Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 18, 2016

Mariner Books: Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real about the End by Alua Arthur

From My Shelf

Celebrate Women's History Month with Books for Young Readers

Nellie Bly, Susanna Wright and assorted belles and bank robbers top our Women's History Month recommendations, but don't miss Shelf's longer list.

In 1887, 23-year-old "Nellie Bly" (born Elizabeth Cochran) from Pennsylvania moved to New York City to become a journalist. The World hired her to pretend to be insane, so she could be committed to an asylum on Blackwell's Island and report on the horrific conditions from the inside. "How will you get me out?" Nellie asked her editor. "I don't know. Only get in," he said. In Ten Days a Madwoman (Viking)--a truly thrilling, appealingly designed, photo-laden biography by Deborah Noyes (Encyclopedia of the End)--readers will not only get a chilling look into the horrors of Blackwell's Island, but also a sense of women's challenges in 19th-century America. (Ages 10-up)

England-born Quaker Susanna Wright (1697-1794) was a frontierswoman in colonial America, a renowned poet and a political activist who worked for Native American rights and was influential at the highest levels of Pennsylvania government. In The Extraordinary Suzy Wright (Abrams)--a handsomely designed, finely crafted biography--Teri Kanefield (The Girl from the Tar Paper School) tells Wright's story--and that of early Pennsylvania--in crystal-clear prose enhanced by period illustrations, letters and contemporary photographs. (Ages 8-12)

A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls (Candlewick) is Jessica Spotswood's (Cahill Witch Chronicles) anthology of new stories about "clever, interesting American girls throughout history." It's a terrific collection written by "an impressive sisterhood" of 15 YA authors, including Andrea Cremer, Marie Lu, Marissa Meyer and Elizabeth Wein. Readers will find themselves entrenched in 1848 Texas (Leslye Walton's "El Destinos") or 1967 California (Kekla Magoon's "Pulse of the Panthers"). As Spotswood writes in her introduction, "They debate marriage proposals, murder, and politics with equal aplomb." (Ages 14-up)  --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Sleeping Bear Press: A Kurta to Remember by Gauri Dalvi Pandya, Illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

The Writer's Life

Danielle Dutton: Championing Women Writers, Past and Present

photo: Sarah Shatz

Danielle Dutton is the author of the prose collection Attempts at Life and the experimental novel S P R A W L. In 2010, she founded the small press Dorothy, which publishes works "mostly by women" and was described by Flavorwire as "slyly changing the industry for the better." Dutton's latest novel, Margaret the First (Catapult, March 15, 2016), pays homage to Margaret Cavendish, a 17th-century English duchess who broke from convention by writing poems, plays and philosophy and being the first woman to attend a meeting at the Royal Society of London.

What sparked your interest in Margaret Cavendish?

I first read about her in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, in this very colorful description of the "hare-brained, fantastical" Margaret Cavendish. Woolf isn't overly kind to Margaret, though you get the sense she wishes she could be. She writes: "[Cavendish] should have had a microscope put in her hand. She should have been taught to look at the stars and reason scientifically." I first read A Room when I was about 24; it had a big impact on me, but I didn't really home in on Margaret until I re-encountered her a few years later, in a course I took in graduate school on the science and literature of the 17th century. This time, I was totally struck by her, and the more I learned, the more wonderful she seemed: "fantastical," yes, but "hare-brained," not so much.

How did you tackle the historical research--on a regimented schedule or whenever inspiration struck? 

Much more inspiration than regimen! Maybe I should preface this by saying that I was a history major in college, specifically focused on British history, and lived in England for a year after. So there was a certain amount of grounding I went in with. Beyond that, I went wherever my fascinations led me. I read books about Margaret, of course, and about other figures of the era, but I also read books on 17th-century garden design, and recipes and medical treatments (often there wasn't much difference between a recipe and a medical treatment), and about the scientific experiments and instruments of the age, which themselves could be quite fantastical. As a writer I tend to be driven by wonder, and I just sort of filled myself up on all of this.

Margaret saw an explosion in publishing during her lifetime (she talks of "new scores of pamphlets being printed each day"). It makes me think of how digital media has proliferated knowledge in a similarly novel way. Are there cultural similarities between that time and now?

In some ways, Margaret's time is the beginning of now. This was the start of the Enlightenment, and of science and technology as we think of it. The generative sloppiness of the Renaissance was giving way to all-things-empirical, and Margaret, with her ambition and strangeness, had a foot in each world. She was arguably the first tabloid celebrity--as the original "daily papers" printed gossip about her. But she also had very serious aspirations, and was the first woman invited to the Royal Society, the fountainhead of modern science.

You've mentioned that you began writing this novel 10 years ago. I imagine that in that amount of time, a character becomes intimately woven into your thoughts. Has Margaret affected how you see the world or yourself in a way that will persist even now that the book is finished? 

Yes, sure. Of course, the Margaret who landed on the page has plenty of pieces of me in her, but in writing her I'm sure I internalized pieces of her as well. One thing I think a lot about in this moment, just as Margaret the First is officially making its way out into the world, is how nervous and ambitious Margaret herself felt for each of her books upon their publication. But she was also so bold, so sure that she should be read. So I do think about her, about her ambition, and remind myself that it is natural to want your book to be read.

Was it ever a struggle to imagine how Margaret might have felt about a given event or situation, particularly those that were deeply personal (e.g., her challenges with childbirth or her relationship with her husband)? How did you approach that?

Absolutely. I thought a lot about how a person in the 17th century would conceptualize "the self," for example. I was always trying to be as historically accurate as I could, but I was also dealing with a lot of psychology, with thoughts and feelings, the stuff not found in the history books. Ultimately my allegiance was to the artistic needs of the book I was writing, the story I was telling, which often meant having to imagine my way into what Margaret might have thought.

In the 17th century, it was highly unusual to come across women who wrote books. Today, it's common, and yet it's been argued that male authors still receive more attention and review in major publications. Do you think women still face greater barriers to being taken seriously as artists?

Even without things like the VIDA numbers to demonstrate that this is the case, I would know it to be true based on my own experiences as a woman and on the stories and experiences of so many other women. Women have a harder time being taken seriously as human beings, much less as artists. There's an example I return to in my mind, because I found it so insidious and illustrative: I once heard a very intelligent and extremely well-read man say that he liked a particular book he was reading because he couldn't tell from the writing that it was written by a woman. Too bad I didn't have a copy of A Room of One's Own in my bag to toss in his general direction. 

Margaret's husband, William, was supportive of her trailblazing and was progressive in his own way. At one point, his own plays were even mistakenly credited to her. How unusual was it for a man of his time to support his wife in becoming a public intellectual? 

Very, very unusual! It's hard to imagine her career without him, but even more extraordinary, to me, was how unconditionally loving he was, and how (mostly) uncondescending. That warmth and respect became a crucial thing in the book (and no doubt in her life), because otherwise Margaret's world was not all that kind to her. --Annie Atherton

Book Candy

Wedding Items for Book Lovers

Buzzfeed found "19 gorgeous things every book lover needs for their wedding."


Chronicle Books rounded up "12 dogs mesmerized by the magic of reading."


"The best umbrellas for bookworms" were featured by Quirk Books, which noted that "you may not be able to stay out of the rain all spring, but at least with these umbrellas, you can look fantastic while you splash through the puddles to the bookstore!"


Author Joanna Cannon chose her "top 10 clerics in fiction" for the Guardian, which noted that "asking, answering--and sometimes sneakily evading--readers' spiritual questions, literature offers many memorable men of the cloth."


"A library in the shape of an open book is expected to open next year in Dubai," Bookshelf reported.


"These gorgeous bookshelves look like Pantone color swatches," Mental Floss noted in featuring One, "a concept bookcase designed by Florence-based Invasione Creativa."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Book Thief

Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is narrated by Death itself, an appropriate guide for the grisly era the book depicts. It follows Liesel Meminger, an illiterate German nine-year-old sent to live with working-class foster parents after her brother dies. The Nazis are in power, and Liesel is exposed to the regime's escalating horrors. She takes solace in learning to read with her foster father, in stealing books the Nazis want to destroy, and in befriending the Jewish man her foster parents hide in the basement. Omniscient Death haunts them all the while.

Published originally on March 14, 2006, The Book Thief spent 230 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Its moving story and thematic depth found a much wider audience than its YA target. In 2013, the book was adapted into a movie starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and Sophie Nélisse, with a score by John Williams. Zusak (also the author of I Am the Messenger) just concluded a 10-city U.S. tour marking the release of a 10th-anniversary edition of The Book Thief (Knopf, $19.99, 9781101934180). The book is still popular a decade later: his St. Louis stop drew 998 people, two shy of the building's fire code. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

by Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, Hazel Gaynor et al.

The Armistice that officially ended World War I came at the stroke of 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, but in many ways the war never ended. In the short story collection Fall of Poppies, nine authors of historical fiction explore the aftermath of the Great War and its effects on survivors across Europe.

Several of the stories address the moment of the Armistice itself: the news arriving via a telephone call or the ringing of church bells. The protagonist of Beatriz Williams's (Tiny Little Thing) "An American Airman in Paris" recalls the doomed mission he was flying as the agreement was signed. In "The Photograph," Kate Kerrigan (The Dress) examines the complicated assignments (and emotions) of British soldiers assigned to quash Irish rebellion during the war. Lauren Willig, author of the Pink Carnation series, shifts back and forth in time to probe the long-term effects of war in "The Record Set Right."

Set in a variety of locations--Paris, Dublin, rural Alsace, the American South--the stories form a compelling, heartbreaking mosaic of the wartime experiences shared by soldiers, nurses, civilians caught in the crossfire of battle, and those who loved them. The titular poppies, still a symbol of the Armistice, are woven into every story. Hazel Gaynor (A Memory of Violets) concludes the collection with "Hush," which ends not only with poppies but also with daffodils and hope. Readers of historical fiction, especially fans of these particular novelists, will find much to enjoy here. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An anthology of short stories explores the end of World War I and its far-reaching effects on survivors.

Morrow, $14.99, paperback, 9780062418548


by Saleem Haddad

Early in Saleem Haddad's compelling debut novel, Guapa, the narrator informs readers that "the government here does not answer to the needs and desires of the people... people must answer to the government." Indeed, for Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arabic country roiling in the midst of the Arab Spring, the expectations of the police state, as well as those of traditional society, feel like a constant interrogation, creating a sense of anomie so pervasive that Rasa cannot stay connected even with those closest to him.

On the morning following Rasa's grandmother's horrified discovery of him and his lover, Taymour, a man of social standing, Rasa reflects on his life: the loss of both his parents at a young age, his inability to fit in at university in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and his disillusionment with the revolution in his home country, which has shifted from a united populism to Islamism and cynicism. The explorations of sexuality, religion, politics and internationalism are organic and nuanced, making Rasa's reflections believable and engaging, and the setting convincing. As in life, big issues emerge from actual individuals.

The ending feels a bit anticlimactic, in that it intentionally avoids facing certain conflicts entirely head on. And yet, this feels true to life. For Rasa and his associates, much is still uncertain, and much is still in flux. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

Discover: A troubled gay, Arabic narrator seeks both an identity and stability in a place that no longer seems capable of providing either.

Other Press, $16.95, paperback, 9781590517697

Young Once

by Patrick Modiano, trans. by Damion Searls

Patrick Modiano's Young Once opens shortly before both Odile and her husband Louis's 35th birthday, when Louis is caught in the rain and begins to remember getting out of military service on a similar rainy day 15 years before. The remainder of the novel is his memory of that time.

A mysterious, quickly made pal of two months helps Louis get dry shoes and a room with a bath, and promises to introduce him to an important friend who will give him a job. Odile, similarly searching for employment, meets a talent scout for a record company who promises to give her work. The two 19-year-olds are thrown together in postwar Paris, and have only each other to cling to when they are asked to transport of suitcase full of money out of the country.

Modiano's stark, unadorned style is anything but simple. His world is opaque and doesn't surrender answers readily. Characters are sometimes little more than names whose actions are unpredictable. His language can be vague, often ambiguous. Unlike some of Modiano's later plots that lose steam halfway through or stubbornly refuse to tie up at the end, the plot of Young Once continues to build throughout.

Though the reader is perfectly aware from the first page that Louis and Odile will marry and have children, Modiano still manages to make their coming together appear fragile and endangered as they escape from their youth to find themselves at the rich old age of 35, convinced that now at last they are through changing, not realizing how young they still are. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A married couple in their mid-30s look back on their youth in postwar Paris.

New York Review Books, $14.95, paperback, 9781590179550

Mystery & Thriller

The Travelers

by Chris Pavone

Will Rhodes has hit a brick wall in his great-on-paper life. He married Chloe, his ideal woman, only to find out that marriage is tough. Both spouses work for Travelers magazine, Will as a writer and Chloe as a contributing editor, yet they earn little besides fabulous trips and conflicting schedules. Abroad, Will meets impossibly sexy fellow journalist Elle and eventually succumbs to temptation. Moments after his transgression, Will learns that their encounter was recorded. Elle says she works for the CIA, and they want to hire Will to identify persons of interest in foreign countries under the cover of Travelers. If Will agrees, he will earn $10,000 a month. If not, Chloe will see the sex tape. Bewildered and trapped, Will soon finds himself enmeshed in a life of hand-to-hand combat training, spy cameras and deception. His actions have implications abroad and at home, where his editor and friend Malcolm is already secretly using Travelers to work for an enemy of Will's recruiters. As he begins to glimpse more threads in the web, Will wonders if he signed on with the wrong side and if his answers may lie within Travelers itself.

Making subtle commentary in the midst of a beautifully executed thriller and without sacrificing pace has become something of trademark for Chris Pavone (The Accident and The Expats). He constantly misdirects readers' suspicions until the bloody, adrenaline-soaked conclusion, and his smart maneuvering makes having the rug pulled from under a missed guess almost as fun as getting one right. The hard-earned resolution leaves plenty of openings for the sequel fans will surely demand. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this sharp, fun thriller, a travel writer learns his magazine isn't what he thought when he's pressed into espionage service.

Crown, $27, hardcover, 9780385348485

Off the Grid

by C.J. Box

If the whole state of Wyoming seems isolated, the Red Desert is where local loners and iconoclasts go when they really want to go off the grid. In C.J. Box's 17th Joe Pickett novel, Joe's ex-Special Forces friend and fugitive outlaw Nate Romanowski ("kind of a homicidal libertarian folk hero") is tracked down by two men from unnamed federal agencies. They strong-arm him into taking his guns and Jeep CJ-5 to the desolate Red Desert to help stop a cyber-terrorist organization and its charismatic Saudi-born, U.S.-educated leader. At the same time, Wyoming's blunt anti-Washington Governor Rulon orders Game Warden Joe to go to the Red Desert to sniff out what the Feds are doing "strutting around my state... bigfoot[ing] within our borders." Rulon justifies this off-the-books assignment to Joe because "your talent for bumbling around until the situation explodes into a bloodbath or a debacle is uncanny." Joe uncovers a suspicious tavern while Nate roots out an abandoned ranch with stolen 18-wheelers, Yemeni gun-toters and a bomb shelter full of techies. One bad thing leads to another, until Nate is alternating shots from his .454 Casull and .500 Wyoming Express as Joe and his M14 carbine have his back.

Box's Joe Pickett novels are first-rate, thought-provoking entertainment. They dig into timely dangers set against the Wyoming landscape, with characters both sensitive and violent, apolitical and high-principled, regular hardworking "joes" and edgy, independent mystics. Few can touch Box for spinning a good story while also making readers ponder right and wrong. Off the Grid is among his best. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Box's exceptional 17th Joe Pickett novel features Joe's lone wolf friend Nate Romanowski and a clandestine cyber-terrorism conspiracy.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 9780399176609

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Black City Saint

by Richard A. Knaak

Nick Medea is the name that Saint George goes by in Black City Saint, an urban fantasy by Richard A. Knaak (The Legends of the Dragonrealm). Nick did indeed slay the dragon 1,600 years ago, but has since been reincarnated, along with the spirit of that dragon, who's none too pleased to be trapped within the human who struck the killing blow.

Nick is a supernatural investigator in 1920s Chicago, 50 years after the Great Fire (which seems to be connected to a time when Nick let the dragon take over his body). Al Capone and Bugs Moran are leading gang bosses who, because of Prohibition, make the lives of everyone in the city just a bit more dangerous--a situation that Oberon, the supposedly dead Lord of Feirie, isn't helping as he schemes to open the gate between this world and his own.

It also doesn't help that Claryce, the reincarnation of Nick's old girlfriend, is in Chicago, making it difficult for Nick to keep tabs on Oberon while also protecting her (and he's only a little patronizing).

While the language can feel stilted at times (Nick is pretty old, though, so it's excusable), Black City Saint builds a colorful version of Chicago in the '20s, along with entertaining characters to root for. These include Feirie-born creatures like the lycanthropic Fetch, Nick's loyal ally in keeping the city safe from Wyld creatures from Feirie, as well as mortals like Detective Cortez, who knows less about the supernatural but proves willing to back up Nick when necessary.

Knaak has delivered a promising, original first novel in a planned series. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Black City Saint is a gripping look at supernatural Chicago with a hero to root for and a world to save.

Pyr, $18, paperback, 9781633881365

Food & Wine

Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals

by Lukas Volger

In Bowl, Lukas Volger (Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and Vegetarian Entrees that Won't Leave You Hungry) challenges the common association of ramen with cheap college fare by demonstrating how to create rich, satisfying vegetarian options.

Bowl goes beyond ramen to include Vietnamese pho (with rice noodles and a heavy emphasis on vegetables), dumplings and Korean bibimbap (rice topped with pickled and fresh vegetables, protein and egg). Volger encourages home cooks to experiment freely, so he recommends the best equipment and shares where to find the most flavorful staples (like ginger, scallions, greens and herbs), noodles (ramen, rice and soba), sea vegetables (kombu, nori and wakame), soy sauce/tamari, miso and other condiments. "Basics and Components" covers not only how to make broth, but includes grain preparation and even how to boil and fry an egg. Each section begins with a very simple recipe for each type of dish and then incorporates the four seasons, "to support health and sustainability through produce-buying power" by choosing seasonal and local whenever possible. Spring Ramen highlights asparagus and snap peas, Smoky Summer Pho showcases eggplant, tomatoes and sweet peppers, and Winter Bibimbap celebrates sweet potatoes and kale. While some of the well-rounded one-dish meals may be challenging for novices, a section on grain bowls will be helpful for those nights when quick and easy is needed. Bowl covers a variety of palates and skill levels and shows how anything can be better in a bowl. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: These recipes for "rich, cloudy miso-based broth engulfing a tangle of tender noodles" are crafted the vegetarian way.

Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, paperback, 9780544325289

Biography & Memoir

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End

by Katie Roiphe

Author and journalist Katie Roiphe (In Praise of Messy Lives) believes she conceived the idea for The Violet Hour when she was 12 years old and suffering a virulent form of pneumonia. Throughout her long convalescence, she developed an "endless appetite" for books about people dying. Roiphe turned to the comfort of literature to help deal with her experience; to understand and "see the world," she explains, she has "always opened a book." When Roiphe's father died of a heart attack years later, she decided to write The Violet Hour, which examines the last days of six famous writers and artists. Roiphe selected Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak and James Salter because each was "especially sensitive or attuned to death."

Roiphe interviewed a host of people associated with each subject--wives, ex-wives, children, caretakers, friends, housekeepers, nurses--in order to grasp how each artist "faced or did not face... death." The harrowing section about writer Susan Sontag, who beat cancer twice and was challenged a third time with a terminal diagnosis, shows Sontag's ferocious will. She underwent aggressive treatments while intellectually rebelling against death. John Updike also endured grueling chemotherapy, and he chose to work feverishly on new poems about his experience. "He is writing his way out of death."

What Roiphe discovers by closely observing and contemplating each of her subjects in their darkest hours--especially their courage and great flourishes of creativity when at their most vulnerable--surprises her, and the insights she shares are bound to affirm in readers the value and meaning of life. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An in-depth exploration of the lives of six famous writers and artists who confronted the prospect of death via their art.

Dial Press, $28, hardcover, 9780385343596

Nature & Environment

The Rarest Bird in the World: The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar

by Vernon R.L. Head

"Searching enquiringly, steeped in a willingness to learn, we felt a connection with biodiversity and an appreciation of species." This recurring concept of inquiry, combined with a sense of wonder, dominates Vernon R.L. Head's poetic musings in The Rarest Bird in the World: The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar. A conservationist and lifelong birdwatcher, Head was entranced by the findings of a 1990 scientific expedition to the Nechisar plains in Africa's Great Rift Valley: among many specimens, the team collected a single wing of a bird that turned out to be unknown to science.

Decades later, Head and three elite birdwatching buddies trek to the Plains of Nechisar in Ethiopia to search for this elusive, prized, nearly mythical creature. In an awestruck tone, he describes their journey, interweaving the story of the 1990 discovery, reflections on humanity's place in the natural world, memories of other birds, and thoughts on taxonomy and naming.

Head's story of birdwatching and its relationship to conservation is also a meditation on extinction and an ode to the natural world. He is unafraid of wandering within these subjects, and his passion for this work is clear: "Each name [on a birdwatcher's list] is a story of an interaction, a time of connection with the pristine, a collection of memories, an understanding of our place in the system of natural things, and a hope for the future of that place." The skills involved in spotting rare species approaches magic, even as it references science. The Rarest Bird in the World is an alluring view into birdwatching and multiple rarities. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A master birdwatcher lyrically describes his quest for the first scientific sighting of a little-known species.

Pegasus Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9781605989631

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight For Life

by Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson (Letters to a Young Scientist) is a famous and sometimes controversial naturalist. Half-Earth is the last book in his trilogy on "how our species became the architects and rulers of the Anthropocene epoch, bringing consequences that will affect all of life... far into the geological future."

His recommendation is a radical one: "I am convinced that only by setting aside half the planet in reserve... can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival." This reserve would be a web of large protected areas connected by wild corridors that span continents. Wilson estimates that it would protect about 85% of the earth's biodiversity.

In brief chapters, Wilson considers past and ongoing extinctions, their causes, the biodiversity that exists today and how to calculate what existed before. A list of worldwide wilderness hot spots sketches out a starter map for this vast project. He uses two visionary and successful restoration projects in Florida and Mozambique to show how they can be accomplished, and how they can benefit local people as well as wildlife.

Wilson finds hope in declining human birth rates and technological advances that aid scientific understanding and make us more efficient users of natural resources. And he returns to his conviction that altruism is part of human evolution and can be extended to the natural world. "I believe we've learned enough to adopt a transcendent moral precept concerning the rest of life. It is simple and easy to say: Do no further harm to the biosphere." --Sara Catterall

Discover: Naturalist Edward O. Wilson makes the case for an ambitious plan to preserve and restore the Earth's biological wealth.

Liveright, $25.95, hardcover, 9781631490828

Children's & Young Adult

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

by Janet Fox

Twelve-year-old Kat Bateson is her father's "logical child": she loves working math problems and repairing clocks. So when her great aunt gives her a family heirloom--a silver chatelaine, dangling with charms--and tells her it's magical, Kat dismisses it as nonsense. She has more important things to worry about. It's 1940, the Germans are bombing her neighborhood in London, and her father has disappeared on a mysterious mission. For safety, Kat and her siblings are sent to a boarding school in a remote Scottish castle run by the beautiful but icy Lady Eleanor.

Is Lady Eleanor who she claims to be? Is she even human? In The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, Janet Fox (Sirens) conjures a slow-burning, memorably bewildering world, skipping back and forth through the centuries--a world in which people aren't quite what they seem. Even the rational Kat is forced to admit the thing she fears most: "Magic is a real and solid thing, and lives inside her, as real as blood and bone." Kat and her schoolmates investigate the castle's secrets, but they are plagued by nightmares of a mechanical monster and possible German spies, and haunted by visions of strange waifs who might need their help. It'll take more than Kat's reasoning skills to solve the mysteries of Rookskill Castle.

Readers will enjoy making connections between the illustration of the chatelaine's 13 silver charms and the complicated storyline. Fox works a spell of her own, pulling her audience deep into the increasingly nightmarish tale, while creating a stout-hearted heroine who isn't afraid to trust her own mind. --Ann Shaffer, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This gothic middle-grade novel, set in Scotland, mixes ancient magic with World War II spycraft.

Viking, $16.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 10-up, 9780451476333

Have You Seen Elephant?

by David Barrow

The elephant in the room is often the best-concealed thing. That is certainly the case in the eye-catching New Zealand import Have You Seen Elephant? by debut author-illustrator David Barrow.

Elephant wants to play hide and seek with a boy, who agrees: "OK. You hide." The elephant warns that he is "VERY good." Undaunted, the boy counts to 10 and the search begins, and his little dog joins him. Is Elephant in the kitchen? Yes, but the boy doesn't see him. Elephant has covered himself with the big velvety curtains. Is Elephant in the bedroom? Yes. He's hiding under a big blanket on top of the bed. Amusingly, the dog is much better at sniffing out the elephant than the boy, making the dog worth watching. Preschoolers will be squealing and pointing madly at the elephant (who in truth is not at all hard to spot) while the boy plods from room to room, missing the absurdly camouflaged elephant every time. As the boy heads outside to search, keen observers will spot a tortoise sneaking into the picture as well, cleverly setting up the book's punch line. The endpapers offer a bit of background with a wall of ancestral portraits, including the boy's parents, a biracial couple.

Barrow's watercolor-splashed illustrations are not only entertaining, they are positively edible--deliciously hued and subtly patterned on richly textured paper, and pleasingly rough around the edges. The warm orange-brown colors of the shadowy kitchen look toasted, like crème brûlée, the bedroom like blackberry pie melted with ice cream. A fun, interactive read-aloud that's a feast for the eyes. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy plays hide and seek with an elephant who's surprisingly good at it.

Gecko Press, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-6, 9781776570089


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

"What if…?" is my favorite question to ask myself when I start writing a book. The answers that Cassie and Leo's story delivered were unexpected and heartwarming. Adding a heist and serendipitous reunion into the mix took my tried and true favorite trope, second chance, to a whole new level. Theirs is a classic case of right person/wrong time. Whether you're a Rivers Wilde newbie or expert, watching them overcome some pretty steep hurdles is a wild, thrilling, feel good ride.

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Wild Card (A Rivers Wilde Novella) by Dylan Allen

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons
illus. by Ruth E. Harper

Dear Reader,

My newest and latest in a three-book series, Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night?, came from seeing the fascination so many kids have with the ocean and ocean creatures. How do a whale, octopus, dolphin, clownfish, great white shark and so many other undersea animals get their rest?

After all, they need to get their rest and sleep, just like all of us. So dive into this rhyming STEM picture book to encourage a love of nature and the environment--and under the covers for a great bedtime story.

"What do animals do when children are sleeping? Featuring creatures young children are likely to know, this book has the answers....[and] unusual nighttime facts are a plus." --Kirkus

Steve Simmons

KidsBuzz: Charlesbridge: Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons, illus. by Ruth E. Harper


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

Powered by: Xtenit