Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mariner Books: The Blue Hour by Paula Hawkins

From My Shelf

If I Were a Book, I'd...

I am already thinking about gift books for the upcoming holidays--books to review, books to mention, books to fit into certain slots: cookbooks are a snap, but what to do with little gems? I usually group them as "stocking-stuffers."

if i were a book coverBut there is one little gem that came out in this spring that won't fit easily into a stocking, unless it belongs to LeBron James: If I Were a Book by José Jorge Letria, illustrated by his son, André Letria (Chronicle, $12.95). It's a picture book, but one for all ages.

Letria's thoughts about books are illustrated with simple, fanciful images. "If I were a book, I'd share my deepest secrets with my readers" is accompanied by a man opening a book cover and peering into a staircase leading deep into the volume. "If I were a book, I'd help someone soar"--the book is a kite. A book with a lion's paws and tail says, "If I were a book, I'd like to have my own magical place in every child's imagination." A cowboy rides the spine of a book--"If I were a book, I'd take readers to the wide open spaces of their own untamable minds."

"If I were a book, I'd crush violence with knowledge."

"If I were a book, I would not want to know at the beginning how my story ends."

"If I were a book, I'd help anchor you to your truest self."

"If I were a book, my scent would be the bouquet of an endless and unequaled day."

"If I were a book, I'd like, above all things, always to be read and always to be free."

It may be too early to think about the upcoming gift-giving season, but If I Were a Book should not be confined by time constraints--every day is a good day to give a book to someone (especially yourself). --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Lin Enger: A Western Odyssey

photo: Hope Larson

Lin Enger grew up in Minnesota, and teaches English at Minnesota State University. His latest novel, The High Divide, is a story of a family's journey of self-discovery, set in the American western plains in 1886. One morning Gretta Pope awakes to discover that her sons, Eli and Danny, have gone off in search of her missing husband, Ulysses. Desperate, Gretta, too, sets out: searching for her husband and boys across Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana.

Your first novel, Undiscovered Country, was loosely based on Hamlet, and The High Divide has clear connections to The Odyssey. What made you decide to connect these classics to the American frontier?

Yes, I made conscious use of Hamlet when I wrote Undiscovered Country. In that novel I employed the basic scenario of Shakespeare's play--a murdered father and a son who must navigate his need for vengeance--but transposed the story to a contemporary setting. In The High Divide, I didn't overtly intend to recast The Odyssey in the 19th-century American West. Nonetheless, I did choose Ulysses as the name for one of my protagonists, a veteran of the Indian Wars, and (as in The Odyssey) it is this man's inability to leave the battles behind and make a full return home to his family that drives the story forward.

As I wrote, I was unaware that my novel had so many parallels to Homer's epic. But when I'd finished it and several early readers pointed this out to me, I was pleased. After all, The Odyssey is archetypal, time-tested, full of truths about what it means for a man to leave a war behind and try to go home again. That particular journey--whether it happened thousands of years ago or is happening now--will necessarily be full of peril, the warrior fighting with himself and with the gods, his family meanwhile struggling to understand an experience quite beyond them yet doing whatever they must in order to bring him home. I should say, too, that writers are constantly reworking the old stories; it can't be helped. And the greatest storytellers--Shakespeare and Homer among them--are probably the ones whose material is the most universal. Tales like The Odyssey are in our DNA.

Ulysses's story is tied to the story of the American West, to the decimation of the buffalo herds and the destruction of the Native way of life. The true story of William Temple Hornaday (curator of the Smithsonian, who headed out on a buffalo trek) also connects to Ulysses's journey. Is Ulysses himself based on a real historical figure?

Ulysses is not based on any historical figure I am aware of, though as your question suggests, several of the novel's other characters are inspired by real people--William Hornaday and Magpie of the Southern Cheyennes among them. Through Ulysses, I wanted to explore what it would be like to have experienced the Indian Wars and to have committed acts for which one can't forgive oneself. Of course, in that respect there were many men in Ulysses's position; I have no idea whether any of them were compelled to fight their demons in the particular way Ulysses does in The High Divide.

high divide coverYou live in Minnesota, where the Popes' story begins. Does your own history (or that of your family) influence your writing?

My great-grandfather homesteaded in Dakota Territory in 1883. In the spring of 1884, according to family legend, he shot one of the last wild buffalo in that part of the country--thus, my lifelong fascination with the buffalo. Also, because all four of my grandparents lived close to the land in North Dakota, the days of the pioneering west have never seemed distant to me. That's not to say I didn't have a lot of research to do before writing this novel!

Another hallmark of the pioneer era: the train frequently shows up in The High Divide. Ulysses, then Danny and Eli, then Gretta all follow the tracks. Did you do any train-traveling while researching The High Divide?

You're right--there is a lot of train travel in this book! That was how people made long journeys in America in the 1880s. The rails were also instrumental in allowing the terrible slaughter of the buffalo herds and in partitioning and making accessible the vast western lands through which the Native tribes of the plains had freely moved for centuries. I didn't do any train travel as I prepared to write the book (though I do love trains and have used them happily both here in the U.S. and in Europe), but I did make research trips into the Dakotas and Montana. Also, I developed a deep love for the west, Montana in particular, when I was 21 years old and rode my bicycle from Seattle, Wash., back to Minnesota. (There are few better ways to experience a country slowly and up close.)

The story of the Pope family seems concluded. Any plans to revisit these characters? Or any sneak peeks at future writing plans?

I agree that Ulysses, Gretta, Eli and Danny have come through to the other side of their troubles at novel's end. I absolutely loved writing about them, however, and wouldn't be surprised if I take up their lives again some day, but not now. I'm at work on a very different sort of novel, and excited about it. I'm always afraid, though, that I'll jinx my writing ideas if I talk about them--so all I'm willing to say is that the new story is set in the volatile, transitional decade of the 1970s. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Book Candy

Speed Reading Quiz; Literary Drinking Advice

Pop quiz: "How long would it take you to read the entire Game of Thrones series?" The Huffington Post featured a reading speed quiz from Blinkbox Books to test true word warriors everywhere.


"Writers have long held reputations for being heavy drinkers--a stereotype that's not entirely undeserved," Bustle noted in featuring some "literary advice to make you feel better about last night's poor choice."


"From Willy Wonka's Nutty Crunch Surprise to Bird Pie à la The Twits," Brain Pickings highlighted "real recipes from Roald Dahl's beloved children's books."


Mark Watson, author of Hotel Alpha, shared his picks for top 10 hotel novels with the Guardian, noting that the "hotel is a seductive setting for a writer."


"Classic science fiction book covers from Hungary are mind-blowing," io9 noted in showcasing a few of them.


Bookish DIY dept.: Houzz offered helpful suggestions on what you should know about adding a library ladder," noting that "there's a lot to consider when adding one of these elegant pieces to your home."

Book Review


The Ploughmen

by Kim Zupan

Set in the emptiness of east Montana, Kim Zupan's debut novel, The Ploughmen, is the story of 77-year-old serial killer John Gload and Copper County Deputy Sheriff Valentine Millimaki. After a former accomplice ratted him out in a plea bargain, Gload is in jail awaiting trial. Recently hired, Val is stuck on third shift to guard Gload and try to coax him to divulge where he buried his many victims.

In the quiet hours they spend together, a bond gradually forms between the two men--at first based on their similar farming childhoods, but later intensified by the shared isolation of their lives and their frequent proximity to death. Struggling in his unraveling marriage, Val suffers exhausting insomnia. With his tracking dog, Tom, he takes daytime assignments to find missing persons while his wife works as an intensive care nurse. He and Tom eventually find the lost--at least their remains. Gload, on the other hand, kills to support himself, robbing his victims before scattering their bones.

As Val's life unwinds and he broods over its meagerness, he temporarily falls under the sway of Gload's fatherly camaraderie. But the false friendship doesn't take--Gload is still a killer and Val a lawman intent on seeing him put away for the rest of his life. Zupan counterpoises the beauty of Montana's mountain ranges and vast wheat fields with its harsh loneliness that can nurture violence and depression. His story of Val and Gload, "like two trains going different ways," is an insightful glimpse into the characters of two men confronting life and death alone and up close. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A psychological story of a serial killer and deputy sheriff tied by similar childhoods and close relationships with death.

Holt, $26, hardcover, 9780805099515

The Paying Guests

by Sarah Waters

As she did in her Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Fingersmith, an absorbing and richly satisfying historical novel, Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet) has crafted a period domestic drama that mines class differences, then added an illicit love affair between two women and, midway through, recast it as a twist on a murder mystery.

Frances Wray, unmarried and with a reputation for being outspoken, lives with her widowed mother in their large house near London in Champion Hill, a neighborhood of large gardens and leafy trees. Her father's death some years earlier left them in debt, and her two brothers were killed in the war. She's forced to take in lodgers: the boisterous young Barbers, whose gaudy belongings now crowd the rooms across the landing from Frances's serene, elegant bedroom. While Leonard leaves every day for his job as an insurance clerk, Frances strikes up a friendship with his wife, Lilian. As the unhappiness of the Barbers' marriage gradually becomes clear, the two women grow closer and Frances, regretting a love she gave up years earlier at her mother's insistence, pursues and wins Lilian. They are happy in their clandestine affair, until their lives are transformed by a murder and its aftermath, which threatens everything they hold dear.

Frances has a rich interior life, and Waters delivers plenty of emotional tension along with the murder drama. The result is a novel that defies categorization as either commercial or literary fiction. A reinvention of the English period drama, The Paying Guests should establish Waters as one of Britain's best contemporary storytellers. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A love affair between two socially mismatched women in post-World War I England that takes an unexpected turn into a crime drama.

Riverhead Books, $28.95, hardcover, 9781594633119

The Diamond Lane

by Karen Karbo

Shirl, the widowed matriarch of the FitzHenry family, has undergone brain surgery following a freak accident involving a ceiling fan. Amid the trauma, Mimi--Shirl's aspiring-screenwriter daughter--tracks down her long-lost sister, Mouse, a documentary filmmaker flitting around Africa, who hasn't been home in 16 years. Mouse soon arrives in Los Angeles with her longtime British beau and work partner, Tony Cheatham, whom Shirl and Mimi assume is Mouse's fiancé. Afraid to disappoint her infirm mother, Mouse runs with the marriage story, even though she and Tony have a sparring, contentious relationship. But as Mouse assimilates into life in L.A., the past is unearthed and old jealousies and sibling rivalries are soon resurrected.

Life becomes even more complicated when an old flame approaches Mouse and the two begin to film a behind-the-scenes documentary called Wedding March--a sort of reality show long before such programs became commonplace--that depicts the months leading up to Mouse's impending nuptials. Tony, oblivious, is soon swept up with the lure of Hollywood, and his screenplay, which offers intimate details of their relationship (without Mouse's knowledge), is suddenly green-lit. The couple's separate agendas, along with Mimi's romantic woes, cleverly build to a social satire of farcical proportions.

Karen Karbo's story is timeless, and her writing is seamless. She is a keen, wry observer of the hazards of Hollywood and marriage and the fraught relationships between lovers, mothers and daughters and sisters. Filled with sharp characterizations and laugh-out-loud scenes, The Diamond Lane (first published in 1991) proves that, in the right literary hands, the comedic absurdities of life never go out of style. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A reissue of a smart early-'90s-era comedy of manners about familial, romantic and Hollywood entanglements.

Hawthorne Books, $18.95, paperback, 9780989360449

The Hawley Book of the Dead

by Chrysler Szarlan

Blending the stage illusions of a Las Vegas theater with otherworldly magic, Chrysler Szarlan builds tension from the start in her debut novel. "On the day I killed my husband, the scent of lilacs startled me awake," writes Vegas stage magician Revelation Dyer in an enchanted book. A rehearsed trick went horribly wrong in performance, and Reve suspects someone from her past tampered with their props, so she whisks her three daughters home to the abandoned New England village of her ancestors, Hawley Five Corners, where the Dyer women have long been known to be witches. Their attempts to return to a normal life, filled with horseback rides and schoolwork, are only marginally successful, as they can't help but dwell on the past. Reve's apprehension builds, despite defensive measures she takes to keep her girls safe from the presence of something she calls the Fetch.

Months pass as Reve delves more deeply into her family's history, examining the extraordinary gifts each Dyer woman naturally possesses; Reve's talent is the skill to disappear. She scrutinizes her own life and her relationships with old friends in the hopes she'll find clues to reveal the identity of the relentless pursuer. Using power she learns along the way, Reve struggles to protect her family against forces and secrets that threaten to take them, one by one. With a rapid pace and exquisite details that clearly set the scene and mood, Szarlan's novel is a great read for those who love fantasy and tales of witchcraft. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Murder, love, horseback riding and witchcraft artfully blended together in a New England setting.

Ballantine Books, $26, hardcover, 9780345545022

Biography & Memoir

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

by Richard Blanco

Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco (For All of Us, One Today) grew up caught between two worlds. He lived in a Cuban neighborhood of Miami, dotted with bodegas and infused with memories of the homeland his parents left behind, but he yearned for América--the bright, sparkling version glimpsed in reruns of The Brady Bunch and forbidden snack foods at the local Winn-Dixie. In this colorful memoir, Blanco paints vivid portraits of his childhood memories and captures his yearning for a place to belong.

As a child, Blanco spent afternoons drawing at the kitchen table, raising rabbits and chickens in the backyard with his grandfather, and trying to persuade his relatives to cook American food (including a disastrous attempt at a real "San Giving" turkey dinner). His first trip to Disney World ended in a hilarious mix of magic and deep disappointment. And despite his abuela's attempts to make him into un hombre, he knew he was different than other boys.

Blanco spent his teenage years working at El Cocuyito, his uncle's bodega, and becoming well acquainted with the neighborhood's cast of eccentric characters. At El Cocuyito, he felt he had found his place in the pueblo at last--but he also met Victor, a melancholy artist whose presence prompted Blanco to grapple with the truth about his own sexual identity.

Balancing humorous stories of cultural clashes with poignant reflections on loneliness and belonging, Blanco's memoir is a lyrical exploration of family and identity by a man who is "a little from everywhere." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A vivid memoir of a Cuban-American childhood in Miami from the U.S.'s most recent inaugural poet.

Ecco, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062313768


A History of New York in 101 Objects

by Sam Roberts

New York Times reporter Sam Roberts makes it clear that A History of New York in 101 Objects is not the history of New York City, but his history of New York City, shaped by a 50-year career of reporting on the area. Inspired by A History of the World in 100 Objects, a joint project of the British Museum and the BBC, Roberts established criteria for selection that he describes as highly subjective but not arbitrary. Objects could not be much larger than a breadbox (a criterion he often ignores), could not be a person and had to continue to exist physically in some form. Most importantly, objects had to illustrate a transformative moment in New York's past.

The resulting history is charming, idiosyncratic and remarkably comprehensive. Roberts begins with a piece of the rock on which Manhattan is built and ends with a masonry Madonna that survived Hurricane Sandy. Some of the objects and their stories are predictable: the letter documenting the "sale" of Manhattan to the Dutch, the New York Public Library's lions, a subway token. Many are surprising, such as the impact of the mechanized cotton picker on northern cities.

The format of A History of New York in 101 Objects is deceptive. While it is easy to dip in and out at random, Roberts tells a story that is not merely episodic and not solely about New York. The book could alternately be titled A History of the United States in One City.­ --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: The history of New York City, from mastodons to Madonnas.

Simon & Schuster, $30, hardcover, 9781476728773

Political Science

The Case Against the Supreme Court

by Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky (the dean of UC-Irvine's law school) is known to a generation of law students as the author of their constitutional law textbook, which carries them through an analysis of the function and powers of the U.S. Supreme Court. In The Case Against the Supreme Court, Chemerinsky marshals the list of "landmark" court cases, but takes a different tack. Arguing that the purpose of the Constitution and the Court is to protect fundamental individual rights against institutional power--whether governmental or business--Chemerinsky builds the case that the Supreme Court has failed in this task at some critical points in U.S. history.

Chemerinsky takes a topic-based approach, starting with the contentious category of race. He begins with Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the 1842 case that struck down Pennsylvania's law prohibiting the use of "force or violence" to capture escaping slaves. With a variety of famous examples, including the Dred Scot trial, Chemerinsky illustrates that the Court has deferred to institutional oppression at precisely the moments when individual rights needed the most affirmation.

To suggest repairs, Chemerinsky focuses on what he considers the exemplary work of the Warren Court from 1953 to 1969. He suggests that under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court's approach to cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona is a model for the protection of individual rights. Occasionally shocking and thoroughly argued, The Case Against the Supreme Court offers a readable introduction to constitutional law and a clear message about the importance of questioning the Court's "objectivity" when individual rights are at stake. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A top constitutional-law scholar details the Supreme Court's failings and how to fix the problem.

Viking, $30, hardcover, 9780670026425

Social Science

On Immunity: An Inoculation

by Eula Biss

Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land) proposes that "immunity is a shared space--a garden we tend together." In On Immunity, she hopes to promote a balanced discussion on the merits and perils of vaccination and raises questions about social class and community responsibility.

On Immunity opens with Greek and Roman mythology (Achilles), German legend (Siegfried) and fairy tales (Rapunzel) to exemplify the long history of mothers who have attempted to "inoculate" their children against the dangers of the world. Biss then expertly weaves a historical account with contemporary fears and her own story. After giving birth to her son, Biss quickly realized the wisdom of historian Michael Willrich's observation: "Perceptions of risk--the intuitive judgments that people make about the hazards of their world--can be stubbornly resistant to the evidence of experts." Her first-person narrative provides an intimate--but still academic--discourse about the ramifications a decision to forgo vaccinations has not only on individual child in question, but on the "herd immunity" of the community at large.

Her discussion is even-handed, even when she reflects on her own fears as a new mother raising a son with allergies and chemical sensitivities. The issues surrounding class, privilege and conscience are thought-provoking and not easily dismissed by the heightened rhetoric and metaphorical language that often surrounds vaccination. Biss respectfully presents the broad spectrum of issues surrounding contemporary thoughts on inoculation, and while her own conclusions are evident, she invites a dialogue rather than presents a definitive proclamation. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: How the history of vaccinations affects the contemporary controversy.

Graywolf Press, $24, hardcover, 9781555976897


The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science

by Armand Marie Leroi

Most people think of Aristotle as a philosopher, not a scientist. Evolutionary biologist Armand Marie Leroi (Mutants) argues that Aristotle not only was a man of science, too, but perhaps the first true scientist.

In The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, Leroi sets out to read Aristotle's writings from the viewpoint of a fellow biologist. He begins with the disclaimer that biologists make poor historians, then he proves himself wrong by setting Aristotle firmly in his historical and philosophical context-- taking a few digs at Plato's anti-empirical bias along the way.

Like Aristotle, Leroi moves between the big picture and tiny details, from Aristotle's theories about knowledge, form and soul to his empirical observations of dogfish embryos. Leroi describes Aristotle's process--a combination of direct observation, investigation of popular wisdom, skepticism and guesswork--and speculates about his sources for animals he had no personal knowledge of. He considers the things Aristotle got right (the elephant does not have a gall bladder) and the things he got wrong (elephants do, in fact, have knees.)

Leroi lightens the often technical discussions with anecdotes of his experiences walking in Aristotle's footsteps: talking with fisherman on the island of Lesbos where the philosopher lived and worked, dissecting a cuttlefish, reading Aristotle's description of the heart's structure in conjunction with a modern diagram. Planting itself firmly at the crossroads of biology, philosophy and history, The Lagoon is a challenging read but never dull. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: How Aristotle's science shaped his philosophy--and how his philosophy shaped modern science.

Viking, $29.95, hardcover, 9780670026746

Reference & Writing

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

by Steven Pinker

Harvard professor Stephen Pinker--psycholinguist, cognitive scientist and chair of the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary--offers a witty guide for people who "know how to write and want to write better." Distinguishing it from classics like The Elements of Style, Pinker argues that contemporary style guides "cannot just perpetuate the diktats of earlier manuals" and instead must "replace dogma about usage with reason and evidence."

In filling that gap, one of the book's most useful sections is a discussion of what Pinker calls "classic style," his recommended method of "showing the reader something in the world and engaging her in conversation." Using examples from the work of physicist Brian Greene, he illustrates how this technique helps a writer illuminate even the most technical subject matter in lucid prose.

Pinker devotes the final third of the book to an energetic debunking of myths (he prefers the Yiddish term bubbe meises, or "grandmothers' tales") that are the province of language purists. Whether addressing the prescriptivists' abhorrence of split infinitives or their condemnation of sentences that end with prepositions, Pinker painstakingly demonstrates that many of these so-called rules lack any claim to legitimacy as "proper" English. Unlike most of what precedes it, this section isn't intended to be read straight through, but instead serves as an invaluable reference when specific questions of grammar, word choice and punctuation arise.

With its wealth of helpful information and its lively, accessible approach, The Sense of Style is a worthy addition to even the most overburdened shelf of style manuals. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Psycholinguist Steven Pinker's contemporary style guide that will be useful to anyone seeking to become a better writer.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670025855

Children's & Young Adult

Circle, Square, Moose

by Kelly Bingham, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky

Having disrupted a dramatic presentation of the alphabet in Z Is for Moose, the enthusiastic antlered hero is back, stirring up trouble in a lesson on shapes.

The deadpan text paves the way to the heightened comedy to follow. "Shapes are all around us," the book begins. "Have you ever looked at a button? This one is a... circle." The font resembles elementary primers, and the words "shapes" and "circle" appear in larger type for emphasis. A sandwich illustrates "square." But before the text on the opposite page can explain that squares are made of four equal sides, Moose jumps in to take a bite. "Hey! Don't eat that!" reads a large rose-tinted rectangle stamped across Moose's snout. Fans of Z Is for Moose will recognize members of the supporting cast: Pie demonstrates a "triangle," and Queen models for "A diamond is... The shape in a crown." By now, the omniscient narrator has had enough of Moose: "Okay. You have to leave. You are ruining the book." Zebra steps in to "handle" the situation--or so he thinks. Zebra chases Moose over the tops of the pages, and Moose grabs a long pink ribbon, in which Zebra gets ever more tangled in the next two illustrations. Now the shoe is on the other hoof, and it's Moose's turn to rescue Zebra.

Bingham and Zelinsky pace this rollicking adventure with clockwork precision, tucking in surprises along the way, but never losing sight of their primary focus: the friendship between Moose and Zebra. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The star of Z Is for Moose is back for a fabulous encore about shapes.

Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-8, 9780062290038

Digby O'Day in the Fast Lane

by Shirley Hughes, illus. by Clara Vulliamy

Award-winning British author Shirley Hughes teams up with daughter Clara Vulliamy for this first book in an appealing early chapter book series with retro flair.

Digby O'Day is a dapper dog. He has a best friend named Percy, a not-so-nice neighbor named Lou Ella, and a not-so-new but very clean red convertible that he loves. Digby also loves adventure, so when the ALL-DAY RACE from Didsworth to Dodsworth is announced, Digby and Percy decide to enter. Peril and excitement ensue--wrong turns, fender-benders, out of control roll-aways, runaway sheep, twisting shortcuts and breakdowns on the railroad tracks--as Digby and Percy try to beat Lou Ella and the other racers to claim the prize. In the end, Digby and Percy's kindnesses are rewarded, and Lou Ella gets her just deserts. With its beautiful duotone art, rigorously moral universe and just the right amount of thrills, this gentle series harkens back to an earlier time in children's books. Kids who love detail will pour over the illustrations, as well as the extra content--including a q&a with Digby, maps of Digby's world, car games, quizzes and more. The generous art-to-word ratio will give newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment at reading the book themselves, and the broad appeal of the characters and story will make it great for family read-alouds.

This is an old-fashioned story with oodles of charm, style and panache that feels like an instant classic. --Kristen McLean, former head of the Association of Booksellers for Children, founder and CEO of Bookigee

Discover: An old-fashioned, liberally illustrated story with charm, style and panache.

Candlewick, $12.99, hardcover, 128p., ages 6-8, 9780763673697

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