Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dutton: Sunderworld, Vol. I: The Extraordinary Disappointments of Leopold Berry by Ransom Riggs

From My Shelf

The Best Children's Book Ever?

On Friday, the BBC released "The Top 11 Children's Books of All Time," the results of a poll conducted by culture columnist Jane Ciabattari. The winner: Charlotte's Web.

What makes a book stay with us? My top choice is The Little Prince. I remember where I was when I first read it, on the floor of the small living room of our Cape house in Dearborn, Mich., pencil in hand, attempting to draw a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant. Each time I returned to The Little Prince, I understood more of what the narrator told me.

M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton is also on my list. My mother brought it home with a shiny sticker on the front (my first Newbery book) and an Athena Book Shop bookmark inside. It was the first novel I'd read about a fellow Midwesterner, and I loved the way Hamilton described M.C.'s Ohio landscape as observed from atop his 40-foot pole.

Where the Wild Things Are makes my list (#3 on the BBC's), and so does A Hole Is to Dig, with Ruth Krauss's flowing text and Sendak's free and whimsical debut artwork. And let's not leave out books of poetry, like Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield ("Made me a poem/ Still got it/ Still got it") and Karla Kuskin's Dogs and Dragons, Trees and Dreams ("Write about a radish/ Too many people write about the moon").

All of the books on the BBC's list deliver to readers a complete world, whether historical, visual or fantastical. Ten years from now, Harry Potter will no doubt make the list. The books that stay with us are the ones we return to over and over. A life-changing friendship between a spider and a pig, a pilot and a prince--and the knowledge that even when that friend is gone, they leave us with treasured words of wisdom. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Chris Cander

photo: Sara Huffman

Chris Cander is a novelist, children's book author, freelance writer and teacher for Houston's Writers in the Schools program, which engages children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing. Her novel 11 Stories was included in Kirkus's best indie general fiction of 2013. Her most recent novel is Whisper Hollow, published by Other Press in March 2015. Cander well knows that the pen is mightier than the sword, but she's willing to wield one of those, too: a former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a second dan in taekwondo.

On your nightstand now:

An embarrassment of riches! On the research stack are: What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland, The Gates of November by Chaim Potok, Johannes Brahms by Jan Swafford and A Practical Guide to Solo Piano Music by Trevor Barnard. For pleasure, there are: Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks, Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima, The Ogre by Michel Tournier and The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro. Finally, because I still read to my children: The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino and Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell taught me that literature is the most powerful form of transportation. I was gripped by Karana's brave plight, her desires and her determination. As I read, I can remember being simultaneously drawn into Karana's story, and inspired to write my own. But even before O'Dell was Mr. Pine's Purple House by my now-friend Leonard Kessler, the first book I ever truly loved. In the book, Mr. Pine wanted to make his little house on Vine Street stand out, but every time he planted a bush or tree or something else, the neighbors copied him. He finally decided to paint his house purple, and convinced all the would-be copycats to choose their own colors. Learning that lesson--pursuing individuality within community--has served me long and well.

Your top five authors:

Charles Baxter, Annie Proulx, Gabriel García Márquez, Harriet Doerr and Marilynne Robinson.

Book you've faked reading:

I haven't actually faked reading the appallingly long list of books that I haven't read, but I'm very conscious of them. In my novel 11 Stories, I "admitted" to a few in the voice of one of my characters, Lenny Dreyfus, an award-winning author, who said, "I didn't want people to know what I didn't really know. Hell, I didn't even read half the books that writers are supposed not to only have read but to cherish. Want to know something? I never read Moby-Dick. Or Huckleberry Finn or Crime and Punishment or The Trial. The list of books from which I should be able to pull meaningful quotes to enrich my conversations is a hell of a lot longer than the list of books from which I can."

In spite of the fact that I spend more money on books than clothes, and try to read 50 or so books a year, I feel like I'll never catch up.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Last year I fell in love with Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See, Joseph Boyden's The Orenda and Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I gave copies as gifts and insisted that my friends read them. I've also been known to press into hands Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, City of Thieves by David Benioff and Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Browsing the new releases at Brazos Bookstore last fall, I bought The Dinner by Herman Koch because its cover was compelling. Happily, the story was, too.

Book that changed your life:

During a very unhappy time, Charles Baxter's short story collection A Relative Stranger found its way to me. Reading these stories, which uniquely depict universal and unassailable forms of despair, as well as the relief from it, I was transported--breathtaken--back to life.

Favorite line from a book:

From Beryl Markham's West with the Night: "There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo."

Which character you most relate to:

The eponymous "Writer Waiting" in Shel Silverstein's poem from his collection Falling Up: "Oh this shiny new computer-- There just isn't nothin' cuter/... / It can edit and select,/ It can copy and correct,/ So I'll have a whole book written by tonight/ (Just as soon as it can think of what to write)."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Round the Bend by Nevil Shute, which I read when I was a head-in-the-clouds high school student. It's a compelling, mystical story about an Englishman who starts up an air charter company in Bahrain and his chief mechanic who finds spiritual value in technical precision and becomes a revered religious figure. It's about airplanes, life and opening oneself up to the possibility of the divine.

Book Candy

Falling in Love... with a Book or Series

Bustle explored the "12 emotional stages of falling in love with a book or series, because we've all been through it."


Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg recommended the "13 best science books for the general reader" for the Guardian.


What did they say? Flavorwire sampled "20 great writers on motivating yourself to write, no matter what."


Author chic: "C is for cardigan, which always has large enough pockets for the essentials." Buzzfeed showcased Kate Gavino's "illustrated A-Z guide to author wardrobe staples," as well as "16 cool must-haves for the budding author."


Bookshelf featured the Kosha meditative space, with "10 niches [that] provide spaces to store one's favorite books, always within easy reach. The ideal place to retire to be alone or in the company of a book."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Lady into Fox

Published in 1922, Lady into Fox was the first of British writer David Garnett's novels to be released under his own name. It tells the story of Richard Tebrick and his wife, Sylvia Tebrick, who abruptly turns into a fox while on a walk in the woods. At first, Sylvia continues to act like a human being, but it's not long before she behaves more and more like a wild animal. The book went on to win both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Hawthorne Prize.

Suzanna Hermans, the co-owner of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., recommended this little known, "weird and wonderful" title. "I discovered this in a used bookstore in Seattle," said Hermans, "and was delighted to see that Dover Publications has kept it in print." --Alex Mutter

Book Review


The Harder They Come

by T.C. Boyle

Violence, loyalty and the tension between American ideals of individual freedom and law and order are at the heart of T.C. Boyle's (San Miguel) riveting and provocative The Harder They Come.

Sten is a Vietnam veteran, ex-Marine and retired high school principal. While Sten is on vacation in Costa Rica with his wife, Carolee, an armed bandit hijacks the group's tour bus. Sten, furious, strangles the gunman and kills him. Despite his initial fears of retribution, the Costa Rican authorities assure him that he's actually done them a favor. Back in Mendocino he's given a hero's welcome, and eventually joins a local citizen's group to guard against the South American drug dealers they fear are establishing themselves in the neighboring forests. Meanwhile, his schizophrenic son, Adam, takes up with the much older and somewhat embittered Sara, whose anti-government activism fuels Adam's paranoia and his embrace of survivalism. When he kills a member of Sten's patrol who has stopped him about his erratic behavior, this sets off a massive manhunt, shattering Sten and Carolee.

The narrative point of view shifts among Sten, Sara and Adam, though the story ultimately belongs to Sten. Each character's voice is convincing. Sara and especially Sten's contradictions are believable even when they shock, like Sten's easy dismissal of anyone who is not white and middle class or his hair-trigger temper. And it's these contradictions, held both individually and in America's cultural identity, that give the novel its power. The Harder They Come uses a larger-than-life plot, told with white-hot tension, to mine its characters' paradoxes with unfailing insight and compassion. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A powerful and unsettling novel, based on a true story, of a retired Marine, his schizophrenic son and the son's anarchist lover.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 9780062349378

Where the Bird Sings Best

by Alejandro Jodorowsky, trans. by Alfred MacAdam

Alejandro Jodorowsky's Where the Bird Sings Best follows three generations from both sides of the author's Jewish family--beekeepers on one side, lion tamers on the other--in one gloriously readable, fantastical autobiographical novel.

The saga begins in the Ukraine, when Jodorowsky's grandmother's first son tries to escape on a wooden chest from a flooding river. He doesn't realize it's weighted down with 37 tractates of the Talmud, and drowns. His outspoken mother, Teresa, storms into the synagogue, cursing her religion and giving God a piece of her mind. She is just one of the larger-than-life relatives who dominate this deliciously far-fetched, multigenerational saga. With the author's grandfather, an impractical and saintly man, Teresa emigrates to Chile, where he becomes a shoemaker. After his right hand is caught in machinery, he begins to work miracles with the dead hand.

From the other side of the family, Jodorowsky introduces Alejandro Prullansky, a gigantic male dancer with long golden curls. He trains in Moscow for ballet until he becomes aware of the pain in the world and goes to work in a brutal meat-packing plant. His daughter, who sings while her father sets himself on fire for one last leap, becomes the author's mother.

One outrageous set piece follows another with an exhilarating density of imagination as Jodorowsky juggles tale within tale with Arabian Nights agility. "In memory, everything can become miraculous," he says. "The past is not fixed and unalterable." Jodorowsky expertly harnesses boldly surreal images to capture the gorgeous, brutal essence of life. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Alejandro Jodorowsky's fantastical multigenerational saga about his Jewish immigrant family.

Restless Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9781632060280

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Throne of Darkness

by Douglas Nicholas

Throne of Darkness is Douglas Nicholas's third book set in 13th-century England and featuring the Irish queen Maeve and her consort, Jack, and her granddaughter Nemain and her husband, Hob. The merry quartet of musician-warriors once again face an evil that threatens to swallow the inhabitants of the English countryside. Maeve is approached by Monsignor Bonacorso da Panzano and his right-hand man, Sinibaldo. Da Panzano tells Maeve, "You may think of me as the shadow of His Holiness [Pope Innocent III]: I do his bidding, sometimes in the dark places of the world, to exert the Church's influence." He wishes to hire Maeve and her family to fight an evil wizard, employed by King John of England, who has conjured up a group of men able to shapeshift into wolf-like creatures--but working with the Pope's men will be close to treason.

What unfolds in this fast-paced read is another delightful story rich with descriptions of old England and swirled with action-packed scenes as Maeve and Nemain use their magical Art to foil the plans of the king. Nicholas intersperses fetching details of Hob and Nemain's love affair throughout the book in just the right proportions, along with specifics of the group's ability to create wondrous music on their Irish instruments. Throne of Darkness is best read as a follow-up to Douglas's first two books, Something Red and The Wicked, but it is also a great introduction to the fantastical world Douglas has created, which spins with magic and mystery. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Further adventures of the Irish quartet who use their magical skills to defend the populace of England.

Emily Bestler/Atria, $16, paperback, 9781476755984

Food & Wine

Yvestown in the Kitchen

by Yvonne Eijkenduijn

In her popular lifestyle blog Yvestown, author and photographer Yvonne Eijkenduijn showcases a personal aesthetic that combines serious DIY skills, a passion for organic food and a strong sense of design with international flair. (Think a Gen-X Martha Stewart with Dutch roots, a Belgian home base and Indonesian influences.) Like her blog, Eijkenduijn's first book, Yvestown in the Kitchen, is both practical and aspirational.

Yvestown in the Kitchen includes recipes for 40 dishes, both familiar (apple-pear crumble) and exotic (coconut soup). The recipes are simple and clearly written. Each is accompanied with a photograph designed to make to make the mouth water. Nonetheless, this is not primarily a cookbook; instead it is a book about living in the kitchen--beautifully.

Eijkenduijn takes readers into not only her own kitchen, but those of 12 of her friends, most of whom are young creative entrepreneurs in Belgium or the Netherlands. The demographic of the kitchen owners is not diverse, but the style of their kitchens is, from sleek and professional to cozy and idiosyncratic. Each section begins with a brief bio of both the cook and the kitchen, followed by photographs that will instill envy in even a non-cook's heart. Each section ends with a quirky "interview" with the kitchen's owners, including a list of online inspirations. Too personal simply to copy, these kitchens offer a springboard to reader creativity. As Eijkenduijn says, "A nosy glimpse into someone else's kitchen can be incredibly inspiring." --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: Thirteen kitchens designed to inspire.

Peter Pauper Press, $34.95, paperback, 9781441317339

Biography & Memoir

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime

by Scott Simon

Scott Simon's Unforgettable is a heartfelt, nostalgic, funny and uplifting celebration of his mother's life. Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, spent his mother's final days with her in an intensive care unit in Chicago, looking back at the life she created for him as a solo parent and working mother.

Patricia Lyons was a glamorous Irish Catholic who married Ernie Simon, an alcoholic Jewish comedian. The suicide of Lyons's mother taught her self-preservation early. When her husband began drinking himself out of jobs and toward an early grave, she left him, determined not to let herself or her son be caught in that spiral.

Working in nightclubs, dress shops and doing some modeling, Lyons created a secure world not only for her son but also for her alternative family of "aunties and uncles"--her circle of tough and funny women pals and gay male friends.

While intermittently detailing the everyday indignities of dying in a hospital, Simon and his mother hopscotch through pivotal and delightfully trivial moments in their life together, remembering numerous gentlemen callers, birthday parties, marriages, jokes and life lessons. Far from depressing, Simon (Pretty Birds) uses precise prose and nimble portraiture to create an inspiring and unforgettable memoir that reassures readers that even the most ordinary life is extraordinary when examined. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: NPR host Scott Simon's life-affirming memoir captures the humor, charm, wit and affection of a woman living her final days in the company of her loving son.

Flatiron Books, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250061133

Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer

by Una LaMarche

For those who cringe a bit at their teenage photos, the memoir Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer is sure to be a source of enjoyable catharsis. Una LaMarche (writer of the popular blog The Sassy Curmudgeon) specializes in confronting the types of memories most of us try to repress--years of puberty absent from many family albums because they've been "crudely defaced with marker or ripped out in order to be ritually burned." Having sported at various points in her life a thick unibrow, troll doll earrings, prominent acne and "bulbous-toed platform sneakers that looked to have been cobbled by cartoon elves," LaMarche is intimately familiar with shame, and knows how to share hers in a way that's hilarious and accessible. Through clever guides, charts and lists (for instance, "The Seven Deadly Sins of DIY Bangs"), LaMarche provides snappy "advice" on some of life's silliest struggles.

Beneath the continuous humor, Unabrow sends a heartfelt message about self-acceptance. LaMarche offers her own past as evidence of universal imperfection, while including sly allusions to the absurdity of beauty standards in general. Having a unibrow, she points out, was once desirable in ancient Greece, Russia and Iran.

Reading Unabrow can feel akin to flipping through a yearbook with a grounded friend--one who possesses an unusual knack for apt pop-culture references, devising belated comebacks and generally making everyone feel better about themselves. --Annie Atherton

Discover: A funny memoir by blogger Una LaMarche that addresses concerns about body image, self-acceptance and female culture.

Plume, $16, paperback, 9780142181447


Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct and the Rise of Los Angeles

by Les Standiford

Les Standiford (Bringing Adam Home) honed his chops on his Miami-set John Deal crime novels, and this work of narrative nonfiction ups the ante on his already storied career. Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct and the Rise of Los Angeles is a history of the water wars between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley, but more specifically, it's an ode to William Mulholland. Considered the father of Los Angeles, this towering, no-nonsense Irishman, the superintendent of the Los Angeles City Water Company, turned an arid desert basin into a starry metropolis of 10 million people in an architectural achievement that endures to this day.

Standiford lays bare the struggles Mulholland faced in taming the abundant Owens River, knowing that in benefiting "the greatest good" he would strip away the livelihoods of Owens Valley residents who depended on that water for their own development and prosperity. The only blemish in Mulholland's complicated yet pragmatic career was the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in 1928, which killed 600 and haunted him until his death.

Los Angeles faces the same do-or-die situation today that provoked Mulholland at the turn of the 20th century to brave a buckboard journey in desperate search of a resource needed for the city's survival. "Still, anyone tempted to doubt any Mulholland anecdote should keep in mind the indisputable facts of the man's legacy, which still keep a major city afloat, and which to this day provoke legislative debate, lawsuits and acts of criminal mischief." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: An entertaining and reverent history of the Los Angeles water wars and mastermind of its famous aqueduct, William Mulholland.

Ecco, $28.99, hardcover, 9780062251428

Essays & Criticism

There Is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Nonfiction

by Saul Bellow, Benjamin Taylor, editor

Saul Bellow lived in rarefied air for American writers--he won the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes and three National Book Awards (the only writer to do so). This year marks the centennial of Bellow's birth, a perfect time to publish a collection of his nonfiction, and Benjamin Taylor, who edited Saul Bellow: Letters, is the ideal person to take this on.

There are 57 pieces, from 1948 to 2000: essays, critical and autobiographical pieces, lectures, interviews and speeches. They deal with Chicago, past and present--Bellow was a "child of immigrants who grew up in one of Chicago's immigrant neighborhoods"--his Jewish heritage and Jewish writers; and his concern over the state of the novel, its past, present and future.

Bellow started out as a leftist, but as he grew older he became more conservative, concerned with the viability of civilization (another common topic for his analysis) and the poor state of "high culture" in America. For him, the most important element in a novel (that "latter-day lean-to, a hovel in which the spirit takes shelter," as he described it in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech) was the "stature of characters." Bellow frequently commented on the absence of such in modern literature.

Taylor has done a great job bringing all these pieces together, though a short introduction or brief paragraphs to situate the pieces would have been welcome. Nonetheless, There Is Simply Too Much to Think About provides us with a fine portrait of the artist. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The life and work of Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow as revealed in his nonfiction.

Viking, $35, hardcover, 9780670016693


Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God

by Lauren F. Winner

Although the Bible employs a staggering array of metaphors for God, Jews and Christians tend to use a handful of them over and over. With her trademark acerbic wit and wry honesty, in Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting GodLauren F. Winner delves into a few seldom used--in some cases completely overlooked--biblical images.

Winner (Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis) begins with a confession: even as a professor at Duke Divinity School and a longtime person of faith, she sometimes finds it difficult to think about God. "Sometimes, a hymn gets caught in my hair," she writes, "and I sing it all week long, off and on, without ever thinking hard about what it says about God." Realizing that her images of God were both predictable and somewhat outdated, Winner began mining the Bible for its more unusual or startling depictions of God. In this book, she examines half a dozen of them--clothing, laughter, smell, flame, laboring woman and the intertwined images of bread and vine--pondering the implications of each.

While Winner approaches God through the lens of faith, she has plenty of doubts, and she's not afraid to air them. Throughout Wearing God, she draws on the imaginings of other theologians, both Jewish and Christian; she excerpts several sermons and peppers the book with quotes from mystics and other scholars. Despite its depth, Wearing God never feels dry. It is, at heart, simply the newest chapter in Winner's continuing quest for a deeper relationship with God. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A wry, often surprising exploration of several overlooked metaphors for God.

HarperOne, $24.99, hardcover, 9780061768125


In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems

by Jo McDougall

Jo McDougall's In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems is filled with magical verse. Take, for example, "How to Imagine How It Will Be When the Doctor Comes Out to Say," from her fifth collection, Dirt:

Think of a man in Holland
the moment he sees a first break in the dike.
Think of Anne Frank at the moment she recognizes
the sound on the stair.

McDougall's work descends from the Imagist poets: H.D., William Carlos Williams, the early Ezra Pound and, today, Gary Snyder and Robert Bly. What Pound would identify as precise visual images is the hallmark of her work. Out of more than 300 poems collected here, only six are longer than a page, many are just a few lines. They are sharp, clear and filled with striking images and metaphors that often are the whole poem. For example, "A Southerner in Kansas Recalls Trees":

Living without them, she takes solace
in hedges or in weeds.
Some nights,
alone in the house,
she lies face down on the wood floor.

There is much humor in McDougall's poems, too, like the lines of "When the Buck or Two Steakhouse Changed Hands" in her second book, The Woman in the Next Booth:

They put plastic over the menus.
They told the waitresses to wear white shoes.
They fired Rita.
They threw out the unclaimed keys
and the pelican with a toothpick
that bowed as you left.

These masterful, quiet, subtle poems flutter about delicately like moths in a corner. Don't blink or you might miss one. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An outstanding collection of short verse by Imagist poet Jo McDougall.

University of Arkansas Press, $24.95, paperback, 9781557289117

Children's & Young Adult

The Grasshopper & the Ants

by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney's (The Lion and the Mouse) translucent, sumptuous watercolors pay tribute to the seasons in a retelling that extols the virtues of planning ahead as well as living in the moment.

The author-artist introduces the central debate of the famous Aesop fable in the first spread, teeming with ants, flowers and greenery. "Why work so hard?" sings Grasshopper to the Ants. "It's spring and time to go fishing." We sense that Grasshopper would gladly share his catch in return for the Ants' company. "No time to relax," the Ants reply. In summer, Grasshopper invites the Ants to dance and sing, and admires how the autumn leaves "twirl and glide," but the Ants keep on, rolling walnuts and bringing leaves to store. Grasshopper's summons to "Look at this wonderful mountain of leaves. Come play!" will resonate with young readers. They'll discover a ladybug, spider and monarch hidden in the illustration, though nary an Ant in sight. Grasshopper alone witnesses the beauty of the first snow. Pinkney's ingenious use of nature's provisions supply Grasshopper with helicopter maple seeds for snowshoes on his hind legs, as he heads to the Ants' abode to beg for entry.

A cutaway view depicts a thriving underground colony, where the wise and kind Queen Ant offers Grasshopper tea and refuge. They dance and sing to a stream of notes from Grasshopper's accordion and an Ant playing banjo. Without judgment, Pinkney shows that neither extreme pays off--all play or all work. The combination of preparation and enjoying the present makes life worthwhile. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Caldecott Medalist's twist on the classic Aesop tale, suggesting that a life of contentment combines both work and play.

Little, Brown, $18, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780316400817

Roller Girl

by Victoria Jamieson

This debut graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson--aka Winnie the Pow, a roller derby skater herself--will make readers as fascinated by the world of roller derby as is her 12-year-old heroine, who falls in love with the sport and practices to improve her skills.

Astrid goes from a girl who can barely balance on skates to an "insane" speed demon during her time at Junior Roller Derby Camp. She still struggles with mastering her "plow" (stopping) and falls nearly every time she gets "hit" (blocked) by a teammate. But through practice, she steadily improves in credible ways. As Jamieson explains the sport's juicy language and its mix of skillful skating and aggressive blocking, she also charts the changes in Astrid's friendship with Nicole, her best friend since first grade. Nicole wants to learn to dance en pointe at ballet camp, not master blocking at derby camp. A standout sequence depicts a split-screen of Astrid's growing anger (on the right) as she eavesdrops on Nicole listening to a ballet friend coach her on how to shed Astrid as a friend (on the left). Astrid lets her mother assume she and Nicole are still tight and attending camp together, which results in an emotionally authentic blowout.

In the course of the camp's duration, Astrid learns a great deal about herself as a skater, a daughter and a friend. Jamieson's honest approach and ability to chronicle visually the inner life of her heroine will have readers hoping for more from this talented writer and artist. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A graphic novel account of a 12-year-old's fascination with roller derby and her determination to become a skillful skater.

Dial, $20.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 9-12, 9780525429678

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