Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

From My Shelf

Never Too Early (or Too Late) for Comic Books

Graphic novels--comics!--are having their day in the sun. Cece Bell's El Deafo (Abrams) won a 2015 Newbery Honor, as did Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl (Dial) in 2016. Our new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature? Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang. Here, Shelf Awareness handpicks some 2016 favorites from the colorful world of comics.

Jennifer L. Holm and her brother Matthew Holm, the team behind Babymouse and Squish, launch their My First Comics series with two board books about feelings: I'm Sunny! and I'm Grumpy (Random House). As the author posted on Nerdy Book Club, "Comics do a great job of teaching the building blocks of reading in a visual way. Children can learn inference by studying the pictures. They learn about dialogue because they can 'see' it in a speech bubble. They learn to navigate left to right on the page. They start to understand human emotions visually."

We sing its praises from the crow's nest: Jessica Young and illustrator James Burks's early chapter book series Haggis and Tank Unleashed (Branches/Scholastic) debuts with All Paws on Deck, the entertaining story of two dogs who embark on an imaginary pirate adventure. Puns, ahoy! Children ages 5 to 8 will never forget the difference between a desert island and a dessert island.

British author-illustrator Jamie Smart's milk-snortingly funny Bunny vs. Monkey (David Fickling/Scholastic) for ages 7 to 10 is an irreverent, over-the-top comic series debut about an egomaniacal monkey who crashes from space and decides to rule the woods as emperor of Monkey-topia. Add Skunky, a genius inventor who builds the giant Mole-a-Rolla, to the mix and watch the bumbling woodland animals scramble for power.

Sara Varon's expanded edition of Sweaterweather (First Second/Roaring Brook)--also featuring animal characters--is a fascinating glimpse into her creative process for ages 8 and older.

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


Sleeping Bear Press: When You Go Into Nature by Sheri M Bestor, Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The Writer's Life

Ed Boland: Hard Reality in the Public Schools

photo: Sam Zalutsky

Ed Boland has dedicated his professional life to nonprofit causes, predominantly educational institutions, as a fundraiser and communications expert. Boland was an admissions officer at his alma mater, Fordham University, and later at Yale, and lived in China as a Princeton in Asia Fellow. He resides in New York with his husband. The Battle for Room 314 (see our review below) is his first book and tells the story of his eye-opening year of teaching in a New York City high school.

What was your teaching experience before you decided to do this?

I had taught swimming to little kids, I taught art history to senior citizens, I taught in China and I taught in the program where I work now; I had been a TA in its middle school history section. So I thought I knew vaguely what I was going to get into. I knew it would be tougher, but I had no idea what was waiting for me.

So you weren't going in totally naïve.

No. I worked with kids and worked in schools and worked in higher education and international education, and also went to the trouble of getting the degree in advance. Some people say, "Were you embedded in that classroom, was this a journalism project from the get-go?" No, I really thought I was going to do this.

Do you think you'd still be teaching if you'd started at a different school?

That's an excellent question. I think there was a decent chance, but in some ways I'm glad I saw a more realistic and dire situation because honestly I think I am not a master teacher, I wasn't even a good teacher, but I'm a storyteller. And hopefully I will have far more effect on the education debate by telling the stories of the children I taught.

It seems like a lot of your students didn't view education as a path to a better life. Why do you think that is?

I think so much of it has to do with family mindset and the extent of poverty. I think that families that have been in long-term multigenerational poverty, long-term unemployment, public housing, haven't seen people in their communities getting degrees, going to work. They are really disaffected from the broader system. They don't feel vested, because they're not; the system doesn't allow them to be vested. And I think that the kids pick up on that very early. "Someone in my house or I am about to be evicted, incarcerated, stopped and frisked, about to beaten down. How are polynomials really going to help me?"

And what does a teacher say to that?

The good answer is that we all need to broaden the debate. We are so fixated on the schools and the teachers as the answers. And that's not fair. These are social problems not of the schools' making that schools are poorly equipped to solve. And yet we ask them to deal with the brunt of all these problems every day. And the solutions we offer are charter schools, holding teachers to higher standards, Common Core, all these classroom- and school-based solutions. The real solutions are outside of those systems. They have to do with how we fund schools and the fact that we've created this apartheid school system: bad schools for brown kids and good schools for white kids, by and large. Our schools are more segregated now than at any time since 1968. We need to broaden the debate: segregation is the real enemy, poverty is the real enemy. And that's not an easy solution, but in my view, it is the solution. It's not lazy teachers, it's not lousy curriculum, it's poverty that is the culprit.

You offer a lot of good suggestions for how to improve the public schools. It seems many of them would require more funding when we've been seeing a lot of cuts.

I would offer this though: there's a lot that we could do that would not cost us a dime. If you look at immigration reform, if you look at a movement to end mass incarceration for non-violent crimes, if you look at instituting a living wage--none of those are going to raise taxes at all. There were parents who wouldn't come to school meetings because they were afraid of being deported or of interacting with the system. You had parents working two and three jobs who couldn't show up or answer your call. So there's a lot we could do that wouldn't even cost us any money. Then imagine if we did start to invest in it instead of in wars and in building prisons.

Do you see any positive trends for the public schools?

While I certainly don't see charter schools as in any way a replacement for the public school system--and "charter schools" is an impossibly broad term because you're talking about for-profit schools, public charter schools, online schools--I think that the not-for-profit networks have shown some real progress in reforming education. They have acted as excellent laboratories in showing results with lower-income kids. But I see them as laboratories, not as replacements. And I wish there were better sharing between public and charter schools. One thing I don't like about charter schools is, if it's really going to be an experiment, one of the underlying logics of an experiment is to have random assignment. And the fact that there are lotteries and applications and all that--the fact that you even have to fill out a postcard to apply to a charter school will automatically preclude the quarter of families who are in the most chaos and are least equipped to navigate their child's educational success. I wish kids were sent to charter schools in the same way they're sent to public schools. And the metadata shows that they're performing at the same level as public schools. That's why you have to figure out who is adding to the debate, who's really adding innovations, and who is just looking to profit or play. "Let's get together and form a school!" Would you do that with a hospital?

What would you most like readers to take away from your book?

I have to say this: the fact that I had a rough year teaching is not the story. The story is that the life circumstances of the kids I taught were so harrowing and that these very smart kids were so hobbled by poverty. We need to understand that. We're so reliant on our Hollywood hero, that myth that we love, that a dedicated teacher walks into a classroom and 90 minutes later everyone is on their way to the American Dream. People need to understand that as comforting as that is, that is not the reality. My version is closer to the reality. We'll never be able to reform the system unless we embrace that and understand it.

And people say, "Oh, you taught for one year. What do you have to say on this subject?" That's a fair question, but what I tell them is: so many teachers steel themselves to the reality around them that they just teach. I was the person who looked at my students and could see only their life circumstances and I couldn't get that out of my head. For a lot of veterans, out of necessity they soldier on, they're inured to the reality. They couldn't tell the story in the same way as someone who is seeing it for the first time. --Sara Catterall

Book Candy

Valentine's Day Prep

Love is in the air. With February 14 and all it represents approaching, Brightly advised: "Move over, Mr. Darcy: 9 more literary characters to fall for." Buzzfeed asked: "What's the most romantic literary Valentine's Day gift?" And Signature unearthed "10 utterly unromantic quotes in anticipation of Valentine's Day."


Bustle suggested "10 ways to make book clubs fun and not intense because we're all already busy."


"Listening to music and reading not only can go together, but can make fantastic partners and intensify both experiences," the Guardian noted in featuring "the best books-and-music pairings."


"Handbag essentials for every Jane Austen fan" were displayed by Quirk Books.


The waterbed, for example. Mental Floss found "8 things invented by famous writers."

Book Review



by Matt Gallagher

In the opening pages of Youngblood, Lieutenant Jack Porter reflects on his time in Iraq and the challenges of explaining his experiences to those who weren't there. "What was it like? Hell if I know. But next time someone asks.... I'll answer crooked, and I'll answer long. And when they get confused or angry, I'll smile. Finally, I'll think. Someone who understands." What unfolds in the following pages of Matt Gallagher's debut novel is an exquisite story that perfectly reflects that crooked, long, confusing, angering explanation: the story of a young officer trying to maintain a sense of sanity and control in the face of a situation that defies both.

With the United States military preparing to withdraw from Iraq, Porter and his men have shifted from thinking of home as a place they've left to a place they're looking forward to returning to. But before they are redeployed, Sergeant Daniel Chambers is assigned to their unit--bringing with him an aggressive style born of three past tours and a host of secrets. As Porter is drawn into the stories about Chambers's dark past, he begins to question everything he thought he knew and understood about the war, his place in it and himself.

Gallagher draws on his experience as a former U.S. Army captain--which he wrote about in his war memoir, Kaboom--to offer a fresh perspective on the war in Iraq. Youngblood explores the moral ambiguities of war as well as the specific trials of what it means to be a leader in a place and time that defies logic and law. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: This novel by a former Army captain brings a fresh perspective on the war in Iraq and explores the moral ambiguities of war and leadership.

Atria, $26, hardcover, 9781501105746

Unspeakable Things

by Kathleen Spivack

In her first novel, Unspeakable Things, poet Kathleen Spivack (With Robert Lowell and His Circle) focuses on Herbert Hofrat, a former Austrian government official who has escaped the Nazis with the members of his immediate family, save one son, settling them in a tiny apartment in New York City. Hofrat has been "chosen to live the hardest life of all: that of the survivor, the savior," spending wearying days alternating between a dim corner of the New York Public Library and an automat on 42nd Street.

Anna, Herbert's second cousin, is a physically deformed White Russian countess nicknamed "the Rat." Herbert helps engineer Anna's flight to the U.S., but even after she's reached this safe haven, she's haunted by the memory of an erotic encounter with the monk Rasputin that leaves mysterious burn marks on her thighs, explicitly described in Spivack's lush, if occasionally overcooked, prose. Meanwhile, a sinister German pediatrician named Felix lives in New York researching the "study and propagation of genius," and he turns the Tolstoi Quartet, emigrant musicians from Vienna, into involuntary participants in scientific investigations that conjure up the terrifying activities of real-life Nazi physicians. The novel climaxes in a highly charged encounter between Felix and Anna that knits these strands together.

Weariness and heartbreak are the dominant moods of this novel. While Spivack maintains a close focus on the hardships of the Hofrat family, she doesn't lose sight of the fact that this drama is playing out on a wider stage. Despite its strongly contrasting literary styles, Unspeakable Things feels like a tightly coiled spring, one that Kathleen Spivack manages to keep firmly under control. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Combining realistic and surreal elements, poet Kathleen Spivack's first novel explores the lives of a family of Jewish refugees in early 1940s New York.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385353960

Mystery & Thriller

Where It Hurts

by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the Moe Prager PI series and Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series, introduces Gus Murphy, a retired Suffolk County, N.Y., police officer who now drives an airport shuttle for the Paragon Hotel in the town of Bohemia. Murphy, haunted by the unexpected death of his son from a hidden heart defect two years earlier, also lives in the dilapidated old hotel.

Tommy Delcamino, a low-level thief Murphy arrested while still on the force, pays him a visit to request help. Tommy's son, TJ, was tortured to death, and the police seem to be ignoring the murder, so Delcamino wants Murphy to look into it. Murphy explodes, thinking that the ex-con is trying to take advantage of Murphy's own personal tragedy. When Murphy later goes looking for Delcamino, intending to apologize for his behavior, he encounters two armed men, but they make their getaway and shoot Murphy in the leg before he finds the body of the elder Delcamino.

Still hesitant to investigate the murders, Murphy decides he needs to know why these men were killed. He had no answers, no one to blame for his son's death, and he thinks solving this case may help him heal. Instead, he opens a huge can of worms that just might kill him.

Sharp, clever dialogue, a dynamic cast of characters that represents a cross-section of Long Island cultures and an engaging plot keep Where It Hurts gripping and entertaining. Murphy's authenticity, his flaws and his complexity make him a character readers will eagerly anticipate in future books. An excellent beginning to a series with great potential. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Retired New York cop Gus Murphy tries to find closure for his son's unexpected death by investigating the murders of a ex-con and his son.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 9780399173035

The Evening Spider

by Emily Arsenault

Mystery, murder and supernatural entities are at the crux of The Evening Spider, a gothic suspense story by Emily Arsenault. Based partly on an actual crime committed in the late 19th century, the story revolves around two women who live in different centuries but have resided in the same house. In 1885, Frances Barnett tells her story via journal entries written from inside the Northampton Lunatic Hospital in Massachusetts, where her well-meaning husband, Matthew, has locked her away. She slowly reveals why she's been institutionalized, starting with her distress at learning she was pregnant--she'd never contemplated that possible aspect of married life--and her subsequent difficulties adjusting to life as a new mother.

Meanwhile, in 2014, Abby Bernaki is having difficulties of her own as a new mother. Although she loves her daughter dearly, the sameness of her days presses in on her, forcing her to remember events from her past that she'd just as soon forget. When odd noises and weird coincidences take place in the old house she lives in with her husband, Abby begins an elaborate search into the checkered past of the house's previous owners.

The Evening Spider doesn't quite fall into the pure mystery genre that Arsenault (The Broken Teaglass) usually writes, as it contains ghostly and supernatural elements. However, with its basis in a real crime, including excerpts from news stories from that era, readers can take delight in Arsenault's highly inventive imagination as she deftly interweaves the stories of these two young mothers searching for answers. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Two women, separated by more than a century, face odd circumstances in their respective pasts while navigating the ups and downs of new motherhood.

Morrow, $15.99, paperback, 9780062379313

Science Fiction & Fantasy

City of Blades

by Robert Jackson Bennett

General Turyin Mulaghesh is supposedly retiring. She's been exiled to the city of Voortyashtan to wait until she can draw her pension--at least, that's the story she gives to cover her true purpose.

Voortyashtan, once the stronghold of a war goddess, is now a city of industry that has financial and political ties to Turyin's home country across the sea, Saypur. The Saypuri prime minister has sent the general on a secret mission to find the truth behind a discovery in the old city, one with the potential to change--and perhaps destroy--the new world.

Turyin is weary of war, sick of death and tired of watching her young soldiers die in battle. When she witnesses the presumed dead war deity rise from the ocean to destroy the local mines (a source of a mysterious energy), Turyin undertakes a supernatural journey to the goddess's afterlife, which is filled with violently angry dead soldiers awaiting their promised return to a glorious war to end all wars.

The aging general, foul-mouthed and jaded, must find a way to stop this world-ending conflict with the dead, since she's the most qualified to do so in this city of politicians and scientists. Along the way, though, she learns to trust an engineer who's hiding something amid the reconstruction efforts in the old city. Robert Jackson Bennett's sequel to 2014's City of Stairs is thrilling, deeply thoughtful about the nature of war, and just odd enough, while still offering analogues to our own world to remain familiar. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This excellently plotted sequel to City of Stairs mixes science and the divine and meditations on the nature of war, and has a satisfying, exciting conclusion.

Broadway Books, $15, paperback, 9780553419719

Biography & Memoir

Always Too Much and Never Enough: A Memoir

by Jasmin Singer

Although Jasmin Singer says her journey toward health and self-actualization "started with juice," it is the wisdom of her grandmother that suffuses and illuminates each page of this memoir: "You are exactly where you should be." From the earliest scenes describing her parents' divorce and revolving step-parents--when food became the one constant Singer could control--to a painful moment in a San Francisco bathroom stall avoiding her own reflection in the mirror, she is unflinchingly forthright and refreshingly authentic.

For years Singer felt "simply too much... too needy, too clingy, too desperate.... It seemed I took up too much space wherever I went, not just physically." However, each stage of her journey has a significant and crucial role in her identity. When a friend introduces her to a vegan lifestyle, food becomes about more than just herself and she permanently transforms her relationship with what she eats, eventually finding her life's work in animal activism. When she and her partner attempt a juice fast, the detox is much more than physical. Singer realizes "that food is indeed the most personal political act there is," and this change in perspective is as life altering as the 100 pounds she sheds. Dedicating herself to a cause creates an impetus for self-care, while her new physique creates a profound understanding of how people are treated based on appearance. Singer's memoir is a testament to how the greatest transformations are often intangible. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: When the author of this memoir lost 100 pounds, she gained a different, healthier perspective on life.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 9780425279571


Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America

by Kali Nicole Gross

When Kali Nicole Gross (Colored Amazons) came across the case of an unusual 1887 Philadelphia murder, she found a story with many layers. In Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America, she explores the intricacies of that case and its implications on criminal justice, a culture of violence and conceptions of race and gender.

Hannah Mary Tabbs was an unusual post-Reconstruction black woman--she unabashedly pursued sex outside of marriage and used violence and physical threats to make a reputation for herself in her black community in Philadelphia's Seventh Ward. In the white community, meanwhile, she upheld the idea of womanly virtue and subservience to her white employers. Gross argues that this manipulative, variable representation of herself allowed Tabbs to almost get away with a serious crime. Tabbs had a lover whose headless, limbless torso turned up on the edge of a pond outside of town. The man convicted for that murder was, Gross contends, a patsy. The skin tones of the various players in this love triangle appear to have played as large a role as their guilt or innocence.

In prose that demonstrates careful research and offers a realistic reconstruction of the crime, Gross comments on social standards for morality and relationships between races and genders. The case of the disembodied torso is not only a sensational piece of true crime, but an opportunity to reflect on these continuing complexities. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: In this shrewd historical study, a salacious murder trial in 1887 Philadelphia offers insights on criminal justice, violence, race and gender.

Oxford University Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780190241216

Current Events & Issues

The Lovers: Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing

by Rod Nordland

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rod Nordland had an opportunity to interview Zakia and Ali, two Afghan teenagers whose families threatened their lives because they were in love, he saw an opportunity to learn about Afghanistan's tradition of honor killings. Yet what was meant to be a single interview became more. While the country is no longer under the complete control of the Taliban, its people are unable to escape the Taliban's malicious and harmful attitudes, particularly toward women. Thus Zakia's family considered her to be property, and when she pursued her relationship with Ali, a youth from a different ethnic group, her family went mad with rage, forcing Zakia to take refuge in a woman's shelter. This is where Nordland first interviewed her months later.

When Nordland published an article on the couple in the New York Times, it unleashed a torrent of concern around the world for Zakia and Ali. Many readers felt he was responsible for exposing the young lovers to greater harm and was obligated to help them escape it, though this might contravene his journalistic objectivity. Others wanted to help them escape. Nordland was faced with a decision: leave the article as a standalone piece and not risk the lives of Ali and Zakia any further, or follow their story to garner more international attention and help. Ultimately, Nordland reached out with a larger group of journalists to record their ongoing struggle, and while he hopes his articles will give Zakia and Ali a better chance at being together, he ends up playing a more direct role in their survival. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A reporter examines Afghanistan's practice of honor killing while sharing the remarkable story of two young lovers who defy society's mores to be together.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062378828

Social Science

Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World

by Wade Graham

When discussing urban planning, it's easy to forget the intricacies that go into creating the systems and structures that affect billions of people on a daily basis. From how streets are built to zoning laws that keep ethnic minorities ghettoized, every piece of the modern city comes from decisions made by architects, public servants and entrepreneurs who wanted to make their mark on humanity. Wade Graham's Dream Cities follows those men and women, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Jane Jacobs and Daniel Burnham, as they dreamt new ways for us to live, and battled to turn those dreams into reality.

Dream Cities highlights seven major theories or styles of urban planning, like Wright's focus on single-family homes that ultimately lead to cookie-cutter suburbia, and Le Corbusier's brutalist slabs that provided the main inspiration for high-rise apartment complexes. Teasing out the history of thinkers and the ultimate impact of their work, Graham (American Eden) creates an interesting mix of biographies: that of his human subjects, and the cities and countries whose shape they altered. While the book doesn't have much of a thematic structure (there's no summation or look to the future, for instance), attentive readers can easily see how the buildings and streets around them relate to the various threads Graham establishes. It's no small feat for a book to change how someone conceptualizes her world, and Dream Cities does just that. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Dream Cities offers a fascinating look at seven trends in urban planning that shaped the modern world.

Harper, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062196316


The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School

by Ed Boland

On the fifth day of Ed Boland's first year teaching history in a New York City public school, he found himself yelling helplessly at a girl who stood on her desk and said things to him that can't be printed here.

The Battle for Room 314 is Boland's story of his frustrating and humiliating year of teaching, told with humor and painful honesty. Boland worked for a nonprofit that mentored promising disadvantaged students, but he thought he might accomplish more as a teacher. He quit his job and, after three years of training, he was hired at a school that looked auspicious on paper. He almost immediately found himself struggling to hang on day to day. Most of his students were from working poor families in public housing. Some had been homeless or sold drugs or sex. Many had severe behavioral problems. "I had taken classes in lesson planning, evaluation, psychology, and research. Next to nothing was said about what a first-year teacher most needs to know: how to control a classroom." This, along with the school's poor management and the poverty and violence of his students' lives, set him up to fail. He gradually realized that more importantly, they set his students up to fail.

Boland offers advice to new teachers and recommendations for systemic change. He hopes that in telling this story, he will move the debate on education to address the problems of long-term poverty, racial segregation, immigration reform and unequally funded schools that prevent too many students from building useful rewarding lives. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A man who taught for a year in a failing New York City public school argues that societal problems need to be addressed before full educational reform can succeed.

Grand Central, $26, hardcover, 9781455560615

Children's & Young Adult

Mom, There's a Bear at the Door

by Sabine Lipan, trans. by Tulipan Verlag, illus. by Manuela Olten

Something's up with that big brown bear, because before the story ever starts, he's hiding behind a tree. Then, a boy spots the bear in his apartment hallway, looking terribly suspicious. The boy closes the door behind him and says to his cake-baking mother: "Mom, there's a bear at the door!"

So begins this charming, ingeniously crafted German import, with a funny conversation between mother and son. Mom's lines are in red: "How did the bear get up here?" "He took the elevator." "The elevator?" "The elevator." "The bear pressed the button and took the elevator?" "Of course! The elevator doesn't work if no one presses the button." As the boy imagines how the bear might have found his way from the forest to their 11th-floor apartment, the illustrations show the bear doing exactly what the boy is describing to his mother, whether it's riding the bus to the city or cycling to the bus station, with a helmet, of course. ("And what does the bear want, here on our eleventh floor?" "To look at the sea.") In a wonderfully appealing double-page cityscape, bear and boy are shown eating mom-made Black Forest cake on a big red picnic blanket on top of a tall building, with a distant view of the sea.

Author Sabine Lipan skillfully captures the simultaneously reasonable and improbable imaginings of a young boy. Illustrator Manuela Olten's playful, deliciously creamy acrylic paint and colored pencil artwork will have readers longing for their own unexpected forest visitor. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this winning German picture book, a boy sees a bear in the hallway of his 11th-floor apartment and starts imagining how he got there from his home in the forest.

Eerdmans, $16, hardcover, 34p., ages 4-8, 9780802854605

Masterpieces Up Close: Western Painting from the 14th to 20th Centuries

by Claire d'Harcourt, trans. by Shoshanna Kirk

French author Claire d'Harcourt (Art Up Close, Louvre Up Close) wants to make very sure no one looks at da Vinci's semi-smiling Mona Lisa--or any other painting--without really seeing it. For anyone perusing her gorgeous, generously oversized Masterpieces Up Close: Western Painting from the 14th to 20th Centuries, there's absolutely no chance of that happening.

Each of the 21 full-color reproductions of paintings--from Giotto's 14th-century Scrovegni Chapel to Warhol's Marilyn (1964)--sits side by side with a set of specific, circled details from the painting in question--an eye, a dog's head, a globe, a chandelier. In Vermeer's The Artist's Studio, for instance, readers will see the small round image of a shiny two-headed eagle that's part of a chandelier, then look over to the painting to try to find where it is located. (A quick flip to the back reveals 21 lift-the-flap "keys" for any elusive ones, plus notes on each artist.) A brief caption discusses some historical, psychological, artistic or technical aspect of the visual detail. For example, The Artist's Studio chandelier caption asks the question: "How did Vermeer capture the sunlight that bathes the room?"

Not only is the "find the detail" activity fun in itself, this level of interaction encourages close scrutiny of these complex, often mysterious masterpieces, and should spur lively discussions about art and art history. As in many of the best books, Masterpieces Up Close asks more questions than it answers. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Twenty-one of Western art's most famous masterpieces, from da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Warhol's Marilyn, leap to life in this innovative, interactive book.

Princeton Architectural Press, $29.95, hardcover, 64p., ages 9-up, 9781616894146


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Dragon Kings! I'm thrilled to bring you DRAGON KISS. The world of the Dragon Kings keeps expanding, and this story brings us Alasdair and Lotti, a powerful couple who have overcome all odds to find love. But a deadly enemy intends to rip them apart.

I can't wait for you to fall in love with Alasdair and Lotti as I have.


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Dragon Kiss (A Dragon Kings Novella) by Donna Grant

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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