Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 2, 2018

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

From My Shelf

The Last Days of Winter: Groundhog Day Reads

Happy Groundhog Day, all! On this North American holiday, we wait with bated breath to see if the groundhog will spot his shadow. Whether his prediction this year marks the beginning of the end of winter or leads us to believe we'll have even more weeks of frigid temps, we celebrate the last of the cold and snow with these winter-themed reads:

Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale (not to be confused with the Shakespeare play The Winter's Tale) opens on a cold, blustery, snow-covered New York City in the early 20th century as Peter Lake attempts to break into an empty uptown mansion. The novel is much more than a heist story, however, as Helprin expertly weaves fantastical elements into the real-life fiber of historical New York, resulting in a whimsical and kaleidoscopic work of literary fiction.

In her debut novel, The Snow Child, Alaskan novelist Eowyn Ivey reimagines the snow maiden folk tale in which a young girl comes to life from a statue of snow. Scenes of the rough-and-tumble Alaskan winters will leave non-Alaskan readers grateful for the comparatively mild winters we face elsewhere, while Ivey's heartfelt story of love, family and belonging will warm frozen hearts.

The Sunlight Pilgrims is set in the not-too-distant future of 2020. Jenni Fagan (The Panopticon) introduces readers to a world transformed by climate change, with temperatures around the world plummeting to dangerous, record-breaking lows. Set against this backdrop of a dawning ice age are three town misfits whose lives collide in unexpected ways. Fagan asks big questions about what it means to belong, to love and to be loved--and whether or not the answers to those even matter at the end of the world as we know it. (Spoiler alert: they do.) --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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

The Writer's Life

Sigrid Nunez: A Love Letter

photo: Marion Ettlinger

Sigrid Nunez is the author of seven books and many short stories and essays, and she teaches writing. She's received a Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature and a Berlin Prize fellowship. In Sempre Susan, Nunez wrote a revealing memoir about Susan Sontag, an American writer, filmmaker, teacher and political activist who played a significant role in Nunez's personal and professional life. In her new novel, The Friend (see our review below), Nunez explores the bond between a grief-stricken woman and a dog she reluctantly agrees to foster after the death of her mentor and friend.

Suicide, writing and dogs form the basis of this novel.

Yes, in recent years I happened to learn that a number of people I knew had been obsessing about suicide. Not that they were actually planning to do it, but it seemed to be always on their minds. And in fact, very sadly, one of those people has since taken his own life. So that was one very important thread. Another thread was my work as a writing teacher and the idea of literary mentorship. And then I've always been interested in human-animal companionship. I saw a way to explore all these subjects in one novel.

Did you know from the start that a dog--Apollo--would be the cornerstone of The Friend?

I can't remember exactly at what point Apollo became such an important part of the story, but he's based on dogs I've known in real life.

What's been your experience with dogs?

I've always loved dogs. It was one of the great "unhappinesses" of my childhood that we lived in a place where no dogs were allowed. Later, around the time I went to college, my family had a Great Dane, and I had a dog whose sire was a Great Dane when I was in my 20s.

Is your history with Great Danes why you chose to create Apollo as a Harlequin Great Dane in the novel?

I was drawn to the idea of an exceptionally large and visually striking animal.

Many of your novels are written in a very intimate, first-person point of view. Do you find it easier, more accessible, to write in this voice?

It's not really a question of what's easier or more accessible but rather which point of view best suits a particular story. In The Friend, for example, from the beginning I knew I wanted an intimate, first-person voice. To be more precise, I wanted the narrative to sound like a letter, and not just any letter but a love letter. That was the tone I was going for: intimate, hushed, urgent. 

An unnamed speaker narrates The Friend. And many other characters are also unnamed. Why?

To name or not to name a fictional character isn't a choice that I make beforehand. It's something intuitive that comes with the writing. In writing The Friend, any time I thought about inventing a name for a human character it struck a false note, and I was immediately compelled to get rid of it.

The Friend is rooted in the challenges of a writer's life. There's a quote in the book: "Some would say that, after all, the one sure way for an artist to know his work had failed was if everyone 'got' it." What's your feeling about this idea?

I would say that if everyone likes and approves of a certain work, it can't be very interesting. Oscar Wilde was right: "Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself."

How did writing The Friend differ from writing Sempre Susan?

In many ways, writing the memoir was easier than writing the novel for the simple reason that I didn't have to invent anything. I already had the story and the characters. But in other ways the process was much the same: a struggle to find the right words and the right order of words to make the narrative as effective as possible.

Your novels are unified by themes of death and grief and an inherent lack of understanding between people, yet a sincere need for protagonists to try to understand people and circumstances anyway. What draws you to these ideas and why?

These are some of the most important aspects of human experience, matters that touch us all. It seems to me only natural that this would be the material a novelist would want to grapple with and that people would want to read about.

If you could not be a writer and/or teacher of writing, what career path would you choose?

This is something I touch on in The Friend. My love for animals has always been very strong. I love all animals and am fascinated by animal behavior. I may very well have missed my true calling. I often wish I had pursued some career that had to do with the study, care or training of animals. I think I would have found much fulfillment in such work.

What can readers expect from you next?

I'm about 50 pages into a new novel, which has a narrative voice very similar to that of The Friend.

Will the new novel include another dog?

No. No animals this time--at least, not yet. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

Book Candy

New Words from the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary's "new words include 'mansplaining' but steer clear of 'poomageddon,' " the Guardian noted.


The Rookery, Chicago's pop-up bar inspired by Stephen King's The Shining, is open until February 10, Mental Floss wrote.


In 90 seconds, bestselling author Diana Gabaldon "explains how she crafts a sentence" during an interview filmed at the Random House Open House, in conversation with Julie Kosin, editor at Harper's Bazaar.


Are you ready to order? Quirk Books cooked up some "book and grilled cheese pairings."


Lit Hub tuned up "11 pop songs for literary people."


If you do 19/29 of these things then you should own a library," according to Buzzfeed.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Yesterday marked the 100th birthday of Scottish author, essayist and poet Muriel Spark (1918-2006). Her most famous work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), was number 76 on Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It takes place in 1930s Edinburgh, where an outgoing teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, self-described as "in her prime," takes a special interest in several pupils at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. These six students quickly become the "Brodie set," connected to each other and their teacher by Miss Brodie's unorthodox lessons. The novel follows the Brodie set and Miss Brodie through their school years and via flash forwards, to when one among them helps ruin Miss Brodie's teaching career.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie incorporates autobiographical details from Spark's life. Miss Brodie was modeled in part on Christina Kay, Spark's teacher for two years at James Gillespie's School for Girls, whose idiosyncrasies included hanging up posters of Renaissance paintings alongside pro-fascist images. Spark's conversion from Anglican to Roman Catholic also occurs in the favored girl among the Brodie set (and is a recurring theme in Spark's other work). In 1969, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was turned into a popular film starring Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie, for which she received an Academy Award for Best Actress. On February 6, 2018, Harper Perennial Modern Classics will publish a new paperback edition of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ($13.99, 9780061711299). -Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Juniper Tree

by Barbara Comyns

In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "The Juniper Tree" a pious wife desperately wants a child; her wish is granted, but she dies just after giving birth to a son. Her husband buries her under a juniper tree and remarries, but his new wife, favoring her own daughter, cooks her stepson into a stew and feeds it to his father.

Barbara Comyns's The Juniper Tree, originally published in 1985, bears an epigraph from the fairy tale: "My mother she killed me, my father he ate me," but from there diverges sharply from the original. In 1980s London, Bella Winter has a young daughter of mixed race she calls Marline, born out of wedlock and fathered by a man whose name she didn't catch. In the opening pages, Bella is jobless and homeless, but she is resourceful and soon finds a home and vocation in a small antiques shop. The friendship of an upper-class couple, Bernard and Gertrude, completes her happiness. This contentment is shattered, however, when Gertrude's longed-for pregnancy ends in both birth and death. Bella plays an increasingly large role in helping Bernard run his household and care for the baby, Johnny, and Marline becomes like a sister to the boy. When Bernard convinces Bella to marry him, however, her life takes a turn toward the Brothers Grimm.

Comyns turns the fairy tale on its head and complicates it with class and racial tensions, mental illness and the timeless struggle of a young woman to chart her own course. The Juniper Tree is a poignant, quietly disturbing novel for fans of strong female protagonists and dark fairy tales, and anyone who roots for the underdog. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A Brothers Grimm fairy tale recast in 1980s London features a single mother fighting against long odds for her place in the world.

New York Review Books, $14.95, paperback, 192p., 9781681371313

The Friend

by Sigrid Nunez

Sigrid Nunez (Sempre Susan) has not graced the literary world with a novel in almost a decade--but the wait has surely been worth it. In The Friend, she takes readers on a reflective journey through a labyrinth of grief, loss and loneliness. This meditative, beautifully written novel reads as intimately as a memoir. It is narrated by a sensitive intellectual, an unnamed woman--a writer and teacher--who lives an isolated life in a tiny, barely 500-square-foot, rent-controlled New York City apartment.

The suicide of her mentor--a writer and teacher, one of the narrator's closest and oldest friends--forces her to grapple with the role he played in her life, the meaning of his life and death, as well as her own existence in the world. When she is ultimately asked to take in the deceased's dog--a 180-pound Harlequin Great Dane named Apollo--she is reluctant. The narrator lives alone and works mostly at home. Although she prefers cats, the affection and devotion her mentor had for Apollo sways her decision. Despite her building not allowing pets, she agrees to take the dog temporarily. His entrance adds a new dimension to the landscape of loss, as he mourns his master in his own way. But, as the narrator says, "You cannot explain death to a dog."

The pain of the narrator's bereavement is dealt with through remembering and writing. But the bond she forms with the dog--how they adapt to each other and a world darkened by an aching void--forges this thought-provoking, philosophical story. Ultimately, The Friend ponders the meanings of loyalty, love, friendship and a buoyant creative spirit. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

Discover: A writer who lives in isolation takes in her deceased mentor's dog, and the two of them come to grips with death and loss--and each other.

Riverhead Books, $25, hardcover, 224p., 9780735219441

Eternal Life

by Dara Horn

Dara Horn's fifth novel, Eternal Life, is a beautiful but melancholy exploration of mortality as the element of human existence that's essential to life's meaning.

Rachel, an 18-year-old woman living in the first century of the Common Era, is mother to Yochanan ben Zakkai, who will one day become an eminent Talmudic scholar. When her infant son becomes desperately ill, she strikes a terrible bargain with Elazar, the son of the Temple high priest and her lover, agreeing to endure eternal life in exchange for her son's recovery. Over the next 2,000 years, Rachel experiences repeated cycles of death and rebirth.

In the portion of the novel set in the present, Rachel spars with her granddaughter Hannah, a genetics researcher and someone who Rachel calls one of the "new high priests," over the young woman's project to unlock the secrets of, and attempt to defeat, the aging process. Acutely conscious of the passage of time, Hannah bemoans the "secret passage underneath everything that's always flowing with this constant stream of sorrow, and no one can see it, but we all know it's there," as she watches her young children move through life's stages. But far worse, based on Rachel's bitter experience, is the pain of an unending existence.

For a short novel, Eternal Life swiftly traverses an impressive swath of history. Horn (In the Image) is well versed in Jewish religion and culture, and brings that knowledge to bear on her story unobtrusively and effectively, making this a novel that will appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Dara Horn's melancholy novel about the burden of an endless life may give pause to people who wish they might live forever.

W.W. Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 256p., 9780393608533


by Emma Glass

Emma Glass is a research nurse specialist in London. Peach is her first novel, and it reveals an author already in fierce command of her own style. Like a bruised piece of fruit, it oozes with ruined sweetness that one can't wash off after reading. The novel's moral lessons stick, and they're meant to.

The plot is straightforward: a British teen named Peach is sexually assaulted and must cope with the trauma. She placates the concerns of her parents, who believe she's just going through normal sexual feelings, and also indulges her nice but clueless boyfriend, Green. Unfortunately the trauma takes on a life of its own, and Peach's tender world begins an inward putrefaction.

Writing in the first-person, Glass revels in rhythmic fragments, rhyme and alliteration that create an uncanny stream-of-consciousness: "I stutter. I splutter.... My heart batters my lungs and my breath bursts out in little bullets. I want to tell him. I was taking care of Baby. Weak words." The novel makes surrealistic, dream-like leaps when nonliving objects also begin to resemble the food chain: "I watch cars roll in rows in the street on sushi wheels."

All this adds up to a macabre playfulness that keeps the prose lively and luridly engaging throughout. Glass's imaginative wordplay opens up the very serious subject matter of sexual assault in new, frightening dimensions. Peach is a deceptively short, hugely provocative novel worth every bite. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: This debut novel explores the trauma of sexual assault and lust for revenge through surreal and morbid imagery.

Bloomsbury, $18, hardcover, 112p., 9781635571301

The Tiger and the Acrobat

by Susanna Tamaro, trans. by Nicoleugenia Prezzavento, Vicki Satlow

Little Tiger is different. She does not want to claim a kingdom for herself and spend her time hunting big game. "She had no desire to tear or mangle, or display any form of supremacy. The hunger that consumed her was, rather, for knowledge." What makes a tiger a tiger, and what makes a man a man, and what makes a hare a hare? Why does the sun never grow closer, no matter how far we travel towards it? What is the purpose of her life, and how would she know it? This questioning is at the heart of Susanna Tamaro's The Tiger and the Acrobat, translated from the Italian by Nicoleugenia Prezzavento and Vicki Satlow. As her questioning leads her across the wintery forests of Siberia and into the company of Man, Tamaro's simple, almost juvenile language becomes the novel's greatest feature, coloring the innocence and naivety with which Tiger views the world.

The Tiger and the Acrobat is a fable in the truest sense of the word, with human-like animals whose adventures and conversations convey a series of lessons about life to the reader. Though the form can be one-dimensional at times, Tamaro uses it to great effect to explore the power and beauty of the natural world, the place of man in the order of things, and what it means to be true not only to oneself, but to those we love--no matter the cost. Slim but powerful, The Tiger and the Acrobat is rich with reflections on purpose and meditations on what it means to be oneself. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A fable about a tiger in search of her life's purpose offers wisdom on the meaning of life and the role of self in the world.

ONEWorld Publications, $15.99, paperback, 176p., 9781786072825

Mystery & Thriller

Need to Know

by Karen Cleveland

In Karen Cleveland's accomplished first novel, Need to Know, Vivian is the working mom of four children under eight, trying to balance maternal guilt with professional ambition. Fortunately, her love-at-first-sight husband of 10 years is a software engineer with flexible hours and a home office. Matt gets the kids off to school and daycare, rounds up groceries, prepares meals and does the before-bed reading.

But there are a few kinks in this seemingly satisfying life: one of their infant twins has an expensive congenital heart problem; the overpriced house they bought in Bethesda, Md., has them financially strapped; and Vivian is a veteran CIA counterintelligence analyst about to bust open a Russian sleeper cell with her own innovative algorithm. But her hack into a Russian handler's laptop reveals that one of his longtime agents is unquestionably her husband, Matt.

With eight years of experience in the CIA, Cleveland knows the ins and outs of its clandestine mysteries. More Robert Ludlum than John le Carré, Need to Know is cinematic rather than cerebral (a film starring Charlize Theron is said to be under development). Despite its nonstop plot and what-can-go-wrong-next intrigue, Need to Know is at heart a story of a family coming apart under the shadow of subterfuge and fear. Vivian's struggle is as much with untangling her relationship with Matt as it is with uncovering a spy ring.

As Cleveland accelerates the action from covert digital snooping to overt violence, Vivian becomes a mama bear protecting her cubs. Need to Know is for those who clamber into the front car of a roller coaster waving their arms and lusting for the next gut-sucking, high-speed drop. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Karen Cleveland's debut is a nonstop thriller tapping into a hot mix of contemporary digital counterintelligence, old-school spying and ageless family drama.

Ballantine Books, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781524797027

A Treacherous Curse

by Deanna Raybourn

In A Treacherous Curse, Deanna Raybourn continues the entertaining adventures of the intrepid butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell and her occasionally gloomy (but always dashing) research partner, noted naturalist Revelstoke Templeton-Vane ("Stoker").

Unfortunately for Stoker, this investigation will focus on painful events in his past. His ex-wife, the alluring and venomous Caroline de Morgan, and her husband, John--who left Stoker for dead in a South American jungle a few years before--were recently part of an archeological expedition to Egypt. But John went missing, along with the diadem of Princess Ankheset, starting rumors that the expedition was cursed by the god Anubis. So when Mrs. de Morgan and an apparent Anubis both pop up in London, the head of Scotland Yard asks Veronica and Stoker to quietly help him investigate.

Alas for Scotland Yard, Veronica and Stoker don't do anything quietly, and their research will take them from exclusive Egyptological societies to sketchy hotels, through fetid sewers, and into the drawing rooms of the highest members of Victorian society. The sexual tension between Stoker and Veronica carried over from the previous novel (A Perilous Undertaking) ratchets even tighter here. Raybourn's witty writing is sure to please her many fans, and also attract new readers who enjoy historical mysteries. Lovers of Elizabeth Peters, C.S. Harris and Charles Finch will enjoy this romp. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: A pair of daring Victorian investigators must uncover whether an Egyptological expedition is simply cursed--or if there are more nefarious schemes afoot.

Berkley, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780451476173

Biography & Memoir

Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill

by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Prolific biographer Taraborrelli (After Camelot) writes meticulously researched biographies that read like novels, and his third book covering the Kennedy dynasty is fascinating and absorbing. This hefty volume focuses on the relationships among Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Lee Radziwill and their mother, Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss. Early on, Janet tells her daughters the secret to happiness is money and power. All three strong and temperamental women spent their lives pursuing both.

Despite their efforts to rebel against their mother, both daughters ended up following her matrimonial blueprint. All married initially for love (Jackie snagged John F. Kennedy, who would become president of the United States eight years into their marriage) while their second marriages focused on security: Janet to the heir to the Standard Oil fortune; Jackie to billionaire Aristotle Onassis; Lee to a Polish prince. Shipping tycoon Onassis is a fascinating character. Lee was ready to leave her husband for Onassis, but was convinced by her mother that it would ruin JFK's presidency. But five years after her husband's assassination, it was Jackie who ended up marrying him (after demanding a lump payment of $3 million and a monthly $30,000 allowance for expenses).

Taraborrelli captures the glamorous, tragic, seductive and completely absorbing world of the Kennedys and those who married them. With his bite-size chapters, insightful writing and impeccable research, Taraborrelli's Jackie, Janet & Lee is irresistible, intimate and revealing. His massive biography offers a fresh take on the iconic First Lady and her family. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: An irresistible and intimate page-turner that details the glamorous, tragic and absorbing lives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill and their mother.

St. Martin's Press, $29.99, hardcover, 528p., 9781250128010


When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

by Matthew Restall

In When Montezuma Met Cortés, Mesoamerican scholar and historian Mathew Restall dismantles the 500-year traditional story of the "Conquest of Mexico." It is one "in which civilization, faith, reason, reality and a progressive future are victorious over barbarism, idolatry, superstition, irrationality, and retrogressive past." In short, this historic event stands as a symbol of the whole history of European colonization of the Americas--the United States included.

Restall debunks what he calls "mythistory." A Penn State professor of colonial Latin American history and a prolific author, Restall (The Conquistadors) knows his Mexican history and is sufficiently fluent in a half-dozen languages to do his own translating of primary sources. When Montezuma Met Cortés digs deep into the details of 16th-century exploration and imperialism, but it also rolls along easily with Restall's colloquial asides and skeptical common sense. For example, while Cortés and his Spanish apologists paint him as a loyal heroic soldier with a gift for strategy and diplomacy, Restall uncovers evidence that he was a middling sailor, mediocre leader and voracious womanizer. Similarly, Montezuma was not the submissive sycophant portrayed in the first meeting with Cortés, but rather a shrewd leader checking out his adversaries. As Restall suggests: "Montezuma was not afraid of the Spaniards; he was hunting them." But regardless of the real nature of that historic meeting, the result was a barbaric war with massive casualties on both sides.

Restall acknowledges that the historical details are ambiguous, but "those blurred lines are not just an issue that historians must tackle; they are History." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In When Montezuma Met Cortés, a heavily researched, spirited history, Latin American scholar Matthew Restall reshapes the Spanish-Aztec story.

Ecco, $35, hardcover, 560p., 9780062427267

Art & Photography

Robert Storr: Interviews on Art

by Francesca Pietropaolo, editor

While Robert Storr is not a household name, he has been at the center of the art world for decades. Storr, formerly a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and dean of the School of Art at Yale University, is one of the foremost art critics of the past 40 years. In Robert Storr: Interviews on Art, editor Francesca Pietropaolo culls his interviews with 61 artists from across the art scene.

Arranged alphabetically, each interview was conducted between 1981 and 2016. Some subjects are titans of the art scene. Interviewed two years before his death, Buckminster Fuller details how his revolutionary architectural designs emerged during the Depression. Chuck Close discusses his return to painting following a debilitating medical event. Several colorful interviews with French American artist Louise Bourgeois reveal her fascinating perspective on a range of issues, including being a woman in an art world dominated by men. Younger artists such as Nigerian-born Wangechi Mutu may lack the name recognition of Jeff Koons or Gerhard Richter, but her insight into the representation of the black female body in art is insightful, as is Mary Reid Kelley's discussion of the use of rhyme as a powerful force in her video art.

While the conversations occasionally lean toward the academic, they are never dull or pedantic. The interviews wouldn't be as rich as they are if it weren't for Storr. Trained as an artist, he has the ability to engage intimately with his subjects in a way that feels like a dialogue between peers. --Frank Brasile, selection librarian, writer, editor

Discover: Immerse yourself in the contemporary art world through probing interviews with artistic luminaries and rising stars.

HENI Publishing, $45, hardcover, 900p., 9780993010354

Children's & Young Adult

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World

by Susan Hood

In a paragraph before the table of contents, Susan Hood addresses the reader directly. The "inspiring young rebels" in this book "broke down walls to pursue their interests, talents, and rights," she states. These 14 women and girls, from around the world and whose lives spanned centuries, "fought fires, discovered prehistoric animals, circled the globe, braved Nazis, championed sports, changed the way we eat, integrated schools, improved medicine, and reached for the skies."

Each young woman who changed the world is given her own double-page spread with an original poem by Susan Hood, a brief biographical explanation of what she did or who she was, and a full-page illustration by one of 13 female illustrators. Some of the women depicted in Shaking Things Up may be known to young readers--children's author Pura Belpré, artist Frida Kahlo, architect Maya Lin--while many--such as inventor of the modern swimsuit Annette Kellerman or cancer researcher Angela Zhang--are lesser known, but still incredible, young rebels. Each poem and illustration, like each young woman featured, shines with a personality all its own, like the bold colors and thick outlines of Sara Palacios's Pura Belpré or the soft features and earth-toned palette of Sophie Blackall's Jacqueline Nearne ("Undercover Operative"). Shaking Things Up also has back matter for invested readers, including an author's note, sources, books and websites. All of the young women discussed in this picture book "dared to step out of the box" and, for that, "the world is a better place." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Susan Hood and 13 incredible female illustrators highlight the lives of 14 extraordinary women.

Harper, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-9, 9780062699459

When Your Llama Needs a Haircut

by Susanna Leonard Hill, illus. by Daniel Wiseman

It's Picture Day and a young boy's llama is in desperate need of a haircut. Speaking directly to the reader, the boy gives step-by-step instructions on how to wash and style your llama--once you can catch it, that is. The cornered llama handles the indignity of having its hair washed and then combed with a rake but begins to lose its cool when the boy starts to show it hairstyles.

The boy goes through a series of potential Llama Looks, with matching outfits: the bowl cut shows the llama in a suit and tie; permed, it strikes a pose in leg warmers; and while sporting a bright green Mohawk, it wears a spiked collar and a "mom" tattoo. 

"A simple trim from nose to tail" it'll have to be. "Make sure he holds still! SNIP! SNIP! Oh no! Stop that wiggling!" Before the boy or llama know it, both have only half a head of hair. The last spread shows the boy and his llama in front of the camera, smiling brightly, giving a thumbs/hoofs up, and showing off their matching buzz cuts. "When your llama needs a haircut, you might just end up with one too!"

This silly board book, much like its sibling books, When Your Lion Needs a Bath and When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles, has amusing illustrations and direct, funny text that will undoubtedly bring children back for repeated readings. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A little boy tries to make his llama presentable for Picture Day.

Little Simon, $7.99, board books, 26p., ages 2-4, 9781534405639


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

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

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

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

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

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

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

Steve Simmons

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


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

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