Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, April 27, 2018

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Independent Bookstore Day & the 'Last Three Feet'

Tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day, a "national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online."

That's a fine description. I would like to add that IBD is also a celebration of the "last three feet," a phrase I learned a long time ago--when I was still a bookseller, as it happens--from a business consultant. He was describing that critical moment in time when a product finally crosses the unfathomable gap, especially in retail, between the industry that created it and an individual consumer.

If that sounds a little cold, the last three feet for book people is a much more cordial distance, bridged when an indie bookseller reaches out to offer a book to a reader. It's an almost ceremonial moment and remains blessedly "unplugged," defying algorithms, especially when the title in question falls under the category of "You've got to read this!"

You may already know that "handselling" is a term booksellers use to describe recommending favorite reads, new and old, to their customers. Handselling is, at its best, a private conversation between one bookseller and one reader at a time within that magical last three feet. Sometimes for the bookseller these discussions, a kind of bookish dance, are about selling, but just as often they're about listening.

The reading life is good on both sides of the last three feet, and Independent Bookstore Day is an opportunity to recognize the magic that happens daily in all those amazing conversations. Go chat with a bookseller tomorrow. You'll both be glad you did. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Nikki Grimes

photo: Aaron Lemen

Nikki Grimes was the recipient of the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her works include Garvey's Choice; ALA Notable book What Is Goodbye?; Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark SonsWords with Wings and The Road to Paris. Her newest book is Between the Lines (Nancy Paulsen Books). Grimes lives in Corona, Calif.

On your nightstand now:

I'm slowing making my way through Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden. I'm intentionally taking my own sweet time to savor it, gradually, because I'm in no hurry for it to end! The writing is beautiful.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I read ravenously, but no particular book comes to mind. When I reached high school, though, I fell head over heels in love with two books: Another Country by James Baldwin and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I carried those books around with me, everywhere. The first book for young readers I went crazy for was Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge, the story of Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh. I devoured it, and I've loved historical fiction ever since.

Your top five authors:

Five! That's too few! But here goes: Lucille Clifton, Mari Evans, Naomi Shihab Nye, James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe.

Book you've faked reading:

I never fake. I either read a book or I don't. However, I do remember it took five or six attempts to slog my way through A Tale of Two Cities. It seemed to take forever to get to the point in the book where the action actually began. The first 50 or so pages are all description, which made me crazy. I kept thinking, "And so? When does the story begin, already?" Once it did, the novel was totally worth the effort.

Book you're an evangelist for:

That's easy: Kindred by Octavia Butler. I'd collar strangers on the street and make them sit down and read it if I could. The book is absolutely genius. Whenever I develop a character, my aim is to slip into their skins, and look at the world through their eyes. Butler does this brilliantly, and allows readers to do it, as well.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Baba by Belle Yang. The cover is sumptuous. The riot of colors pulls you right in.

Book you hid from your parents:

None. I never read a book that required hiding.

Book that changed your life:

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of complex storytelling through poetry.

Favorite line from a book:

This is part of a line, but it more than suffices:

"She was so incredibly beautiful--she seemed to be wearing the sunlight, rearranged it around her from time to time, with a movement of one hand, with a movement of her head, and with her smile--" --from The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin

I can never get enough of the poetry of his language.

Five books you'll never part with:

There you go asking the impossible, yet again! Still, I'll go with the Bible, A Dark and Splendid Mass by Mari Evans, Another Country by James Baldwin, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and William Shakespeare: The Complete Works.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Kindred. It was such a sublime experience, I would love to experience it anew.

Book Candy

Crime Writing Poets

CrimeReads featured "26 crime writing poets."


"Go medieval by attaching a book to your belt," Atlas Obscura advised.


"My commute and workday as described by ancient poets" was imagined by Gordon Brown for McSweeney's.


Pop quiz: "Can you spot all the Stephen King references in this poster?" asked Mental Floss.


Illustrator Nathan Gelgud created "the happy dilettante: one poetry lover's life in poetry" for Signature.


Sneglen "The Snail" bookshelf resulted "from the basic goal of creating a shelf to an exploration of shape, abstract recognition, structural feasibility and usability," Bookshelf noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Emma Smith

British author Emma Smith, whose 1940s literary fame dwindled to obscurity until she was rediscovered decades later, died earlier this week at age 94. Born and raised in Cornwall, England, she joined the War Office at age 16 and volunteered as a boatwoman on the Grand Union Canal during World War II. Smith turned that experience into her debut novel, Maidens' Trip (1948), which won the 1949 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She worked on Maiden's Trip during a far more ambitious voyage: nine months spent in India as part of a documentary film team, acting as runner/secretary for then screenwriter and future poet Laurie Lee (Smith later encouraged him to write his bestselling coming-of-age tale, Cider with Rosie). Smith's India adventures became her second novel, The Far Cry, published to critical acclaim in 1949. She married, had two children, but became an early widow, and her writing career was superseded by family life.

Decades later, British novelist Susan Hill (The Woman in Black) found a copy of The Far Cry in a rummage sale. Thanks to Hill's positive piece in the Daily Telegraph, The Far Cry was reprinted by Persephone Books in 2002. Smith's writing career revived with her 2008 memoir, The Great Western Beach, and a sequel to Maiden's Trip (reprinted in 2009), As Green As Grass (2013). Though Persephone's reprint of The Far Cry is not available in the U.S., Smith's more recent work, including Maiden's Trip, is available from Bloomsbury. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Balcony

by Jane Delury

In exquisitely polished prose both elegant and prickly, Jane Delury's first novel chronicles a century of life in a manor house located in a small French town laid to waste by World War II bombs and by failed businesses. The Balcony is the story of those who come and go through the servant's cottage and mansion, from its original ambitious immigrant sawmill owner to transient tourists from the U.S. and U.K. Each self-contained but interrelated chapter illuminates their lives and families during a particular time between 1910 and 2009. Some are young, some old, some French, some expatriates, some of means, some penniless, some intellectual, some unlettered--but all troubled in a distinctive fashion. Sharing the once baronial setting, they can't help but rub up against its tainted history of secrets, suicide, abortion, madness and lust. Over the generations, they migrate to places like Grenoble, Madagascar, Brittany or Tahiti, but always return in person or memory to the estate and its ill-fated balcony.

With a maîtrise from the University of Grenoble, PEN/O. Henry Prize-winning Delury freely scatters her narrative with untranslated French and historical references as if creating an immersion semester abroad. She subtly captures the flavor of both France's aged ("her décolleté was cracked like the varnish of her husband's desk, and her chin wanted to meet her neck") and its hipster young "who self-published chapbooks of Oulipo poetry... held Ping-Pong tournaments, played the accordion ironically, and wore T-shirts with quotes by Samuel Beckett." Not just an extraordinary first novel, The Balcony is the accomplished work of a writer already at ease with a rich combination of language, character and consummate storytelling. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Adept and assured, Delury's debut novel-in-stories is a marvel of character and place that never strays from penetrating insight.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9780316554671

We Own the Sky

by Luke Allnutt

Luke Allnutt's debut novel, We Own the Sky, chronicles the roller-coaster of emotions that one family goes through when their young son becomes seriously ill, and how they eventually heal.

Rob and Anna have been together since they both finished college at Cambridge, and although they've had some difficulties, their life together now feels perfect. They are married and living in London, as they'd dreamed, both working in fields they love, and best of all, they have a sweet little boy named Jack. Life with Jack is full of joy, as the three explore the city and surrounding areas together, play silly games and enjoy daily life. Jack especially loves going up to high places, where he can see the world laid out around him and take photos.

When disaster hits, their lives are suddenly filled with uncertainty and fear. Rob is eventually left alone, as he plunges from the heights of their perfect family life to the depths of despair. He turns to alcohol and literally stumbles through his days in a drunken fog of self-pity, guilt and sorrow. His only respite is the passion for photography that he shares with Jack, and he leaves hidden messages for his son on his photography website.

The reader is swept along in this moving story as this family--and especially Rob--grapples with life-changing challenges and unexpected twists, often with heartbreaking consequences. Ultimately, though, this gripping novel is uplifting, focused on hope, healing and love. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Discover: A child's illness tumbles a family from joy to despair.

Park Row Books, $26.99, hardcover, 368p., 9780778314738

Other People's Houses

by Abbi Waxman

Carpool mom Frances Bloom is used to taking care of everyone in her orbit, including her neighbors' kids. Most of the problems in her tidy Los Angeles neighborhood are things she can solve, or at least mitigate. But when Frances catches her neighbor Anne Porter in flagrante delicto, on the living room floor with a younger man, she has no idea what to do about it. Anne's affair sends aftershocks through the intertwined lives of four families, including Frances's, and Abbi Waxman deftly maps the tremors in her witty, sharply observed second novel, Other People's Houses.

Waxman (The Garden of Small Beginnings) opens the door to each house, through the viewpoints of Frances, Anne, Frances's cousin Iris and her wife, Sara, as well as Bill, their quiet neighbor whose wife is mysteriously absent. While their children are mostly friends, or at least carpool buddies, the adults' web of relationships is more tenuous and more complicated. As Anne and her neighbors deal with the consequences of her actions, their everyday domestic worries are thrown into sharper relief, to often hilarious (if cringe-worthy) effect.

Waxman dives into the daily frustrations of marriage and child-rearing; the complex social codes that govern friendships, soccer-mom bonds and drive-by acquaintances; and the implications of keeping--or disclosing--someone else's explosive secret. While Anne's affair and several other plot points amp up the drama, Waxman's narrative mostly follows her characters as they deal with small but significant ordinary challenges, in other people's houses and their own. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Abbi Waxman's sharp, witty second novel traces the aftershocks of a woman's affair on a group of intertwined families.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 352p., 9780399587924

Mystery & Thriller

The Awkward Squad

by Sophie Hénaff

Aptly named, The Awkward Squad is a funny French police procedural full of misfits. The commander is Anne Capestan, who fired one too many bullets in the line of duty. Rather than letting her go and having to deal with political fallout for dismissing police officers, the higher-ups have decided to put Capestan and a handful of other misfits together in one squad--where they can't do any harm. Stuck with a cop whose runaway bestsellers featuring loosely disguised coworkers have angered fellow officers, a jinxed officer who's lost multiple partners and an elderly inebriant, Capestan begins digging through the cold case files to find something for her team to do.

They happen upon two murders: an elderly woman who was killed in her home, and a French sailor who survived a ferry disaster in the Mediterranean only to be found floating in the Seine. Neither case seems to have been particularly well investigated, so the awkward squad sets to work in their own unusual style. And when a new murder appears to have links to one of the other cases, Capestan realizes that maybe the cases aren't so cold after all.

Funny, lighthearted and full of charming Parisian details, The Awkward Squad is perfect for readers of international crime novels. The antics of Capestan and her team will keep the reader hoping for their success, and looking eagerly for a new entry in this series to be translated into English. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this funny French mystery, a team of misfit police officers must work together to solve three murders.

MacLehose Press, $26.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781681440033

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Space Opera

by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente (Six-Gun Snow White) drops a sick beat in this interstellar homage to glamrock and the Eurovision Song Contest.

When extraterrestrial life makes first contact with humanity, the ambassador resembles "a seven-foot-tall ultramarine half-flamingo, half anglerfish thing," and delivers bad news. Earth looks poised to develop technology for interstellar travel, and the pantheon of alien races worries that humans will not play nice with others. Accordingly, "the Warm Fuzzy Galactic Family" plans to eradicate human life unless an earthling musical act can prove humanity's worth by placing better than last in the Metagalactic Grand Prix song competition.

Unfortunately, most of the musicians on the aliens' preapproved list died years ago, leaving the fate of the world in the hands of rock trio Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes. Worse still, drummer Mira Wonderful Star died in a car crash years ago, leaving the Zeroes fractured. Frontman Decibel and "man-of-all-instruments" Oort St. Ultraviolet haven't spoken in years, but the future of humanity now depends on them coming up with a song to rival the orgiastic pyrotechnic spectacles of the vastly more advanced species. Humanity seems doomed.

Packed with Valente's razor-sharp sense of whimsy, Space Opera rhapsodizes on the random beauty and stupidity of life and our helplessness in the face of both. Though she travels in space here, the fantasy genre remains Valente's native country; her descriptions of alien biology, history and music contain faint echoes of her Fairyland series. A wild, weird and witty magnum opus. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, main branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: The estranged members of a defunct glam band must save Earth by competing in an intergalactic battle of the bands.

Saga Press, $19.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781481497497

Food & Wine

The Latin Table: Easy, Flavorful Recipes from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Beyond

by Isabel Cruz

Isabel Cruz (Isabel's Cantina), West Coast chef and restaurateur, is a pioneer of Latin fusion food. In The Latin Table: Easy, Flavorful Recipes from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Beyond, she updates and simplifies more than 100 recipes so that anyone can enjoy the exuberance and flavors of Latin food at home.

Cruz opens with memories and photographs from her childhood, admitting to an early distaste for Puerto Rican fare. How she learned to love the food and culture of her family and understand its relevance in the U.S. is a heartwarming introduction to the delicious recipes that follow.

The dishes reflect her West Coast roots, creatively blending Latin and Asian flavors in such recipes as Crispy Tofu Tacos with Ginger Sambal, Avocado and Pickled Onion, and Seared Ahi Tostadas with Avocado. Each recipe is introduced with a short anecdote or additional information so that Cruz is right there in the kitchen, talking to and encouraging the home cook. The recipes use simple ingredients and most will be available in larger grocery stores. Of particular interest to those looking for ways to add Latin flavors into their regular rotation dishes is the chapter on sauces and salsas. Orange-Oregano Dressing and Cruz's own Isabel Sauce can be used on everything from salads to meats to fish.

Home cooks can complement a meal with Latin drinks such as Blackberry Chili Margarita or Beet and Mango Liquada. Breakfast and desserts aren't forgotten either, making The Latin Table a full course of delicious meals. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: The Latin Table showcases Latin fusion recipes from popular West Coast chef and restaurant owner Isabel Cruz.

Skyhorse, $22.99, hardcover, 176p., 9781510728660

Biography & Memoir

Eisenhower vs. Warren: The Battle for Civil Rights and Liberties

by James F. Simon

Mutual acrimony defined the relationship between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren--so much so that the 34th president later said that the biggest mistake of his tenure was appointing "that dumb son of a bitch Earl Warren."

That volatile pairing is expertly chronicled by James F. Simon in Eisenhower vs. Warren, which explores the Brown v. Board of Education I & II court decisions as the pivotal, detrimental events in that relationship. These rulings deemed segregated schools unconstitutional (Brown I) and delivered instructions on how best to remedy the situation (Brown II). However, Eisenhower's refusal publicly to support Brown and his obstinance in not rallying the country behind it destroyed the relationship between the two men. Warren could never forgive Eisenhower for not backing the decisions, and Eisenhower could never forgive Warren's expansion of civil liberties at the expense of states' rights. 

Simon's professional expertise as dean emeritus of New York Law School provides the academic heft required to deliver a thorough investigation of the legal framework of Brown and other Warren Court decisions. He supports Warren's view that, had the incredibly popular president mounted a campaign favoring desegregation, African Americans would have gained civil rights benefits at least a decade earlier. Still, Simon strikes a balance not often seen when historians compare Eisenhower and Warren: he does so effectively without canonizing the former or condemning the latter. --William H. Firman Jr., historian and writer

Discover: Eisenhower vs. Warren offers a thorough understanding of Brown v. Board of Education and of the clashing of the two leaders' political and judicial philosophies.

Liveright, $35, hardcover, 448p., 9780871407559


Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy

by Ethan J. Kytle, Blain Roberts

Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy is vital to understanding some of the deepest fault lines in American life, made disturbingly relevant by Dylann Roof's 2015 murder of nine worshippers in a Charleston, S.C., church with "among the oldest black congregations in the South." Roof's actions were motivated, at least in part, by a deeply flawed understanding of slavery and the Civil War. Denmark Vesey's Garden seeks to trace rival memories of slavery in Charleston, the home of Denmark Vesey's failed slave uprising and the disembarkation point for "nearly half the slaves transported for sale in this country."

Historians Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts begin by examining the massive wealth produced by Charleston's antebellum status as "slavery's capital." The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, off the coast of Charleston, and South Carolinian secessionists were clear about the cause of the war: "The true question for us is, how shall we sustain African slavery in South Carolina...?" After the Confederate defeat, however, Charlestonians began to embrace a series of myths and rationalizations concerning slavery and the war that became known as the Lost Cause. After Reconstruction, the seeds of present-day controversy were planted in Charleston through the enthusiastic construction of Confederate monuments. Meanwhile, Charleston's black community held on to its own memories of slavery that contradicted myths such as the "happy slave." In an overview of the following century and more, the authors use the example of Charleston to explain why "Americans do not share a common memory of slavery." --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Discover: This is an excellent history of the divergent views of slavery that developed in Charleston, S.C., after the Civil War and that have contributed to deep racial divisions in American life.

The New Press, $28.99, hardcover, 464p., 9781620973653

Essays & Criticism

See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism and Commentary

by Lorrie Moore

Rare is the writer with talent enough to imbue the first line of a book review or critique with the same trademark wit and linguistic gymnastics found in her acclaimed short stories and novels. In See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism and Commentary, Lorrie Moore (Birds of America) does so as she delivers a thoughtful, often humorous collection of 60 prose pieces spanning the past 35 years.

They include commentaries both personal ("On Writing") and political ("Election 2016: A Postscript"); profiles of uber-prolific authors (hi, Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood); pop culture perspectives from the '80s, '90s and into the present day; and plenty of book reviews that read as if they were one of Moore's short stories. ("There is something about the killing of a pretty little rich girl that disorganizes everybody.") Many selections first appeared in the New York Review of Books; Moore recalls fondly how former NYRB editor Robert Silvers would forward a potential book with a casual note: see what can be done.

Moore's attempts more than succeed; this chock-full collection represents solid writing with the pleasant surprise of occasional small glimpses of Moore's life tucked into the pages. "Certainly it is in the work that one comes to know an author--his best and essential self--without being able to extricate or explain him," she writes of the legendary John Cheever. She might as well be referring to herself.

See What Can Be Done will make bibliophiles add more titles to their bursting book lists based on Moore's balanced reviews. This is an delightfully indulgent collection, one worth savoring at one's leisure or consuming in huge gulps. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

Discover: Lorrie Moore delights readers with this collection of her prose pieces from the past 35 years.

Knopf, $29.95, hardcover, 432p., 9781524732486


Blue Rose

by Carol Muske-Dukes

The title of American poet Carol Muske-Dukes's collection refers to a science project her daughter did when she was a child. Taking the petal of a white rose, the girl dyed it blue and stuck it under a microscope. Muske-Dukes returns to that image throughout Blue Rose, using it as a path into science, motherhood and death.

Long established in her career and admittedly "near the end of (her) life," Muske-Dukes uses many of the poems here to slink into the background, turning herself into a passive observer of the plight of others. "Workshop" examines the lives of women in detention centers whom the poet worked with in the '70s, never mentioning how or if Muske-Dukes's time with them helped at all. "No Hands" places her at the top of a hill, nervously watching her husband and daughter speed down it on a bike.

There's also a feeling of helplessness throughout Blue Rose. Muske-Dukes fears the loss of knowledge and reason in "The Link." The elegy for poet Adrienne Rich, "Adrienne," shows how the diminishments of age lay us all low, with Rich forcing herself to take "Step after step, forward & up: each great act of will making possible the next." Blue Rose's poems regard how humans change their surroundings and themselves, yet we're rarely sure if the right choice has been made. Ultimately, Muske-Dukes's worries and hopes seem all bound up in that image of the blue rose: something natural turned magical--a perversion of life, but beautiful. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The poems in Carol Muske-Dukes's Blue Rose consider science, motherhood and the link between the natural and magical.

Penguin, $18, paperback, 80p., 9780143131250

Children's & Young Adult

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

by Rob Sanders, illus. by Steven Salerno

The life of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay people to hold political office in the United States, ended tragically: on November 27, 1978, Milk was murdered, along with the city's mayor, by a homophobic colleague. Older kids may be ready for the whole story, but Rob Sanders (Outer Space Bedtime Race) offers little ones an age-appropriate introduction to Milk through one of his overlooked contributions to the gay rights movement: the rainbow flag.

In Pride, Milk is first shown lying barefoot in the grass, mulling over his "extraordinary dream": that "everyone--even gay people--would have equality." He's next pictured speaking at a rally, and then it's on to the campaign trail in 1977: Milk has determined that "the best way to change laws was to help make laws." While organizing a march in opposition to laws that discriminate against gay people, Milk seizes on the idea of "a symbol that shows who we are and how we feel. Something to carry during the march." Milk asks artist Gilbert Baker to come up with the symbol, and with the help of volunteers, Baker creates the majestic rainbow flag that makes its debut on June 25, 1978, at San Francisco's gay pride march.

As Steven Salerno's (Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team) illustrations attest, the flag has since become a versatile, international and ubiquitous symbol of gay pride. A two-page spread shows a dozen everyday people flying the flag in their own way. In the book's dazzler of a penultimate illustration, the colors of the rainbow are projected on the façade of the White House, as happened on June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Surely Milk would have been smiling at--and taken, yes, pride in--that. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: This picture book honors one of the accomplishments for which gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk isn't especially well-known: in 1978, he spurred the creation of the rainbow flag.

Random House, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., 9780399555312

Your Robot Dog Will Die

by Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood's Your Robot Dog Will Die uses the near-extinction of humankind's best friend, dogs, to show how one person's utopia can be another's dystopia.

"About twenty-five years ago, some scientists... thought making a couple of little tweaks to [dog] DNA would make... dogs and their progeny even more useful than they were." But the experiments backfired, creating "a laboratory full of dogs who really hated humans." Somehow, "the changed DNA spread... from the unlucky lab dogs to all dogs," un-domesticating them. The dogs became aggressive, and humans decided to euthanize them all. All, that is, but the six Organics who live in the "Ruffuge" on Florida's (pun-loving) Dog Island. The Dog Island sanctuary is a commune for people dedicated to giving all animals a pain-free existence. The vegan inhabitants also act as test owners for Mechanical Tail, a company working to replace all Organic dogs with robot dogs.

Seventeen-year-old Nano Miller has always lived on Dog Island. Last year, her older brother, Billy, left the island and she hasn't heard from him since. This loss has opened Nano's eyes, making her wonder why her brother would leave a place that is doing such important work. When Nano finds a puppy--an impossible, happy, tail-wagging, seemingly domesticated puppy--in the Ruffuge, she begins to wonder if everything she's been told about Dog Island and how to keep Organic animals safe is true.

Greenwood (Save the Enemy), an animal writer and former lawyer, forces readers to ask themselves difficult questions with Your Robot Dog Will Die. It's an intense read, sure to leave an impression, and readers will likely have difficulty getting Dog Island--and its "May Dog be with you" salutation--out of their heads. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Nano learns that her home--a refuge for the last six living dogs--may not be the utopia she was raised to believe in.

Soho Teen, $18.99, hardcover, 208p., ages 12-up, 9781616958398

Be Prepared

by Vera Brosgol

Eisner- and Harvey Award-winning author/illustrator Vera Brosgol's (Anya's Ghost, Leave Me Alone!) second work of graphic nonfiction for children, Be Prepared, is a memoir about her childhood experience as a Russian immigrant, trying to find a place to belong.

Desperate to fit in, nine-year-old Vera tries to do everything just like her all-"American" classmates, but finds she is always the outsider--she is "too poor.... too Russian.... too different." When Vera learns about an affordable Russian summer camp, she thinks it will be a place where she'll finally find acceptance, where she may even make friends. Of course, camp isn't exactly what she expects: there's no running water (baths are in the lake), everyone must speak Russian and all campers have to attend two hours of Russian history classes each day. On top of that, bears live in the woods. Vera quickly learns that every camp has its cliques and that blending in and making friends can be difficult, no matter where you go.

Mixing the humor of outdoor mishaps with the loneliness of growing up as an outsider, Brosgol's depiction of her own childhood is both funny and touching. Vera's struggles with friendship, growing up, family and heritage and wanting to belong will resonate with many readers. Fans of other graphic memoirs, such as those by Raina Telgemeier (Sisters), Cece Bell (El Deafo) and Shannon Hale (Real Friends), will devour Brosgol's insightful take on girlhood. That Vera eventually finds friendship and confidence in herself makes Be Prepared an ultimately uplifting story. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A humorous--and touching--graphic memoir about Russian-American Vera Brosgol's childhood experience at camp, searching for new friends and a sense of belonging.

First Second/Macmillan, $12.99, paperback, 256p., ages 10-14, 9781626724457

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