Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, January 12, 2016

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

Choosing Your Next Book

Selecting a book can be tricky: dust jacket copy helps, blurbs maybe, reviews--sure. Trying out the first page? Yes. Some people read that and an arbitrary other page; some may open and read at random. I recently picked up American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis (Doubleday, $24), described as "a delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity." That sounded good, so I started at the first page with "What I Do All Day":

"Inspired by Beyoncé, I stallion-walk to the toaster. I show my husband a burnt spot that looks like the island where we honeymooned, kiss him good-bye, and tell him to be home in time for our party.

"I go to the grocery store and find that everyone else has gone to the grocery store and, as I maneuver my cart through Chips and Nuts traffic, I get grocery aisle rage. I see a lost child and assume it's an angry ghost. Fearing cold and flu season, I fist-bump the credit card signature pad."

Promising. So I open to the middle--"Hello! Welcome to Book Club":

"Aretha's the glassy-eyed woman scooping Bethany's store-bought potato salad into her hand. She came to Book Club through Marjorie, who makes her sales targets every quarter because Aretha--to escape her kids---spends an inordinate amount of time shopping at Talbot's.

"Dr. Uh-Oh keeps Aretha highly medicated. You know the saying: happy wife, happy life? Dr. Uh-Oh's mantra is: you asked for it, you muddle through. Like the majority of his patients, Aretha gave birth in her forties. She defied God's will, she shouldn't complain."

I check out "The Wainscoting Wars," a series of e-mails between two women who share a common hallway:

"Regarding your vandalism, I expect you to hire a professional contractor to repair the damage done to my wallpaper within the week. When I am satisfied that it has been restored to its original pristine condition, I will return your doorknob and number."


--Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Leonard Sax: Being a Good Parent

photo: Fine Line Photography

Leonard Sax has been a family physician for almost 30 years. His latest book, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups (Basic Books, $26.99, December 29, 2015), offers no-nonsense advice for parents who struggle with their children's challenging behaviors. The book covers what Sax believes is the root of the problem--children looking to peer groups and media rather than ineffective parents--as well as how to fix it (set limits and engage with children) in an easy-to-read style that’s not unlike listening to the family doctor.

In summary, what is the problem with today’s kids and how do we fix it?

The problem, as I presented in the book, is that American kids are worse off on just about every domain that matters, and pretty dramatically so compared to American kids 30 years ago. They're much more likely to be on medication than kids were 30 years ago, and much more likely than kids in any other country. A kid in the United States is more than 40 times more likely to be on medication for bipolar disorder compared to a kid in Germany. A kid in the United States is now 93 times more likely to be on psychiatric medications like Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa compared to kids in Italy. They're also much more likely to be overweight, and much more likely to be anxious and depressed and doing much less well academically compared to elsewhere.

So, what happened? None of this was true when I started out as a physician. As a practicing physician, I've seen a lot firsthand. The book is my argument that a major factor--not the whole story--but a very major factor driving some of these changes is that American parents used to know how to do their job. And they no longer do. Society used to support the job of parenting, and now the society actively undermines the job of the parent.

Why is that?

To some degree, it's happened worldwide. German sociologist Norbet Elias says that there has been a transfer of authority from parents to children and a loss of respect for the concept of authority. That's really true throughout the developed world.

Elias also talks about how we used to have more hierarchical relations between employer and employee, between customer and salesperson, between men and women, between white people and people of color. As he points out, most of the second half of the 20th century can be summarized as the demolition of those hierarchies, and I think we would all applaud that. We'd all agree that it's a good thing that white people no longer are privileged in law over people of color, that men are no longer privileged in law over women, and so forth. As Elias pointed out, this has also crept into the home--authority generally is now suspect.

Thirty years ago, if a kid got in trouble at school for cheating on a test, the school would call the parents, and the kid would be disciplined more severely at home than he was at the school. But today, I have personally been involved in cases where a kid was caught red-handed cheating at school, and the parents swooped in like prosecuting attorneys, demanding evidence and mounting a defense.

One of the more fascinating points you make is that the single-most factor determining success is self-control.

Right. There's so much good research now from these longitudinal covert studies where they've followed the same kid over 10, 20, 30 years, and you find that what kind of grade he's getting in school or how many friends he has or how open he is to new ideas--none of that predicts health, wealth, and happiness 20 years down the road. But virtue and character do. If parents understood that, they would prioritize teaching virtue and character. North American parents, especially middle-income and affluent parents, prioritize performance and doing lots of extra-curriculars and getting good grades and having many friends. None of which predicted good outcomes to the same extent that virtue and character do.

But you can teach virtue and character and try to help work performance.

Life is a zero-sum game. Are you going to have supper with your daughter tonight or not? Well, she's on a soccer team, and that conflicts with supper, and she's doing computer coding. So you pick her up from school. She goes to computer coding class, and then you grab something from McDonald's on your way to soccer practice. That choice to prioritize activities over time at home with family sends a message that time at home with family is the lowest priority. And that what's really important is impressing people with all the other activities that you're doing. That undermines teaching virtue and character.

Now, it might be possible to do both. But I don't think that American parents are consciously making that decision. I think that many of them are just on their treadmill of activity. Another point I make in the book is that American parents have this fetish, this weird habit of boasting about how busy and overwhelmed and stressed they are. Well, they're busy and overwhelmed and stressed because they've made certain choices.

What do you say to a critic who says commanding your children sounds patriarchal and authoritative?

I'm sure it does sound authoritative because it is authoritative.

It reminds many of us of all the negative things from 30 years ago, like racism and sexism. It sounds like it fits in there.

Well, that's why it's important to pull those things apart. I'm not saying that 1980 or 1960 were the Good Ol' Days. They were not. Again, 1960 was racist and sexist. We don't want to go back to that. But the American consensus, which is that everything new is better than everything old and we want nothing from previous generations--because 1960 was racist and sexist--is not based in research or science. It's a cultural assumption that is not followed by the rest of the world, and that is harming American kids in a massive way.

As I point out in the book, this abandonment, this dereliction of duty by American parents has had the net result of kids being medicated in a way that's without precedent and without parallel in any country on the planet. Because the fact is that kids do need authority. When parents fail to provide that authority, the doctor steps in. And many parents who recoil in horror when you say they need to govern their child regarding right and wrong--their kid is on multiple psychiatric medications. On interview, these kids don't really seem to have a significant psychiatric disorder. The parents just have no idea how to govern their kid's behavior other than medicate them.

If you're a parent with young kids who act disrespectfully, is it too late? How do you turn that around?

As I say in the book, you need to sit down with your kids and tell them that the rules are changing, because most of the life of a family is governed by rules that are not written and have never been articulated. Many kids think it's okay to talk back to parents, that it's okay to be disrespectful to parents because, after all, that's what they see on the Disney Channel (which, along with all other major American media, teaches that parents are clueless incompetents, whether it's Modern Family or Dog with a Blog). The straight male parent is utterly incompetent and reliably clueless on those shows, just as he is on The Simpsons and almost any other major American evening comedy. This was not true in American culture two generations ago, in the era of My Three Sons and The Andy Griffith Show, or even 30 years ago in the era of Family Ties.

This is a new phenomenon in American culture. The result is that the culture now undermines the authority of the parent to do their job. But you used the word "authoritative"--Diana Baumrind, who is in my judgment the leading authority on parenting research over the last 40 years, makes the distinction between "authoritarian" and "authoritative." She says parents need to be authoritative, meaning that they set rules and they enforce rules, but they do so in the context of love and concern, as opposed to an authoritarian parent who is using corporal punishment and is not loving. It's a difference American parents used to understand better than they do now. The parents who are effective over time are both strict and loving. That's what it means to be a good parent. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

RIP David Bowie

A moment of silence for David Bowie, who died Sunday at age 69 and was, in addition to his many talents, a book lover and an avid and eclectic reader. See the list of his 100 favorite books here.


Pop quiz: "2015 in books--how closely were you reading?" asked the Guardian.


A selection of "fascinating 1920s and 1930s book jackets from the NY Public Library" were featured by Flavorwire.


The late Terry Pratchett's fans are petitioning to have a new element in the periodic table named Octarine [Oc], which "is the color of magic in the series and the eighth color in the Discworld spectrum," the Independent reported.   


Pennsylvania children's librarian Courtney Bonnet "decorated the cupboard under her stairs to look like Harry Potter," Buzzfeed noted.


Bookish real estate listing of the day: "La Pitchoune," Julia Child's cottage in Provence that was "built on a potato patch" owned by her cookbook collaborator, Simca Beck, is listed for about $880,000, Condé Nast Traveler reported.

Book Review


A Hard and Heavy Thing

by Matthew J. Hefti

Among the horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the effects of battle on the soldiers involved, personal stories that often get lost in the broader debates about the politics, morality and rationale of the wars. Even when post-traumatic stress disorder is part of the conversation, it can be as impersonal as the bureaucratic machine that is supposed to be dealing with PTSD. In his debut novel, A Hard and Heavy Thing, Matthew J. Hefti has given combatants an authentic and heartbreaking voice that manages to tell a war story of intimate and human proportions.

Levi Hartwick returns from Iraq and Afghanistan to his small Midwestern town years after rescuing his friend from a burning Humvee. What is most painful for Levi, though, upon returning is not his PTSD, nightmares, memories or lack of direction. He is most disturbed and disoriented by seeing his old friend again. Wracked with guilt over what he figures was his tactical mistake that led to his friend's injury, Levi must ask this man for forgiveness in order to move on. But the only way Levi can seem to face him is through a long letter, which spells out the desire he has to end his own life.

Hefti seamlessly weaves excerpts from this suicide note into the novel's narrative to create the illusion that Levi is talking to himself from the future. The story, then, is not only about the war, or the effects and symptoms of PTSD. It is about regret and guilt, and how much of a cruel joke it is that only hindsight is 20/20. --Josh Potter

Discover: Even after rescuing his comrade from a bomb blast, a young soldier shows that guilt can be the most difficult wound to heal.

Tyrus Books, $16.99, paperback, 9781440591884

The Kindness of Enemies

by Leila Aboulela

In her marvelous and nuanced fourth novel, The Kindness of Enemies, Leila Aboulela (Lyrics Alley) uses historic conflicts to illustrate Islamophobia's pernicious legacy and its ominous reverberations in the present day. Natasha Wilson (neé Hussein) is a scholar teaching in Scotland in 2010, and she harbors serious doubts about religious faith, despite her work focusing on the Sufi leader Imam Shamil, who spearheaded the resistance against Russians invading the Caucasus in the 19th century.

Natasha's most promising student, Oz, happens to have descended from Shamil, and his mother, Malak, owns the imam's sword. When Oz invites Natasha to come see it, their bond of friendship and the significance of Shamil's stand against the Russians become irrevocably entwined.

Aboulela braids 2010 Scotland together with parallel dramas playing out in the disputed Eurasian highlands of the 1850s. Captured as a boy by Russian forces, Shamil's son Jamaleldin is raised in the opulent courts of St. Petersburg as the godson of the Tsar. Desperate for his son's return, Shamil orders the capture of Princess Anna of Georgia to prompt an exchange of hostages. Proud though they are, Anna and Jamaleldin will not walk away from captivity unchanged.

With an impeccable balance of internal and external conflicts, The Kindness of Enemies ruminates over clashing political allegiances, rival religious devotions, alienation within families and competing identities on a personal level. With stunning narrative powers and exquisite attention to detail, Aboulela delivers a riveting story of epic proportions. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Modern Muslims in Scotland grapple with faith and identity while facing Islamophobia, paralleling Imam Shamil's resistance to Russian forces in the 19th-century Caucasian War.

Grove Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802124487

The Song of Hartgrove Hall

by Natasha Solomons

Autumn 1946 finds war-weary brothers reunited in their beloved Hartgrove Hall, a country house much the worse for wear after years of billeting British and American troops "with mightier preoccupations than pruning the roses or sweeping the drawing room chimney." Natasha Solomons piques readers' interest in the tale of the Dorset estate and its heirs by opening The Song of Hartgrove Hall with a funeral in the year 2000.

In an effective to-and-fro, Solomons (The House at Tyneford) teases out the story of the narrator, renowned composer Harry Fox-Talbot (or "Fox"), his brother Jack and the famous songstress Edie Rose--who arrives at Hartgrove in 1946 as Jack's paramour, and for whom Fox is mourning in the opening pages, as his late wife.

In impeccably proper British prose, Fox relates the story of the near-loss of the family estate to the wrecking ball and the love triangle that led to his marrying Edie. Knowing how these crises end does not detract from the novel's suspense, as the connecting theme--music--develops through an additional storyline: Fox's grief abates when his four-year-old grandson reveals his astounding, precocious gift as a pianist.

Fox, whose career was sidelined by Edie's death, devotes himself to nurturing young Robin's musical development, reaffirming the grandfather's affable character and eventually rewarding him with renewed peace and optimism. Descriptions of the verdant British countryside, the grandeur of the manse, and Fox and Edie's devotion combine in a novel as engaging as Downton Abbey and as literary as a Brontë work. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: In a novel as charming as a PBS costume drama, Natasha Solomons follows a British family and their loves and losses.

Plume, $16, paperback, 9780147517593


by Jason Gurley

After making a name for himself in self-publishing with his Greatfall series, Jason Gurley published a story about a girl called Eleanor who in 1985, lost her twin sister, Esme, in a car crash at the age of six. In the early 1990s, Eleanor, now a teenager, lives in the shadow of her sister's ghost, her family irrevocably unwound by Esme's death. The only brightness in her life comes from her longtime friend Jack, the one person she can trust.

In a different but intersecting world, two entities called Mea and Efah watch Eleanor. More than anything, Mea wants to pull Eleanor into her world. Mea resists trusting Efah, who wants to control her, but he promises to teach her how to bring Eleanor close to them. When Mea's early attempts fall short of their mark, Eleanor suddenly finds herself yanked out of her reality and into bizarre new realms. Although she's afraid to tell anyone about her experiences, Eleanor knows she is not hallucinating--not when her returns happen violently enough to send her to the hospital. As she is torn from our reality again and again, Eleanor travels unknowingly closer to the pain eating away at her shattered family.

Ethereal prose and off-kilter fantasy worlds wait around every bend as Eleanor gets caught up in forces beyond her control. Gurley flings genre boundaries to the wind and finds his own way through the intertwined threads of trauma, magic and love. By turns adventurous and contemplative but always heartfelt, Gurley's first foray into major publishing will surely not be his last. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Eleanor is an adventurous fantasy story with the bones of a family drama.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 9781101903513

The Shameful State

by Sony Labou Tansi, trans. by Dominic Thomas

One part madcap farce, one part chamber of horrors, one part modernist look at the jumbling of political, national and personal narratives, Sony Labou Tansi's The Shameful State is purposeful chaos. The Congolese writer is known for his powerful political novels, and he uses depravity as a cudgel, showing how absolute power creates seething, merciless creatures who demand ownership of every person and thing within their grasp. Faced with the corruption in The Shameful State, it's hard to know whether to cry or laugh.

Dominating the book is Colonel Martillimi Lopez, a man who becomes president of an undisclosed African country and proceeds to rape and pillage, pushing aside both rebellion and conspiracies amid his own government. As if to show Lopez's complete control, the third-person narration in The Shameful State sometimes shifts suddenly to first, with Lopez now speaking on behalf of the story. In other places, the narrator speaks with the voice of the people, or as the personification of the country itself.

The book rushes from one outlandish situation to the next, usually involving bloodshed and murder. The Shameful State is not for the faint of heart (for example, Lopez and the narrator continually refer to his penis as "my hernia," as if it is so engorged as to be a symbol in and of itself), but it's clear from the gonzo tone throughout the book that Tansi isn't interested in depravity for its own sake. Like the work of William S. Burroughs, The Shameful State exists beyond the scope of normal narrative, forcing the reader to confront evil in its purest absurd form. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: One of Africa's greatest authors gives a short, brutal and funny look at his continent's type of dictatorship.

Indiana University Press, $20, paperback, 9780253019257

Hunters in the Dark

by Lawrence Osborne

After a lucrative turn at a Cambodian casino, 28-year-old Englishman Robert Grieve walks away with two grand--a fortune in the Southeast Asian nation--and into a web of danger and deceit. This unexpected windfall drives the narrative in Lawrence Osborne's new novel, Hunters in the Dark, an intriguing story of luck, fate, human nature and colliding cultures.

Word of the winnings pocketed by a foreigner precedes Robert to Battambang in western Cambodia, a destination he chooses on a whim. He crosses paths with motorbike-riding American expat Simon Beaucamp and takes him up on an invitation to be a guest at Simon's home that evening. The next morning, though, Robert wakes up aboard a small boat motoring along a river, driven by a stranger who doesn't speak English. Dressed in Simon's elegant linen attire, Robert is missing everything else.

Making Hunters in the Dark an especially compelling read is the Cambodian setting. The story plays out along dusty, deserted roads, in the dense, steamy jungle, in the shadows of ancient temples and in lively Phnom Penh, a city of possibility and danger. As a visitor in a foreign land, he doesn't understand the nuances of a culture steeped in superstition and the belief that fate and karma dictate lives and actions.

Hunters in the Dark has garnered comparisons to the works of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, deservedly so. The twist-filled narrative smolders with an ominous undercurrent, and the wheel of karma keeps on turning, unleashing its powerful forces. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Discover: An unsuspecting Englishman enters a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse after winning a fortune in a Cambodian casino.

Hogarth, $25, hardcover, 9780553447347

Biography & Memoir

Maggie Smith: A Biography

by Michael Coveney

Actress Maggie Smith seems to be at the height of her power, enjoying worldwide acclaim and success for her roles in the Harry Potter and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, as well as the TV series Downton Abbey. In Maggie Smith: A Biography, Michael Coveney, one of Britain's most respected theater critics, presents the storied influences of Dame Maggie's life.

Coveney explores Smith's exceptional talent by first examining her "spartan, though... not deprived, childhood." Because she was "not particularly welcomed" by her two elder brothers, Smith, in her loneliness, developed a voracious reading habit and a sharp instinct for privacy and cultivated her tart spirit and independence. An acting teacher who harbored reservations about Maggie's acting ability fueled the teenager's drive for the stage.

Coveney spends the bulk of the biography chronicling, in great depth, Smith's acting roles, her analytical approach to craft and the often nomadic existence required by her transatlantic career. Along the way, Coveney touches upon Smith's great loves, marriages and children. Smith's trademark self-preserving wit--along with her class and energy--enliven the narrative throughout.

Though the actress granted Coveney permission to write this biography, he asserts that Maggie Smith, even to those who know her well, is an enigma, and he accentuates Smith's difficulties in trying to balance her "private life with the public demands of her talent... career always came first." Therefore, it is fitting that this thorough and well-researched biography is anchored on Dame Maggie's exemplary body of work and the demanding drive of her dedication and genius, all of which have earned her critical acclaim and lasting appeal. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Dame Maggie Smith, a very private person who has lived an extraordinary theatrical life on stage and screen, authorized this thoroughly researched biography.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 9781250081483


The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House

by Jesse J. Holland

More than two centuries before Barack Obama became the first African American president, black slaves lived and worked behind the scenes in the White House. In The Invisibles, Jesse Holland (Black Men Built the Capitol) has written an in-depth account of slaves who were footmen, butlers, maids and cooks to the presidents and their wives from 1782 to 1862, when slavery ended with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although our first presidents often spoke against slavery, Holland writes, "twelve of the first eighteen U.S. presidents owned Africans as slaves at one time or another in their lives." The names of hundreds of these enslaved people may never be known, but Holland has scoured historical documents, letters and diaries to piece together the stories of many enslaved blacks who lived in the shadows, serving the presidents and their families by making beds, cooking the food, preparing the clothes, and working on the plantations that many of the first leaders owned. These narratives are engrossing as they shed more light on aspects of early American life and give a voice to a large segment of the population that was instrumental in building the nation, but that have largely been ignored. The written excerpts and quotes from eyewitnesses bring The Invisibles to life, creating detailed vignettes of men and women whose lives were dictated by those who owned them rather than their own dreams and desires. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Compelling stories about the enslaved African Americans who worked for the first presidents of the United States.

Lyons Press, $25.95, hardcover, 9781493008469

Psychology & Self-Help

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

by Scott Barry Kaufman, Carolyn Gregoire

According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman (Ungifted) and writer Carolyn Gregoire, "[Creativity] is both deliberate and uncontrollable, mindful and mindless, work and play. It is both the realm of a select group of geniuses through history, and the domain of every human being." Wired to Create combines Kaufman's psychological research and Gregoire's viral Huffington Post article about habits of highly creative people to explain how these paradoxes work in the messy minds of innovative people, as well as how readers can improve their own propensity for creativity.

Wired to Create is organized into 10 sections, each dissecting a behavior that artists of all types perform differently from the average person. There is no discussion of right brain/left brain dominance; instead, the authors examine things like play, daydreaming and sensitivity. This is not to say that the brain is disregarded. Kaufman and Gregoire explain how the brain functions in the presence of each habit and in turn what it means for creativity.

Illustrating their concepts using both scientific data and specific examples of individuals, the authors show how creativity can be found in both introverts and extroverts, why it is sometimes mistakenly connected to mental illness, and how each of the 10 behaviors support and enable each other.

At times the presentation of the scientific data may bog down, but the insights, examples and explanations are exhilarating and inspiring. Anyone wanting to understand or promote a fertile environment for living creatively will certainly find a wealth of riches in this book. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A psychologist and writer analyze the 10 habits of highly creative people.

Perigee, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399174100

Body, Mind & Spirit

The Whole Health Diet: A Transformational Approach to Weight Loss

by Mark Mincolla

Mark Mincolla (Whole Health), who has performed tens of thousands of nutritional therapy consultations, describes himself as "a holistic problem solver" whose patients have often been abandoned by traditional medical practitioners. He has assisted with a variety of ailments, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, IBS and ADHD.

While many of Mincolla's patients are overweight when he begins treating them, the weight loss that occurs under his care is incidental and not the result of formal diets. In fact, Mincolla calls his Whole Health Diet (WHD) "the anti-dieting diet plan." He instead focuses on holistic transformation through optimal nutrition, emotional freedom and spiritual sentience. He believes that once an individual is able to achieve balance in body, mind and spirit, health (and weight loss) is inevitable. To achieve this balance, the WHD provides concrete strategies to realign an individual's superconscious, electromagnetic and life force energies, including six keys to resetting metabolism; quantum energy healing practices; identification of foods that are toxic, neutral or medicinal; visualization techniques; acupressure; yogic breathing; electromagnetic feedback; homeopathy; essential oils; and sample food plans. In addition to eliminating toxic, inflammatory and allergenic foods, the WHD rotates "clean" foods every three days to control the way our genes behave and to avoid food allergies and intolerances.

Mincolla believes a "chronic overweight and obesity problem is directly related to negative thoughts and feelings" and focuses on transforming the energy they produce. The WHD is a personalized system based on an individual's specific metabolism, energy and food intolerances. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: This "anti-dieting diet plan" focuses on holistic transformation, with health and weight loss following naturally.

Tarcher, $16.95, paperback, 9780399174155

Children's & Young Adult

The Brownstone

by Paula Scher, illus. by Stan Mack

New York City brownstones can be noisy, especially when a musical cat and tap-dancing kangaroos are the tenants, and sleepy bears are trying to hibernate in peace.

The piano-playing cat yowls "DO-RE-MEOW!" just as Mr. Bear has set his alarm for March. Mr. Bear knocks on Mr. Owl's door to complain about Miss Cat, and the landlord responds, "Perhaps the Pigs will change apartments with you. Then you would have the Mice next door. They are nice and quiet." The Pigs are delighted to move, and "Soon the staircase was busy." Thus begins the grand animal shuffle, all shown as a hilarious peek-a-boo cross-section of the six small brownstone apartments. Paula Scher's entertaining story, packed with sound effects from CRASH! to THUMP-THUMP-THUMPETY-THUMP! is wonderful to read aloud, and the splendid pen-and-ink illustrations by Stan Mack ("Stan Mack's Real Life Funnies"; Ten Bears in My Bed) will delight a new generation in this 2016 edition of the 1972 classic.

Children will love tracking the animal families as they move their modest belongings from floor to floor, and comical details abound. The Kangaroos, for instance, are clutching a book called Dance at Home, and Mr. Owl's owl portrait looks surprised, tired or angry, depending on the scenario. In the end, Mr. Owl arrives at the perfect arrangement for those who want to sing and dance and those who want quiet; those who want to eat, and those, like the Mice, who just want to avoid being eaten. A fabulous, funny ode to cacophonous but ultimately harmonious problem-solving. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A hibernating bear family struggles to find some peace in a noisy New York City brownstone in this terrific new edition of a 1972 classic.

Princeton Architectural Press, $17.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-7, 9781616894283

American Ace

by Marilyn Nelson

American Ace is a graceful, buoyant novel in short verse by the award-winning Marilyn Nelson (How I Discovered Poetry; A Wreath for Emmett Till). Sixteen-year-old Connor Bianchini is from a big, warm, Irish-Italian family. But when his Italian grandmother, Nonna Lucia, dies, Connor's father "went weird," spending joyless nights in front of the TV drinking Chianti. Connor is worried: "I googled depression. And I got scared./ A blue glacier was growing between us."

Connor's dad finally "breaks the bubble" at a family feast. When Nonna died, she left her son "a ring, a pilot's wings, and a letter," and with them, a life-changing family secret: the man he called Dad was not his biological father. His father was an American nicknamed Ace. Connor ponders: "One quarter of me was American:/ Did that take me back to the Mayflower? The ancestors I knew were innocent/ of the white guilt of Indian slayers/ and slave owners. Did this new grandfather/ connect me differently to history?"

In the months that follow, Connor and his father work first to unravel the mystery of the birth father's identity, and then to come to grips with their own sense of identity when their research reveals that the mystery man was a Tuskegee Airman, an African American pilot who fought discrimination at home in order to be allowed to fight on the European front in World War II. Nelson's exquisite free verse follows Connor as he begins to examine his own notions of heredity, race, family and the lenses through which one views the world. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In Marilyn Nelson's stunning verse novel, a 16-year-old boy deciphers a family mystery that shakes his sense of identity to the core.

Dial, $17.99, hardcover, 128p., ages 12-up, 9780803733053


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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