Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 3, 2017

Dutton: Sunderworld, Vol. I: The Extraordinary Disappointments of Leopold Berry by Ransom Riggs

From My Shelf

Like a Moth to Fame

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
--from Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?"

Plenty of spotlight-seekers would disagree with Emily Dickinson about the dreary nature of fame, including real-life British magician Adelaide Herrmann and a fictional hippo named Veronica. But there's one talented bear pianist who discovers his friends are "the most important audience of all."

Addie Herrmann (1853-1932) of London "never wanted to be ordinary," she wanted to "astonish, shock and dazzle." Mara Rockliff and illustrator Iacopo Bruno's Anything but Ordinary Addie (Candlewick, ages 6-9) is a big, bold picture-book biography as dazzling as its long-forgotten subject, the "Queen of Magic" who spent 65 years as a performing magician and whose extraordinary illusions were admired by thousands, including Harry Houdini.

Veronica is one hippopotamus among many in her mud bank. She is, to her dismay, inconspicuous. Seeking the attention she craves, she walks all the way to the city, where, sure enough, she was "gloriously conspicuous." In fact, "she was very much in the way." Caldecott Medal winner Roger Duvoisin's 1962 classic, Veronica (Bodleian Library; ages 5-8), is a fun picture book about some bad news (Veronica is jailed for wreaking conspicuous havoc) and some good news (she has a great story to tell back home that makes her a stand-out after all).

In British author-illustrator David Litchfield's gorgeous debut picture book, The Bear and the Piano (Clarion; ages 4-7), a bear cub finds a piano in the sun-dappled forest one day: "PLONK! The strange thing made an awful sound." Over the years, the bear becomes a talented player and takes his "magical melodies" to the bright lights of the city, which is truly wonderful until he begins to miss his forest friends. Happy ending: they're waiting for him with open arms. --Karin Snelson, freelance writer and editor

Book Candy

Air BnBs for Book Lovers

Buzzfeed checked out "18 Air BnBs for book lovers."


Charis, for example. Bustle listed "15 Margaret Atwood inspired baby names for the little feminists in your life."


"Autographs mean something." Brightly offered "5 reasons why your kids should meet one of their favorite authors."


The classic poem "When You Are Old" by W.B. Yeats was adapted into a beautiful short film, Open Culture reported.


Author Kate Hamer picked her "top 10 books about adopted children" for the Guardian.


Bookcase "is a bookshelf conceived horizontally, where books can be arrange flat," combining the function of bookshelf, console and bench."

Great Reads

Children's Books: Celebrate Women's History Month

Shelf Awareness cheers Women's History Month with these stand-out children's and YA books that tell powerful stories about woman scientists, superheroes, space travelers and Notorious RBG.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may not be "a rock star, a queen, a goddess," but to countless women--and men--who revere her for her work on behalf of the rights of all U.S. citizens, she is a hero. In I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 6-9, 9781481465595, September 20, 2016), a picture-book biography by former lawyer Debbie Levy and illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley, readers learn about the determined little girl who objected to "creaky old ideas," unfairness and inequality, and who grew up to be one of the most influential and respected people in American government--and beyond.

Editor Kelly Jensen brings together 44 vivacious and diverse voices in Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World (Workman, $16.95, paperback, 240p., ages 12-up, 9781616205867, January 24, 2017). It's a scrapbook-style teen guide to feminism, 21st-century style, that talks about feminism, identity, gender, sexuality, relationships, ambition, faith and much more. With FAQs, interviews, cartoons, suggested reading and essays by senators, bestselling authors and illustrators, educators, civil liberties activists, a Muslim blogger and a Sierra Leone-born ballerina, this lively, educational and entertaining compilation will captivate readers.

In spite of historic gender-based obstacles, there have always been girls and women whose curiosity about the natural world leads them to science. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science (Atheneum, $16.99, hardcover, 208p., ages 10-up, 9781481465656, September 20, 2016) is a collection of verse-stories about three such young women. In elegant, absorbing poems, Jeannine Atkins writes about Maria Merian, whose illustrations of metamorphosing caterpillars challenged 17th-century ideas about the life cycle of insects. Mary Anning collected fossils in the early 1800s as "curiosities" or "wonders," until she unearthed the first ichthyosaur ever discovered. And Maria Mitchell, after a childhood teaching herself mathematics and helping her mapmaker father make star charts for sailors, discovered a new comet in the mid-1800s. Young scientists-in-the-making will be proud to claim any one of these historic trailblazers as a role model.

With section headings like "Gritty Girls," "Peace Heroines" and "Outstanding Animals," Stephanie Warren Drimmer's The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals (National Geographic, $14.99, hardcover, 176p., ages 8-12, 9781426325571, November 8, 2016) is a bold, bright collection, packed with photos and illustrations of impressive women who have changed the world. Athletes, world leaders, freedom fighters, space pioneers... even everyday people (and animals!) are portrayed in splashy two-page spreads, along with occasional "Daring Dudes" sidebars featuring male heroes. From ancient mythical warriors like Athena to present-day "science superstars" like Sara Seager, these heroines will thrill and inspire girls--and boys.

Naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930) defied the social conventions of her day, turning her intense lifelong curiosity about the natural world into an untraditional career as scientific illustrator and nature educator. In the picture-book biography Out of School and into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story (Sleeping Bear, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-10, 9781585369867, March 15, 2017), nature and science writer Suzanne Slade tells the naturalist's story in lyrical text ("She loved to hold [nature] close in her fingers, she wanted to feel it squish between her toes"), including quotations from the subject's own writing. Jessica Lanan's lovely watercolors, including some reprints of Comstock's engravings, illustrate a life spent embracing nature.

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History (Ten Speed, $15.99, hardcover, 112p., ages 10-up, 9780399578861, September 27, 2016) is a treasury of gorgeously illustrated, engaging essays commemorating women's achievements around the world and throughout history, all well researched by author Kate Schatz. Readers will meet Enheduanna, the world's oldest known author, who lived 4,300 years ago in Mesopotamia, and Marta Vieira da Silva, the greatest female soccer player in the world, born in Brazil in 1986. Miriam Klein Stahl's striking papercut illustrations, set in black and white against bold solid-color backgrounds, capture the strength and fierceness of these 40 diverse women. Fans of Rad American Women A-Z will jump at the chance to go global with rad women both known and new to them. --Emilie Coulter, freelance editor and reviewer

Book Review


The Year of the Comet

by Sergei Lebedev, trans. by Antonina W. Bouis

As Russia continues to redefine itself under Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lebedev's timely novel, The Year of the Comet, arrives like a brilliant meteoric streak to illuminate the intricacies of Russian national identity and the cataclysmic fall of the Soviet Union.

Lebedev (Oblivion) spins his story from the first-person perspective of a growing boy with a curious, intelligent mind, who is never named but rather identified through various family members and friends populating the narrative like elusive ghosts. Poetic and penetrating, and demonstrating an incredible talent for nuance and paradox, Lebedev offers a seemingly traditional Bildungsroman slyly built on the shifting fault lines of history and identity. That the boy's itinerant father studies catastrophes for a living, both manmade and natural disasters, reflects the immense and mysterious instability haunting these characters' lives, "as if the entire world was tormented by secret tensions." A guarded, paranoiac state of mind distinguishes daily life in Lebedev's Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Lebedev uses his coming-of-age protagonist to attempt nothing less than than the extrication of the individual ("the planet of another person's mind") from the orbit of dictators and from the bloody, nightmarish grip of history itself. By the end, Lebedev's inquisitive boy has upturned the false bottom of national consciousness.

The Year of the Comet is one of the best books of the year, and may be one of the best novels to come out of Russia in a generation. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author

Discover: Sergei Lebedev plumbs the moods and meanings of personhood amid the collapse of the Soviet Union.

New Vessel Press, $17.95, paperback, 245p., 9781939931412

Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

Many admirers of George Saunders's inimitable short story collections like Tenth of December probably have despaired of this supremely talented, empathetic writer ever producing a novel. But with the publication of Lincoln in the Bardo, the wait is over, and we have a story of loss and grief that's extraordinary in both substance and style. The "bardo" is, in Tibetan Buddhism, the transitional state between death and rebirth. In Saunders's novel, it has a tangible location: Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood, February 1862, shortly after the death of Abraham Lincoln's son Willie, age 11, from typhoid fever.

Over the course of an extended evening, the novel recounts the anguished visits of the grief-stricken president to the mausoleum containing his son's body. These rendezvous occur in anything but solitude. Instead, they're intently observed by an audience of spirits, whose alternating chorus of voices supplies most of the novel's distinctive, drama-style narrative as they recognize, in the words of one of them, the "vivifying effect this visitation had on our community." And as if the premature death of his son weren't enough, the Lincoln of Saunders's novel, still in the first year of his presidency, must endure virulent attacks on his fitness for office. In stark contrast to the descriptions of the phantasmagoric events at Oak Hill are the chapters containing fragments of contemporary and historical writing about Lincoln.

George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo unquestionably requires a willing suspension of disbelief. Once accomplished, it's easy and most rewarding to surrender to the spellbinding power of this captivating novel. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: George Saunders's first novel spins a gloriously imaginative portrait of human grief and the afterlife as Abraham Lincoln mourns the death of his son.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 368p., 9780812995343

Radiant Terminus

by Antoine Volodine, trans. by Jeffrey Zuckerman

Radiant Terminus presents a world both long lost and just around the corner, where humanity has died out and its spectral remnants wander, post-nuclear holocaust, looking for death. It seems impossible that such a setting could be mined for laughs, but Antoine Volodine (one of the many pen names of an unidentified French writer) infuses the novel with a vicious streak of pitch-black humor. Nothing changes, no one is saved, but it's still fun to be along for the ride.

The plot, such as it is, begins when a former soldier named Kronauer enters the kolkhoz of Radiant Terminus, controlled by Solovyei, a creature who was once a man but now seems to exist beyond human reality. Interactions with Solovyei, his three strange daughters and the people of the kolkhoz force Kronauer to wonder if he isn't simply a plaything in Solovyei's endless games of amusement, or if he's even alive at all.

Radiant Terminus has answers to these questions, but the journey to them is a strange one, in which the dead return to life (sometimes in neutered form) and a good story will do more than food or sleep to keep existence going. The novel certainly isn't a hopeful one (and how could it be with its characters inhabiting some state of existence just beyond death?), but it does champion our greatest attribute as social animals: our ability to tell stories. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Radiant Terminus is a pitch-black, absurdist comedy about the beings still alive at the end of the world.

Open Letter, $17.95, paperback, 500p., 9781940953526

Mystery & Thriller

Swiss Vendetta

by Tracee De Hahn

Following her husband's death, Inspector Agnes Lüthi has transferred from financial crimes to the new violent crimes unit being established in Lausanne, Switzerland. She wants a fresh start, but she discovers she's not quite ready to deal with death face-to-face again when she's called out to her first case.

A terrible ice storm is raging on Lac Léman when a young woman, Felicity Cowell, is found stabbed to death at a huge lakeside chateau. Agnes makes a literally smashing arrival as her car slides down the steep icy hill leading there. Trapped by the ice and the fallen trees, unable to contact their superiors because power and cell phone service are out, Agnes and a fellow officer are forced to stay in the candlelit chateau with the aristocratic Vallotton family, one of whom is probably the murderer. But why would any of the Vallottons want Felicity, an appraiser for a London auction house, dead? Did she discover a dark secret in the Vallotton art collection? Or could one of the servants have been involved?

A modern police procedural and yet reminiscent of Mary Stewart's gothic writing, Swiss Vendetta is an appealing first novel by Tracee de Hahn. The vivid, frigid location makes for an appropriately cold setting to a brutal murder. And Agnes's struggles to stay on task despite her own still-fresh grief make her an eminently likable heroine. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Inspector Agnes Lüthi's first violent crimes case is a complicated one: a young woman is found stabbed to death in a Swiss chateau.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250109996


by Gregory McDonald

Two-time Edgar Award-winner Gregory McDonald is best remembered for Fletch and its 10 comedic mystery sequels, but he also wrote a number of popular standalone thrillers and mysteries. Snatch collects two McDonald novels that have no characters in common but both revolve around the kidnapping of eight-year-olds.

Snatch (originally published in 1980 as Who Took Toby Rinaldi?) is the breezier of the two, expertly blending action, quirky characters and an acerbic sense of humor. It is told in 67 bite-sized chapters for maximum forward momentum. Toby Rinaldi, the son of a UN ambassador from a Middle Eastern monarchy, is snatched by a group who want to control his father's actions. But the inexperienced kidnapper is no match for the savvy kid, who is more concerned with visiting a California amusement park than being reunited with his folks.

The second novel, Safekeeping (1985), feels like a mixture of Oliver Twist and Damon Runyon. Eight-year-old Robby Burnes, orphaned son of a duke, is one of many children shipped to New York during World War II to escape the London bombings. An Italian family with ransom dreams immediately kidnaps him from his inattentive, boozy guardian. But when Robby witnesses a mob murder, he flees to the streets--chased by one group trying to keep their ransom safe and another intent on killing a witness.

Both entertaining novels are fun, fast-paced capers with colorful, sympathetic characters, surprising plot twists and crackling, snappy dialogue. Snatch offers two less-familiar but top-notch Gregory McDonald novels in one delightful volume. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Two long-out-of-print caper novels investigate kidnappings of eight-year-olds.

Hard Case Crime, $12.95, paperback, 448p., 9781785651823

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Miranda and Caliban

by Jacqueline Carey

With Miranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey (the Kushiel's Legacy series) offers an ambitious take on Shakespeare's The Tempest. Both a reinterpretation of and a prologue to the play, Miranda and Caliban cleverly expands on a story at which Shakespeare hints. The novel first follows Miranda and her father, Prospero, as they lead a lonely life on a seemingly uninhabited island. Prospero is an odd cross between sorcerer and rigidly devout Christian, drawing on mysterious planetary influences to perform spells and bind spirits to his will. Carey's grounding in fantasy comes in handy depicting the various spirits, including earth elementals that "till the gardens with their spade-like hands" and water elementals that cavort in the fountains.

Miranda's loneliness is eased after her father summons Caliban, a wild boy who Prospero believes might be descended from a witch, in order to study his bestial features and employ him as a servant. Before long, Miranda and Caliban form an emotional connection that, despite Prospero's fierce commands, develops toward a romance. Their bond is both tested and strengthened by her father's tyrannical influence, with his character becoming more and more frightening as Miranda and Caliban start to uncover his dark schemes. Readers without any knowledge of The Tempest will have no trouble being sucked into Carey's remixed Shakespearian world, but those familiar with the play will be surprised and moved by the lyrical, often melancholic light Carey casts on some of its most famous scenes. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Miranda and Caliban is a romantic retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, whose characters bond and chafe under the yoke of Miranda's tyrannical father, Prospero.

Tor, $25.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780765386793


Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

by Jennifer Wright

Perhaps the only way to make the topic of infectious diseases appeal to a broad readership would be to approach it the same way you'd write about sex and dating: be chatty, opinionated and ebullient. And that's exactly what Jennifer Wright does in Get Well Soon.

Wright (It Ended Badly), a sex and dating writer for the New York Post and New York Observer, chronicles history's best-known diseases, including bubonic plague, smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis, leprosy, typhoid and polio, delivering facts with a running commentary informed by an enthusiastic, millennial sensibility. To wit: John Snow was the 19th-century physician who first suggested that cholera was transmitted not by "miasma" but by a contaminated water supply. "Like the Game of Thrones character Jon Snow, he was a real square.... He was a fervent teetotaler. Which is fine! The most accomplished people I know never drink and are always getting up early to run marathons."

Wright's asides (and liberal use of exclamation points!) can overshadow her subject matter, but calling this book fluff would be to disregard its thorough research and sobering message. In her epilogue, she praises "strong leaders" such as Marcus Aurelius, who responded swiftly to the Antonine plague, and offers a pointed rebuke of Ronald Reagan, who didn't acknowledge our most recent epidemic (AIDS) until after 20,849 Americans had lost their lives from it. If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, this one's a ladle! --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Discover: This enthusiastic and smart-alecky history of the world's worst diseases is well researched and easy to swallow.

Holt, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781627797467

Current Events & Issues

The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data

by Kevin Mitnick with Robert Vamosi

When reading The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data--a 21st-century handbook by renowned hacker Kevin Mitnick (Ghost in the Wires)--it's hard not to feel the creeping sensation that your smartphone is watching you.

That's because Mitnick pulls back the curtain on a mass surveillance state that consists of both corporate and government parties using intrusive technologies to track and target the most personal data. Splaying open this vast, many-tentacled, seemingly unaccountable monster, Mitnick deftly reveals how society has slowly abdicated basic civil rights and expectations of privacy. He points to real-life examples, including illegal overreach of law enforcement and government surveillance programs, but also to the underlying mechanisms of many social media and web-based e-mail platforms that sneakily exploit personal data that likely would never be offered voluntarily. A criminal hacker turned expert security consultant, Mitnick has been on both sides of the law and knows how to make the fine print of online user agreements painfully visible and relevant.

Fortunately, The Art of Invisibility outlines several steps consumers can take to protect their information and remain relatively anonymous online. These include different choices in both hardware and software used for online activity, but also encryption methods for e-mail and other communications. Beyond the specific, Mitnick raises general awareness consumers need to navigate new technologies and interfaces; at the forefront should always be the question of how much information one is willing to give up. The Art of Invisibility brings a sharp focus to privacy issues and helps illuminate an unprecedented era of technological advancement. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author.

Discover: A famous hacker explains how to protect oneself in a world of constant surveillance and data breaches.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780316380508


A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes

by Zeeya Merali

What if humans could create a new "baby universe," one filled with stars, galaxies, black holes and even sentient beings similar to ourselves? And if we could, should we? These are the two major questions science journalist Zeeya Merali discusses in A Big Bang in a Little Room, a fascinating look at the incredibly complex world of modern physics.

Scientists worldwide, many of whom are interviewed here, are in the process of computing how it would be possible to create such a new "baby universe" in a lab, possibly through the use of a particle collider such as the Large Hadron Collider. Merali does an excellent job of laying out the foundations of quantum physics so that the average reader can understand it, without introducing the difficult mathematics behind the process. She builds one idea on top of another when discussing black holes, Hawking radiation, monopoles, string theory and multiverses, among many other ideas. Gradually she moves toward her goal of proposing the concept of universe building, and the moral and ethical obligations scientists would face if they suddenly were able to accomplish this feat. Intertwined throughout the science is the concept of religion, of whether God is the one behind all of this conjecture and math. Regardless of one's beliefs, Merali encourages readers to think outside the known parameters of space-time and three-dimensionality, and instead contemplate seemingly farfetched ideas that in the near future may be within our grasp. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: This book makes the complexity of quantum physics accessible to the layperson and explores the practical and moral questions of building a miniature universe in the lab.

Basic Books, $27.99, hardcover, 320p., 9780465065912

Performing Arts

Studio Grace: The Making of a Record

by Eric Siblin

What does a journalist with some guitar chops do when he meets up with two other aspiring musicians? He recruits them to help him realize a long-time dream of recording his own album. Jo, a real estate agent, talented singer and Eric Siblin's muse-by-text-message, is the first to join the author on his journey to finish a record. Siblin then runs into an old college buddy, Morey, who has a digital recording studio in his basement; he helps Siblin connect with other singers (including Morey's daughter, Haley Richman) and music producers.
Self-deprecating and admittedly an egotistic auteur, Siblin describes his journey from a handful of acoustic guitar strum-based songs to a fully formed, multi-instrument album--freely available to stream online. The process seems at times frustrating and demoralizing with moments of transcendence. Along the way, he records in Montreal's Hotel2Tango analog studio with Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman, in a tiny basement studio run by a wedding band drummer and in Morey's attic studio, where they re-envision one of Siblin's songs with more of a trip-hop vibe, placing Haley's ethereal vocals front and center.

Studio Grace excels at describing the process of recording more traditional guitar-driven pop songs in the current era of YouTube and digital workstations. It's a solid story that is recommended reading for anyone interested in making recorded music. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer/editor

Discover: Amateur musician and professional journalist Eric Siblin documents his experience recording an album.

House of Anansi Press, $24.95, hardcover, 304p., 9781770899346

Children's & Young Adult

The Free

by Lauren McLaughlin

"You could say trouble has an unholy crush on Isaac West," says Isaac West, 16-year-old protagonist of The Free. Isaac lives outside Boston with his alcoholic prostitute mother and adored 13-year-old sister, Janelle. When his vocational high school automotive teacher convinces him to takes the rap for a car theft gone wrong, Isaac is sent to "juvie"--Haverland Juvenile Detention--for 30 days. Determined to keep invisible among the warring gangs until he's "back in the free," Isaac looks for a way to fit in. But "all the inmates have figured out how to sort themselves by color," which complicates things for the biracial teen: "There's never a separate table for mixed-race kids or for kids who just want to be left the hell alone." But when Isaac starts working on Haverland's newspaper as "Poems and S**t Editor" and reluctantly attending required group therapy sessions, he may have found his place. What he learns about himself and his deeply forgotten--or denied--past as he and his therapy teammates re-enact his "crime story" has the potential either to destroy him or turn his life around.

In Lauren McLaughlin's (Scored; Cycler) brilliant, authentic telling, it's easy to understand how Isaac ended up going down his particular path of petty crime: "I'm buying something better. Freedom. Not for myself either, but for Janelle. My own freedom will come later, after Janelle's squared away." Readers will have tremendous empathy for a boy who will do anything to protect his sister, especially when he starts to wonder if there's a different route he can take to "the free." --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A 16-year-old boy works to overcome a lifetime of obstacles in this riveting YA novel about life in "juvie."

Soho Press, $18.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 14-up, 9781616957315

A Day with Dogs

by Dorothée de Monfreid

Children's book creator Richard Scarry is best known for busy, animal-populated scenes where almost every object is labeled--a bonanza for preschoolers honing their reading skills. In A Day with Dogs (a French tribute to Scarry, originally published as the catchy-sounding Tout tout sur les toutous), readers will peek into the entertaining daily life of many comically illustrated pooches, all identified by name (Alex to Zaza!) and breed.

Dorothée de Monfreid (Dark Night; I'd Really Like to Eat a Child) sketches Dalmatians, Chihuahuas, Boxers, Yorkshire Terriers and Great Danes with equal glee. In the "At Home" spread, a cross-section of a three-story house reveals the personality-rich dogs up to their tricks in labeled rooms, with labeled furniture. Other scenes are "The Bathroom," "Clothes," "At School," along with charming numbers and alphabet sections. "Art Class" offers up lessons in color-mixing (and mess-making); "At Work" displays vocations from president to clown; "Sports" is ripe with doggy mini-dramas (go over the hurdle, not under, buddy!); and "At the Doctor" is a bittersweet mash-up of compassion and rashes. Jolly field trips abound, whether their canine antics are "In the Country," "The Farm," "The Sea," "The Forest" or "The Supermarket."

Categories such as seasons, vegetables, animals, flowers, insects, vehicles and music make this book a fun addition to any child's (and/or ESL student's) library. With repeated readings, children will start to recognize the individual dogs by name as they reappear in different scenarios. Put this one on your list of winning baby-shower gifts, with Denise Fleming's delightful The Everything Book. --Karin Snelson, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In this playful French picture-book tribute to Richard Scarry's work--busy scenes where objects are labeled--a bunch of dogs make their way through a typical day.

Gecko Press, $19.99, library binding, 64p., ages 2-5, 9781776570980

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