Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 26, 2015

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Rita Mae Brown: Telling the Truth

Bantam is reissuing the iconic Rubyfruit Jungle (paperback, $16) to mark both Pride Month and the 42nd anniversary of the novel's publication. Rita Mae Brown writes about her landmark novel:

Silence is as instructive as running the mouth. When Rubyfruit Jungle was first published by Daughters, Inc., in 1973, the print run was 1,000 copies. Silence. No advertising, no reviews, not a glimmer of interest from the literary establishments. And then orders hit like an avalanche. The small company filled 70,000 orders in the first year. They estimated--from the volume of fan mail--that for every book sold, seven people had read it.

This is what happens when someone tells the truth.

At that time, women's writing was only of interest if it revolved around men. The author could rail, weep, howl about how dreadful her man was; the point being, she was still writing about a man.

During the early '70s, women journalists wrote about Vietnam, the gunning down of students at Jackson State and Kent State for underground newspapers. The traditional papers still carried "Women's Pages," and the editors were certain ladies did not want to read about Vietnam, much less literature about independent women.

Rubyfruit Jungle's main character fights back. She utters no pieties about how women are born nurturers to serve and civilize men. Nor is there any mention of children in the hope that she will eventually devote her life to the same. Worse, she rarely mentions romantic love.

In 1977, thanks to the urging of a young editor, Elly Sidel, Bantam bought Rubyfruit Jungle from Daughters, Inc., printing paperbacks like potato chips.

Let's face it, everyone is fascinated by a bad girl. For some, she provides a silent thrill. For others, she is proof positive of their righteousness. I found myself the object of lavish devotion as well as lavish hostility. I never paid much attention to any of it.

All of the above afforded me the opportunity to write more novels. I'm up to about 54 now. To work with the English language, to be a part of a chain of Western literature that started with Homer, no matter how small one's efforts, is unalloyed joy.

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Dean Bakopoulos: Looking Behind the American Dream

photo: Christina Campbell

Dean Bakopoulos, author of the New York Times Notable Book Please Don't Come Back from the Moon and My American Unhappiness, is the writer-in-residence of English at Grinnell College, where much of his newest novel takes place. Summerlong (see our review below) follows a husband and wife as they begin to wander from one another, finding new friends whose youth and inhibition cause the older couple to question how stable their relationship really is. Bakopoulos is the winner of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2006 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Your novels are all set in the Midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa). What interests you about the region?

Well, those are the three states I've lived in, and they are states people outside the Midwest think of as a fairly homogenous chunk of farmland and forest, but there's a lot of diversity here, some surreal stories, and a fair amount of strangeness. I like the idea of using my novels to investigate the many different types of communities in the Midwest, and the particular myths and mysteries they believe in and sustain over the years.

There's also a palpable earnestness here and a genuine humility. Many of us Midwesterners come from farmers or factory workers or immigrant laborers who worked incredibly hard so that we'd have easier lives. And maybe because we're cognizant of the hard lives our ancestors had, people here seem to be fixated on the idea of being good, of being worthy of that past sacrifice. This of course causes all sorts of trouble because it's really hard to be perfect all the time. There's a lot of shame as a result. There are also a lot of people who trap themselves in unhappy lives because they doubt they deserve any better. And one day, they're sick of being trapped. And to me that's the perfect three-part structure: character gets in trouble, character resists/embraces the shame of that trouble, character feels trapped by that shame and lashes out one last time. See Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, etc.

How else have your personal experiences inspired the novel?

I'll be appropriately coy here and use the second person. Let's just say that marriage is hard, and sometimes you're in one for a long time, say 17 years, and you have two great kids and a nice life, and you're pretty sure you are in that marriage forever. You imagine that your life has settled into a predictable trajectory. You think you know what to expect. And then a small fight explodes into something insurmountable, and perhaps your partner files for divorce, and then everything changes very rapidly on you, and you're powerless to stop it. You go through darkness previously unimaginable, and your heart goes into a strange, sad place, and you worry about what it does to your kids, and yet, you have to crawl forward, toward any shred of light you can find. Writing this book helped me find that light. Writing always does that for me. That's why I keep doing it.

Summerlong switches perspectives among four characters: a man and woman who are each under 30, and a middle-aged husband and wife. What led you to this approach?

A desire to challenge myself as an artist, but also a desire to have a novel that moves like a good cable TV series, from scene to scene, character to character, standoff to standoff. A good series has a good mix of characters across demographics. Also, I like that cable television shows often are happy to play with ideas of the fallout from coincidence and impulse and secrets, and I wanted those three things to be a big part of why people do and say things in this book. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't borrow the structure of the book, and the way the scenes move, at least in part, from season one of Mad Men.

The mythos of the "American Dream" is a reoccurring theme in your work, as is the notion of a "secret life." Are these two ideas intertwined in the book?

Great question! I'm so glad you phrased it that way. I really feel like that's a major tension in middle-class American life, and I wanted to explore it. I think we often have a public desire and a private one. The public desire becomes our identity: that's Dean Bakopoulos and that is what he wants. But the private desire, the secret heart, begs us to stop chasing such things. One of the benefits of the upheaval in my personal life that's occurred this year: I am learning that amazing things happen when you give up the idea of conventionality and fitting in, give up the idea of material success or domestic perfection, and just move forward and do what you want to do without shame. (I am not saying that you do whatever you want. But you can live an honorable life and still do what you want to do.)

Some of the characters' anxieties seem similar to those of previous generations, while others are specific to the present era. Is this something you thought about while writing?

I did. I think previous generations had fairly tangible and monolithic demons that haunted them: the Great Depression, World War Two, Vietnam, Civil Rights, and those collective battles against these demons inspired some amazing economic and social gains. I think my generation, those of us hitting 40 about now, are reaping the benefits of those gains as well as the consequences. That leads, perhaps, to more personal or diffuse demons like various anxieties born of social media, or the never-ending workday, or the shame of creeping debt, or the perfectionism we see in mass media. Place this alongside less tangible but incredibly scary demons like climate change and terrorism. Anxiety feels so much more specific at the personal level, and harder to name at the global level, and so you can feel foolish for having it. Dissatisfaction seems like an admission of defeat in age of apparent abundance.

What will you work on next?

I've just finished a nonfiction manuscript called Undoing, which focuses on a particularly intense three weeks in my recent past, and a screen adaptation of Summerlong. I've recently begun work on a new novel inspired by Chekhov, particularly the last year of his life, his marriage to the actress Olga Knipper, and Stanislavski's production of The Cherry Orchard in Moscow in 1904. I'm still not yet sure if it's actually set in 1904 Moscow, or if I am going to transport the play to contemporary Chicago. --Annie Atherton

Book Candy

More Summer Reads; Dr. Seuss Goes to Chipotle

The summer reads recommendation lists keep on blooming: Jane Ciabattari suggested "2015's best beach reads" for the BBC. Huffington Books found "32 enthralling summer reading books for kids of all ages." Flavorwire showcased "25 great literary series to replace your TV habit this summer." Bustle found "9 books to help you celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jaws, since you'll probably want to stay out of the water and read on land." And Brightly dove into "9 swimmingly good reads for kids who love sea life."


How many do you know? Mental Floss asked if you could list "the most commonly used words in English"?


"You would eat it in a house. You will spill it down your blouse." Buzzfeed imagined "Dr. Seuss goes to Chipotle."


Let's get practical, book people! Popular Mechanics offered "5 tips for hanging a perfect bookshelf."

Great Reads

Rediscover: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

Published in 2000, Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel True History of the Kelly Gang retells the life of legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who roamed the British colonies of Victoria and New South Wales in the second half of the 19th century. The story is framed as an autobiography written by Kelly for his infant daughter, recounting his upbringing as the son of an Irish convict, his adolescent apprenticeship with notorious "bushranger" (outlaw) Harry Powers, his early conflicts with the colonial government, and the eventual formation and downfall of the Kelly gang.

The prose in True History is based on the only extant scraps of Kelly's handwriting, and at first, it seems daunting: there are no quotation marks and little punctuation to speak of aside from periods. But Kelly's voice is lively, evocative and wonderfully readable. True History of the Kelly Gang is at turns thrilling, hilarious and deeply moving. This beautifully written novel is available in paperback from Vintage Books. --Alex Mutter

Book Review



by Jessamyn Hope

Secrets and struggles for redemption abound on a kibbutz in mid-1990s Israel in Pushcart Prize nominee Jessamyn Hope's first novel, Safekeeping.

Adam arrives on the kibbutz where his Zayde--grandfather--lived for a time after World War II. A drug addict from Manhattan, Adam is racked with guilt that he failed to get clean and sober before his grandfather died unexpectedly, so he has vowed to deliver a priceless family heirloom into safekeeping. He knows he cannot act as a proper caretaker of the magnificent sapphire brooch, so he decides to track down the person meant to have it: Zayde's long-lost sweetheart, Dagmar, who refused the brooch and Zayde's offer of marriage decades ago.

Despite her assurance in a long-ago note to Zayde that she would remain on the kibbutz for the rest of her life, no one named Dagmar lives there. At a loss, Adam volunteers in the kitchen and gets to know his fellow residents. Beautiful Ulya from Belarus has New York City dreams; Claudette grew up in an abusive French Catholic orphanage and now suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Finally, elderly Ziva tries to evade Adam's search. She is Dagmar, and she has her reasons for not revealing herself to the young American who looks just like Franz, her lost love.

A snapshot of a pivotal moment in the life of a community as well as a retrospective on the persecution of Jewish people throughout history, this emotional journey will leave readers with aching hearts and deepened empathy for the waifs and strays of our world. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A young American searches for his late grandfather's long-lost sweetheart among the residents of an Israeli kibbutz.

Fig Tree, $15.95, paperback, 9781941493069

The Truth According to Us

by Annie Barrows

Macedonia, W.Va., is the back end of nowhere. When Layla Beck's senator father forces her to take a job with the Federal Writers' Project, researching and writing a history of Macedonia, she quickly learns there's more to this sleepy little town than meets the eye. During the sweltering summer of 1938, Layla uncovers more than a few secrets--and learns a thing or two about truth and history.

In The Truth According to Us, Annie Barrows (author of the Ivy and Bean children's series and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) creates a cast of lovably eccentric characters who charm Layla as much as they baffle her. The once-prominent, still-genteel Romeyn family, with whom Layla boards for the summer, prove particularly intriguing, especially Josephine "Jottie" Romeyn, a quiet, proud woman who spends her life caring for her wayward brother's daughters.

As the family hosiery mill deals with labor unrest and the Romeyn household bubbles with barely suppressed secrets, Layla interviews various Macedonians for her book. Her subjects, who include several leading town families and the local librarian, give wildly differing accounts of key figures and events in the town's history. Struggling to shape fact and legend into a coherent narrative, Layla learns that "history is the autobiography of the historian."

Barrows ends her story rather abruptly, and the epilogue doesn't answer all the questions raised by the book's final chapters. But this warmhearted Southern novel, full of charm and sass, still proves a satisfying read. Like Layla, readers will find themselves longing to spend more time in Macedonia. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A warmhearted family saga set in Depression-era West Virginia.

Dial, $28, hardcover, 9780385342940

The Third Wife

by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell (The Making of Us, The House We Grew Up In) is sure to appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes. Just like Jewell's earlier novels, The Third Wife explores complicated family dynamics in a genuine way that is witty yet realistically nuanced.

Adrian Wolfe has been mourning the death of his third wife, Maya, for a year. Maya's death seemed to be a tragic accident--she stepped out in front of a bus--until a strange woman shows up asking weird questions, and then a series of poison pen e-mails surfaces. Suddenly Adrian is rethinking everything: Maya's death, his two divorces and the way he's raised his children.

A full cast of characters, including Adrian's ex-wives, his two grown children and three small children, give The Third Wife the momentum of an energetic household. One wife is a bit of a hippie, one a successful businesswoman. One child is an award-winning ice skater, one is unemployed, another wants to spend time only on the Internet. But Adrian loves them all, and thought they were all a big, slightly bizarre, but happy family. Could one of them have been involved in Maya's death?

The mystery of the accident, the noisy and entertaining children, Adrian's likable befuddlement and the apparently dark undercurrents moving through the Wolfe family combine to make The Third Wife an irresistible read. With questions about the nature of love, marriage and family, all within a lovely London setting, The Third Wife is practically perfect summer reading. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: After Adrian Wolfe's third wife is killed, disturbing secrets surface in his seemingly happy blended family.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 9781476792187

The Sunken Cathedral

by Kate Walbert

Against a background of ominous "sudden weather" and warnings to "shelter in place," the characters of Kate Walbert's The Sunken Cathedral play out their complicated lives in New York City's ever more expensive Chelsea neighborhood. At the center of Walbert's (A Short History of WomenOur Kind) story are lifelong friends and octogenarians Marie and Simone, haunted by nightmares of their escapes during the Nazi invasion of France. They manage on their own as best they can: their bodies are failing, their children are scattered about the world, their husbands are vivid memories, their storekeeper neighbors are replaced by pampered movie stars, and their big brownstones now broken up for rental income. In counterpoint to these old-school New Yorkers, Marie's tenants Elizabeth and Pete--and teen son, Ben, who has a "constellation of learning challenges formerly known as learning differences formerly known as learning disabilities"--struggle to live up to youthful dreams.

Walbert shapes the lives of these neighbors and friends in jewel-like vignettes, with more information in narrative footnotes. Set in the shadows of the hip High Line with "delivery boys and muscle boys and pretty women who work at magazines weaving in and out of the stalled traffic on CitiBikes" and square in perilous Flood Zone 1, Walbert's taut novel touches on all that is now at risk in the city--whether from a cascade of water or cascade of money. As one of the school's long-time administrators says over a martini in a soon-to-be-closed, smoke-free Chelsea tavern, "Maybe that's the problem now: everyone needs a cigarette." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An elegant picture of a Manhattan neighborhood and its citizens, at risk from both "sudden weather" and relentless gentrification.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 9781476799322


by Dean Bakopoulos

Dean Bakopoulos's fiction doesn't stray far from his home base--his first novel, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon took place in his childhood home state, Michigan, and his second, My American Unhappiness, was set in Madison, Wis., where he earned his MFA. Summerlong unfolds during an unusually hot and humid Iowa summer in the college town of Grinnell where Bakopolous now teaches. Grinnell is an off-the-track burg in a no-nonsense state in the flyover central Midwest ("you could get stuck behind a tractor... [and] everyone would just be calm, as if it was perfectly okay to obstruct the productivity of the world in order to grow corn"). Nothing much happens here, but people somehow can't quite leave.

Twenty years previously, Don and Claire Lowry came for jobs at the college, but then they had two children, Claire never got around to writing a second novel, and Don drifted into real estate as the recession put their own house into foreclosure. When two former college students come back to Grinnell, the young bisexual Amelia Benitez-Coors ("ABC") enchants Don, and the West Coast actor Charlie Gulliver arouses Claire's dormant libido. As the temperature ratchets into the high 90s, the sexual tension rises along with it. Don and Claire half-heartedly resist the tempting infidelity, but the sultry tank-top and flip-flop weather tests their upright Midwestern resolve. At one point Don tells Claire, "I live in a goddamn Bruce Springsteen song." But Bakopoulos skirts potential clichés with the empathy and good-natured common sense of his solid Midwest setting--no matter how hot and sultry its summer weather may be. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A novel about the obligations of marriage, family and friendship stretched by the hedonistic temptations of a hot, humid Iowa summer.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062321169

Second Life

by S.J. Watson

S.J. Watson, author of the novel-turned-film Before I Go to Sleep, provides yet another twisty psychological thriller with Second Life, the story of an online relationship that curdles into something sinister. Bucking the trend of recent thrillers in the Gone Girl vein, Watson's protagonist Julia is a fairly reliable and likable narrator whose lonely, intense perspective provides a valuable anchor for the reader as events begin to teeter on the edge of believability.

Watson kicks off the narrative with the murder of Julia's estranged sister, Kate, in a Paris alleyway. The police have no leads, and when Julia discovers that Kate had frequented various hook-up websites, she decides to sign up and explore the unknown (to her) realms of online sex in an attempt to dig up clues about her sister's murder. To reveal much more about the plot would subtract from the book's page-turning pleasures, but suffice it to say that an intense online relationship quickly becomes more Fatal Attraction than A Room with a View.

Second Life dabbles in a fair amount of forbidden fruit-style eroticism, even playing up the illicitness of Internet relationships in a way that might seem dated to younger readers. However, Watson succeeds so admirably in delivering the perfect combination of titillation and fear that the novel begs to be consumed in one or two tense sittings. A highly entertaining book about escapism and voyeurism, Second Life is pure, fearful fun. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: A twisty erotic thriller with a likable protagonist and sharp prose.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062060587

Mystery & Thriller

Crazy Mountain Kiss

by Keith McCafferty

Although it's April, there is still snow in the high mountains of Montana, so writer Max Gallagher decides to light a fire in the fireplace of his rented cabin. Unfortunately, there turns out to be a recently dead girl in the chimney: Cinderella Huntingdon, a teenage rodeo star who went missing five months previously.

In Crazy Mountain Kiss, Keith McCafferty (Dead Man's Fancy) reunites private investigator Sean Stranahan and Sheriff Martha Ettinger who work together (somewhat awkwardly, given their former romantic history) to investigate Cindy's disappearance and death, and where she could have been in the intervening months. Cindy's stepfather has tried to move on since she vanished, but her mother, Etta, a famous rodeo rider in her own right, has been engulfed by grief. Despite their different reactions, Cindy's friends and family appear to all be equally stymied as to why she would have been in hiding for five months, and how she ended up in the chimney.

Sure to appeal to fans of western mystery writers like Craig Johnson, Crazy Mountain Kiss brings oddball, isolated Montanan culture to life. McCafferty adds to the novel's rugged landscape a full set of quirky, outsized personalities and some slapstick humor, which offsets Cindy's sad story. And while it is fourth in the Sean Stranahan series, Crazy Mountain Kiss can easily be read as a standalone, since McCafferty nicely sums up pertinent information from earlier books. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A young rodeo star is found dead in the chimney of a Montana cabin.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670014705

The Dead Assassin: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

by Vaughn Entwistle

Vaughn Entwistle struck literary pay dirt when he partnered Sherlock Holmes's creator with Oscar Wilde in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, the first Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery, in which Doyle is the detective and Wilde is his Watson. The dynamic duo has turned up again, this time in The Dead Assassin, and more good fun awaits.

London, 1895: Detective Blenkinsop requests Doyle's assistance one very foggy evening at the site of a "murder most 'orrible." Wilde accompanies him. They're told that Lord Howell, the prime minister's Secretary of War, has been found dead in his home, the front door completely smashed in, as was his bedroom door. His body was thrown against the wall with unimaginable force. But he fired off six shots from his revolver before expiring. Doyle, Wilde and Blenkinsop follow a trail of footprints down the street to discover a body in the dense fog outside, riddled with bullets. The detective recognizes him--Charlie Higginbotham, a murderer who was hung for his crime last week.

Entwistle injects the "Fog Committee," whose members included Lord Howell, as a sidelight. The committee is convinced that the recent, unusually dense fogs are "purely a function of the vagaries of the English climate," and any theories about London's excessive burning of coal in some way contributing to it is a "fantastical theory."

The Dead Assassin's paranormal aspects are lightly and intriguingly laid into the story. And even though Entwistle's portrait of Doyle isn't at the level of some other portrayals, this is a most entertaining pastiche pot-boiler with luscious Victorian atmosphere and ambiance. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde investigate Victorian crimes and the paranormal.

Minotaur, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250035066

Biography & Memoir

The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway's Ghost in the Last Days of Castro's Cuba

by Brin-Jonathan Butler

Brin-Jonathan Butler first traveled to Cuba as a teenager, hoping "to find a boxing trainer and to meet the guy from The Old Man and the Sea." He accomplished both goals and over the years that followed made repeated trips, seeking Cuban boxing, baseball and literary heroes, as well as the mysteries of the sequestered island. Eventually, Butler's fixation on Cuba inspired a forthcoming documentary, Split Decision, about Cuban athletes' difficult choices between staying and leaving. In The Domino Diaries, he confesses that the project was partly an excuse to stay, having become "homesick for a place [he] wasn't born to." His memoir further unravels the relationship he's formed with this nation.

His escapades make for fine writing and include a tryst with Fidel Castro's granddaughter and an interview with boxing legend Teófilo Stevenson that results in Butler's being banned from Cuba. The Domino Diaries is a memoir of boxing heroes and political strife, a study of Castro's legacies and Cuba's "Special Period" of economic crisis, and an ode to the grace, joy and sadness of Cuban culture; it is also the personal story of Butler's own traumas and his mother's escape from Hungarian communist rule. These threads necessitate some meandering, but the resulting musing tone Butler employs is elegiac and quite effective. Rather than an exhaustive survey of the large and thorny topic of Cuba's economy, politics and culture, Butler's memoir is a rambling exploration, appealingly written in a distinctive voice and peppered with wisdoms phrased with lovely wit. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An amateur boxer's love affair with Cuba.

Picador, $26, hardcover, 9781250043702


Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition

by Nisid Hajari

In Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition, Nisid Hajari brings his extensive reportorial experience--he works as the Asia editor for Bloomberg View--to bear on the horrific violence that accompanied the creation of Pakistan and the end of the British Raj in India. Hajari provides an almost day-to-day account of the disastrous political posturing and egregious miscalculations that eventually culminated in genocidal riots and proxy wars in the summer of 1947.

He frames the events surrounding Partition like a Greek tragedy, with epic, larger-than-life figures--such as Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian Congress; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan; and even Mahatma Gandhi--at best failing to ease religious tensions between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, and at worst encouraging sectarian violence. None of the major players, however, could have predicted the immense tsunami of hatred that would wash over India in the months prior to and immediately after independence. Built-up tensions and escalating reprisals erupted into full-scale slaughter, which Hajari depicts with horrific intimacy.

Nightmare visions of trains full of hacked-apart corpses and peasants turning on their neighbors with agricultural implements pepper the pages of this often-overwhelming history, but it's to a purpose. Hajari succeeds in vividly depicting the psychological scars that have dogged Pakistan and India, leading to everything from outright wars to state-sponsored terrorism and nuclear armament. He makes a convincing case that before these wounds are addressed and healed, little progress can be made in the subcontinent. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Reporter Nisid Hajari reveals the gruesome origins of the ongoing India-Pakistan feud in the partitioning of British India in 1947.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, hardcover, 9780547669212

Children's & Young Adult

Daylight Wildlife Starlight

by Wendell Minor

Wendell Minor (Galápagos George) creates a field guide of sorts for youngest children, often drawing visual parallels between the creatures of the day and night, in breathtakingly realistic renderings. Minor's gouache and watercolor portraits endow the animals with a lifelike quality yet never slip into anthropomorphism.

The author-artist divides the opening double-page spread in half, with the sun shining on the left and the moon glowing on the right, inviting interaction: "Do you know these daytime visitors?... Do you know these starlight visitors?" then shows nearly all in detail in the succeeding pages. A "sharp-eyed red-tailed hawk" soaring by day gives way (with a turn of the page) to a double-page image of "a wide-eyed barn owl" swooping under the stars. A third spread divides day from night: on the left, a sunkissed family of cottontail rabbits, while on the right a nocturnal "pink-nosed opossum" carries her offspring on her back. Minor similarly pairs a butterfly (day) and moth (night), and a gray squirrel (day) and flying squirrel (night). He not only contrasts the looks of daytime and nighttime creatures, but also their sounds. The cardinal "welcomes the sunrise with a sweet song," while the barred owl's sounds fills the forest night ("hoo-hoo... hoo-hoo-aw"). For children who wish to know more, a fun facts section appears in the back matter.

Except for a few visual clues (a fence, a rooftop, a doorknob), there's little evidence of humans; this is nature in all its glory. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A visual field guide to the creatures of the daylight and the creatures of the night, for youngest readers.

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780399246623

How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travels Across Six Continents

by Ted and Betsy Lewin

Husband-and-wife team Ted and Betsy Lewin, both Caldecott Honor artists, invites readers to step inside their notebooks and sketchbooks and travel with them to far-reaching destinations.

They organize their entries into five regions, rather than chronologically, and begin in Africa. Betsy Lewin opens each section with a map of the region, integrating some high points of their encounters. The appealing, inviting design of the volume resembles a scrapbook, with photos of villagers in Kalahari and Botswana, a lifelike watercolor of the "Saffron Man" (who sells the spice for $15 per ounce!) and (a decade later) photos of artifacts such as a donkey saddlebag and a tent peg from the famous Tuaregs, or "blue men" of Morocco. Lifestyle differences play up the contrasts and humor, such as "going to the bathroom in the bush" in Botswana or in a hole in the ground in Kanha National Park in India ("if you face the wrong way you miss"). Betsy Lewin includes a pen-and-ink of her fall from a boat, which broke her foot in Thailand (a surgeon set it perfectly). Four-legged creatures tie together their adventures in Europe: two horses (two decades apart) in Ireland; a bullfight in Nîmes, France; and a reindeer in Norway. The wildlife of South America--including the giant tortoise of Galapagos and the red-and-green macaws of Peru--are a highlight. The Lewins then bring it home to the wonders to be found in the United States.

Whether a read-aloud for the whole family or a resource for travel, this inviting volume will provide hours of enjoyment. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An unorthodox travel guide disguised as an appealing scrapbook of brief entries, drawings, photographs and paintings.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $22.99, hardcover, 144p., ages 9-up, 9781596436169

A Handful of Stars

by Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord (Half a Chance; Touch Blue) delivers another terrific summer read, populated by lovable characters who bring big themes such as culture, class and racism alive in a delicate and age-appropriate way.

Twelve-year-old Lily faces a long, boring summer in small-town Maine without her best friend, Hannah, who she has lost to boys and the Blueberry Queen Pageant. Fortunately, Lily meets Salma Santiago, the daughter of migrant workers in town to harvest blueberries. Salma helps catch Lily's runaway dog, Lucky, sparking a new friendship. Salma offers to assist Lily in painting Mason bee houses--blocks of wood, with holes drilled in for the tiny blue Mason bees--which she sells in order to raise money for Lucky's upcoming cataract surgery. In return, Lily helps Salma compete in the Blueberry Queen pageant. Salma has a good chance at winning, but her status as a migrant farmer and the fact that she's competing against Lily's former best friend complicate the situation.

Lord's beautiful writing uses colorful phrases, such as Lily thinking about her painted nails, "my ten fingers all ended in gold," or describing the taste of a blueberry as "a warm blue explosion, tasting of earth and sunshine." Wonderful metaphors and descriptions abound. A Handful of Stars will engage young readers with its genuine characters and charming story, while providing them with an opportunity to think about the social issues that all children face in order to grow up. --Andrea Vuleta, executive director of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association

Discover: An artistic young migrant worker in rural Maine helps 12-year-old Lily to see things differently.

Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 8-12, 9780545700276

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