Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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

From My Shelf

Children's Books: Celebrate Black History Month

A teenager comes of age in Civil Rights-era Mississippi, a former slave teaches a horse to read and an enslaved family escapes their fate in these recommendations for Black History Month.

Debut author Linda Williams Jackson's powerful, vividly told novel Midnight Without a Moon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; ages 10-12) opens during the summer of 1955 in Mississippi. Thirteen-year-old Rose Lee Carter, whose dark skin has "sentenced her to the [cotton] field" begins to awaken to the injustice in black people's lives, especially when her aunt visits from St. Louis, where she has become active in the Civil Rights movement.

Veterinarian and former slave William "Doc" Key (1833-1909) teaches a horse he calls Jim to sit, fetch and play dead... and, with time and patience, to count, read and do arithmetic! Doc raised awareness for the humane treatment of animals and broke down racial barriers at the turn of the last century. In Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness (Lee & Low; ages 7-12), Donna Janell Bowman and illustrator Daniel Minter tell his amazing true story with energy, heart and stunning linoleum-block prints.

Grace, a light-skinned, blue-eyed African American girl, is called up from the slave quarters to work in the Big House for "hateful as a toad" Missus Allen. After being told her whole young life to "keep those eyes/ looking up--/ that's where the good Lord/ n His angels live," it's nearly impossible to start keeping her eyes down and her mouth closed. When she loses the fight to stay silent, she and her family escape into the marshy area between Virginia and North Carolina called the Great Dismal Swamp. Ann E. Burg's moving and lyrical Unbound: A Novel in Verse (Scholastic; ages 9-12) is based on narratives of escaping slaves.

--Emilie Coulter, freelance editor and reviewer

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

The Writer's Life

Mary Pope Osborne: Boosting Literacy Through Time Travel for 25 Years

photo: Elena Seibert

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series, with more than 134 million copies sold since 1992. In these popular illustrated chapter books for early readers, siblings Jack and Annie discover a magic tree house full of books that launch them on time-travel adventures around the world. Osborne lives in Connecticut with her husband, actor and author Will Osborne.

What excites you most about writing for children?

I love writing for children because I'm still a child at heart. I had a great childhood traveling from army post to army post with my military family, playing with my sister and two brothers (one of them my twin). Everywhere we lived, we were free to roam around by ourselves. We constantly shared imaginative adventures, from being pirates and cowboys to spies and soldiers. Writing about Jack and Annie's journeys in the magic tree house matches my childhood love for make-believe adventures.

Why are these books so effective in boosting literacy?

Over the years I've gotten thousands of letters that say the series has not only taught children how to read, but has given them a love for reading. I think the kids identify with Jack and Annie, and love their mysterious and wild adventures. Readers also seem to like that the books have factual information about animals, sports, the arts, science, and famous people and historical events. Kids like the facts so much that my husband, Will, and my sister, Natalie Pope Boyce, have authored a series of Magic Tree House Fact Trackers--these are nonfiction companion books to the fiction books. So if readers like Stallion by Starlight, they might also enjoy the Fact Tracker Horse Heroes. If they like Midnight on the Moon, they might like the Fact Tracker Space. The combination of fiction and nonfiction titles works well in the classroom.

A child in Guatemala absorbed in reading.
Children in Ghana use an e-reader provided by Osborne's donation to Worldreader.

Do you have any stories about children who have learned to love to read through your books?

A teacher once wrote to me that he had an extremely shy student who was unable to speak in class. The girl loved Annie in the Magic Tree House books, so one day the teacher urged her to pretend that she was Annie. For the first time ever, she spoke up in class. From then on, the teacher frequently encouraged her to "Be Annie," until eventually she fully emerged from her shell.

Did you have any idea when you wrote the first book in the Magic Tree House series, Dinosaurs Before Dark, that the series would become an international phenomenon?

Before the Magic Tree House series, I'd written a number of young adult novels, retellings of mythology and folktales, biographies and mysteries. When Random House asked me to develop a series of four early chapter books, I quickly came up with the idea of time travel. But it took over a year for me to develop the idea. I tried magic whistles, a magic cellar, a magic artist studio, a magic museum... none of these ideas worked. I was about to give up on the series idea altogether and return to my other writing, when Will and I came across an abandoned tree house in the woods of Pennsylvania, near a cabin we owned. By nightfall, we had come up with the idea of a magic tree house.

Dinosaurs Before Dark came quickly after that. Then The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning and Pirates Past Noon. By then, the letters from teachers and parents and kids had started to arrive, and the school visits started. Soon I had a new life's passion: inspiring young kids to read. I kept writing the books, Sal Murdocca kept illustrating them, and Mallory Loehr, our wonderful editor at Random House, kept working with us and her team, until four books grew to 55 that are now published all over the world. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this on the day I first saw that tree house.

The Magic Tree House RV travels to Newark, N.J., to encourage literacy and share the magic of the series.

You've donated Magic Tree House books worth $2.5 million through your Gift of Books program. How does the program work?

For the last 25 years, I've visited hundreds of schools and talked with countless educators about how they use Magic Tree House (MTH) books in their classrooms to inspire kids to read. So, as a way of giving back to all the teachers who have supported the series, I created the MTH Classroom Adventures Program (CAP). CAP's website provides teachers with all kinds of fun teaching tools, free of charge. It also offers a MTH book giveaway component for Title I classrooms. Beyond that, I've made large contributions to underserved kids in cities such as Chicago, Newark and Trenton. Handing a free set of MTH books to a boy or girl who has never owned even one book has been the most rewarding part of writing the series.

What is the number-one message you like to share with the children you meet around the world?

I want to share a hopeful message: kids are the same everywhere. I've encountered thousands of kids--in every part of the U.S., as well as Japan, Italy, France and Germany. I've met with kids in times of great disorder and angst, including after 9/11 in New York, after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and after the terrible tsunami in Japan of 2011. I've met kids from orphanages and kids dying of cancer. And all the kids I meet give me more than I give them. I've found that most kids from ages six to 10--no matter where I've met them--are positive, open, kind and eager to learn. Most amazingly, the kids I meet today are just like the kids I met over two decades ago. There is a universality to childhood innocence that seemingly cannot be altered by geography or time.

You have two Magic Tree House books coming out on March 17, 2017: World at War, 1944 (previously published as Danger in the Darkest Hour) and its nonfiction companion, World War II. What are you working on now?

I've just completed A Big Day for Baseball, which involves Jackie Robinson's first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Jack and Annie will magically become "batboys" at that game... and of course, get into lots of trouble. My sister, Natalie, has written the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker Baseball as the companion nonfiction book.

Anything else you'd like to share with the readers of Shelf Awareness?

One of the most exciting things to happen in the last few years has been the development of a number of Magic Tree House musicals. My husband, Will, has collaborated with composer Allen Toussaint, as well as composer Randy Courts and playwright Jenny Laird to create shows based on Jack and Annie's adventures. Often productions of these musicals go hand in hand with our book giveaways. It's been thrilling to bring both live theater and books to lots of underserved kids throughout the U.S.  --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

(You can watch a video featuring Osborne and her young readers, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Magic Tree House.)

Book Candy

Book or Movie?

BookBub considered "10 things you'll relate to if you prefer the book to the movie."


"In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books," Quartz wrote.


My Poetic Side featured "51 immigrant poets" in an interactive map.


Book blast from the past: Check out this 2010 Reading for Life U.K. advert featuring British actors, musicians and other celebrities showing how reading is central to their lives.


Alaska's Dr. Seuss House "is a whimsical tower made of stacked cabins," Inhabitat noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Little House on the Prairie

This new hardcover edition of Little House on the Prairie has a foreword by Patricia MacLachlan, who grew up on the Wyoming prairie and saw herself in Laura.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the much-loved Little House series, was born 150 years ago, on February 7, 1867 in Pepin, Wis. Wilder's novels are based on her experiences growing up on the American frontier, from eating crispy-roasted pig tails to more sobering challenges of pioneer life. Impressively, five of the nine books in this series won Newbery Honors.

Bich Minh Nguyen, author of Pioneer Girl, said in a Shelf Awareness interview, "It never struck me as strange when I was growing up that a Vietnamese American girl would identify so strongly with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can identify with her sense of home, of searching for home and wanting a place to call her own, while at the same time wanting adventure.... It is a story of migration and immigration within the United States." Indeed, many authors we've interviewed cite the Little House books as childhood favorites: Laura Kaye, Martine Leavitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Leslie Pietrzyk, Chloe Neill, Maria Russo, Melanie Shankle, Heather Gudenkauf, Sara Paretsky and Laurie Halse Anderson, to name a few.

To celebrate Wilder's 150th birthday, HarperCollins just released unjacketed, hardcover, nonillustrated editions of three of the original novels: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy and Little House on the Prairie ($12.99 each). HarperCollins is also the publisher of Louise Erdrich's exquisite, not-to-be-missed Birchbark House series for middle-graders, set in the 19th-century Midwest, like the Little House books--but from the point of view of an Ojibwe family. --Karin Snelson, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Review


Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan

by Ruth Gilligan

In 1901, Ruth Greenberg and her family are bound for America from Lithuania, but their boat ends up on the Emerald Isle. Despite her mother's protests and disdain for Ireland, Ruth embraces the new land as her home, gathering its stories and folklore along the way.

In 1958, Shem Sweeney is mute--after uncharacteristically skipping school one day, he observed a horror so great it stole his voice. His father, humiliated by Shem's behavior, tries unsuccessfully to cure his son with both medical and psychological doctors, then gives up and institutionalizes Shem. In the hellish asylum, Shem develops an unlikely friendship with Alf, the only other Jewish inmate, as he records the story of the older man's lost love.

In the present day, Aisling Creedon is an Irish Catholic in love with a British Jew. Secretly she's been considering converting to Judaism; she's even staying in London rather than going home to Ireland for Christmas with her family. But when her partner, Noah, presents her with a secondhand copy of A Voyage of Discovery--Considering a Judaic Conversion? she flies into a rage and promptly books her flight to Dublin. Aisling seeks refuge in the familiar as she contemplates the biggest decision of her life.

Gilligan meticulously intertwines these three lives to relate the 20th-century Jewish experience in Ireland. Whether readers have an intimate experience with Judaism or no experience at all, Nine Folds Makes a Paper Swan will captivate and inspire. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Three lives, spanning the 20th century, tell the moving story of the Jewish experience in Ireland.

Tin House, $15.95, paperback, 400p., 9781941040492

The Animators

by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Like an updated version of Thelma & Louise, New York University MFA graduate Kayla Rae Whitaker's first novel, The Animators, is a girlfriends story of two young women who meet in an upstate New York preppy college visual arts program. They combine their contrasting personalities and drawing skills to create critically acclaimed full-length animated movies. Careful, self-aware Sharon Kisses is the first of three siblings to escape her hillbilly hollow and leverage her talent into the edgy Bushwick creative arts scene. Her collaborator, Mel Vaughn, is a funky, frequently alcohol-fueled lesbian party girl from a busted family in central Florida. Ten years out of college, Mel and Sharon snag a prestigious grant for a cartoon film based on Mel's mother's life of petty crime, prostitution and prison. Theirs is an uneasy collaboration that surprisingly works.

However, in Whitaker's sure hands, what begins as a story of young artists making it in New York City literally goes south when Mel's mother dies in a prison fight. Mel and Sharon go to Florida to identify the body. The Animators is not just a buddy road trip story. It's a sensitive portrait of a close but ambivalent friendship, and the process and power of creating art. Whitaker takes us behind the onionskin drawings and slick celluloid, behind the Brooklyn booze and artsy raves to the personal angst and longing that finds some relief in friendship, love and art. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Whitaker's first novel follows a beguiling story of friendship through artistic collaboration and the sources of creativity.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780812989281

The Wicked City

by Beatriz Williams

New York City, 1998: After discovering her husband in the act of adultery, Ella Gilbert flees their SoHo loft for a quirky building in the West Village. As she adjusts to her new surroundings (and her too-handsome upstairs neighbor), Ella begins hearing strange noises from the basement. The place was a speakeasy in the 1920s, but it's been empty for decades.

New York City, 1924: Geneva Rose "Gin" Kelly, streetwise and smart-mouthed, escaped her backwoods Maryland town to build a life in the city. Spending her days in the typing pool and her nights drinking bootleg alcohol suits Gin just fine, but she can't entirely shake her scheming stepfather, Duke, whose connections extend all the way to Gin's favorite speakeasy. When Gin receives a summons to her dying mother's bedside, she finds her carefully separate worlds suddenly on a collision course.

Williams (A Certain Age; Along the Infinite Sea) evokes the glitter and scandal of Jazz Age New York, as Gin narrates her own story with understated, dry wit. The occasional leaps back into Ella's slower present-day narrative feel like interruptions, though readers of Williams's previous Schuyler family novels will enjoy glimpses of several familiar characters. As Ella struggles to define herself apart from her husband, Gin's definitions--of herself, whom she loves and whom she can trust (not always the same people)--are shifting by the minute. Williams ratchets up the action on each successive page, leaving readers no choice but to race after Gin as she pursues love, revenge and the perfect stiff drink. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Beatriz Williams spins a glittering narrative of a young woman caught up in deception and debauchery in 1920s New York City.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 384p., 9780062405029

Mystery & Thriller

The Dry

by Jane Harper

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but could a tenacious drought and economic hardship drive Luke Hadler to murder people he loved before killing himself? Australian author Jane Harper turns up the heat in her accomplished debut mystery, The Dry, filling the arid atmosphere with blistering tension.

Unlike many in the Australian farming community of Kiewarra, Luke's father doesn't accept a murder/suicide theory. He writes to Luke's childhood friend Aaron Falk, a federal agent in Melbourne, leaving no room for refusal: Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.

Falk is as reluctant to return as the town is to receive him. Decades earlier he was driven from Kiewarra following the death of Ellie Deacon, one of the "gang of four" school friends consisting of Luke, Falk, Ellie and Gretchen Schoner. Tied to Ellie's demise by a mysterious note, Falk escaped prosecution only through Luke's alibi.

Ellie's death remains unsolved, and Falk is still thought by many to be her murderer. While he and new local cop Greg Raco examine the Hadler deaths, escalating harassment makes it clear Falk's presence is a threat, Luke's old alibi is coming unraveled and someone is afraid of long-buried secrets.

Threading present with past, old death with new, Harper pits a determined Falk against the town that turned on him. A taut investigation in a harsh environment written with clarity and skill, The Dry is a thrilling procedural that pays off on every level. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review.

Discover: A federal agent returns to his hometown to look into the death of a childhood friend, and faces new information about the murder he was accused of decades earlier.

Flatiron Books, $25.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250105608


by John Lescroart

There's nothing particularly distinctive about Kate's life: she's happily married with two kids, living in one of San Francisco's nicer neighborhoods and wanting for nothing. At least until she meets Peter at a dinner party, and realizes that she wants him. Unable to ignore her sudden and unexpected feelings for this strange man, Kate carefully plans her next move--one that proves to have larger consequences than she could ever have imagined.

In Fatal, John Lescroart (The Keeper; The Fall) focuses on Kate and Peter's short but impassioned entanglement, which continues to haunt her--first in Peter's repeated appearances in her life, and then in the news of his death six months after their affair. The investigation into his death leads detectives through lie after lie, until a tangled web of deceit captures Kate, her family, Peter, his family and many friends in its threads.

Most of Fatal moves forward at breakneck speed, though the story is sometimes cluttered by side plots and unnecessary details: a terrorist attack in central San Francisco, a detective's sick child, the reappearance of a one-time suspect with an eating disorder. Somewhat surprisingly, Lescroart manages to tie these disparate threads back together, pushing the novel forward to an unexpected conclusion. Fatal marks a departure from Lescroart's more typical series novels, offering a standalone story of suspense that combines questions of marital infidelity with a complex whodunit that leaves a string of bodies in its wake. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: John Lescroart's standalone suspense delves into questions of murder, marriage and friendship as it builds to an unexpected conclusion.

Atria, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781501115677

Biography & Memoir

The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder

by Claudia Rowe

Claudia Rowe is a careworn reporter in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., when a local man confesses to the rape and murder of a series of missing women. The case has journalistic potential, but there is more to the story. As Rowe and killer Kendall Francois communicate in letters and phone calls and during prison visits, the journalist's life goes into a tailspin. Her boyfriend leaves, taking their dog; she moves to the woods and lives in a barn like a hermit. As her obsession with Francois grows, Rowe delves into her own past, a troubled childhood and damaged relationships leading to what she sees as a lifelong fascination with brutality.

Chasing violence and fear has led her to a serial killer who can seem like a big teddy bear as well as a disturbed predator. Rowe yearns to understand where a man like this comes from, how a murderer is made, and the intricacies of race and class in Poughkeepsie and beyond. She puzzles over Francois's family home, so stuffed with rot and detritus and denial that decomposing bodies went unnoticed. What she learns is that Francois may not be a riddle she can solve.

The Spider and the Fly is a work of personal exploration, as much about Rowe's growth as an individual as it is about Francois's crimes. The reflective tone and dogged probing into the ugliest of human behaviors enrich this blend of true crime, memoir and suspense. Looking into darkness, Rowe gains some understanding and some release. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A journalist with trauma of her own exchanges a torrent of letters with a serial killer in this absorbing, suspenseful memoir.

Dey Street, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9780062416124

Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir

by Sheila Kohler

Novelist Sheila Kohler's first book of nonfiction, Once We Were Sisters, is an achingly beautiful memoir. The story probes Kohler's relationship with her sister, Maxine--two years older--and the bond they shared in life and in death. When Maxine was 39 years old, the devoted wife and mother of six was killed in a mysterious car crash that Kohler strongly believes was intentional. The driver of the car was Maxine's abusive husband--a successful and renowned heart surgeon with a relentless dark side. He survived the crash.

Telling the story more than 35 years later, Kohler (The Bay of Foxes) seeks to find answers, identify the forces that precipitated Maxine's death and untangle her sister's life from her own. Despite their contrasting personalities, the two were close during a privileged upbringing in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. They studied at exclusive boarding schools and later traveled abroad together. The death of their father in their youth, and a mother who frequently departed into her own alcohol-infused world, marked their lives, and both sisters married philandering husbands.

Kohler's search for literal and emotional truths, her abiding love for her sister--along with guilt and regret--propel this succinct narrative. Maxine's shattering death has deeply permeated and haunted every aspect of Kohler's life, especially her writing. Thankfully, the years have finally granted this gifted fiction writer the perspective and liberation to share her own story. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This beautifully written memoir maps a woman's search for the truth about her beloved sister's life--and her mysterious death.

Penguin, $16, paperback, 256p., 9780143129295


At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic

by Lawrence Millman

Scientist and writer Lawrence Millman (Giant Polypores and Stoned Reindeer) declares himself a sympathetic witness to a traditional lifestyle affected by outsiders. At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic uses the story of multiple murders in an isolated area of Canada to reflect on larger questions of cultural tolerance and humanity's relationship to the natural world.

Nine murders in 1941 shocked the residents of Belcher Island in Hudson Bay. Charlie Ouyerack and Peter Sala, both Inuit, were influenced by early Christian missionaries and became convinced that they were Jesus and God. When a 13-year-old challenged their claim, followers promptly beat her to death. Two weeks later, two men who again defied the cult leaders were murdered with rifle and harpoon. Finally, Sala's sister herded 12 naked people onto the ice with promises of redemption, where six of them died from exposure. The facts of the killings were known almost immediately, including sensational coverage in Life magazine. As the case went to trial one Canadian newspaper asked, "Will God be hung?"

Millman immersed himself in the community because "I couldn't write about the past without also writing about the world immediately around me." At the End of the World, Millman's 17th book, unfolds in short bursts. Introspection, combined with fine writing, propels readers into the struggle to reconcile past actions with present. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore

Discover: A bizarre series of cult murders receives a fresh look in At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic.

Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99, hardcover, 208p., 9781250111401


Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation

by Alan Burdick

According to Alan Burdick in Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, "time" is the most commonly used noun in American English. A staff writer for the New Yorker and National Book Award finalist for Out of Eden, Burdick recognizes that his subject is complicated. He notes, "If you ask a scientist who studies time to explain what time is, he or she invariably will turn the question on you: 'What do you mean by time?' "

There are many answers, which Burdick tackles with wit and wonder, mapping a nuanced exploration through mathematics, sciences, philosophy and observations of his own young sons. Burdick's investigation leads him across the world, to neuroscientists' labs, a free-fall attraction in Texas and even an encampment north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun shines night and day during summer. The book teems with entertaining trivia and stories, such as the fact that even cabbages have circadian clocks, and the origins of Greenwich Mean Time and the frustrated astronomer charged with keeping it--whom the townspeople incessantly interrupted to find out the time. Some of the science is mind-boggling. It turns out, Burdick relays, that "right now" has always already happened, several milliseconds ago--and that the perception of "right now" can be manipulated in labs.

Burdick's compelling research consistently conveys curiosity and awe for the notion of time and its passage. Why Time Flies is not a quick read; it demands contemplation. But, naturally, it's time well spent. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: This is an elegant, illuminating and occasionally mind-bending exploration of the concept of time.

Simon & Schuster, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9781416540274

Amazing Stories of the Space Age: True Tales of Nazis in Orbit, Soldiers on the Moon, Orphaned Martian Robots, and Other Fascinating Accounts from the Annals of Spaceflight

by Rod Pyle

The dawn of the Space Age launched many out-of-this-world ideas. Some of these moonshots actually flew, but many never left Earth's drawing boards. In Amazing Stories of the Space Age, science writer Rod Pyle (Curiosity, Destination Mars) explores ships, space stations and interplanetary missions that never got off the ground, and a few that did. He also navigates noteworthy though little-known highlights of successful missions, and recounts stories of close calls and near misses.

Pyle begins with Nazi plans for a ramjet bomber called Silbervogel (Silverbird), part of project Amerika Bomber, in which a rocket plane would "skip" along the upper atmosphere and deliver destruction at incredible distances. The Silverbird never flew, but as Pyle chronicles in subsequent chapters, the U.S. successfully tested similar designs in later decades.

The fall of the Third Reich sent Nazi aerospace engineers into the service of the Soviets and Americans. The most famous of these men, Werner von Braun, whose V-2 rockets rained destruction on European cities during the war, envisioned manned space expeditions far more elaborate than the Apollo program that eventually sent men to the Moon. In Das Marsprojekt, first published in English in 1953, von Braun laid out an audacious plan to send a flotilla of ships and 70 men to explore Mars. This fascinating idea, and another for an inflatable space station housing hundreds of astronauts, obviously never came to fruition.

Pyle excels at mixing technical details and historical perspectives into compelling narratives. His subjects, from pistols designed to fight communists on the Moon to the botched deployment of the Skylab space station, are all worthy of the book's title--amazing. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A science writer chronicles far-out plans and risky or unusual missions of the Space Age.

Prometheus Books, $18, paperback, 365p., 9781633882218

Children's & Young Adult

At the Edge of the Universe

by Shaun David Hutchinson

Any breakup can make a person feel like the world has just ended, but high school senior Ozzie Pinkerton of Florida feels even worse: as far as the universe is concerned, his ex-boyfriend Tommy never existed.

His friends and family won't talk to him about Tommy because they have no memory of him. Ozzie is determined to find him, but there are complications. He starts crushing on the smart, mysterious Calvin and wonders whether he can cheat on someone who never existed. His parents' marriage is over, but they all still share a house, and his brother is about to leave for the military. It's no wonder he feels like the world is closing in on him, but--oh, wait--that's happening, too. When Ozzie realizes the universe literally is shrinking every day, he starts to wonder if the universe is trying to tell him something, and if so, what the heck it could be.

While Shaun David Hutchinson (We Are the Ants) is a master of fusing the bizarre with the mundane, and the plot is delightfully constructed, it is Ozzie's pained, sardonic voice that steals the spotlight. Hutchinson's authentic characters, exploring their gender and sexuality with equal parts confusion and confidence, will resonate with many teens who no longer see their identity as binary or unchanging. Ozzie's story may be fantastical, but its emotional honesty renders the whole complicated story believable, and readers will flock to its central truths. --Stephanie Anderson, assistant director for public services, Darien Library (Conn.)

Discover: Shaun David Hutchinson's smart YA novel finds authenticity in the weirdest of places.

Simon Pulse, $17.99, hardcover, 496p., ages 14-up, 9781481449663

Laundry Day

by Jessixa Bagley

Tic and Tac are a pair of bored badgers. They've read all their books (then read them backward). They've caught all the fish in the pond (then let them go). They've built a fort (and invaded it). When their tired mother suggests that they help her hang laundry, they're intrigued. "We haven't done that yet," says Tac. They master the skill quickly, so when Ma Badger leaves them in charge while she goes to the market, they are finished in no time. If only there was more laundry to hang! The industrious brothers set to work finding other things to hang on the line: "They pilfered the pots. They pirated pillows. They looted lampshades and even took the toaster!" When Ma comes home, she's in for a big surprise. Luckily, she has a mom trick up her own sleeve.

Jessixa Bagley (Before I Leave; Boats for Papa) has perfectly captured a typical moment in every child's life, and the wonderful havoc that can be wreaked by a couple of restless kids. Readers will lose themselves in Bagley's warm pen-and-watercolor illustrations: the bric-a-brac and knickknacks alone will entertain for minutes on end. Tic hanging by his knees to attach newspapers (and a vase with flowers) to the line while Tac stands on a stump to hang roller skates is pure viewing pleasure. Perhaps the best illustration of all is at the beginning, when Tic and Tac sprawl on the lawn, arms akimbo, saying, "I'm bored." "Me too." Who hasn't been there? --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In Jessixa Bagley's sweet and funny picture book, two bored badgers "help" their mother hang laundry on the line but get a bit carried away.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-6, 9781626723177


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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