Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Harper: The House of Brides by Jane Cockram

From My Shelf

Lion Forge: Bezkamp by Sam Sattin, illustrated by Jen Hickman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin

Growing a Writer's Tree

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately... no one knows what they are." --W. Somerset Maugham

Encouraging words? Hardly. But when a good friend and accomplished writer said them to me, her eyes sparkled. It's taken me several books of my own to understand why. How can I possibly make sense of a craft so amorphous and shape-shifting that it seems to have no rules or boundaries?

The solution lies in treating your creation as a living, breathing organism. A tree.

In the soil of your writer's mind, you'll discover what might or might not be a seed. If you plant it with care, it could sink roots and grow into something tall, evocative and beautiful. If that seed is to grow at all, it will need plenty of sunlight, air, and nourishment--that is, the writer's version of those things.

Sunlight, for a writer, comes in the form of observation. Notice the world around you. How do different people speak, with their voices, faces, hands and posture? How do autumn leaves fall to the ground, each with a singular sort of flight? How do different ideas cast light on people's passions, fears, hopes, and dreams? Your characters will stand up, walk off the page and speak to you.

Air is belief. Your voice matters. Believe that you have valuable things to say--and the passion and skill to communicate them.

Nourishment takes the form of discipline. Writing may be the hardest work you'll ever do--and, if you persevere, the most gratifying work you'll ever do. But your seeds won't grow unless you work hard to bring them to life.

Finally, after receiving plenty of sunlight, air and nourishment, your writer's tree will bear fruit that others may enjoy. It will also feel wholly authentic--for at the core, good fiction must be true.

And perhaps, when the wind whistles through its branches, you will hear the full expression of a secret, half-remembered song. --T.A. Barron

T.A. Barron's Atlantis Rising will be published by Philomel in September.


Blair: Holding on to Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne


Book Candy

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!; Vintage Children's Book Covers

Harper Lee celebrated her 88th birthday yesterday, and Mental Floss shared "4 awesome things" she did after publishing To Kill a Mockingbird.

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"It's not hard to find... passing references to novels abound in literature, on TV and across cinema screens," the Guardian noted in featuring "10 favorite readers of fiction in fiction."

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"Gorgeous vintage children's book covers from all over the world" were showcased by Flavorwire.

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Brian Payton, author of The Wind Is Not a River, chose his "top 10 books about Alaska" for the Guardian, noting that the list "includes books I discovered while living (briefly) in Alaska, and through gathering research for my novel."

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"Which Hunger Games district do you actually belong in?" Buzzfeed offered a test, adding: "May the odds be ever in your favor."

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DIY: Apartment Therapy's Before & After series featured the transformation of a beige dresser into a faux card catalogue bookcase, using plans on the Undomestic Goddess blog.


Magination Press: My Singing Nana by Pat Mora, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez


The Writer's Life

Greg Iles: The Past Is Always Present

photo: Caroline Hungerford

Greg Iles wrote his first novel, Spandau Phoenix, a thriller about Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, in 1993, and it became the first of his 12 New York Times bestsellers. In 2010 The Devil's Punchbowl reached #1 on the Times list; that novel was the third to feature Penn Cage, a prosecutor turned mayor in Natchez, Miss. (Iles's home town). In 2011, Iles sustained life-threatening injuries in a traffic accident and ultimately lost part of his right leg. He has since recovered and is now finishing a trilogy of novels again featuring Cage. The first volume is titled Natchez Burning and will be published on April 29 by Morrow. The next two will be The Bone Tree (2015) and An Unwritten Law (2016).

Penn Cage's world--his town, his family, his friends--has a veneer of Southern charm and graciousness, but under a thin layer is not just corruption and murder, but evil. In Natchez Burning, Penn's father, a revered doctor, is accused of murdering an African-American nurse with whom he worked in the early '60s. Combine this with the doings of a brutal offshoot of the KKK, the Double Eagles, and you get vintage Greg Iles with a new level of outrage and sorrow over cruelties of the past that haunt the present. A few months ago, we talked Iles about Natchez Burning.

After your accident, did you turn back to Penn Cage as a familiar "place," or was the book already being written?

I was writing the book prior to the accident, and even then realized the theme was bigger than just the one book. I was in the car wreck because of the book. It's complex. One of the things as a writer you have to have is the ability to hold an entire fictional universe in your mind. I had no business driving the car in that mental state. I pulled out onto the highway, and the crash happened because I was in the book, not in the car.

I came back to Penn Cage a month after the long hospital stay. Once you're on the bestseller lists, there is tremendous pressure to write a book a year, which can be deleterious to publishing and writing as a whole. I've generally taken a little longer than that, but knew I hadn't given this story the justice it deserved. But in this time, I got the story out the way I wanted to, on a Jungian level.

Is Henry Sexton, the crusading newspaperman in Natchez Burning, based on a real person?

Yes, Stanley Nelson, the editor of the weekly Concordia Sentinel. Stanley Nelson is a hero (and Pulitzer finalist), who has been tirelessly working cold case murders for years, investigating forgotten victims in the South. He's literally embarrassed the FBI in his investigation of civil rights murders. Through my book, a million people will read his story, and I hope it will push some of the cases to resolution.

I've shied away from using the KKK in my novels--it puts me off in other books, it's too easy. But in this case, having gotten to know Stanley, I found a KKK faction (the Silver Dollar Group) that was very different, very committed to brutality.

You write, "Normal men brushed up against those feelings by hunting animals or participating in dangerous sports, but men who had known combat--and thrived in it--achieved no rush from substitutes."

Whether you watch 12 Year a Slave or Schindler's List, most people have had very little exposure to real violence, but even the most realistic portrayals don't even come close. No special effects can show you. If you've ever seen a brutal bar fight, it's more nauseating and terrifying than what you can imagine. You take young men, give them an M16 and free rules of engagement, and you have created an environment you can't contain. It happened in the Boer War; it happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan--with the saturation of cameras and media, it's been harder and harder to hide behind the "fog of war." Most human beings are repelled by violence and they don't lose their humanity. But a small percentage of people have sociopathic tendencies--the KKK comes to mind--and the rules of civilization are suspended, their true natures have free range.

The portrait of Albert Norris is unforgettable.

Albert was a real guy--Frank Morris--an honest shoemaker who was murdered in 1964 because he walked out to a white woman's car to deliver her repaired shoes, and refused to fix KKK members' shoes for free. If anyone can read the chapter about Albert and then stop, they aren't my reader.

When civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner went missing in 1964, the FBI was sure they had been murdered. During the search for their bodies, quite a few other bodies were discovered, and when it was determined that they were not the three men, nothing was done to investigate because they were black. The only reason Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were sought was because two of them were white.

Being black in the South, there was no one to turn to, even if the FBI came down. They'd be here one week, gone the next, and liable to get black people killed in the process.

Iles concluded by saying that there were critical parts of that story he had kept to himself for years, almost afraid to confront the implications. And he wondered if he had made enough concessions to the thriller genre to get people to read about and accept his underlying theme. We think he will succeed. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Flatiron Books: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo


Book Review

Fiction

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

by Francine Prose


In Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, veteran novelist Francine Prose (Blue Angel) employs an array of voices and literary styles to tell a vibrant story of thwarted ambition, love and betrayal in prewar Paris and in the early years of World War II.

Prose's novel follows the life of Lou Villars, a cross-dressing lesbian "born into the wrong life," tracing her downward spiral from successful young athlete and racecar driver to German spy and torturer. While Lou's story is certainly an engaging thriller, through it Prose also delivers a thoughtful reflection on the "mystery of evil," as described by the sympathetic biographer whose account of Lou Villars's tragic life forms the novel's spine. Prose's expert touch renders each narrative voice distinct and vital: the biographer's chronicle of Lou; the collection of memoir excerpts; and the letters of the Hungarian-born photographer whose snapshot of Lou and her bisexual lover gives the novel its title. Taken together, this chorus provides the depth, shading and variety that flow from narrators with widely differing reliability.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 brims with colorful characters as artists (including, notably, Pablo Picasso), petty forgers, Nazis and resistance fighters meet on the page. Prose's careful attention to setting and period detail brings Paris and the chaotic World War II era to life. It would be unfair to pigeonhole this novel into a particular genre, because its appeal so artfully blends multiple styles. It is a testament to Prose's considerable talent that she's able to execute such an ambitious work so flawlessly. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: A fascinating character study of a cross-dressing female racecar driver turned Nazi spy.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780061713781

Charlesbridge Publishing: Baby Loves Science: The Five Senses by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan


The Steady Running of the Hour

by Justin Go


In Justin Go's debut novel, contemporary 20-something Tristan Campbell must mine his ancestors' pasts for clues in an effort to prove he's the rightful heir to an enormous fortune, unclaimed in the years since it was left behind by World War I veteran and mountaineer Ashley Walsingham. Vacillating between the stories of both men, Go links the novel's multiple characters, countries and turns of events with a temporal thread, constructing a tale in which time is both poisonous and redemptive, taunting both men until they're forced to reckon with its passing.

The structure itself isn't necessarily innovative, but the execution separates Go from lesser writers who have tried (and sometimes failed) to juggle separate worlds in the singular framework of a novel. The fullness and vivacity of his characters make his transitions between past and present seamless. The pace is, unsurprisingly, breakneck, and the novel falls into that rare category of being both compulsively readable and haunting, its figures still insistently real long after you've left their fictional world.

The Steady Running of the Hour is knotty and complicated, both a brash historical epic and a quiet love story. It's ambitious, honest and unabashedly passionate about history, from the mud in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. Almost overwhelming in its magnitude, this is a lovely meditation on how men and women meet the world's harsh demands and how they wrestle with their humanity in the process. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

Discover: An adventurously paced novel that moves between World War I-era England, Mount Everest and modern Europe.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 9781476704586

Faber & Faber:  Infused: Adventures in Tea by Henrietta Lovell


The Serpent of Venice

by Christopher Moore


The master of parody is back with his 14th no-holds-barred spoof, and readers can count on nonstop hilarity as The Serpent of Venice slithers into some outrageous and, of course, bawdy adventures. With his loyal half-wit Drool and his beloved monkey, Jeff, the fool Pocket of Dog Snogging is on a mission decreed by Queen Cordelia: stop the Venetians' planned crusade. But Pocket is soon sealed in Brabantio's dungeon and ensnared in the power plays among the merchants and royalty. 

It doesn't look good for our hero as the seawater approaches his shackled wrists. Denying his impending doom, he jests to the reader that all will be well; he's rewarded for his optimism, as a dark figure pulsating beneath the rising water not only manages to free him from the chains, but, well, pleasures him in the bargain. The lovely Jessica, daughter of Shylock the moneylender, rescues Pocket as he emerges from the dungeon's watery depths. But she needs Pocket's help to escape her father's authority and flee to her beloved (Christian--thus, forbidden) Lorenzo. Worried for Drool and Jeff, Pocket sets off with Jessica (who is now disguised as a pirate: " 'Aargh,' she pirately aarghed"). And just when the plot thickens, the Chorus chimes in to sort it all out.

Half the fun is in trying to keep up with Moore's puns, naughty asides, quick dispatches of foes and witty repartee. Familiarity with all the literary allusions is optional; ability to belly laugh is required. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Literary comedy sprinkled liberally with allusions to Shakespeare and others, crafted by the incomparably irreverent Christopher Moore (Lamb, Fool).

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 9780061779763

In the Light of What We Know

by Zia Haider Rahman


"In the early hours of one September morning in 2008, there appeared on the doorstep of our home in South Kensington a brown-skinned man, haggard and gaunt faced, the ridges of his cheekbones set above an unkempt beard." So begins Zia Haider Rahman's debut novel, filled with snappy philosophizing that will attract fans of David Foster Wallace. The narrator, an investment banker, is reconnected with his long-lost university friend Zafar, a Bengali-born mathematical prodigy raised mainly in Britain by impoverished parents. After a mysterious disappearance, Zafar reenters the narrator's life just as the Great Recession descends, and the resumption of their friendship shatters the narrator's calm, vaguely unsatisfying life in ways deeper and more permanent than the destruction of his career.

Zafar has come to share a confession that will leave the narrator shaken and wondering what, if any, blame he might carry for Zafar's pain and for the pain Zafar inflicted upon others. Rahman packs the narrator's private musings and conversations with Zafar with more general explorations of the human condition.

Rahman seamlessly introduces mathematical theories, cognitive science and the joint histories of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India without taking the reader out of the scope of the story, keeping it simultaneously global and intimate. He also examines the impact of some of the most explosive events of our budding century: the 9/11 attacks, the subsequent military conflicts and the financial collapse of 2008.

While not to be undertaken lightly, this devastating web of truths and misconceptions is ideal for readers longing to immerse themselves in a deep, complex experience. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A stunning debut novel that explores class, race, imperialism and our young century.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 9780374175627

Casebook

by Mona Simpson


At the beginning of Casebook, from PEN/Faulkner Award nominee Mona Simpson (Off Keck Road), teenage narrator Miles Adler-Hart and his twin sisters are told their parents are divorcing. The separation isn't as bad he'd feared, as the adults have remained amicable. But when Miles's mother, Irene, begins dating the elusive Eli Lee, the family starts to feel the change.

Eli claims to work for the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., but travels regularly to see Irene in Santa Monica, Calif. Eli showers her with sweet talk and, as Miles notes with dismay, orders red-pepper flakes for her in restaurants; Miles wants his mother to order for herself. He and his best friend, Hector, suspect Eli is not as he seems, and the boys decide to do some snooping. Their amateur tactics don't reveal enough, so they eventually hire a sympathetic private investigator, Ben, and discover things about Eli they wish they could unlearn.

It's a bit precious for Miles to call his mother "the Mims" and his twin sisters "the Boops," and Sherlock Holmes fans might be further distracted by the mother's full name--Irene Adler--but Simpson's coming-of-age tale is otherwise striking for its restraint, effectively conveying a sense of heartbreak. Miles observes that Eli's life story is sad, but "in a way that had no poignancy." Casebook itself is certainly poignant; it shows that pain can transform us, and sometimes we have to go through it to find what we need when we least expect it. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: The striking coming-of-age story of a teenage boy trying to protect his newly divorced mother's heart.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385351416

Mystery & Thriller

The Dog Killer of Utica

by Frank Lentricchia


Eliot Conte--star of Frank Lentricchia's The Accidental Pallbearer, son of a Mafia kingmaker, former private investigator, teacher of English literature--is trying to stay sober and finish his Melville dissertation. But then Bobby Rintrona, one of his best friends, is shot and Bobby's dog is killed. Within hours, one of Eliot's students, a Bosnian Muslim man named Mirko Ivanovic, is accused by Homeland Security of associating with a radical imam. The next day, police chief Antonio Robinson's dog is also shot and killed, and Antonio's wife is injured during the attack. Clearly something sinister is afoot in Utica. Eliot will need all his wits to solve the crimes and help Mirko without estranging his own girlfriend, detective Catherine Cruz.

Somewhat past his glory days, Eliot reflects the situation of his New York hometown: Utica's wealthy mobster history and high crime rate play into the story, as Eliot battles the terrible weather and corrupt political and legal forces in his investigation. Profane, intelligent and mentally unstable, Eliot is fascinatingly complicated. His cryptic conversations and muddled thoughts keep the reader guessing as the mystery unfolds in a stream of consciousness.

Lentricchia brings Utica to life on the page, reminiscing about its heyday and showcasing its current economically downtrodden situation. Lentricchia has managed to blend Melville, Verdi, the Mafia, Homeland Security, small-town life and murder into a fast-paced novel that will appeal to both fans of noir and surrealist literature. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: An alcoholic literature professor thinks his connections to organized crime might be linked to a series of murders in Utica, N.Y.

Melville International Crime, $15.95, paperback, 9781612193373

Biography & Memoir

My Accidental Jihad: A Love Story

by Krista Bremer


A secular surfer girl from Southern California, Krista Bremer never imagined herself married to a devout Muslim. But then she met Ismail, a kind Libyan man who captured her heart. Despite their differences in religion, culture and age, the two fell in love, and when Bremer found out she was expecting a child, they decided to take the leap and become a family.

In elegant prose, Bremer recounts her unlikely love story and explores her discomfort with her husband's cultural and spiritual norms. She wonders at the restrictions of Ramadan and blushes in embarrassment as Ismail haggles with a disabled man selling cheap sunglasses in a Libyan market. Eventually, she faces the challenges of raising two children with Arabic names in the American South, wrestling with her daughter's request for a headscarf and realizing that a neighbor's comment about "diversity" is aimed squarely at her family.

Though Bremer's deep love for her husband is evident, he often comes across as the saintly Other, his calm demeanor standing in stark contrast to her frustrations. She draws deft portraits of his Libyan relatives, especially his brothers, but portrayed in a crowd, the family's image slides into stereotype. Keenly aware of her economic and cultural privilege, Bremer is still sometimes blind to her own ignorance on issues such as the role of women in Libyan culture.

Despite these flaws, Bremer's memoir is a thought-provoking exploration of the deep foreignness of marriage, and a moving portrait of love, tolerance and family. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A thought-provoking exploration of marriage and foreignness, by an American woman married to a Muslim North African man.

Algonquin, $24.95, hardcover, 9781616200688

Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home

by Nina Stibbe


In 1982, Regent's Park, North London, was not a bad place to be a nanny. At the home of Mary-Kay Wilmers--deputy editor of the London Review of Books--two young boys read from the dictionary for fun, meals were all eaten from mismatched antiques and company included such literary figures as playwright Alan Bennett. These charming surroundings inspired 20-year-old nanny Nina Stibbe to write dozens of highly amusing, impressively observant letters to her sister. Love, Nina is a compilation of those letters, which Stibbe gathered and published more than 30 years later.

Though the premise might suggest an almost saccharine sweetness, Love, Nina is full of dry wit and the occasional crass injection. In her first letter, Stibbe describes her employer by saying, "She swears a lot (f and c), and reminds me of Eslpeth, but not an alcy." (Eslpeth is the girls' mother). After a while, the rapid-fire banter in 55 Gloucester Crescent takes on the feel of an endless game of table tennis, wherein every casual remark is returned with a smart and satisfying quip. "I saw (that woman) pointing at my ponytail and smirking," Stibbe remarks. Mary-Kay responds: "Oh, she's just an idiot and you're more of one for caring."

Amid the silliness, there are real concerns; for instance, one of Stibbe's charges has a serious illness and must make frequent trips to the doctor. But there is an almost defiant sense of good naturalness within the household.

Stibbe's greatest talent--which she shares with her employers--is her ability to find humor in the quotidian. --Annie Atherton

Discover: A collection of amusing letters written by the nanny for a literary London family in the early 1980s.

Little, Brown, $25, hardcover, 9780316243391

Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers

by Eleanor Henderson, Anna Solomon, editors


Editors Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon realized that among the dozens of books on preparing for childbirth, shopping for infant equipment and selecting baby names, there weren't many personal accounts of the birth experience itself. Labor Day, a collection of "artful, unvarnished, hilarious, harrowing" stories from 30 published authors, aims to fill the gap.

Each essayist--from Cheryl Strayed and her pragmatic "What Not to Believe" tips to Julia Glass's reflections on her son's speedy arrival--entertains her fans with an unusual, candid story. Edan Lepucki laments the Cesarean she had after planning a "natural" birth. "But the word 'should' doesn't belong anywhere near childbirth. It's an unpredictable process, and different for every woman. In that sense, it's kind of like parenthood," she writes. Sometimes these brutally honest histories touch on infertility, stillborn babies and insensitive medical procedures, but ultimately, the stories are celebrations, and humor abounds. Eleanor Henderson remembers her husband stopping for money to tip the hospital valet: "What man with a wife in labor stops at the ATM?"

These moms credit their families and medical teams for support, but some, like Heidi Pitlor, recall less-positive interactions: A nurse chided her to "be a strong woman" as she labored with the first of her twins. While anyone who's experienced a birth will relate, anxious moms-to-be might find some stories a bit scary. And though the collection invites picking and choosing, it's likely most mothers will wish they could talk to the authors and share, "Oh, but here's what happened to me...." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Honest, detailed narratives about pregnancy and childbirth from 30 different women.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 9780374239329

History

Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War

by Amanda Vaill


During the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939), Madrid's Hotel Florida was a meeting place for war correspondents, press officers and foreign intellectuals. Amanda Vaill (Everybody Was So Young) uses the hotel as a focal point to examine the war through the lives of three men and three women.

Arturo Barea of Madrid serves as a censor for the Propaganda Department, finding his leftist politics and commitment to truth well matched by his new assistant, Ilsa Kulcsar, who comes from an Austrian resistance cell and speaks many languages. Meanwhile, Ernest Hemingway feels stifled in Key West; a new war to cover provides him with an excuse to get away from his wife and find fresh material to revive his stagnant writing. (The attractive young journalist he's just met, Martha Gellhorn, is also eager to get to Spain.) Finally, a young man named Endre Friedmann is exuberantly pursuing his passion for photography in Paris when he meets the charming Gerta Pohorylle. They set off for Spain together with their ideals on their sleeves. Taking new names--Robert Capa and Gerda Taro--they will find fame and love and change the face of war photography forever. One of them will die on Spanish soil.

In addition to explaining the complexities of the Spanish Civil War, Vaill examines the meaning of truth as conceived by each of her six players--writer, journalist, translator, censor, press officer, photographer. Buttressed by plentiful research, Vaill's prose exhibits touches of Hemingway's own writing style and a gift for narrative that keeps Hotel Florida accessible and engaging. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Three love affairs, set against the Spanish Civil War, that yield a nuanced perspective on war journalism and romance.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30, hardcover, 9780374172992

Children's & Young Adult

The Boundless

by Kenneth Oppel


Young readers are sure to love Kenneth Oppel's (Silverwing; Airborn) sprawling late-19th-century escapade.

When Will Everett's father invites him to ride across the country on the Boundless, "the longest train in the world," Will jumps at the chance and finds nothing short of the adventure of his life. At 987 cars long, the Boundless reminds Will of a "rolling city," complete with a traveling circus and a richly furnished funeral car that holds the body of Mr. Van Horne, the railroad's builder. During a routine stop, Will is inadvertently witness to a theft gone wrong and a plot to rob the funeral car. Nearly missing the train as a result, he swings himself onto the caboose--more than seven miles behind his father, who is manning the engine. Determined to thwart the intended robbery, Will begins making his way through (and sometimes over!) the train cars, with the dangerous thieves in hot pursuit. Help lies in the circus cars, where a curious Circus Master and lovely young escape artist promise to help smuggle Will to the front of the train. Moving among passengers from all walks of life and through treacherous landscapes that conceal "man-eating Wendigo of the northern forest" and sasquatch, Will's journey puts his courage and convictions to the test.

The book's carnival atmosphere and adrenaline-fueled chases will keep readers glued to the page. Oppel's imagination and sense of wonder bring this story to life, making it an unusual take on childhood dreams of adventure and one wild ride. --Julia Smith, blogger and former children's bookseller

Discover: One boy's wild ride on the Canadian Pacific Railway, thwarting a robbery with the help of the circus folk on board.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99, hardcover, 332p., ages 8-12, 9781442472884

A Pet for Fly Guy

by Tedd Arnold


Baseball cap–sporting Buzz helps his pet fly search for a pet of his own in this hilarious picture-book adventure, with poignant insights into the nature of friendship.

One day, Buzz takes Fly Guy with him on a family picnic to the park. Thought balloons play up Fly Guy's clever communication capabilities, as Tedd Arnold (Parts) conveys the strong bond between boy and fly. Children will savor Arnold's interplay between the text and illustrations. "They ate lunch," the text reads, as Buzz bites into his sandwich and Fly Guy hovers over the trash. They look at clouds together and observe other children playing in the park with their unusual pets. A bear and blonde girl rock out to a portable radio; a boy sporting a catcher's chest pad, thick gloves and a welder's shield engages with his pet porcupine. But Fly Guy, with droopy wings and antennae, sadly announces in a speech balloon, "No Petz!" As Buzz helps Fly Guy search for a pet, Arnold makes comic fodder of the classic selections: a puppy's tongue sends Fly Guy topsy turvy, and a cat swats at the winged hero. Fly Guy's attempts to find his own pet yield similar results. Readers will enjoy arriving at the solution ahead of Fly Guy, thanks to Arnold's carefully choreographed thought balloons.

This picture-book adventure packs in the humor while honoring the importance of giving friends room to try out new ideas and trusting that the friendship is strong enough to handle the prospect of change. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Fly Guy's search for a pet of his own results in a new appreciation of the meaning of friendship.

Orchard/Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780545316156

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