Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Magination Press: Snitchy Witch by Frank J Sileo, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

From My Shelf

Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Antoni in the Kitchen By Antoni Porowki and Mindy Fox

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Comfort and Joy of Re-reading

We re-read books for many reasons; among people I know, the main reason seems to be comfort and familiarity. One friend, Cindy, has practically memorized the Betsy-Tacy books. Others, and they are legion, re-read To Kill a Mockingbird as regularly as some re-read the Bible. Every decade or so, I pick up my tattered copy of Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and settle in with the book that first sparked my interest in Ancient Egypt. (I still remember my grade-school report with carefully rendered chalk drawings of temples.) And for some of us, certain mystery authors can be returned to with delight (and that's a later Shelf column). But what about books that are so compelling, so fabulous, that we re-read them as soon as we finish them, driven by a need to recapture the magic we felt only moments ago?

The first book I remember in that way is Iron and Silk, Mark Salzman's memoir of teaching English in China. I knew little about present-day China at the time, and Salzman's book opened a new world for me; more importantly, his writing was so unaffected and enchanting, the minute I read the last page, I started over, unwilling to let go of China and the story. It made such an impression on me, I can even recall where I was sitting at the time.

Another book, just published, that affected me in a similar way is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Our reviewer called this retelling of part of The Iliad "a dazzling jewel of a novel," and it definitely is. It is also an emotionally moving story, and I'm not alone in weeping at the final pages. In reading it again, besides the lure of the prose and the tale, I wanted to revisit everything that led up to the dénouement. Knowing the ending is no barrier to enjoying the journey once more.

What do you like to re-read? --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness


Sterling Children's Books: Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus (Life of a Cactus #2) by Dusti Bowling


Book Candy

Full Menu of Hunger Games

Calling it "the most logical extension of fandom," Buzzfeed showcased Hunger Games Nail Art.

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At a New York City gym, "they use archery, swiftness and brute strength to compete against each other but, luckily, the participants in these games... will still be alive at the end of the day," NBC's Today Show noted in its feature: "Hunger Games workout: Should you train like a tribute?"

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"What color is the old dress Katniss wears to the reaping in The Hunger Games?" The Guardian tested "your knowledge to the limits" with its Hunger Games quiz

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As a guide to fans looking for a little historical perspective, Goodreads offered an infographic charting a "dystopian timeline to the Hunger Games."

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Indiewire suggested "15 young adult fiction properties that could be the next Twilight or Hunger Games."


Shadow Mountain:  Master of the Phantom Isle (Dragonwatch #3) by Brandon Mull


The Writer's Life

Cheryl Strayed: A Surprise at Every Turn

Wild is Cheryl Strayed's memoir about her solo three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (see our review below). Film rights to Wild were sold to Reese Witherspoon's new production company; Witherspoon plans to star as Cheryl. Strayed is also the author of a novel, Torch. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, and her essays have been included in the Pushcart Prize anthology and twice in The Best American Essays. She recently came out as the author of the popular "Dear Sugar" advice column on the Rumpus website. Born in Pennsylvania, raised in Minnesota, she now lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband, filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, and their two children.

How did your memoir come about?

By accident. In 2008 I had an idea to publish a collection of my personal essays--most of which had previously appeared in journals, magazines and anthologies. Together, the essays loosely told the story of my life, but there was one missing piece: the tale of my hike on the PCT. So I set out to write the essay that would fill that hole. It became Wild

The prologue opens with your hiking boot falling off the cliff and then you, screaming and yelling, throwing the other one off the cliff. It grabs readers immediately. How did you come up with that powerful opening?

I didn't write the prologue until I was more than 100 pages into the book. I couldn't write it until I was pretty deep into the story and knew where I was going. It became pretty apparent that I needed to begin the book with me on the Pacific Crest Trail, since my hike is so central to the story, but equally central is the story of what brought me out there. My prologue was my way of balancing those two parts of the narrative and introducing both.

How did you prepare for the hike?

I read The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume One: California over and over again. I bought all the necessary gear. I prepared my dehydrated food and meticulously packed it into my resupply boxes, along with other things I'd need. In short, I spent months preparing myself and, yet, when I got out there, I realized in some big ways I was entirely unprepared. I'd never gone backpacking before. I'd never spoken to anyone who'd hiked a long trail for any significant period of time. It was harder than I thought it would be and there was this tremendous sense of surprise right from the start. I didn't know what on earth I was doing out there, but I learned. The PCT schooled me.

There are many emotional scenes in the book; how difficult was it to write them?

I cried when I wrote those scenes. They were emotionally wrenching for me, but I can't imagine writing any other way. I have no interest in writing work that doesn't go deep emotionally. I wouldn't know how to write any other way. To avoid the emotional aspects of the human experience would be much harder for me than it is to write them.

How physically demanding was the hike?

Let's put it this way: when I was in the midst of my 43-hour unmedicated labor while birthing my first child--who, by the way, weighed just shy of 11 pounds--I thought of my hike on the PCT. I remembered the physical suffering I'd endured then and I used it as motivation to keep going. My hike was very demanding. My job was to carry a ridiculously heavy pack up and down mountains from sun up to sundown, through all sorts of terrain in a wide range of often punishing weather conditions for weeks on end. It was utterly exhausting and often painful. I lost toenails. I had blisters and wounds and aches and pains. My body adjusted to the rigors of the hike over time, but it never stopped hurting. I say all of this with a huge smile on my face. Hard as it was, I'd do it all again in a snap. It was hard in a good way.

What most surprised you on your hike?

I was constantly humbled by my experience. I always had something more to learn. The general course of things on my hike was that surprise was around every turn. When I had a day that the hiking went easy, the next day would be a living hell. If one day I thought I'd finally mastered the art of orienteering, the next day I'd get hopelessly lost. And then, of course, there is the vast and endless beauty of the land. I was never not surprised by that.

What kind of people did you meet on the trail?

Good ones, with a couple of exceptions. There's a tremendous sense of camaraderie on the trail. Generosity and kindness abounds. The culture on the PCT reminded me of what it was like growing up in the north woods of Minnesota. It didn't matter if you had the same political or religious beliefs or lifestyles. You were out there together and therefore in it together, too.

Did the hike affect your feeling about the concept of wilderness?

It made me even more deeply grateful for it than I already was, which was quite a lot. The wilderness rearranges my insides in necessary ways. Simply being in the great silence one finds in the wild places solves a lot of problems. The wilderness feels sacred to me. I know I'm not alone in that.

Have you done a long hike since or been back on the PCT?

Before I had children, my husband and I went on a few week-long backpacking trips together--on the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico, in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon and in the Pine Creek Gorge in northeastern Pennsylvania. I also did a solo trip in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. My children are six and seven now, and I get them out hiking as often as possible, but they don't yet have the stamina or patience to hike long distances. I have plans to introduce them to backpacking when they're a bit older. I'd love to hike the Washington PCT as a family one summer. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher


Book Lovers Con 2020 - The Ultimate Reader Experience


Inklings

Deeply Grooved Religion

The grooves of childhood run deep. The experiences of life can change even our deeply inculcated beliefs, but our religious and political convictions seem largely determined by family background.

An example leaps out from the biographies of American presidents. Of the 12 postwar presidents, eight remained in the grooves of childhood religion. For Truman and Carter, those grooves were Baptist; for Ford and George H.W. Bush, Episcopalian; and for Kennedy, Roman Catholic. Johnson and Clinton attended many churches, but both retained membership in the denominations in which they were baptized. Although Reagan (who attended church infrequently) changed to his wife's denomination, he remained a Protestant.

Only four of these presidents changed faith radically. Although raised by Jehovah's Witness parents, Eisenhower became an active Presbyterian following decades of absence from worship. Nixon shed his ancestral Quakerism and privately adopted Unitarian beliefs. George W. Bush converted to evangelical Protestantism, but continued to frequent the mainline Protestant churches of his boyhood. Obama changed the most dramatically, converting to Christianity from a secular humanist background.

And of the current Republican presidential candidates, only Newt Gingrich--who converted to Roman Catholicism--has changed religious affiliation in any major way. Mitt Romney (Mormon), Rick Santorum (Roman Catholic) and Ron Paul (Protestant) remain adherents of their inherited religious faiths. Of the 16 men, only two--Santorum and Reagan--changed political affiliation from the party in which their parents raised them.

A writer emerges from researching a book on the presidents realizing all the more how deeply we are products of our upbringing. Of course, this reality doesn't mean that core truths are impossible to identify or that everything is relative. But it does mean that we--and maybe even presidential candidates--should perhaps pause when we find ourselves too cocksure or too dogmatic in our views. --David L. Holmes, author of The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama (University of Georgia Press)


Harper: The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton


Literary Lists

Children's Poetry; Odes to Famous Writers; Addiction Memoirs

Five collections were highlighted by the Guardian's children's books section to show that "children's poetry can be beautiful or funny--or both."
 
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For its "10 great odes to famous writers" list, Flavorwire offered "songs we love about famous writers we love even more."  

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The Guardian explored the "fightin' words" literary syndrome with its "ten best fraternal hatreds" and the "top literary fistfights."

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In NPR's "Skirting the Job: 3 Secretaries with Novel Ideas," Lynn Peril, a secretary and the author of Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office, noted that "writing on the job is a time-honored tradition, as these three novels by and about secretaries with literary ambitions will attest."

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Having a bad day? This might not help. The Huffington Post recommended "7 addiction memoirs: books about hitting rock bottom."


Tor Books: The Ruin of Kings (Chorus of Dragons #1) by Jenn Lyons


Book Review

Fiction

Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events

by Kevin Moffett


"Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events," the short story that gives Kevin Moffett's collection its title is, on the surface, about a man and his father--both writers, one published and one not, with the shadow of one deceased woman hanging over them. They're looking to lessen their anxiety, like many of Moffett's other characters, whether they're newlyweds, wrestling with their unfamiliar new roles, in a car with an unbearable stench of dead animal, or an impoverished man facing a delicate choice regarding a swallowed tooth crown he cannot afford to replace. The anxiety and uncertainty of these stories are leavened with a wry, dry sense of humor that doesn't mock the characters' predicaments. The situations these characters find themselves in are serious, yet Moffett's understanding of their foibles and predicaments enable him to locate the figurative gold crown among the... other material.

This may sound like Moffett written a series of stories straight out of 1950s cinema, but his sense of humor more closely hews to a mix of world-weary sarcasm and the dark comedy of an emergency room crisis worker, finding the silver lining that will make it possible to get through another day. Not all of the stories in Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events end with this silver lining located, but readers for whom a well-written piece of fiction can serve to point the way will find what they are looking for in its pages. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Discover: An idiosyncratic collection of stories featuring unexpected situations faced with humor and pathos.

Harper Perennial, $14.99, paperback, 9780062069221

Rebel Girls: ADA Lovelace Cracks the Code by Marina Muun and Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business by Salini Perera


Mystery & Thriller

The Thief

by Fuminori Nakamura, trans. by Stephen Coates, Satoko Izumo


Pickpocket Nishimura has been hired by the dangerously violent Kizaki to commit a robbery--an investor, sitting on 80 million yen for which he hasn't paid taxes, possesses a packet of incriminating documents. After the robbery succeeds way too easily, Nishimura discovers that the old man they left bound and alive has been found murdered--and, far more than an investor, he's a politician.

The Thief is an inside look at a professional pickpocket's hazardous life, and Fuminori Nakamura serves it up fast and dirty. Nishimura, a hardened lost soul, hasn't shed all his humanity yet. When he sees that a kid shoplifting in the supermarket has been spotted by the store detective, he grabs the boy's stolen goods and buys them for him. The next morning, he finds the boy waiting outside his door. He teaches the boy how to steal without getting caught, and he becomes Nishimura's tagalong disciple.

The thrill in The Thief is not character but pace, and the pace never flags. Recaptured by Kizaki, Nishimura must steal three items--or die. Though it's too late to escape the consequences of a life of stealing, Nishamura tries to save the boy. Nakamura's unflinching portrait of syndicate ruthlessness may leave you wondering why exactly you've been conducted hurtling through this suspense piece only to be defeated by the irrational, merciless world of crime. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A Japanese pickpocket falls into the web of an underworld kingpin in this breakneck crime novel. It's easy to see why The Thief won Japan's biggest literary award, the Oe Prize, in 2009.

Soho Crime, $23, hardcover, 9781616950217

Johns Hopkins University Press:  Killing for the Republic: Citizen-Soldiers and the Roman Way of War by Steele Brand


The Blind Spy

by Alex Dryden


Russia's leadership, aided by the elite KGB unit Department S, is bent on pulling Ukraine back into the Russian empire. As their intelligence forces put plans into action that will undermine the stability of Ukraine, the private American intelligence company Cougar is watching. Unlike the U.S. government, Cougar doesn't believe Russia will back off now that its presidential choice has taken the election in Ukraine, and remains vigilant in its efforts to deflect Russian plans. Cougar's secret weapon is Russia's nightmare: Anna Resnikov, a defected KGB agent who now uses her knowledge and skills against former employers. Wanted by the Russian government, she continues to fight the evils of Russia's dark underside.

The Blind Spy is Alex Dryden's third novel featuring Anna Resnikov, but it astutely works as its own narrative; readers can easily pick up The Blind Spy whether they've read Dryden previously or not. Anna is a refreshing addition to the traditionally male-dominated role of spy. She's believably crafted, maintaining her femininity without emphasizing her physical appearance and simultaneously exhibiting strength and intelligence. 

Readers will likely notice the story's length, as Dryden's plot moves slower than the average thriller; the titular "blind spy" doesn't truly come into play until well into the second half. However, Dryden more than makes up for the slower pace with rich, distinct characters and timely subject matter. The time invested in reading The Blind Spy is definitely time well spent. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A pseudonymous British security agent's third novel drawing upon firsthand experiences in Russia.

Ecco, $24.99, hardcover, 9780062088086

Biography & Memoir

A Century of Wisdom

by Caroline Stoessinger


Born in 1903, Alice Herz-Sommer is the oldest living Holocaust survivor--indeed, one of the oldest women in the world. She has lived through two World Wars, one concentration camp and the death of her son. Through all of this, or perhaps despite all of this, she remains a devoted pianist and an eternal optimist, believing wholly in the power of music and laughter to bring us through the most difficult of times.

With A Century of Wisdom, Caroline Stoessinger presents a catalogue of this amazing woman's philosophy, explaining Alice's banishment of the words "if only" from her vocabulary, her uncanny ability to turn disappointment into generosity and her vigilant guard against prejudice and hate within herself. Placed in the context of Alice's life experiences, from her time in Theresienstadt to her relocation to Israel, and eventually to England, these sentiments read like miniature lessons in how to be happy despite seemingly overwhelming odds. "Only when we are so very old do we realize the beauty of life," Alice muses; while this may be true, A Century of Wisdom could be seen as an attempt to impart this wisdom to those much younger than herself.

Despite the many sad stories in Alice's life, here is a message of hopefulness and happiness contained within her experiences. Alice has touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives with her music, her compassion and her character. With A Century of Wisdom, her words will continue to inspire readers for years to come. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Lessons in happiness from the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor.

Spiegel & Grau, $23, hardcover, 9780812992816

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Cheryl Strayed


Wild is a poignant, no-holds barred, kick-ass memoir that will grab you by the throat and shake you to your core. Cheryl Strayed is 22 when her mom dies, and for the next four years she's a mess: after her marriage breaks up, she sleeps around, has an abortion and becomes addicted to heroin. Near rock bottom, she sees a book at a checkout counter about the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail running from the Mexican border to Washington State. She buys the book, deciding that to save herself she must hike the trail, solo; this "was what I had to do," she says. "I had to change." 

In a motel room in Mojave, Calif., about to embark, she packs up and realizes she's never really hiked, never really carried a pack as heavy as a small car before. Nevertheless, she takes a shaky step into the hot light. The very first day, she's stabbed by a Joshua tree, then loses her bandages in a gust of wind while trying to open her first aid kit with bloodied hands. That evening, she pulls out one of the few books she has allowed herself to carry and reads an Adrienne Rich poem entitled "Power" over and over.

And so it goes, for 1,100 miles and three arduous months--through injuries, hunger, thirst, strangers met, kindnesses shown, ice and snow, some hilarity, much suffering, almost quitting and much learning. She thinks about the "old thread I'd lost, the new one I was spinning," everything that had broken her, and how to make herself "whole again," and in the end, found. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A not so distant cousin to Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, this powerful and raw, deeply felt, often humorous, beautifully written memoir turns hiking into an act of redemption and salvation.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780307592736

History

Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War

by Thomas E. Barden, editor


Reading Steinbeck in Vietnam is a fascinating, occasionally uncomfortable experience. In December 1965, Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, then 65, accepted an assignment from Harry F. Guggenheim to report on the war in Vietnam for Newsday. A friend of Lyndon Johnson, with one son already in Vietnam and another in basic training, Steinbeck was not an unbiased observer--and made no pretense that he was. He arrived in Vietnam a full-fledged supporter of the war. He hated war protestors even more than he hated the Viet Cong. He was fascinated by military hardware. He treated American soldiers as heroes.

His columns were controversial at the time they were published; nearly 50 years later, they are often shocking. Written with the force that characterizes all of Steinbeck's work, his Vietnam dispatches are a mixture of vitriolic attacks on war protestors, lyrical descriptions of the countryside, paeans to the American soldier and moments of stunning insight. What makes the columns more than a historical curiosity is Steinbeck's effort to understand the war on its own terms. That internal struggle, publicly shared in the pages of Newsday, is as powerful an evocation of the Vietnam experience as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.

Literary scholar Thomas E. Barden's editorial touch is light and clearly defined. His introduction and afterword place the letters in the context of Steinbeck's career, including his later doubts about the war. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: Steinbeck's last published works still have the power to shock, nearly half a century later.

University of Virginia Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9780813932576

Nature & Environment

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places

by Bernie Krause


At a young age, Bernie Krause (Wild Soundscapes) became fascinated with the array of natural sounds filtering through the walls of his family's house. He grew up to become both a musician and a naturalist, making a career out of recording natural sounds since the late 1970s; he was one of the first naturalists to record entire natural soundscapes rather than individual species.

In The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause details his time recording "biophonies"--the collective sounds made by wildlife in environments ranging from the jaguar-haunted Amazon to a teeming coral reef or the bone-dry African savanna. Along the way, he expounds on his theory that human music has its origins in the symphony of the natural world. From the broken reeds that sighed in the wind and inspired the first flutes, to the birdcalls that may have given humankind the pentatonic scale, the world's wild places contain musical elements incredibly similar to those of human musical ensembles, with each species occupying its own niche of sound. Krause also demonstrates the extent of the damage environmental disasters (both natural and man-made) inflict on soundscapes, adding that finding a listening site free of human sound interference is growing increasingly challenging.

Join Krause as he catches the sound of snowflakes falling, the rumble of a glacier from inside a crevasse and "the languorous glissando-like choruses of the gibbons" in Borneo, and learn how to tune your ears to the rhythms of the wilderness that gave us music. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: How the now-vanishing symphony of the natural world led to the creation of human music.

Little, Brown, $26.99, hardcover, 9780316086875

The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds

by Julie Zickefoose


You may have heard of the butterfly effect, but readers and bird-lovers should look forward to becoming acquainted Julie Zickefoose's The Bluebird Effect. In her first chapter, the talented artist and naturalist (Letters from Eden) recalls the time when she and her husband saved a male bluebird from the grip of a hawk. Identifying the rescued bird by its drooping wing thereafter, Zickefoose was able to track it over the course of the next seven years. That single bluebird was ultimately responsible for 53 direct offspring--quite an impact on the natural world.

The Bluebird Effect is full of true-life bird stories such as this, as Zickefoose is often asked to help save injured or abandoned song birds. Each chapter in the book features a compelling tale about a particular species of bird, interspersed with an assortment of Zickefoose's black-and-white sketches and more accomplished watercolors. Birders will be impressed by Zickefoose's avian knowledge and recognizable style--in addition to her own books, she's also contributed to several birding guides--but all readers will appreciate her gift for both observation and expression when it comes to capturing the winged creatures on the page, either with words or with brushstrokes. Most will be hard-pressed to resist hanging a birdfeeder in close view after finishing this fine book. --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

Discover: A compelling mix of natural history and memoir by a gifted artist and naturalist.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, hardcover, 9780547003092

Health & Medicine

The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life

by Ira Byock


Most of us fear dying, yet death is one event that none of us can avoid. Why is it so difficult to pass peacefully, in the manner we'd each prefer? It is exactly this concern that prompted Ira Byock to write The Best Care Possible. Dr. Byock is a practitioner of hospice and palliative medicine, a specialty focused on improving a patient's quality of life while he or she is ill. In this book, Dr. Byock uses his personal and professional experiences to clarify the issues that interfere with the care given to seriously sick and dying patients, to explain the role of the palliative medicine provider and to discuss the health care reforms he believes are necessary to improve the quality of life through to the end. (It's not just health care that needs to change, though; Dr. Byock also writes about how patients and their families can rethink their approach to dying.)

Dr. Byock's previous book, Dying Well, addressed end-of-life issues through the recollections of a series of patients. The Best Care Possible shows a similar talent for storytelling, with much of its knowledge imparted to the reader through compellingly reconstructed patient scenarios. The Best Care Possible should be read by patients, families and health care providers alike, as we might all learn from Dr. Byock's message: "The healthiest response to death is to love, honor, and celebrate life." --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

Discover: A palliative medicine advocate offers informed suggestions for improving the end-of-life experience.

Avery, $26, hardcover, 9781583334591

Sports

The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families

by Mark Hyman


Mark Hyman's first book, Until It Hurts, dealt with our national obsession with youth sports and its negative consequences for our children. The Most Expensive Game in Town expands on that theme by following the money. His research includes interviews and discussions with parents and grandparents, coaches, corporate sponsors and entrepreneurs--all of them spending and making money from youth sports in the United States. His conclusion: money can have adverse effects on the kids that sports programs are supposed to benefit in the first place, even when many of the parties involved have only the best intentions.

Hyman's case studies include visits with parents who became unintended entrepreneurs because they saw a way to improve their kids' experience as well as parents disturbed by the costs of supporting their kids. He looks at the big business of marketing through children--such as youth tournament sponsorships--and the promises made that kids will have a heightened chances of playing college sports or landing an athletic scholarship.

It's difficult to grasp the size of the ill-defined youth sports industry, but Hyman makes it clear that the amounts involved are shocking. Finally, he examines the plight of kids in inner cities (and others affected by poverty) whose access to the obvious benefits of sport, participation and competition is limited. Hyman's arguments are well-researched yet very readable, bringing home an issue that is perhaps underexamined but of great importance to parents and concerned citizens. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

Discover: An impassioned argument that the mass commercialization of youth sports is not healthy for kids.

Beacon Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780807001363

Children's & Young Adult

Starters

by Lissa Price


This chilling and riveting debut novel explores how far the wealthy will go to live their lives as long as possible and in as beautiful and youthful a face and body as money will buy.

Sixteen-year-old narrator Callie Woodland is a Starter "in a sea of silver-haired Enders." Spore wars have wiped out nearly a generation of people. Only the elderly and the young were inoculated against the fatal spores. Medical breakthroughs allow people to live to be 200 but cannot halt the aging process. So wealthy Enders pay top dollar to a company called Prime Destinations to "rent" the body of a Starter via a microchip embedded in the Starter donor's brain. Callie and her ailing seven-year-old brother, Tyler, squat in abandoned buildings and scrounge for food. A contract for one session with Prime Destinations will earn Callie enough to buy a home for them. But something goes wrong with Callie's microchip. She resumes her body partway through her rental and discovers that she's part of her renter's plot to take down Prime Destinations--as an assassin.

With exquisite pacing, Price weaves a web of intrigue that involves the exploitation of children and corruption at the highest levels of society. Her themes touch on today's realities, such as an obsession with youth and beauty, and high unemployment coupled with a longer life expectancy. Teens will find a champion in Callie, who strives to be true to her sense of morality while also providing a safe harbor for those she loves. Price concludes her tale with Enders, scheduled for December 2012. Readers will be waiting at the edge of their seats. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A page-turning first novel about the quest for youth and beauty--at the cost of one's life, soul or treasure.

Delacorte, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 12-up, 9780385742375

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

by Meg Medina


With a hint of magical realism and a Latin influence, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind tells the story of 16-year-old Sonia Ocampo with an enchanting narrative.

As soon as Sonia is born, the harsh winds slowly destroying her village in Tres Montes stop, causing the villagers to believe the baby is blessed. "She must have been sent to us by God," the old miners proclaim. For years, Sonia listens to the hopes and prayers of neighbors and friends who believe she possesses magical powers. Until one day, a friend dies, despite the prayer of safety begged of her: "Save my boy's life," Señora Clara asks. "You are my only hope."

Knowing that her prayers have no more power than anyone else's ("Her whole life had been built around a silly mountain myth"), Sonia takes a job in the capital. Her father does not want her to leave Tres Montes, nor does he know that Rafael, his only son, also plans to leave the village in search of work. Sonia soon learns that her brother is missing and in possible danger. With the help of those around her, she goes on a journey to not only save Rafael, but also to learn what her life is really about.

Meg Medina (Tía Isa Wants a Car) creates a clear role for each of her characters, and the descriptions of life in Tres Montes immerse readers in the villagers' daily rhythm. Sonia's satisfying story of self-discovery combines friendship, family, love and adventure. A book for those fond of alluring storytelling. --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: A magical tale of adventure and love, in which 16-year-old Sonia learns what her true power is.

Candlewick, $17.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 14-up, 9780763646028

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