Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 20, 2016

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

From My Shelf

Writers and Independent Bookstores

Gina Barreca, author of If You Lean in, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times (St. Martin's Press), has appeared on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, the BBC, NPR and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics and humor. She has written and/or edited 16 books (They Used to Call Me Snow White but I Drifted; It's Not That I'm Bitter)--all sharp, smart and witty. She has a few words for authors:

Gina Barreca
(photo: Elena Seibert)

"You can't call yourself a writer if you're not a regular at your local independent bookstore. 

"If you can afford to buy lunch and coffee but won't buy a book at full price, you're not taking the craft, the profession or yourself seriously. Sorry. If you're writing poetry and the only poetry books you own are from college, or if you're writing short stories and the last collection you purchased was a used copy of Best American Short Stories of 1987 at a flea market, you need to get with the indie program.

"Speaking of indie programs, they usually have the best events anywhere. Unless you live next door to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the best programming you're likely to discover will be hosted by an independent bookstore. More than likely, it'll be free and more than likely, it'll make you think, laugh, engage in conversation and emerge a better writer.

"Writers read. Writers read promiscuously, aggressively and relentlessly. Have an open book in every room and an open mind towards every writer. Discover authors you haven't yet read. Whether they're doing a reading from the bookstore's platform or their book is sitting gracefully on the shelf, they're eager to tell you their stories. They'll help you to create your own.

"Independent bookstores are essential for all writers. If you want a range of literary styles and selections to remain available to you as a writer and as a reader, you'll be a regular at your independent bookstore."

We couldn't agree more.

--Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

James Campbell: The Rewards of Confronting Your Fears

photo: Elizabeth Campbell

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild (Crown, May 2016) is a delightful and sometimes harrowing tale of the Alaskan bush. Author James Campbell took his teenage daughter, Aidan, with him on three trips to the wilderness, where one mistake could mean life or death. The pair successfully navigated bear encounters, dangerous river rapids and the deadly cold of the Alaskan interior--not to mention the dynamics of an admittedly over-controlling father and a modern teenager.

Campbell is the author of The Final Frontiersman and The Ghost Mountain Boys. He has written for Outside magazine, National Geographic AdventureMen's JournalAudubon and many other publications.

Your three big trips out to the Alaskan bush had a really big impact on your daughter. What do you think she got out of the experience?

I think she got a lot out of it just in terms of a father-daughter bond. We've always had a good friendship, and it's a close bond, but that bond was certainly tested up there. There were times when she wanted to be anywhere in Alaska with anyone but me. But yeah, it really strengthened our bond--if not always in the moment, in the long run. She also realized in some cases, the best relationships are forged by adversity. But I think there's a whole lot of other stuff she learned. The reward people get in leaving their comfort zone--that's a tough thing to do. The living-room couch is pretty comfortable, and it's hard to get out, but the rewards of confronting your fears are enormous, I think, and I know she would agree. In fact, she's graduating this year, and she's taking a gap year. She's going to put on a backpack and start out in Costa Rica and make her way as far south as she can. She's definitely got the bug, which I'm really happy about.

What is it about the Alaskan wilderness that resonates for you, as opposed to some of the other wilderness areas you've been in?

I'm attracted to Alaska, particularly to Arctic Alaska, in some ways because it's so different from where I live in Wisconsin. Where I live, there's an opulence of life. Everything is green, the animals have a lot of food, but the Arctic is a pretty sparse country. That sparseness has an influence on the few homesteaders who still live up there, but also on you when you're traveling through. You realize it's not a tame place. It's not a city by any stretch of the imagination; it is wild, and raw, and thrilling, and magnificent, and potentially dangerous.

What's the pull for the homesteaders who live in bush Alaska, like your friend Heimo?

I think Heimo would say that for him, he always had a dream of doing something like it, but it started out as kind of an adventure. Then the longer he stayed, it became a way of life. Now it's 41 years later for him; it's certainly the only life he knows. Even 10 years in, it was the only life he knew. His father offered to buy him a farm down in the lower 48, and Heimo said at one point in his life he might have considered it, but after being up in Alaska and being in the middle of the wilderness, he couldn't. It was something he could never even dream of doing. I kind of get it. You get out there and there's really a beautiful simplicity to the way of life despite all the things that can go wrong. There was a time in my life where I'd hoped I was going to do that, but having lived up there with Heimo and his wife, Edna, I don't think I could. They're alone now for eight months of the year. Occasionally a pilot will stop in and say hi, but other than that, it's just them. The thing about it is they're both really social people. He's a great storyteller, he's funny, he's fun, he loves people, but I think maybe he loves them on his own terms. Whatever that means.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book, besides just enjoying the narrative of your experience?

I think there's a lot to be said for parents steering their children with a light but steady hand, teenagers in particular.

My opinion is they revolt and rebel, but they still want you involved in their lives, but not over-involved. They want you to set some guidelines, parameters, and steer them, but they don't want you to control them. I think that's really, really important. It's an important lesson for me and my wife. Sometimes you've got to fight against your natural instincts to over-parent, but that's one of the messages. A very plain one is the joy and the pain of letting go. I took great joy and great pride in seeing Aiden blossom out there, but it was accompanied by this realization that she was going to leave soon. Who knows how much we're going to figure into her life in the future?

How do you manage your fears? There were some pretty severe fears, and mortal danger traveling down that river.

My burden of responsibility was, of course, enormous. That was sometimes tough and there were certainly times I thought, "What the hell am I doing? What have I done? Was this irresponsible?" In fact, somebody told me there was a review where one woman said, "Sometimes I wanted to smack him for it."

That's a really, really tough thing, I think, for any parent to make that kind of decision. I'm not saying I made the right decision or the right decision for every parent. I think it was right for me and it was right for my daughter, but it doesn't have to be right for everybody. But yeah, there were lots of times that I was really scared. We prepared a lot for the trip. A lot. That's the key. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And if the worst happens, you hope you can handle it. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

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

Book Candy

Bill Gates's Summer Reading List

What's on Bill Gates's annual summer reading list this year? Microsoft's founder shared five books that "are simply ones that I loved, made me think in new ways, and kept me up reading long past when I should have gone to sleep."


Flavorwire explored "25 fascinating female friendships in literature."


The Reading Room offered "5 tips on how to fit as much reading into your day as possible."


A little splash of immortality: Dead Writers Perfume "evokes the feeling of sitting in an old library chair paging through yellowed copies of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe and more."


Bustle shared "14 things all writers have said (and what they actually meant)."


This spring, the Emily Dickinson Museum "has brought the poet's beloved orchard back to life" as part of a "longstanding effort to return the Dickinson estate to its 19th-century splendor," the New York Times reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Mao's Last Revolution

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong's movement to purge China of traditional and capitalist elements and remake the Communist Party. The Revolution brought Mao back to the country's political helm after his disastrous Great Leap Forward led to millions of deaths by famine between 1959  and 1961. On May 16, 1966, Mao outlined his radical new direction in a Politburo meeting and gave indictments of recently ousted party leaders. His accusation that China had been infiltrated by "revisionist" elements that could be removed only by violence led to the creation of the paramilitary Red Guards and turned the Cultural Revolution into a reign of terror.

Factional struggles across all Chinese social strata subjected millions of people to attacks, torture, forced relocation and death, and led to the destruction of priceless antiquities by the Red Guard. In Mao's Last Revolution, Roderick MacFarquhar, Harvard professor and former director of its Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and Michael Schoenhals, a lecturer on Chinese history at Sweden's Lund University, critique the decade of horror and mayhem Mao unleashed. The book looks at the micro machinations of party leaders and macro chaos that resulted, creating a portrait of a social and economic disaster that was ended only by Mao's death in 1976. Mao's Last Revolution was last published in 2008 by Belknap Press ($27.50, 9780674027480). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Loney

by Andrew Michael Hurley

A sense of doom permeates Andrew Michael Hurley's debut novel from the start. Is it the reference to the bones of a baby discovered at the Loney, a part of the Lancashire coastline, or because Smith, the narrator, lets slip that his parish priest has recently died under mysterious circumstances? Is it his devoutly Catholic mother's rigid overemphasis on ritual, or the secret quarantine room his family discovers in the Moorings, a rental property on the coast? Whatever it is, the menace that pervades Hurley's novel hangs over the Loney itself as Smith and his family visit the strange area on their annual Easter pilgrimage to find a miracle cure for Hanny, his disabled brother.

After establishing this unspoken air of menace, Hurley moves The Loney backward and forward in time, weaving Smith's recollections of his childhood as an altar boy, memories of past visits to the Loney, and strange moments surrounding the Moorings' history into the story of Smith's final pilgrimage. The slow, creeping nature of the plot gives Hurley room to explore questions of faith and doubt.

"It's funny, int it?" asks one of the Loney townsfolk. "How you church people can have more faith in something that can't be proved than something that's standing right in front of you? I suppose it comes down to seeing what you want to see, dunt it?" The Loney offers a story of things seen and proved and then things unseen and unproved--and what happens when one boy's memories live between the two. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Andrew Michael Hurley's debut has a sense of menace from the first page and builds into a creepy tale that explores deep questions of faith and doubt.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780544746527

A Robot in the Garden

by Deborah Install

Deborah Install's first novel, A Robot in the Garden, is a delightful romp and an emotional journey, both hilarious and poignant.

Ben is idle, unemployed, still living in his childhood home in a small town in England, and grieving his parents' death. He is a constant source of frustration to his wife, Amy. When a robot appears in their back garden, Amy is exasperated, as usual: she tells Ben to get rid of it. Ben is intrigued. The robot, Tang, is decrepit but apparently well-made, and has more personality than the androids the neighbors keep around to do laundry and house chores. Tang is also obstinate, willful and possibly broken beyond repair, but Ben suspects that there is something special about this creature. Together they undertake a riotous expedition, seeking a fix for Tang--and perhaps for Ben as well. On the way, the odd pair encounters bizarre situations, including android sex workers and a radioactive wiener dog, and make new friends. Mulish but endearing, Tang throws tantrums and wins Ben's heart, and stirs him to reexamine his relationships with the people in his life.

Both Ben and Tang are well-developed, imperfect but lovable characters, and Install has an expert ear for tone and mood. Her dialogue is masterful--Tang's singular voice develops throughout the novel as he does, and the silliness of this eccentric story provides a refreshing counterpoint to sentimentality. A Robot in the Garden is zany and heartfelt, endlessly funny and often absurd, but speaks directly to the central challenges of the human experience. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This exceptionally charming novel addresses human relationships by way of a one-of-a-kind robot.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $15.99, paperback, 9781492631262

The Pier Falls

by Mark Haddon

Fans of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or his many works for children might be startled by The Pier Falls--it's as far away from a children's book as one could get. A collection of short stories that begins with a minute-by-minute breakdown of a fatal disaster, The Pier Falls takes a series of cold, hard looks at the darkness in human existence.

Haddon's goal here is not to provide comfort or distraction, but to plunge readers into the most uncomfortable aspects of life. In the aforementioned opening story, an unnamed narrator watches as dozens of people fall to their deaths when a pier on the English coast collapses. Another tale imagines a doomed group of astronauts, set to live the rest of their days on Mars with no hope of rescue. Another follows a similar band of explorers in an unnamed jungle as nature takes them, one by one.

It would be easy to write off The Pier Falls as a nihilistic slog, but that's a reductive criticism. Yes, the book is emotionally brutal, and most certainly nihilistic. But, like the provocative films of directors Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke, it is a masterful look into how easily what little meaning we have can be destroyed. It will probably make readers squirm as they consider their own lives, but isn't that what good art should do? --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Mark Haddon forces his reader to stare into the void, and makes the void stare back.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385540759

The Noise of Time

by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes (Keeping an Eye Open) is the author of more than 25 books, many of them novels based on historical figures and events. With The Noise of Time, Barnes has created a brief, beautifully structured and moving work that improvises on the tragic life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Shostakovich survived by placating authorities "who knew as much about music as a pig knows about oranges." During Stalin's Great Terror, he was denounced in a Pravda editorial titled "Muddle Instead of Music." He was reprieved by his interrogator's execution, but was never able to work freely again--"From now on there would be only two types of composer: those who were alive and frightened, and those who were dead." Truth is hard to come by under totalitarian rule, and Barnes mirrors this in his mingling of fiction with historical facts and versions of facts, viewed through the prism of his sensitive, neurotic and brilliant protagonist's mind.

To contain all this passion and mortal insecurity, Barnes has built his novel almost like a symphony. There are three parts, each involving transportation (an elevator, an airplane, a chauffeured car), each opening with a version of the sentence: "All he knew was that this was the worst time." Barnes introduces recurring phrases and themes, developing and interweaving them with ever-deepening complexity and resonance. The whole is framed by an incident involving three characters who, stepping briefly outside their lives onto a train station platform, accidentally create a triad by clinking vodka glasses, "a sound that rang clear of the noise of time, and would outlive everyone and everything." --Sara Catterall

Discover: A brilliant, moving and beautifully structured novel based on the life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9781101947241


by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich (The Round House) has published 15 novels since 1984, many of them set in the mixed Ojibwe and white community around a fictional North Dakota Indian reservation. LaRose begins on the reservation border, a fraught legal and cultural boundary, and the property line between the Iron and Ravich families. The husbands, Landreaux Iron and Peter Ravich, are old friends; their wives are less friendly half-sisters. Their youngest children, five-year-old boys LaRose and Dusty, play together. One day, Landreaux is stalking a buck on the land between their houses. He has a clear shot at it, but when he fires, he finds he has somehow killed Dusty instead.

Landreaux and his wife, Emmaline, have recovered from substance abuse and raised a strong young family by turning to Ojibwe culture and religion. Guided by an old tradition, they bring LaRose to live with the Raviches as a replacement for Dusty. Slowly the two families develop new bonds, their members struggling with grief and anger, despair and love.

Erdrich switches among multiple perspectives, building a rich portrait of private and public lives, despite one or two moments of extraordinary realization that may seem a little contrived. Through generations, children are sold, given or taken away to strangers, relatives and boarding schools. Despite their suffering, they pass on their skills and traditions, and the family continuously restores itself. Erdrich is a master novelist, and LaRose is one of her most thoughtful and satisfying works. --Sara Catterall 

Discover: This is a masterly novel of family, community and the complex ways people survive unbearable losses and evolving love.

Harper, $27.99, hardcover, 9780062277022

Mystery & Thriller

Late One Night

by Lee Martin

Ronnie Black denied involvement, but the people of Goldengate, Ill., horrified at what happened out at Della Black's trailer, are eager to assign blame. In the taut, suspenseful Late One Night, Lee Martin (The Bright Forever; Such a Life) reveals the consequences of a rash act and its impact on a community, infusing his characters with anger and guilt, regret and compassion.

In this one-main-street Plains town, folks have known each other for generations. When Ronnie and Della got into a "snort and holler" right in the sundries store, neighbors heard, and when Ronnie left Della and their seven kids for Brandi, they gossiped. So everybody wondered: Was Ronnie guilty of setting the fire that trapped Della and their three youngest children that blustery January night? Martin parcels out hints to the mystery, but life in Goldengate goes on, and his characters develop as they react. Crotchety neighbor Shooter Rowe thinks ill of Ronnie, but Captain, his disabled son, adores him. Godparents Missy and Pat seek custody of the surviving children, but Missy frets that she's misjudged Ronnie. Brandi, pregnant with Ronnie's baby, desperately believes he's innocent. Even Ronnie, despite evidence implicating him, evokes sympathy.

The blacktop road leading to the trailer in a barren cornfield, wisps of snow snaking across the road, the blue-gray winter skies evoke the spare Goldengate life and the town's sorrow. But redemption comes with forgiveness and generosity, and "a chance to do something good, to let people know they weren't alone." In the end, Martin's story inspires hope. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A trailer fire on a cold Illinois night might be arson; Lee Martin's taut novel reveals the townspeoples' response and, eventually, the answer.

Dzanc Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9781938103490

Killer Deal

by Sofie Sarenbrant, trans. by Paul Norlen

Sofie Sarenbrant, well known in Sweden for her series of mystery novels starring Emma Sköld, has now been translated into English for the first time. As Killer Deal begins, Detective Emma Sköld is pregnant, and trying to overcome horrible morning sickness in order to continue working.

Emma and her partner are called to investigate a murder in an upscale Stockholm suburb. The day after an open house, the owner of the home is found murdered. The real estate agent who held the open house swore that she checked the house thoroughly before leaving, so Emma's suspicions quickly fall upon the victim's wife, Cornelia--until another shocking murder occurs at a different open house, turning Emma's theory upside-down.

Interspersed with the investigation are the details of Emma's tumultuous personal life, which ends up entangled with Cornelia's, because Cornelia turns out to be a friend of Emma's sister Josefin. The complicated dynamics involved in investigating her sister's friend for murder make Killer Deal particularly compelling, while the situations the characters are dealing with will be all too familiar to anyone who's ever been pregnant or who has waited impatiently for their house to sell.

Killer Deal makes a great entry point for those unfamiliar with Swedish crime novels, and is sure to lead readers to authors like Henning Mankell and Kjell Eriksson. This entertaining blend of family drama, murder and real estate is reminiscent of Camilla Läckberg's mystery novels, and will hold any crime-loving reader's interest; they'll eagerly await the next Sofie Sarenbrant to be translated. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Killer Deal is an engaging mystery starring Detective Emma Sköld by one of Sweden's most popular crime authors.

Stockholm Text, $16.95, paperback, 9789175471976

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Mercy Journals

by Claudia Casper

The Mercy Journals by Claudia Casper (The Reconstruction) opens with a statement that the pages of this book are taken from two journals discovered in 2072 and reproduced here with only minor copyediting. The author of these journals, Allen Levy Quincy, writes to forget his past. He seeks oblivion in whatever form it comes, eager to escape the memories that keep his mind in near hysteria. At first, Allen writes little that is personal. He explains that nearly four billion people have died due to catastrophic climate change; following this mass die-out and global government collapse, an emergency government called OneWorld was formed. Both benevolent and autocratic, OneWorld enforces severe measures for humanity's survival, but can't dispel the tension between the old world's promise of prosperity and the new world's uncertainty.

After an encounter with a woman named Ruby, Allen's emotional defenses begin to fail. His journal pages become more intimate as he shares his own story. When his estranged brother, Leo, appears after many years and proposes the two of them go to Allen's cabin in the woods, he wants to turn Leo away. But the promise of connection draws Allen out of his carefully structured life and into a journey he hesitates to take. His struggle to heal after his traumatic time in the military, to find a purpose in life beyond survival, makes him a compelling character. Through the distressed voice of Allen, Casper creates a dystopian future that appears uncomfortably familiar as it echoes our own fears for the future. -–Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Claudia Casper's intriguing and disturbing post-apocalyptic story explores such current concerns as climate change and PTSD.

Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95, paperback, 9781551526331

Children of Earth and Sky

by Guy Gavriel Kay

World Fantasy Award winner Guy Gavriel Kay (River of Stars, Ysabel) is known for boundary-pushing, genre-defying stories set in fictional realms that borrow from real historical periods. In Children of Earth and Sky, he brings readers into a richly layered and detailed world inspired by Renaissance Europe. Through the main characters, who include Danica, a pirate set on revenge, two spies--the elderly Faleri and young Leonora, passing as a physician's wife--and Marin, the youngest son of a wealthy merchant, Kay explores themes of family and power and independence. His empathic style allows his diverse cast of characters to become fully realized and complicated, and he deftly incorporates places and people from his other novels.

Danica dreams of retribution against those who killed her family, but an incident during a shipboard raid forces her to leave Senjan for Dubrava's hostile court life. Leonora, who desired freedom so much she agreed to spy for Seressa, a foreign government, finds her own position jeopardized when her escort is killed in the raid. Along with others, they try to navigate an unpredictable political landscape. At times the narrator is all-seeing, foreshadowing events with a knowing phrase or insinuation. Kay moves between this omniscient voice and the intimate point of view of a single character. The rhythm of these subtle shifts pulls the story along at a rousing pace. Kay's writing is so wise, knowing and beautifully arranged that readers will be left feeling drunk on its poetic richness and thrilled with the repeated discoveries of how each character's narrative influences the others. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: In Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay tells an intricate story inspired by the history of Renaissance Europe.

New American Library, $27, hardcover, 9780451472960


Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers who Transformed a Nation

by Julie M. Fenster

Julie M. Fenster's history of the Louisiana Purchase is a kind of history of the United States as we know it today. Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation reveals that the Louisiana Purchase not only shaped the country's physical border, it redefined America's cultural identity.

Fenster recounts an episode when a small band of explorers is traveling up the Ouachita River in 1804; one of them falls overboard at night and is never seen again. She perfectly captures the moment's gravity: "He was one of the many who went into the West, sooner or later to be enveloped by it." The event is even more telling because, as Jefferson's America explains, the death happened at the same time a handful of other expeditions were headed up newly acquired rivers in the territory--including the famed Lewis and Clark party.

Thomas Jefferson, through both diplomacy and espionage, acquired the yet-unexplored tract of land west of the Mississippi, but no one knew what to do with it. The Spanish had mismanaged it, the French had taken it, then Jefferson saw an opportunity. It wasn't until he sent countless explorers into the endless plains that he discovered what he had. Through a cast of characters that includes notables from Meriwether Lewis to Napoleon Bonaparte, Fenster shows us the moment a haphazard land dispute became the United States's future. --Josh Potter

Discover: The story of how and why Thomas Jefferson fought for the Louisiana Purchase, and the men who journeyed across the Mississippi to explore the territory.

Crown, $30, hardcover, 9780307956484

Children's & Young Adult

What Degas Saw

by Samantha Friedman, illus. by Cristina Pieropan, Edgar Degas

When Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was living in Paris, he used to gaze down onto the bustling street from his studio window and wonder why he persisted in painting pictures of cloth-draped figures and ancient wars and not "the beauty of the passing moment."

In the splendid picture book What Degas Saw by Samantha Friedman (Matisse's Garden), visions of the caped Degas on his Parisian wanderings--from laundries to theaters--are deftly captured in "aquatint etchings" by Italian illustrator Cristina Pieropan, then juxtaposed with reproductions of the artist's actual paintings. This is a rare opportunity for readers to see an artist's close observation and creative interpretation at work. Degas loved to watch people: "We are made to look at each other, don't you think?" At the Opera House, "dancers performed glorious ballets on the wide wooden stage." Here, several of Degas's ballet paintings, such as Pas battu, are reproduced, with brief descriptions of the fleeting moment the artist caught, "like the moment at the peak of a ballerina's jump...." Pieropan's illustrations--expansive, richly textured, full-bleed spreads, detailed in careful, fine lines--are lovely. Her beautiful rendering of the dancers backstage, "[a] quieter kind of dance," is followed by one of Degas's paintings, Frieze of Dancers, showing ballerinas tying the ribbons of their slippers.

Friedman's text, artful and elegant, is perfectly choreographed with the artwork and design. The author finds just the right words for Degas's impulse to "try to describe the city's push and pull, its run and jump, its lean and stretch." A work of art. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This exquisite picture book illustrates how celebrated French painter Edgar Degas wandered the streets of Paris to capture "the beauty of the passing moment."

Museum of Modern Art/Abrams, $19.95, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-7, 9781633450042

The Airport Book

by Lisa Brown

Even if The Airport Book were only a picture book to prepare preschoolers for a voyage via airplane, it would succeed spectacularly. But it's so much more than that--it's the hint of the many intriguing stories travelers glimpse on any trip to the airport, whether it's a tearful goodbye or a giant, misshapen, taped-up package marked "FRAGILE."

Lisa Brown (How to Be; The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming; Mummy Cat) begins the entertaining journey with a stylish young mixed-race family piling into a taxi, the daughter's stuffed monkey in tow. The boy in the family is the narrator, describing a busy travel day, step by step. The airport action begins at curbside drop-off, where readers are introduced to some of the colorful individuals--even a dog with a pink-ribbon collar--who will eventually make it aboard the same airplane as the family. One of the many joys of the book is following the meticulously inked and watercolored characters as they move through their travel day--from the mustachioed gentleman in the yellow suit to the nonstop cell-phone talker ("BLAH BLAH BLAH"). The stuffed monkey plays a major role, too, as it gets busted out of the suitcase by the pink-ribbon dog down in the cargo area, then shows up on the conveyor belt at their destination airport: "MONKEY!" the girl happily exclaims. (Even the mystery of the misshapen package is unveiled in the end.)

If there's any justice in the world, The Airport Book will become just as beloved as the transportation book of yesteryear, Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Jaded fliers, step aside... Lisa Brown takes children to the airport and beyond in this extraordinary picture book that charmingly captures the wonders of air travel.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9781626720916

Save Me a Seat

by Gita Varadarajan, Sarah Weeks

Award-winning writer Sarah Weeks (Pie; So B. It) and India-born debut author Gita Varadarajan present a poignant, comical cultural exchange in the alternating voices of two fifth-grade boys.

Joe Sylvester has been living in the same New Jersey town, going to the same school and hanging out with the same two buddies most of his life. Until he isn't. Over the summer, his only friends moved away, which means Joe is starting the new year alone. Worse still, his mother is the new cafeteria monitor, and her public air kisses are almost enough to make him lose his ever-voracious appetite. Two things remain the same: his Auditory Processing Disorder and his bullying nemesis, Dillon Samreen.

Enter Ravi Suryanarayanan, for whom absolutely nothing is the same. He's recently arrived from Bangalore, India, where he was a star student and athlete.  Here, his new teacher misunderstands his fluent English just because he's lacking a New Jersey accent. Ravi initially scorns Joe, "the big white kid with yellow hair," who he thinks tripped him, while he waits to become best pals with manipulative Dillon, who keeps winking and smiling at him.

Over a single school week, Joe and Ravi overcome many false starts and decipher mixed signals to understand finally that they just might become the best of buddies. Blue M&Ms and leeches prove to be remarkably effective bonding agents indeed. Rollicking humor aside, Save Me a Seat is an affecting, compassionate reminder to look beyond assumptions and discover true friendship. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan team up to tell the tale of how a New Jersey native and an Indian immigrant spend the first week of fifth grade becoming friends.

Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9780545846608


Author Buzz

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

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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


Available on Kobo

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

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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