Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Workman Publishing: The ABCs of Queer History by Seema Yasmin, Illustrated by Lucy Kirk

From My Shelf

Presidential Books

With President's Day next Monday, we celebrate with a few of our favorite tales of the country's leaders.

Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, imagines what the relationship between George Washington and his portrait artist's family might have looked like, in a playful mash-up of the "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation" that Washington purportedly held dear. Gingerbread for Liberty! by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, stars a baker who allegedly came to George Washington's rescue when his soldiers threatened defection due to the terrible food during the American Revolution.

Rutherford B., Who Was He? by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by John Hendrix, uses one poem to introduce each president, offering key facts and varying the mood to reflect the times (Rutherford B. Hayes, incidentally, signed into law a remembrance of Washington's birthday, the first incarnation of Presidents' Day, which now honors both Washington and Lincoln). In Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America's Presidents by David Stabler, illustrated by Doogie Horner, the author organizes stories about the presidents' youth into sections such as "After-School Activities"--tales of them as pranksters--and "Hardly Working," about the various jobs taken by would-be presidents to earn spending money.

Two standout picture book biographies by Maira Kalman focus on revealing details for Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln in Looking at Lincoln. Kalman zooms in on the kinds of quirky trivia that kids will devour: vanilla cake was Lincoln's favorite, and he always had an apple on his desk--though "he was often too busy thinking to eat"--and with his hat on, Lincoln was seven feet tall. Older readers will devour Russell Freedman's Newbery-winning Lincoln: A Photobiography and The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming. Happy Birthday, George and Abe! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Sandra Newman: Creating the Dialect of Dystopia

photo: George Baier

Sandra Newman has taught writing and literature at Temple University, Chapman University and the University of Colorado. Her work has appeared in Harper's, Granta and London's Observer. Her debut novel, The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Her third novel is The Country of Ice Cream Star, 600 pages of linguistically creative prose told from the viewpoint of a 15-year-old orphan searching for safety and redemption in a politically fractured, dystopian America (reviewed below).

How did you create this dystopia?

It started with the simple idea of a future in which everyone died before they reached adulthood. Everyone is born with a disease which kills them when they're 18 to 19 years old. When I started trying to write the book, I immediately encountered a major problem. I started out writing it in Standard English in the first person from the point of view of my heroine, Ice Cream Star, trying only to imagine the voice of a 15-year-old. Since the book is set 100 years in the future, it struck me as unrealistic that she would use contemporary English. I couldn't make anything about it feel real. I decided, with some trepidation, to invent a future patois for the world I was creating, finding the inspiration for it in African-American English--[the source of] a lot of contemporary slang that would be comprehensible to most people. Once I had the basic ideas for the origins of the patois, it came very quickly; I wrote the first page in a half hour. I was thinking more seriously about the racial make-up of my future people. I'd assumed that they would be a typical American mix, but it now occurred to me that they could all be black. And this idea was immediately powerful to me. The whole society came to life, as if it had always existed and I was just stumbling upon it. Then it seemed obvious to me that Ice Cream's quest would be triggered by the appearance of an adult--a white adult--the sort of person Ice Cream has never seen before. Now she knows it's possible there's a cure for the disease everyone is dying from, and she has the rationale for her quest. Meanwhile, the reader knows from a thousand years of history that the sudden appearance of a white person is bad news.

Your novel has been compared with Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. Is this a fair assessment?

It's certainly a flattering assessment, though it's probably an inevitable one, since both books have a post-apocalyptic setting plus an invented dialect. Ultimately, the mood and structure of my book is very different. Riddley Walker is much more dystopian. In Ice Cream Star's world, everyone is doing pretty well in a relatively carefree world, even Edenic, until the white people appear. When they depart from that world, it turns into an adventure story rather than a voyage to the heart of darkness, full of people outwitting each other or engaging in trench warfare or having sex. It certainly has its thoughtful elements, but it's not nearly as meditative as Riddley Walker.

What other works and authors influenced you?

Riddley Walker and A Clockwork Orange are somewhere in the mix, because when I came to write Ice Cream Star, I already had the idea that a book in an invented dialect was possible. At the time I began The Country of Ice Cream Star, I was finishing a book on Western literature, and for the purposes of writing, I had to read, re-read or at least re-skim the entire Western canon. Generally, I find I often try to be influenced by books, but it doesn't have any effect that I can see. When I was writing Ice Cream Star, I read both Shakespeare and [Toni Morrison's] Song of Solomon with this in mind--I was thinking, this is what you should be influenced by.

The Sengles speak a kind of creole language, which you're able to carry through 600-plus pages in poetic, lyrical prose so it becomes second nature to the reader.  Were there other languages besides Afro-American English that inspired you?

As I've mentioned, the main inspiration for the language was African-American English. There's also a peppering of French words--the Sengles are descended from Senegalese immigrants, so they have French in their background. Retrospectively, I can also see that some of the logic of it comes from Russian, though I wasn't conscious of this at the time.

Tell us how you created this "second" language.

If I'd had to build it consciously, I probably would have given up. I can't really explain this, except to say that it's very similar to the experience of writing a character whose voice just "comes" to you, even though you've never known anyone quite like that. You know the character is somehow cobbled together from people you've known, but very little of the process is conscious. My main concerns were that it should be beautiful, that it should feel real, and that it shouldn't be too hard to understand. In this way, it was a lot like any other writing. I'd constantly have to be inventing new words and idioms, which could be time-consuming, but the basic nature of the task was the same. 

Do you have training in anthropology or linguistics?

I have a layman's interest in anthropology, and I love to read about other cultures. But I also have to admit, some of my study of other cultures comes from reading science fiction; in my mind, the boundary between reading about Amazonian cultures and Aldebaran cultures is not that sharp. It's all about the different configurations that human societies could fall into, and to me, a plausible fiction is just as interesting as an implausible fact. As far as linguistics goes, I did a BA in Russian, and since then, I've studied a lot of languages to some degree. Since I'm not using these languages for anything practical, I never learn them very well. I'm mainly fascinated by exotic grammatical structures, so once I've learned the peculiarities of the grammar and syntax, I tend to abandon the language altogether.

In the book, there is a subtext of cultism, particularly concerning the Catholics in the guise of the Marias, and also of ethnic division and subjugation. How much of the current racial and religious climate played into creating this world?

The treatment of religion and racism in the book obviously has overtones from the current racial and religious climate. These kinds of echoes are inevitable, and they're part of the pleasure of writing such a book. Specifically, the Mariano religion is clearly a bit of a parody of Catholicism, and of the Christ story in general. I was inventing beliefs which serve the purposes of the societies they exist in... to function like real religions. In the political realm, the devout often use their religion as an excuse for doing what they want to do, where religion is a way of gaining and cementing power, although that doesn't mean people are being consciously cynical. The book is mainly about power, and religion is just one of the ways people exercise power over each other.

In the America of the book, everyone is black, so there are no "race relations." When white people do appear, there's no context for it. Even in Marias city, where there's a mythical belief in the perniciousness of whites which obviously derives from the past, when Marianos are confronted with a real-life white man, he's weird and exotic. There's distaste or amazement at the white man's bizarre appearance, and a suspicion that he might not really be human. But the real hostility only comes when it turns out the white people are not just funny-looking, but up to no good.

What's next on the project horizon?

My next project is a sequel to The Country of Ice Cream Star, which begins exactly where the first book leaves off. She still hasn't conquered the world yet, so she needed another book. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Book Candy

Detective Quiz; Over-the-Top Book Love

Elementary, my dear Watson. "Quiz: Can you identify the detective from their description?" asked the Guardian.


"When you basically just referred to your books as your children and didn't feel like that was an inaccurate correlation." Thought Catalog considered "17 times your love of books was officially out of control."


J. D. Snailinger and Fyodor Toastoyevsky, for example. Buzzfeed showcased "21 famous writers reimagined as puns" by artist Timothy Taranto.


People not paying attention to you? Flavorwire prescribed "50 books guaranteed to make you more interesting."


Design Milk highlighted designer Gerard de Hoop's Frames 2.0, "12 wooden frames that are sized to fit within each other, come apart to create a freestanding bookcase or room divider."

Book Review


The Country of Ice Cream Star

by Sandra Newman

Imagine the U.S. as a cultural hegemony in which nobody survives beyond adolescence and where religion and social Darwinism dictate public policy. In The Country of Ice Cream Star, Sandra Newman has created such a world, painting a bold, linguistically adventurous dystopia of a black, Christian America.

At the center of the novel is Ice Cream Fifteen Star, a 15-year-old girl who lives in the Massa woods of the Nighted States and travels with a nomadic, scavenging tribe of children known as the Sengles. They are ruled by Driver Eighteen Star, Ice Cream's older brother. During a scavenging trip in an abandoned "Sleeper" town, they encounter and capture a Russian soldier named Pasha Roo, the first white man they have ever encountered. Driver develops signs of the plague-like infection called the "Posies," the same epidemic that has obliterated the white race and kills others before they reach the age of 20. Ice Cream realizes that the 30-something Pasha has survived beyond adolescence and entertains hopes of finding a cure. With Pasha's cooperation, Ice Cream fights to protect her people and the neighboring bands against the raping and pillaging Nat Mass Armies. She also wrestles with her role as the redeemer "Maria" in Marias City (the former New York City) after being kidnapped and forced into the part by a rival group bent on using their vision of Catholicism for political gain. Ultimately, Ice Cream must find a way to unite the disparate factions while negotiating the struggles of her own love life to survive against the encroaching Russian Federation.

The Country of Ice Cream Star is a singular work of storytelling that manages to be historically and politically compelling in its view of a future haunted by disease and death. Yet Newman manages to imbue her heroine with a hope and resiliency that will surpass the ravages of a woebegone time. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A dystopian odyssey of a young girl coming of age in the tradition of Riddley Walker and A Clockwork Orange.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062227096

A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

Family life never grows old in the hands of Anne Tyler, a master of domestic fiction who returns to familiar terrain in her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread. This time around, Tyler (The Beginner's Goodbye) focuses on the Whitshank family of Baltimore, Md., launching the story with a call from wayward son Denny, who, at age 19, drops an attention-getting announcement on his parents, Abby and Red. He then hangs up and disappears from their lives--and the lives of his three siblings--for years.

Tyler characterizes the Whitshanks as "one of those enviable families that radiate clannishness and togetherness and just... specialness," and Denny "trailed around their edges like some sort of charity case." Years later, when the entire family--including Denny--finally reunites in Baltimore, stories of the past are retold when Abby and Red's future living arrangements are called into question.

The common thread binding the generational tapestry of the Whitshanks is the family home built by Red's father in the 1930s; the warm, inviting nature of the house comes to represent the family. In flashbacks, Tyler delves into the history of Red's parents and how Abby and Red met and married in 1950s. The stories of those who inhabited the residence deepen the meaning of the present-day predicament: with Abby and Red growing older and more infirm, the four disparate siblings and their spouses urge the couple to give up their bedrock, their beloved home, and make alternate living arrangements.

Abby and Red's decision will not only affect their lives, but the lives of their children--particularly the two sons who struggle to reconcile their distinct places in the fold. Tension builds as Tyler stitches together an intricate, insightful story about family history, memories, rivalries and long-held secrets. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A multi-generational saga about a tight-knit Baltimore family faced with the prospect of selling and dismantling a beloved house.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9781101874271

Some Here Among Us

by Peter Walker

Centered in Wellington, New Zealand, and the surrounding countryside, Peter Walker's Some Here Among Us is a quiet contemplation on the friendships between diverse characters who come of age during the late 1960s. Race, Candy, Chadwick, FitzGerald and Morgan (the only Maori in the group) protest the Vietnam War, smoke pot and experiment with sex as their friendships coalesce.

When Morgan, the group's true intellectual, dies in a mysterious manner, the rest are affected in ways that become clear only as they continue to grow older and move through the 20th century without him. Employing the viewpoints of all the characters, including Morgan, Walker subtly intertwines historic moments with the experiences of ordinary people who face the normal highs and lows associated with life: passionate love affairs that fail, marriage, the birth of children, advancing age and the aches, pains and dementia associated with it.

Walker's novel is not full of fast-paced action or suspense, but it demands attention as the lives of the characters unfold, revealing hidden thoughts, desires, disappointments and feelings each person has about the other protagonists. It's also an intimate look into the race and class differences in modern New Zealand. Some Here Among Us is Walker's U.S. fiction debut and provides a welcome addition to the arena of good literary fiction by writers from outside the U.S. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A minimalist look at friendships that paints a vivid picture of the bonds forged early in life.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 9781620408421

The Scapegoat

by Sophia Nikolaidou, trans. by Karen Emmerich

In 1948, during the Communist insurrection in Greece, a U.S. journalist is found murdered. To keep foreign aid flowing, the right-wing government prosecutes an innocent Greek. In 2011, at the height of the economic and political crisis brought on by austerity measures, a highly intelligent, disaffected student attempts to make sense of the incident. Inspired by the still-unsolved murder of American journalist George Polk and the recent financial crisis, The Scapegoat explores these two tense and troubled times.

In this first English translation of her work, Sophia Nikolaidou creates a compelling cast of characters. Manolis Gris is the eponymous scapegoat, who scrambled to provide for his siblings and mother after the death of his father and is railroaded for the alleged benefit of Greek society, and Minas Georgiou is the student frustrated with the high-stakes Panhellenic exams that will determine his future in a time when there may not be a future worth striving for. Nikolaidou's strong secondary characters include Soukiouroglou, an instructor who failed to obtain a university appointment and now serves as an enlightened despot in the classroom; Evthalia, a retired philologist who carries with her the weight of Ancient Greece; and the chilling Tzitzilis, the head of the Salonica Security Police. Tzitzilis could have haunted a Graham Greene thriller; he is willing to do the dirty work he deems necessary to preserve his community, including torturing the families of suspected communists.

The varied perspectives of these characters create a snapshot of lives in turmoil in a place of deep history and even deeper conflict. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa

Discover: A character-rich exploration of two major social crises in modern Greek history.

Melville House, $24.95, hardcover, 9781612193847

The Lost Treasures of R&B

by Nelson George

Filmmaker, producer, director and pop-music wizard Nelson George has worked with Spike Lee, Chris Rock and Queen Latifah. As a journalist he has written for Billboard, the Village Voice and many blogs. His acclaimed nonfiction books include profiles of Michael Jackson and Motown Records. His fiction, however, is less well known. After his inaugural 2003 novel, Night Work, about a black pop star called Night, George launched a New York City noir series featuring D Hunter, Brooklyn bodyguard to rapper VIPs. The first two, Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip Hop, swing to the sounds of urban patois against a background of George's extensive knowledge of the players, songs and labels of the "post-soul" era.

In his third D Hunter novel, The Lost Treasures of R&B, George shifts focus to the history of R&B. Hunter is hired to find a rumored rare vinyl recording supposedly taped when rival Stax and Motown hitmakers Otis Redding and Diana Ross scatted together in the Detroit Fox Theater. Living with HIV and without family after his brothers' murders, D is further down on his luck because his Manhattan security company went bust. In desperate pursuit of his finder's fee, he stumbles on a gun sale gone bad, a corrupt Brooklyn cop and a white realtor bent on gentrifying Hunter's old 'hood. If the plot is pretty much typical noir double-crossing and misdirection, the wonderful sing-song street slang dialogue and esoteric industry knowledge make The Lost Treasures of R&B a richly entertaining addition to George's evolving series. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The third in a Brooklyn noir series by the prolific black-culture musicologist Nelson George.

Akashic, $24.95, hardcover, 9781617753411

Mystery & Thriller

The Marauders

by Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper's The Marauders is a wild pirogue ride through the post-Katrina, post-oil spill bayous of Barataria, outside New Orleans. His characters are the soul of this first novel, a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking "swamp noir" gumbo with echoes of John Kennedy Toole, Larry Brown and Daniel Woodrell.

The nets of small town Jeanette, La., shrimpers yield nothing but a meager stunted catch that restaurants don't want out of fear of toxic pollution. Cooper captures all the earthy smells and feral sub-strata of the bayou--the "quagmires of mud, impassable brambles, murky lagoons... the jungly bracken, the susurrus of swamp life... the alligators rumored to be a hundred years old and big as sedans." But as Cooper's colorful swamp dopers, shrimpers, drifters and scavengers chase their own treasures and quick scores, 18-year-old Wes Trench slowly moves toward reconciliation with his demanding father and a recognition of the small pleasures in a hardscrabble life. Accepting his legacy, he painstakingly builds his own steel and cypress shrimp boat.

Crazy as his neighbors might be, harsh as his father might seem, unforgiving as the bayous are, Wes finds that Barataria is the home where "he felt the tug of the future... the gravity of the past." When he finally launches the Cajun Gem, he thinks of his dead mother and hopes for her approval: "knowing himself and knowing his father... she probably would have considered it enough." Cooper's The Marauders is as grounded in the simple truth as it is awash in the outlandishly eccentric. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A funny, sympathetic story of colorful bayou shrimpers and miscreants imperiled by storms, oil spills and their own stubborn follies.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 9780804140560

The Beige Man

by Helene Tursten, trans. by Marlaine Delargy

A stolen BMW blazes past two Swedish policemen grabbing a bite to eat and sets in motion a bizarre chain of events. As the officers take off in pursuit of the car, they see it slam into a pedestrian without stopping. The hit-and-run victim is mangled beyond recognition. Then, when the burned-out BMW is later found and officers search the area for the car thieves, they find the body of a young girl in an abandoned cellar. She was clearly malnourished and bears signs of sexual trauma.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss and the rest of the Göteborg police force are overwhelmed by the complicated cases. Who were the car thieves? Who is the victim of the hit-and-run? Who is the dead girl? Are sex traffickers involved? The questions lead Huss all the way to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and the answers shock her to her very core.

The Beige Man is the seventh entry in the Inspector Huss series, and once again Helene Tursten (The Fire Dance) creates engaging characters, a vivid Swedish setting, an absorbing mystery and a likable protagonist. The rather grim nature of the cases nicely contrasts with Huss's happy home life; her chef husband and twin daughters are friendly and entertaining.

Fans of Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø are sure to enjoy this novel, and though it's not the first book in the series, readers new to Tursten's work can enjoy it without any difficulty. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Swedish police officers must simultaneously investigate a murder and a hit-and-run.

Soho Crime, $26.95, hardcover, 9781616954000

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

by Judd Trichter

Eliot Lazar has fallen in love with an android. His father and younger sister died long ago, his mother moved to a communal island offshore and now his 'droid lover, Iris, has been abducted, dismembered and sold for parts. To get her back, he must find every single piece (arms, legs, fingers, torso, eyeballs...) or she will not be the same after reassembly.

Eliot journeys through a dystopian future Los Angeles, an Orpheus in search of his Eurydice. Iris was a free-roaming android who chose to become a toymaker. She expressed her imperfections when making toys, which eventually got her fired and desperate for electrical power to stay alive--a perfect mark for exploitation by 'bot hunters.

Her boyfriend must travel to brothels, android cities and even into the den of the famed android revolutionary, Lorca. His initial steps bring him into contact with DJ Pink, a sociopathic celebrity who films his grisly dismemberment of androids. Eliot stops the brutal death of another young android woman while looking for Iris's parts and ends up killing Pink, a crime that puts Eliot in the sights of an old-school detective who's not long for the world but still believes in justice.

Judd Trichter's debut, Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, is about love, certainly, but it also addresses humanity's propensity for selfishness and prejudice, traits it has passed along to its mechanical children. This lyrical, musing novel is an engaging blend of romance, suspense, science fiction, action and the meaning of life. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This poetic, thoughtful and engaging sci-fi novel tells of love and obsession with a background of androids and machine uprisings.

Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250036025


The Unexpected Consequences of Love

by Jill Mansell

Romantic entanglements are Jill Mansell's specialty, and in The Unexpected Consequences of Love, she cleverly knits together several story threads spun from St. Carys, a fictional seaside town in Cornwall, England. She focuses on commercial photographer Sophie Wells, a young woman who plies her craft in earnest in order to put a painful romantic past behind her. When Josh Strachan moves back to town after a stint as a Hollywood talent agent to help his Grandma Dot run Mariscombe House, the family hotel, he is instantly smitten with Sophie, who is doing a photo shoot at the inn. Having sworn off romance, Sophie doesn't look twice at Josh, but this only encourages him to work harder to win her affections--and solve the mystery about her past.

Then Sophie's free-spirited best friend, Tula, loses her job and moves to St. Carys. She is instantly attracted to Josh, but another local, Riley--a ne'er-do-well and flirt--has eyes for Tula. Riley's not sure what it'll take to turn Tula's head, and matters grow even more complicated when Tula lands a job at Mariscombe House.

Mansell (Don't Want to Miss a Thing) has written another lively, engaging romance where an ensemble of characters--including Grandma Dot--have had their hearts wounded by the past and secrets. Each member of the cast is faced with the prospect of loving again—and the conflicts therein. Amid obstacles that challenge happy endings, Mansell introduces poignancy, humor and unexpected grace. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An entertaining cast of characters struggle to overcome obstacles to romance.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $14, paperback, 9781492602088

Current Events & Issues

I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

by Leora Tanenbaum

In I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet, Leora Tanenbaum returns to the subject of her 1999 book Slut!: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, updating her research on slut-shaming and name-calling to reflect the changes in the social and digital landscape over the last 16 years. She explores the differences between slut-bashing and slut-shaming, the myriad ways teens and young adults use the Internet and social media to shame young women and the ever-evolving ways that gender norms shape our images of sex, sexuality and sexual assault.

The information that fuels I Am Not a Slut is based as much on the dozens of interviews that Tanenbaum conducted with women and girls across the country--ranging in age and race and sexuality--as it is on quantitative data and scientific studies. The resulting arguments are all the stronger for the anecdotal evidence that accompanies them. In many instances, however, Tanenbaum uses absolutes, making claims about "every woman," "all men" or things that happen "always," which weaken her otherwise thoughtful arguments. She is at her strongest when dealing with double standards of sex and sexuality (how, for example, men are expected to have many sexual partners while women are criticized for exactly the same thing) and how the prevalence of slut-shaming amplifies a culture of victim-blaming. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A wealth of new research on the culture of slut-shaming in the age of the Internet.

Harper Perennial, $15.99, paperback, 9780062282590

Children's & Young Adult

Red: A Crayon's Story

by Michael Hall

Michael Hall's (Perfect Square) smart, insightful coming-of-age story for youngest readers stars Red, a mislabeled crayon, who discovers his true self.

An unseen narrator wielding a pencil introduces the hero--"He was red"--above a crayon clearly marked "Red" but showing a pointy blue tip under its red wrappings. "But he wasn't very good at it," the pencil continues, as the blue fellow marked "Red" draws a blue fire engine (readers can tell from its ladders and hoses). "Oh dear," remarks Olive, whose wrappings match her name. Red's teacher thinks he "needed more practice," but his strawberries come out blue ("Oh my! Let's try again," says Scarlet). When his grandparents believe he's "not warm enough," Silver hands the hero a red scarf, but his self-portrait still comes out blue. Red's classmates have their theories: Amber says, "Sometimes I wonder if he's really red at all," and Hazelnut answers, "Don't be silly. It says red on his label." Hall's clever use of crayons as metaphors allows children to explore examples of situations where people may have been labeled by categories: by religion, race, culture or gender. The other crayons aren't critical of Red, just close-minded in their tireless efforts to aid in his conformity.

Youngest children will find humor in Red's attempts to match his label (he draws a series of blue hearts, cherries and foxes), and be pleased when he meets "Berry," who asks the hero to make an ocean for his boat, and helps Red discover, "I'm blue!" --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A fable for modern times, in which a mislabeled crayon discovers his true identity.

Greenwillow/Harper, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780062252074

A Wonderful Year

by Nick Bruel

A spunky and imaginative heroine takes young readers from winter to fall in Nick Bruel's (Bad Kitty) picture book, with the pacing and energy of a comic book.

A yawning girl dressed in purple opens her front door to a snow-covered wonderland in "Part One: Winter Wear." Her mother advises, "You better wear your boots." Her father suggests earmuffs. Though her parents don't appear again, the remaining characters who suggest additional winter wear do: a dog ("You'd better wear your snowpants"), a cat, Louise the purple hippo, a tree and refrigerator. "Now go outside and have fun!" they all shout from the doorway. By the time she's fully attired, the snow has melted and the trees are in full leaf. In "Spring Splendor," the girl sings the season's praises, dressed in a tutu and wielding a magic wand. She and her dog make "a happy duo,/ A jolly pair are we!" But their high-octane chanting and pretending (portrayed in a series of vertical panels) brings out the Bad Kitty in the family cat, attempting to nap under a tree. One of the most original comics panel sequences involves the heroine melting in "Summer Sidewalks." Louise the purple hippo figures out how to save her (hint: it involves the freezer).

The finale, "Fall Foliage," steers toward metafiction, as the girl reads this very book to the tree (introduced in the opening). Its leaves turn brown, then fall like chocolate flakes in Bruel's collage illustrations. A celebration for all seasons. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A spunky heroine moves from winter to fall, in a tale with the pacing and energy of a comic book.

Roaring Brook/Macmillan, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781596436114


Author Buzz

My Royal Showmance
(A Park Avenue Promise Novel, Book 2)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

The reality TV setting made writing My Royal Showmance so much fun. Anika is expecting a boring time on her latest job but things turn when she has to step in for one of the contestants. It's supposed to be one night, but Luca has other ideas. He's looking to bring tourism back to his small country, but when he sees Anika he realizes he might do something remarkable--find love on the set of a TV show.

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: My Royal Showmance (The Park Avenue Promise #2) by Lexi Blake

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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