admirable side along with her achievements and determined to present the full truth of an evolving self. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: The unedited journals of an acclaimed writer and activist, which reveal her struggle to be brave enough to live an authentic life.

Atria, $23.99, hardcover, 9781451664690

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur

by Mark Perry

In 1932, then-presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt called Douglas MacArthur the most dangerous man in America. Published almost exactly 50 years after MacArthur's death, The Most Dangerous Man in America is far less expansive than William Manchester's American Caesar. Instead, this partial biography stretches from MacArthur's tenure as the army's Chief of Staff (1930–35) to Japan's surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, with only minor mentions of his World War I or Korean War experiences. Mark Perry (Partners in Command; Grant and Twain) follows the controversial general largely during his relationship with FDR, who sought to "tame" MacArthur into a useful political and military tool. The result is a compelling, succinct account of a deeply flawed but brilliant leader, a man seemingly created for the circumstances through which he lived.

The Most Dangerous Man in America revolves around MacArthur's lifelong love of the Philippines. His flight from the Philippines in 1942 is one of several controversial marks on MacArthur's legacy, which Perry skillfully deconstructs. MacArthur was ordered to leave after orchestrating an unexpectedly successful defense against impossible odds, and Perry further examines the general's blunders related to the campaign: MacArthur dodged responsibility for the failure to get his planes airborne prior to the Japanese attack on the Philippines, and he did not recant his singular "I shall return" promise. Through the whirlwind years of fighting that follow, Perry depicts MacArthur as vain and arrogant, but also a great leader of men. With fluid prose and fascinating personalities, The Most Dangerous Man in America should appeal to military history and biography buffs alike. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Controversial general Douglas MacArthur's flawed brilliance on display during the Second World War.

Basic Books, $29.99, hardcover, 9780465013289

New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir

by Gail Caldwell

Gail Caldwell's 2010 memoir, Let's Take the Long Way Home, explored the losses that defined her fifth decade: her parents, her best friend and her beloved Samoyed, Clementine. She came into her 60s determined to move on, including starting over with a new puppy. But living with and training an active young dog forced Caldwell to confront just how difficult "moving on" was becoming for her in a physical sense. Caldwell had been compensating for the effects of polio her entire life, and this was getting harder every day. New Life, No Instructions is the story of how she learned she didn't have to continue to compensate, and of how a common medical procedure enabled her to see her life, literally, from a new perspective.

Caldwell's medical history led her and her caregivers to an exotic explanation for her painful limp and poor balance; for years, they had been trying to address the symptoms of what they believed to be the relatively rare Post-Polio Syndrome. In 2011, a new doctor identified her problem as something far more ordinary: her right hip had completely deteriorated, and she needed replacement surgery.

New Life, No Instructions is an affirming and hopeful reminder that sometimes the stories that we tell ourselves turn out to be wrong, but they can lead us to something very right. Caldwell's brief (under 200 pages) memoir of a year of unexpected midlife transformation is clear-eyed and plainspoken. She vividly conveys her sense of wonder and possibility at being in such a new place at such an unexpected time, and it's hard to resist sharing that feeling. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: How a woman's sense of herself is changed by two insightful doctors and one energetic dog.

Random House, $23, hardcover, 9781400069545

Children's & Young Adult

Galápagos George

by Jean Craighead George, illus. by Wendell Minor

In her last picture-book collaboration with artist Wendell Minor, the late Jean Craighead George (Julie of the Wolves) tells the poignant story of the lineage of the saddleback tortoise from one imagined ancestor--Giantess George--and through it, teaches children how creatures evolve over time in order to adapt to their environment.

A born storyteller, Jean George describes Giantess George's lengthy presence on the planet, watching animals large and small "run over the footprints of the long-vanished dinosaurs." Wendell Minor (The Eagles Are Back) places Giantess George among erupting volcanoes and saber-toothed cats, then being swept to sea by a storm in South America. Giantess George eventually lands on an island "later named San Cristóbal." The text differentiates when the tortoise "did something new" (such as floating) and when she "did something ordinary for a tortoise," such as going for days without food or fresh water (as a desert animal). With her special trait--a neck that's "a little longer than the necks of other tortoises"--she can eat leaves when the ground supply of food runs out. Minor shows similar unusual adaptations of tortoises on nearby islands. One dramatic illustration depicts Lonesome George, the last of Giantess George's descendants, as large as two of the six men it took to transport him to safety. Minor's closing portrait is so expressive that children will feel as if Lonesome George somehow knew there would be no others after him.

This beautiful homage conveys complex ideas in concrete ways so children can witness how these extraordinary tortoises survived so long in their particular habitats. Splendid. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A picture book exploration of one tortoise's lineage as a window into understanding the way the fittest survive through adaptation.

HarperCollins, $15.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780060287931

The Grudge Keeper

by Mara Rockliff, illus. by Eliza Wheeler

The townsfolk of Bonnyripple align their priorities when old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper, falls prey to a storm in Mara Rockliff's (Me and Momma and Big John) charming tale brimming with wordplay.

In Eliza Wheeler's (Miss Maple's Seeds) pen-and-ink and watercolor wash, old Cornelius's house resembles the Old Woman's Shoe, overflowing with "ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs." They're rolled up under his bed, stuck in glass jars and loaded on a wheelbarrow. Rockliff lists a few of them: Minnie Fletcher's goat gulping down Elvira Bogg's prize-winning zinnias, student Sylvester Quincy snagging the schoolmaster's toupee and Big Otto stomping on Lily Belle's new shoes at the spring fling. When a strong wind sails through Bonnyripple, it delivers the schoolmaster's toupee to Minnie Fletcher's hungry goat and wreaks havoc with the grudges ("low blows rested high" and "left-handed compliments... landed on the right-hand side"). Mischievous though he may be, Sylvester Quincy finds Cornelius buried beneath the grudges. As the townsfolk dig him out, they let their complaints go, until "not a single grudge remained." One last domino effect occurs, but it ends with a happily-ever-after.

Wheeler fills her compositions with tantalizing details. Big Otto perpetually leans forward as if to step on any shoe in his path. Sylvester Quincy, arms outstretched, looks about to pilfer anything he covets. All the more miraculous, then, when the Grudge Keeper's home and hearth become the heart of the community. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A fable filled with wordplay about a town that aligns its priorities when the Grudge Keeper goes missing.

Peachtree, $16.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781561457298


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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