Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 15, 2016

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

From My Shelf

Newbery Winner Matt de la Peña

Earlier this week, as part of the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards, Matt de la Peña (Mexican WhiteBoy; The Living; The Hunted) won the 2016 Newbery Medal for his writing in the picture book Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam), illustrated by Christian Robinson.  


Often in picture books it's the children teaching adults to find the beauty in the things around them... here it's the other way around. Do you see a lot of kids like CJ who need a nudging in this direction?

"I see it all the time. Because of my novels, I go into a lot of underprivileged schools across the country. I'm face to face with a lot of kids who ask me, 'Why would you come to this school?' I say, 'I have to tell you it's because your world is amazing and beautiful.' I almost have to prove to them they are worthy of having an author come to visit them."

De la Peña added:

"The thing I heard that hit me the hardest and made me a little emotional today was that this was the first time a Hispanic won the Newbery Medal, even though it's a group of people who've been writing forever. It feels like in a way I was collecting an award for all of us.

"We're taught how to view ourselves in the media--when you look at TV and in movies--and too often, in general, a young kid isn't thinking, 'I'm the hero of this kind of story.' This book shows kids they can be the hero of the story. Here's a book with a kid who lives where you live and has a grandma like you have and takes the bus like you do. And it has a Newbery sticker on it."

--Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

You can read our full interview with Matt de la Peña here.

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Amy Cuddy: Beyond Power Poses

photo: Bob O'Connor

Perhaps best known for her TED Talk "Your Body Shapes Who You Are," Amy Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School who studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people. Her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Little, Brown) aims to give people the tools to feel personally powerful when facing challenging situations.

What was it like to go from researcher to TED speaker to author?

I barely knew what TED was, and I certainly did not think it was something I would ever do. When you are invited to speak, you don't know what kind of audience you'll get, or if it will be posted to the main site; without knowing whether what you say will be shared broadly, you're really giving your talk to that audience at that venue. There's no way to create a sense of intimacy with future strangers, but you can connect with the people who are there.

After the talk, all these agents and publishers wrote, and I just said no to everything. I said to my friends, I'm not going to write a book until it's in my head--not just a cover and introduction, but the entire book. I didn't write anything, but then I found an agent I could really connect with, who would really let me do my thing.

I wanted to take everything I was hearing from people outside the ivory tower and share it. People want to learn, and they want this information in their lives, but not everyone can attend a TED Talk. Being in the audience is great, but that's not all those talks are about. They're really about the millions and millions of people who get to listen for free.

How does Presence address ideas about power?

In my book, I mention what David Grohl said about singing a song to 85,000 people and having them sing it back to you for 85,000 different reasons. That's what happened after TED. I have heard so many different versions of my idea, but every story has that thread of feeling powerless. This is what links us, and that's what the book is about.

This idea of presence is so scary. For so many people, it seems like something inapproachable, like it's for fancy people or another group you don't feel you belong to. It's the same thing you get from people when you mention mindfulness. There's this idea that it's for rich people or another exclusive group. But presence is for everyone. Presence comes down to this: start with the body instead of the mind. Mindfulness practices that are not body-oriented are tough for so many of us. You just feel like you can't get there. When you're in a dark place, your mind is fighting your mind. If you get your body to do it, your mind doesn't even know what's happening. The techniques I describe in the books are a way of stopping that fight from happening. I want to show people that it's really about moments, and there's a science here that will help people face challenges.

Given the number of stories you've received from people since your TED Talk, how did you select the ones that appear in Presence?

When I submitted my book, the chapter where I share a few stories was many times longer than it is now. I needed my editor to go through them. My editor knew I wanted to honor every person. In the end, the stories selected were the ones that also represented other stories. It was important to me that we don't just talk about how presence applies to job interviews and other business applications. Those feel obvious to me. I wanted to show more applications of presence for people who have no power or status. Having presence is something that doesn't require money or power or a place in the hierarchy or technology to do. No one is excluded from this. A few people with disabilities wrote to me and told me they imagine themselves in these power poses and feel the effects. There were so many people who wrote to me about what they do. I don't even think they were saying they got the idea from me. They were sharing: this is what we're doing; it works.

How does Presence connect with and contribute to current discussions about equality, race and other issues?

By training, I am a stereotyping researcher. As somebody who studies racism and sexism, I can say quite frankly that it is very easy to document racism and sexism; it's tragic how easy it is. What's almost impossible is to find interventions that erase them. It's hard to be in a field like this when half the world seems to think there's no prejudice anymore no matter how much research and evidence you show to the contrary, and the other half want to know what they can do, and we don't have answers. One of the most interesting findings, in a group stereotyped regularly, is that ambiguity throws people off--wondering whether the experience you're having is rooted in prejudice or just a matter of how you're reading the situation is really distracting and takes you out of the moment. It takes you away from the present. When that happens, you start to feel powerless. Presence gives people a way to best represent themselves even in these unfair circumstances.

In Presence, you show how women and others who haven't traditionally been in positions of power face additional barriers to attaining presence. I felt invigorated by your call for us to change these patterns. How do you see that change coming about?

I hope that anyone who feels powerless can recognize when they start to collapse on themselves or fall in this way. I hope they can see the collapse as a sign of powerlessness and lift their body to bolster themselves. I really want girls to learn that you can carry yourself with pride and power and still be a girl. In the book, I discuss how by the age of six children show a definite male-power bias, meaning they see signs of power as being a distinctly masculine trait and powerlessness as female. Seeing this ideology manifest in body language changes is heartbreaking. I want kids to see images like Misty Copeland, a dancer who is amazing, proud and powerful in one of the most traditionally feminine forms of expression that exists. She carries herself with power. That's the image we need girls to see. If we want to keep girls from being powerless, we need to intervene very early.

Given the response to your TED Talk, what effect do you hope your book will have?

I do hope that people start to harness the power of the body much more broadly than power poses. I want people to have a sense of relief when they can just do this one thing, when they can catch themselves hunched over a phone and readjust their body, knowing the effect it can have. The idea of the body leading the mind is just beginning to be explored, and we're really getting that it's huge, just as big as the mind-body. When our body leads our mind, we have so much more power to change things. What I talk about in Presence is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I'm concerned. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Book Candy

Book Legacies: David Bowie and Alan Rickman

This week brought us the sad news that both David Bowie and Alan Rickman had died. Their legacy was celebrated in many arenas, including the book world: several authors remembered Bowie on Electric Lit, and Chuck Palahniuk credited the publication of Fight Club to him. Bowie's impressive list of "top 100 must-read books" has also been circulating widely again.

Bustle noted "6 literary characters Alan Rickman brought to life." Word & Film recalled his "greatest on-screen literary moment"--in Truly, Madly, Deeply--when he "recites a passage from Pablo Neruda's poem 'La Muerta' ('The Dead Woman'), which Nina translates."


Some "advice from literary characters for an awesome 2016" was offered by Quirk Books.


"The most checked-out book at the UN library is a bit awkward," ShortList observed.


This just in: Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges "were all in the running for the 1965 Nobel prize for literature," which was won by Mikhail Sholokhov, the Guardian reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Family of Man

The Family of Man was a monumental photography exhibition first displayed by the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. Edward Steichen (1879-1973), director of the museum's photography department, curated 503 images from 273 photographers in 69 countries into a portrayal of the oneness of all humankind, showing man as a global family whose similarities transcend cultural barriers. Over the next eight years, the exhibition traveled to 37 countries and resonated with nine million viewers. Today it can be seen at Clervaux Castle in Steichen's native Luxembourg.

A book of the exhibition's photographs, with a preface by Carl Sandburg, was released in 1955. Between the original version and a 40th anniversary edition, The Family of Man has sold more than four million copies. Late last year, the Museum of Modern Art published a hardcover 60th anniversary edition ($35, 9781633450011). The cover, designed by Dutch artist Leo Lionni, is the same interconnecting grid of multicolored blocks as the original edition, a reminder of the bond between people of all hues across the world. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Core of the Sun

by Johanna Sinisalo, trans. by Lola Rogers

In the outstanding Core of the Sun, Finnish novelist Johanna Sinisalo (Troll: A Love Story) depicts a country strangled by a patriarchal government that claims to care about its citizens' health.

The Finnish people in this dystopia live under a form of government wherein decisions supposedly hinge on the health and safety of the people. Tobacco and alcohol no longer exist within Finnish borders. Only the antioxidant-rich dark form of chocolate is legal without a prescription. The most recent prohibition concerns capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat. Vanna, a young woman, hides her capsaicin addiction but constantly looks for her next fix, the only way to dull the pain of losing Manna, her younger sister.

The addiction is far from Vanna's only secret. For decades, Finland has worked at creating a perfect breed of domesticated women: obedient and focused on making a home and pleasing a husband. Called eloi or femiwomen, only these ideal specimens may reproduce. Vanna's sister is an eloi, but Vanna only passes as one. Really she is a morlock, an independent woman with as much sense and desire for knowledge as any man.

At times the novel reads a bit like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale with a sense of humor; a PSA on chili pepper addiction from a recovering addict is particularly hilarious, while marriage-minded deodorant ads and rewritten fairy tales will elicit laughs with a bitter aftertaste. A testament to the power of the human soul to escape oppression and a smirking social commentary, The Core of the Sun is one deliciously spicy package. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This sly Finnish import imagines a society in which women have been selectively bred for domestication and chili peppers are considered an addictive substance.

Black Cat/Grove Press, $16, paperback, 9780802124647

The Past

by Tessa Hadley

The intricacies and hierarchies--and often the competitive nature--of the family dynamic are central to the fiction of Tessa Hadley (Clever Girl). In her sixth novel, The Past, four middle-aged siblings reunite at the 200-year-old house they inherited from their grandparents, tucked amid the hills of the English countryside in Kington.

The house is "mottled with brown damp, there was no central heating and the roof leaked." It is near another cottage and a church, where the family's grandfather, a famous poet, was once minister. The siblings and their significant others have gathered for a three-week summer visit to decide whether to put the old place on the market. But once the siblings convene, their old home, all it represented in the past, and how it relates to their lives in the present--along with simmering familial tensions--collide.

Hadley's prose is descriptively rich. She elevates the mundane via her keen understanding of people and the emotional complexities of marriages and families--secrets, subtle deceptions and loyalties. By structuring the novel in three parts--a flashback from 1968, set between two sections steeped in the present--Hadley contrasts ideas about age and youth, the past and present, solace and aggravation, love and resentment. The idea that, in families, siblings emerge from the same roots and same place but eventually splinter off in different directions is at the heart of this tender, understated novel. It examines how we never really escape the upheavals of the past; they seep into our being. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Four adult siblings and their significant others reunite for three weeks in the English countryside to decide the fate of an inherited old house.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062270412

The Children's Home

by Charles Lambert

Charles Lambert (With a Zero at Its Heart) offers a startling and adept blend of realism and frightening fantasy in The Children's Home.

Morgan Fletcher lives alone, served by a housekeeper and a skeleton staff he purposefully never sees, on a sizable estate of fading opulence. He has been disfigured by a mysterious accident; his inherited fortune has equally enigmatic origins. His family history is only hinted at, but apparently contains ugly secrets. His housekeeper, Engel, seems comfortably wise to these difficulties, and when the country doctor, a "sunlike man," befriends Morgan, he feels a little like himself again. The real difference, however, is the children, who show up one by one as if out of the air, some of them mere babies on the stoop. Morgan is wonderingly delighted to find himself surrounded by youngsters, whose playful noises echo often through the house, but who are strangely silent when he wishes for silence. These are not ordinary children, but Morgan has had no contact with the wider world for many years and is slow to question their behavior. They seem to seek something within his house and simultaneously seem to know his past already.

Lambert opens with plausibly lifelike scenarios and proceeds with careful pacing through the Fletcher family story. The line between reality and illusion is as imperceptible to the reader as it is to Morgan, until the final, otherworldly action accelerates with glittering vividness both lovely and grotesque. The Children's Home is unforgettable: fanciful, chilling and poignant. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Wonderful, eccentric stray children fill a decaying country estate in this strikingly dark fairy tale.

Scribner, $24, hardcover, 9781501117398

Angels Burning

by Tawni O'Dell

Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell (author of the Oprah Book Club Pick Back Roads) is a rather sad yet enjoyable literary mystery set in Appalachian Pennsylvania. Reminiscent of many a scene from FX's television drama Justified, the suspense in Angels Burning revolves around the truculent Truly clan.

Chief of police Dove Carnahan is appalled by the brutal murder of a teenage girl, whose charred body is found stuffed into a burning sinkhole in an abandoned mining town. The girl is soon identified as a member of the Truly family--notorious for their heavy drinking, frequent jail time and many out-of-wedlock babies.

As Dove works with the state police to coordinate the investigation (which is way too high-level for her small-town team), she keeps having flashbacks to the murder of her own mother 35 years earlier. Delving into the dark secrets of the Trulys means that Dove risks exposing the secrets of her family, too.

Tawni O'Dell has created an enigmatic and engaging story, filled with the realistic, quotidian sadness often found in blue-collar towns on an economic downswing. Dove Carnahan is a supremely likable character: a slightly mouthy, rather clothes-obsessed, intelligent and intuitive middle-aged woman. Dove's insight into the machinations of the Trulys is keen, and O'Dell's ability to capture small-town angst and envy is superlative. Even readers who don't typically like mysteries are sure to enjoy this gem of a novel. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: In this literary mystery, a teenage girl's charred body turns up in a small Pennsylvania town.

Gallery Books, $16, paperback, 9781476755953

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Eric James Stone

Eric James Stone's Unforgettable is a fantastic spy drama that involves entanglement theory.

Somehow, because of a loophole in his quantum state, Nat Morgan is completely forgettable. No one remembers him after one minute. Even cameras and computers are unable to capture his presence or record his doings. This would seem to make Nat a perfect thief, but he's taken a job at the CIA. His handler has a special file with notes and authentication protocols so the agency can use Nat for jobs in which anyone else would be discovered.

On a dangerous mission to obtain a powerful computer chip, Nat encounters the ex-Russian spy Yelena Semyonova, who has the same objective. She's working for the mafia, who have kidnapped her sisters to keep Yelena in line, but the two spies form a temporary alliance. During their escape, Nat and Yelena become entangled on a quantum level, making Yelena the only person in the world who can remember Nat.

The pair end up rescuing a brilliant Iranian physicist and helping him defect to the U.S. He links the chip back to a billionaire Russian mafioso, who aims to create a quantum supercomputer that won't only predict the future, but also control it. The team of spies and scientist must stop this plot, which could destroy the fabric of reality with no one the wiser.

Unforgettable is a quick, delightful read with well-considered plotting and a protagonist who won't be forgotten. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This fast-paced thriller, with a gloss of science fiction thrown in for fun, is a fantastic debut novel.

Baen, $15, paperback, 9781476781082

Dark Victory: A Novel of the Alien Resistance

by Brendan DuBois

Ten years ago, the alien Creepers descended on an unsuspecting Earth with a genocidal onslaught of asteroid bombardments, nuclear detonations and a fleet of stealth satellites that destroyed all technology more advanced than a steam engine. Overnight, mankind was thrust back into the 19th century. Then the insectoid Creepers landed, roaming the wasted countryside in their near-invulnerable exoskeleton suits with claws spewing lasers and fire. But humanity fought back. Refugees from flooded cities and survivors of shattered military units, with the help of chemical weapons, kept the Creepers in check. At great cost, human civilization adapted to a new status quo of primitive technology and the constant threat of Creeper attacks.

At the beginning of Dark Victory, the end of the Creeper occupation seems imminent. A suicide attack has just destroyed the aliens' orbital base, and National Guard Recon Ranger Randy Knox prays for a world without war, a world he remembers only through a single photograph of his long-dead mother and sister. But despite the sudden talk of victory, the teenaged Ranger, along with his K-9 companion, Thor, is still responding to Creeper attacks in the countryside, and no one has figured out how to counter their fleet of weaponized satellites. In the midst of this hopeful uncertainty, Knox is assigned a mission that may determine if the war is really over or simply entering a new phase. In Dark Victory, Brendan DuBois (the Lewis Cole mystery series) crafts a dark sci-fi adventure sure to appeal to genre fans. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Ten years after aliens attack, humanity may finally achieve victory over the occupiers.

Baen, $15, paperback, 9781476780924

Food & Wine

The Fully Raw Diet: 21 Days to Better Health, with Meal and Exercise Plans, Tips, and 75 Recipes

by Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram

In the photographs in The Fully Raw Diet, Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, co-founder and director of Houston's Rawfully Organic co-op, glows with health and vitality after a decade of raw vegan food. Her new cookbook addresses how to transform every aspect of health--from food to exercise to attitude. However, Carrillo-Bucaram believes eating even just one Fully Raw meal a day (like a Lemon Ginger Blast or Sunburst Juice smoothie for breakfast) will increase energy, clear skin and improve digestion.

Following a diet plan that consists of 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein and 10% fat, Carrillo-Bucaram's recipes are presented day-by-day for three weeks with brief explanations for every recommendation. For example, beginning the day with 32 ounces of lemon water has an alkalizing effect on bodily fluids, activating all bodily systems and mitigating cellular damage caused by inflammation and other acidic conditions. Before presenting the recipes, Carillo-Bucaram explains the different health benefits between juices and smoothies, the best equipment for both, and how to handle "food bullies." She has tested each recipe and believes her own transformative health backs up her recommendations. Recipes include infused water combinations (like Blueberry Grape and Raspberry Cucumber Lime), juices and smoothies (like Cantaloupe Sorbet and Coconut Banana Vanilla); soups (like Sweet Persimmon and Mango Gazpacho); dressings (Cilantro Tahini and Orange Ginger Sesame); rainbow salads (Beautiful Beet Salad with Cherry Tomato Vinagrette); entrees (like Fully Raw Lasagna); and desserts (apple, pumpkin and pecan pies, birthday and short cakes, and fruit cobblers). A raw vegan diet may initially seem daunting, but Fully Raw is both reassuring and revelatory. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Unprocessed raw fruits and vegetables can offer delicious dishes for every meal of every day.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.99, paperback, 9780544559110

You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals

by Ellie Krieger

A welcome antidote to the whirlwind of the holidays, Ellie Krieger (James Beard Foundation and IACP Award-winner and host of the Food Network's Healthy Appetite) provides a "step-by-step guide to turning your refrigerator and freezer into a treasure chest of meals to make your life deliciously easier and healthier." To that end, You Have It Made presents 150 do-ahead recipes to cover busy breakfasts (for example, Sweet Ricotta and Berry Flatbread Breakfast Pizzas, and Peach-Cherry Breakfast Cobbler), speedy but satisfying lunches (like Four Bean Salad and Chilled Beet and Yogurt Soup), and entrees for entertaining (including African Peanut Stew and Cumin-Spiced Lentils with Sautéed Onions) that allow the cook to enjoy the company, too.

While Krieger believes "no food is ever off limits," her recipes emphasize fresh, seasonal, minimally processed ingredients. To highlight which foods should be staples and which should be occasional treats, food is categorized as Usually (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains), Sometimes (flour, honey, chicken) and Rarely (refined sugar, cream, cheese and butter). In Krieger's kitchen, balance--not deprivation--is paramount. In addition to nutritional information (calories, fat, protein, sodium, etc.), each recipe has storage and reheating instructions: most can go from freezer to oven or stovetop with no thawing required! Krieger's tips for storage (square containers are more space-efficient than round), preventing freezer burn (well-sealed and air-tight is essential) and reheating promote safety as well as speed. Krieger has given her many fans the gift of time with You Have It Made. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A guide on how to make many meals ahead of time.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, hardcover, 9780544579309

Biography & Memoir

Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson

by Juan F. Thompson

It was hard having Hunter Thompson for a father--just ask his only son, Juan Thompson. In Stories I Tell Myself, Juan goes behind Hunter's larger-than-life persona as writer, journalist and Aspen politician to reveal the daily family life of the man he revered, feared and finally accepted. It is a memoir of Juan's insecurity and accommodation around his gonzo father--but Hunter steals the show. Whether holding court at his "headquarters" in the Hotel Jerome bar, with four-year-old Juan nearby taking in the "music and laughing, hooting, yelling... the sharp, slightly sweet, slightly acrid smell of cigarettes and beer," or celebrating Jimmy Buffet's wedding on an "evening of high debauchery, '70s style with copious amounts of cocaine, pot, and booze," Hunter always leaves Juan in the wings. No wonder Juan's story of life with his father features lonesome days at boarding school, months in an ashram and methodical 12-stepping at Al-Anon.

A gun-slinging, alcoholic, belligerent icon, Hunter lived the life of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas character Raoul Duke until his late 60s. In 2005--broken down with a hip implant and bad back, incontinent, his writing paralyzed by drugs and alcohol, at odds with his latest young wife--Hunter put one of his many guns to his head and killed himself while Juan, his wife and young son played 20 Questions in the next room.

Savoring their moments together building fires, cleaning guns and swimming after midnight in a neighbor's lap pool, Juan eventually recognizes his own strengths and acknowledges Hunter's many weaknesses--at least this is one of the stories he tells himself. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In a revealing memoir of life with Hunter Thompson, his son, Juan, chronicles the crazy genius of his father and the burdens it put on his own life.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307265357


The Last Armada: Queen Elizabeth, Juan del Águila and the 100-Day Spanish Invasion of England

by Des Ekin

A Spanish invasion force, already crippled by punishing storms that separated it from most of its troops and supplies, landed at the Irish harbor of Kinsale on September 21, 1601. The Spanish troops intended to battle their way through Ireland with the support of a population that Irish expatriates assured them was eager to fight for the Catholic king of Spain and then conquer England from the west. Instead they found themselves besieged by English forces in an indefensible harbor town, waiting for allies and reinforcements that never came.

In The Last Armada: Queen Elizabeth, Juan del Águila and the 100-Day Spanish Invasion of England, Irish journalist Des Ekin (The Stolen Village) tells the story of the failed Spanish invasion from the perspectives of the English and Spanish commanders, as well as their Irish allies. Ekin establishes his major characters--General Juan del Águila of Spain, Charles Blount of England and Irish chieftain Hugh O'Neill--as the heroes of their own stories and places them firmly in their very different cultural milieus. Many of the secondary characters, including an English femme fatale, a Jesuit secret agent and a Franciscan priest determined to run the invasion in the name of God, are equally vivid on the page. The result is an even-handed account of a critical event in Irish history that has often been the subject of "bitter recriminations, laments or partisan rants."

The Last Armada is a historical page-turner with acts of heroism, betrayal, espionage, self-aggrandizement and self-sacrifice. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: An account of the disastrous Spanish attempt to invade Ireland--and then England--in 1601.

Pegasus Books, $27.95, hardcover, 9781605989440

Essays & Criticism

Shame and Wonder: Essays

by David Searcy

David Searcy's essay collection, Shame and Wonder, opens with a piece based on what he calls a "strange, opaque and mysterious tale" his dental hygienist shares with him about coyote attacks on her father's West Texas ranch. That characterization is an apt one for the 21 artfully crafted, if occasionally discursive, essays that compose this book.

Though Searcy's not shy about sharing slices of personal history, he often comes at them obliquely. A Texas native and resident of Dallas, Searcy, author of the novel Ordinary Horror, excels at capturing the peculiar character of his home state, where having a "look around is what there is to do out here." Over the course of the book, we learn that he grew up in the 1950s and "never lived very far from anywhere else I've lived." One of the most affecting pieces of memoir is the elegiac reminiscence "How to Color the Grass," in which he returns to his renovated elementary school and experiences again the "potent emptiness of childhood."

One of the most entertaining pieces in Shame and Wonder takes Searcy far from his Texas roots. "Santa in Anatolia" is the account of a trip to Turkey, sponsored by something called the Gülen Movement, with his girlfriend, Nancy. It's not unusual for one of David Searcy's essays to end up some distance from its starting point. But anyone willing to follow him on these meandering journeys will be rewarded with some fine writing and insights from the fertile mind of a careful observer whose thoughts might just strike their own sparks of memory and recognition for sympathetic readers. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: In these 21 essays, David Searcy reflects on his Texas roots.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9780812993943

Children's & Young Adult

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

by Dean Robbins, illus. by Selina Alko, Sean Qualls

Susan B. Anthony
set out two saucers,
two cups, and two slices of cake.

Frederick Douglass
arrived for tea.

Debut author Dean Robbins's charming picture book Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass depicts the true story of the historic friendship between two of America's greatest 19th-century civil rights pioneers, beginning with afternoon tea by candlelight. (Today, the author's note points out, there's a sculpture in Rochester, N.Y., of the two friends having tea.)

From this cozy scene in snowy Rochester, Robbins flashes back to the childhoods and early careers of Anthony and Douglass, emphasizing parallel experiences that might have contributed to their special friendship. For instance, "As a girl, Susan wanted to learn what boys learned./ But teachers wouldn't let her." And, "Frederick grew up as a slave in the South..../ He secretly learned to read and write. New ideas thrilled him." As adults, "They promised to help each other,/ so one day all people could have rights." Robbins maintains an optimistic tone, but avoids sugarcoating history by noting that while some people liked the activists' ideas on women's suffrage and abolition, "Others didn't."

Husband-and-wife team Sean Qualls and Selina Alko's warm gouache, acrylic and colored pencil, collage-inspired artwork inventively illustrates the power of ideas. Cursive script with phrases like Douglass's "Truth is of no color..." streams out of the friends' mouths and emerges from steaming cups of tea in sinuous rivers that flow across the handsome spreads. Two Friends is an artful, cleverly crafted homage to progressive civil rights leaders as well as an inspiring story of friendship. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Two Friends invites readers to attend tea time with real-life friends Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass in a picture-book celebration of the power of ideas.

Orchard/Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-8, 9780545399968

Timeline: A Visual History of Our World

by Peter Goes, trans. by Bill Nagelkerke

Belgian author-illustrator Peter Goes's gorgeous, oversized picture book, translated from Dutch, is a visual river of history that spans time from the Big Bang to "The 2010s" and teems with tiny cartoonish people and animals, mythological creatures, natural landscapes, buildings, maps, inventions, weaponry, paintings, musical instruments, vehicles, many ships, cultural artifacts and other historical touchstones.

Each expansive, breathtaking section--covering topics such as "The Ming Dynasty," "The 15th Century," "The Incas," "The Russian Revolution" and "Space Travel"--is printed on agreeably thick paper in a variety of deliciously muted colors. The ribbon-like whirl of human activity represented in the crisp, stylish artwork is mostly black, with spots of color, always flowing forward to the next page, emphasizing the grand continuum of history. Children will love poring over thousands of details--tentacles escaping a cooking pot in "Ancient Greece," a Dutch sailor poking a flightless dodo with a stick in "The 17th Century," Michael Jackson dancing with zombies in "The 1980s." For each section, a straightforward paragraph coolly sums up each period, while subtly embedded captions highlight more facts, such as "Chickens were already scratching around Egypt in 1400 B.C." and "The warlike Celts often fought naked." Goes escorts his readers all the way to "The 2010s" where his mention of Pharrell Williams's song "Happy" makes for a poignant soundtrack to Fukushima and the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Peaceful, humanity is not... and never has been.

Masterfully distilled in the roiling Timeline, the mad, beautiful world reveals itself as a wondrous place of never-ending conflict and resilience, chaos and order, destruction and innovation, disaster and delight. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This stylish, oversized picture book, originally published in Dutch, introduces world history to young readers as a visual river of time.

Gecko Press USA, $29.99, hardcover, 80p., ages 8-14, 9781776570690


Author Buzz

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

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

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

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

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

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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