Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 31, 2019

Workman Publishing: The ABCs of Queer History by Seema Yasmin, Illustrated by Lucy Kirk

From My Shelf

Hidden Pictures

Through a break in the bark of an ashen oak tree, illustrator and author Brian Selznick imagines ferocious flames that soon distill into the broad-hatted figure at the core of Walt Whitman's Live Oak, with Moss (Abrams ComicArts, $29.99). This cycle of 12 poems was written in secret and scattered among others in the "Calamus" collection as the poet wrestled with the vulnerability of describing a love between men.

"I dreamed in a dream of a city where all the men were like brothers," Whitman sings. "Nothing was greater there than the quality of manly love." Unable to shake his sense of wonder over this literary elision, Selznick, in his delectable style and at the behest of Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener, illustrates not the poems, he insists, "but a framework, or a lens, through which they can be discovered."

Roughly 100 years after Whitman, Tom Bianchi was capturing a city of manly love through the lens of his Polaroid SX-70. Yet still they were pieces far too intimate for the artist to consider displaying. Although queer revolution was well underway in 1970s New York City, Bianchi was by day legal counsel to the president of Columbia Pictures, a risky position if word spread about his sexuality. Thankfully, 63 E 9th Street: NYC Polaroids 1975-1983 (Damiani, $55) preserves the naked (and I do mean very naked) vulnerability of intimacy between men in a time unscathed by AIDS.

As if looking through the keyhole of Bianchi's Manhattan apartment, these snapshots depict, yes, the ferocity of lust, but also the ardor that grows out of these encounters. These are men the artist recalls in his introductory essay, by name and with deep tenderness, though their existence remains an affront to censorious ideals. "My belief was and is that the fear of our bodies is a denial of our divinity," Bianchi declares. A sentiment I believe Whitman would redouble. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Randy Boyagoda

photo: Angela Lewis

Randy Boyagoda is the author of Original Prin (Biblioasis) and is one of Canada's funniest and most provocative writers. He is a regular presence on CBC Radio, and his last novel, Beggar's Feast, was selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. His first novel, Governor of the Northern Province, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Born to Sri Lankan parents in Oshawa, Ont., he lives in Toronto with his wife and four children. He is a professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he is also principal of St. Michael's College.

On your nightstand now:

A Weekend in New York by Benjamin Markovits (because he gives us family life from one among many perspectives, many times over); Adam Buenosayres by Leopoldo Marechal (because who doesn't love a modernist Argentine epic with Dantean themes?); Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts (because it's rare to find a book this comprehensive and astute that's written by a biographer who actually admires his subject); and the Bible (because).

Favorite book when you were a child:

Enid Blyton mysteries, which I thought were set in Sri Lanka, as I explain in this essay for the Paris Review.

Your top five authors:

William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Elena Ferrante, George Eliot, Dante.

Book you've faked reading:

I am presently serving on a literary prize jury. I cannot answer this question.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Because I assume I'd be preaching to the choir if I chose Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet, I will evangelize for Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin. I was converted to it by a great bookseller and book evangelist named Warren Farha, of Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kan. This is a novel set in the Russian middle ages that features an itinerant healer as the main character. The novel evokes a time and life far removed from ours in ways that take seriously and sincerely the beliefs and ideas of the protagonist and manage to forge identifications across centuries and continents that you'd never expect. What more could you ask of a novel?

Book you've bought for the cover:

Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector. It's cool.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hid Portnoy's Complaint from my mother-in-law one Christmas in Milwaukee. She likes to pick up books and make small talk about whatever she notices when she flips through. Can you imagine?

Book that changed your life:

Dante's Divine Comedy continues to change my life, every day. This is the case whether or not I read a canto every morning, as I have been trying to do for three years now.

Favorite line from a book:

The opening and closing sentences of St. John's Gospel.

Five books you'll never part with:

Divine Comedy, The Satanic Verses, The White Album, The Riverside Shakespeare, Absalom, Absalom! I know the Shakespeare pick is a workaround, but that's my biblio-life-hack for this question. As to the others, they are distinct enough from each other and, in their way, capacious enough within their pages, to sustain re-reading after re-reading.

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

The Hardy Boys book I lost when I was a boy, before I finished it! It had a greenish, demonish face on the cover. I've looked and looked and never found it. Readers, help!

Why you began your new novel, Original Prin, with the sentence "Eight months before he became a suicide bomber, Prin went to the zoo with his family":

Because it's true! And the great joy of a writer, and a reader, is to figure out how! Happy reading, America.

Book Candy

Bill Gates's Summer Reads

"Looking for a summer read?" Bill Gates shared his annual picks.


"Can you outdo past winners of the Spelling Bee?" Merriam-Webster challenged.


"Woman shares 28 things she's learned about the general public while working at the library," Bored Panda wrote.


"For sale: a poisoner's lab secreted in a beautiful book." (via Atlas Obscura)


Author Jamal Mahjoub chose his top 10 books about Sudan available in English for the Guardian.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Tony Horwitz

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and acclaimed nonfiction author Tony Horwitz died earlier this week at age 60. He was in Washington, D.C., on tour for his latest book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide, when he collapsed suddenly. He is survived by his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks (Year of Wonders, March, People of the Book), and two children.

Horwitz won the 1995 Pulitzer for National Reporting for his Wall Street Journal articles about poor working conditions in low-wage jobs across America. He was also a New Yorker staff writer and foreign correspondent in war zones across the Middle East and Africa. Horwitz is perhaps best known for Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998), in which he travels the South and participates in reenactments to explore the Civil War's lingering legacy. His other books include Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (2002), A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World (2008), and Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War (2011). Spying on the South retraces the 6,000-mile journey of Frederick Law Olmsted, the New York Times journalist who later designed Central Park, across the 1850s South. It is available from Penguin Press ($30, 9781101980286). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Scent Keeper

by Erica Bauermeister

Lilacs, camphor, pine--often a particular aroma links to a time or place. In Erica Bauermeister's (The School of Essential Ingredients, The Lost Art of Mixing) fourth novel, scent is the dominant force in the isolated island cabin a girl shares with her father. As Emmeline narrates The Scent Keeper, a mysterious coming-of-age story, she recalls "the smell of wood smoke and pine pitch in my father's beard as he reads to me at night."

Emmeline and Papa enjoy a simple life, harvesting provisions from the forest and cove. Papa doesn't explain the "mermaid"-delivered box of extras that arrives monthly, or his wall of drawers and their tiny bottles of papers that hold specific fragrances. While Papa shares books and stories, he never explains exactly how the scent papers work. A fateful winter's day at the cove leaves Emmeline alone, thrust into an unfamiliar world. A loving older couple embraces her and, with the courage and curiosity her father taught her, she creates a niche, attends school and meets Fisher, whose friendship expands into love. At its midpoint, the novel makes an abrupt shift when Emmeline's computer research reveals her parents' past, as co-owners of a revolutionary fragrance-creation machine, and her mother's identity.

Determined to find Fisher, who has fled his father's abuse, and to confront her mother, Emmeline bravely leaves the island for the city, seeking truth, love and family. Woven through her life's journey is a multi-layered story of fragrance and its evocative power, as strong and tenacious as this sensuous novel's plucky heroine. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A lush novel about a girl whose family history is entwined with the allure of fragrance.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250200136

The Welsh Fasting Girl

by Varley O'Connor

Twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob is a minor celebrity in 19th-century Wales because of her condition. She has not eaten food for two years, and her dedication to fasting and God have caused the devout and curious to flock to her bedside. American journalist Christine is intrigued by Sarah's story and decides to leave her own home, full of grief since her husband's death in the Civil War, to travel to Wales and write about Sarah. As Christine connects with Sarah and her family, Varley O'Connor spins the fascinating yet sad tale of Sarah's starvation and death, and the later trial of her parents.

O'Connor (The Master's Muse) reveals this dark story through the eyes of Christine and those closest to Sarah, and she unflinchingly details Sarah's deteriorating condition, past sexual abuse and decline into death. Christine's research for her article combines the story of the Jacob family with historical documents published during the period. Her experiences in Wales are just as fascinating as Sarah's, and her struggles as an older woman journalist in the 19th century are compelling in their own right. Sarah is caught in the middle of politics, scientific debate and religion, but benefits from none of them. It's a dark story that's hard to believe, but utterly compelling to read. --Amy Dittmeier, adult services librarian, Brookfield Public Library, Ill.

Discover: This dark novel explores the story of one of the most famous Victorian fasting girls.

Bellevue Literary Press, $16.99, paperback, 352p., 9781942658627

Last Day

by Domenica Ruta

Following her powerful memoir, With or Without You, Domenica Ruta's debut novel, Last Day, combines her beautiful use of language with a thoughtful and compelling story.

Last Day, an ancient commemoration, is celebrated worldwide every May 28. It's based in prophecies about an apocryphal end of the world, though it is now mostly observed with barbecues, bonfires and overindulgence.

Various characters prepare for their Last Day celebrations, including Sarah, a teen struggling to figure out who she is and how she fits into the world. She's infatuated with an older man, Kurt, who owns a tattoo shop called Redemption that offers free tattoos on Last Day. Across town, Karen is an unstable but enthusiastic woman who lives in a group home and works at the YMCA. One of her passions is studying the occult, and her friend Rosette is a member of a religious group called Last Kingdom on Earth, which broke off from the Jehovah's Witnesses. Bear looks down on the earth from above, as an American astronaut on the International Space Station with his Russian colleague Svec and Yui, a wealthy Japanese space tourist.

Ruta paints a vivid picture of each person's experiences, as the narrative shifts from one to another, weaving together an intricate picture of the individuals and the society. Engrossing and thought-provoking, this unusual novel leaves the reader musing on the fate of humanity and our planet, as the characters all prepare for the annual end of the world. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Discover: A diverse cast of characters prepare for Last Day celebrations, an annual holiday to commemorate the possible end of the world, in this compelling and thoughtful novel.

Spiegel & Grau, $27, hardcover, 272p., 9780525510819

Tears of the Trufflepig

by Fernando A. Flores

Tears of the Trufflepig takes place in the near future, with a speculative outlook that is uncomfortably close to contemporary reality. Fernando A. Flores's debut novel is set along the Texas-Mexico border, scarred by two long walls. Esteban Bellacosa, an equipment broker, finds himself in several baffling situations over the course of a few days, even by standards of "strange" life along the border. A large piece of equipment disappears into thin air; his brother is targeted by a syndicate needing an endless supply of shrunken heads for collectors; criminal enterprises are fighting violent turf wars; and a gonzo journalist named Paco Herbert wants Bellacosa to be his wingman as he investigates the black market.

In this future, cartels operating along the border handle grotesque contraband of every stripe. In addition to (newly) shrunken heads, extinct animals are re-created in a process known as "filtering." They're worn as clothing and served at private, debauched dinner parties. The frenzied desire for filtered animals is leading to more insidious filtering attempts: mythical animals and, possibly, humans. The co-dependency of wealth and greed results in power struggles that benefit no one. "Once any kind of power is discovered, the thing that follows is the usurping of it," Bellacosa says. Closing off borders is ineffective, this story makes clear, because the reality is that "everything's woven closer" than believed. Tears of the Trufflepig is an absurdist tale pointing out the "pipeline of consequences" of unchecked greed and corrupt power. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Tears of the Trufflepig speculates on a near-future along the Texas-Mexican border that includes shrunken heads, stolen ancestral artifacts and extinct animals brought to life.

MCD/FSG Originals, $16, paperback, 336p., 9780374538330

Mystery & Thriller

Seeing Red

by Dana Dratch

In the second installment of author Dana Dratch's Red Herring Mystery series, freelance reporter Alex Vlodnachek has her hands full trying to score enough assignments to pay her bills. So does her brother, Nick, currently living with her while struggling to get his catering/baking business launched. When someone breaks into Alex's house and leaves a jaw-dropping surprise, the two are forced to call in their unflappable Russian grandmother, Baba, to help. As the elderly woman deals with the unexpected present, Alex adds several more mysteries to her list of things to solve.

She's happily interested in furthering her (hopefully romantic) relationship with Ian, the handsome British B&B owner across the street. But she's far less delighted by the very dead, and very cold, corpse she discovers in his basement freezer--a corpse that almost immediately vanishes. Meanwhile, Ian needs Alex's help discovering where his father, the B&B's erstwhile butler, has disappeared to. While searching for clues, Alex begins to suspect the father may be involved in art theft. Or perhaps art forgery. Apparently, the possibilities are endless. Did Ian's father flee to escape the law? And does the frozen body have anything to do with him going missing? More importantly, can Alex solve all the burning questions before she herself disappears?

Former newspaper reporter Dana Dratch delivers a delightful cozy that pairs well with the first installment or can be read on its own. Witty dialogue with laugh-out-loud moments, well-drawn characters and multiple mysteries weave their way through this satisfying story. --Lois Faye Dyer, freelance reviewer

Discover: In Seeing Red, reporter Alex Vlodnachek has her hands full with disappearing butlers, corpses on ice and a whopping surprise that will change her life

Kensington, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 352p., 9781496716583

Food & Wine

The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas

by Eric Silverstein

Part autobiography, part food odyssey and part cookbook, The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas explores Eric Silverstein's journey through Asia as a child, skips over his years as a lawyer and dives deeply into the passion for food that led him to create a multi-pronged food and hospitality business.

Born to Chinese and Jewish American parents, raised in Japan and Atlanta and settled in Austin, Tex., Silverstein crafts recipes that are heavily influenced by the many contrasting flavors of his favorite childhood foods. Including home-cooked meals, street food, noodle bowls and cocktails, The Peached Tortilla offers an idiosyncratic blend of soul food, incorporating Asian seasonings, Tex-Mex staples and Southern-fried comforts.

A section table of contents, cooking notes on unfamiliar utensils and techniques and suggested Asian pantry staples lead into 100 recipes with accompanying full-color photographs and author's note vignettes. Some, like Laksa (from Malaysia), require four or more different stages in making the one dish, and may be outside of the average home cook's abilities, pantry items and kitchen gadgetry. Others, like the pickles and sauces (wasabi mayo, sesame pickles and tomato jam), may become new family staples for the adventurous palate. A glossary of Asian foods and noodles, including pictures of brands for easy recognition in the grocery story, rounds out this introduction to one man's vision of Asian-Southern cooking with a Southwestern twist. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.

Discover: Discover the delights of Southern-Asian fusion street food created by Eric Silverstein, the mastermind behind the Peached Tortilla food truck and associated restaurants in Austin, Tex.

Sterling Publishing, $27.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781454931218

Biography & Memoir

Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love

by Abby Maslin

Abby Maslin thought she understood love. Married to her husband, TC, for only a few years, the young couple were happy and content with their ordinary life as parents and professionals. However, nothing prepared them for the night of August 18, 2012, when TC was brutally assaulted, left for dead mere blocks from their Washington, D.C., home.

A deeply revealing and intimate memoir, Love You Hard opens during the frantic moments Maslin realizes her husband is missing and the long hours of waiting in the hospital. TC's extensive brain injuries meant that his survival was far from certain. With heartbreakingly raw prose, Maslin writes about becoming her formerly active and vibrant husband's primary caregiver and how she drew upon her background as a fourth-grade teacher to help him relearn everything, including how to walk and talk. At one point, Maslin poignantly notes that the number of words their two-year-old son knew would soon surpass his 29-year-old father's then-limited vocabulary.

Love You Hard will resonate with anyone who has faced (or is facing) the loss of a life one expected to have and the struggle to start over. Maslin reflects upon her experiences with her father's long-term illness and TC's traumatic brain injury with a powerfully strong narrative undiluted by platitudes or saccharine. She is passionate, honest and even occasionally funny while bravely and boldly sharing her anger, grief and fear. Just as TC needed to relearn everything in his world, Love You Hard is Maslin's lesson of how to rebuild hers while discovering the true meaning of love. --Melissa Firman, writer and blogger at

Discover: A powerful memoir of how one young couple's marriage changed following a traumatic brain injury.

Dutton, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9781524743314

The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World

by Mason Funk

The Book of Pride is the outgrowth of Mason Funk's project OUTWORDS, an online archive of interviews with LGBTQ pioneers and elders who forged and witnessed LGBTQ history. It features people like Kay Lahusen, the first openly gay photojournalist in the United States. And Kylar Broadus, a black trans man and lawyer whose advocacy has resulted in fundamental legislative protections for trans people. And John James, publisher of AIDS Treatment News, which became a lifeline for people with AIDS and helped spur drug companies to take HIV seriously.

Funk's goal is to preserve queer history, to empower and inspire young queer people and--especially--to recognize the individuals and the work featured in this book. "We must build this archive as a permanent place of honor for the people who found the courage, strength and conviction to picture something better for themselves and who set out on the long, tumultuous, chaotic, unmapped journey to transform their vision into reality," he writes in the introduction.

Grouped in sections with titles like "Community," "Liberation," "Spirit" and "Survival," Funk's interviews represent a colorful, inspiring, pluralistic cross-section of backgrounds, goals, professions and sensibilities. There are club owners and community organizers; veterans and clergy; drag performers, authors, educators and lawyers. They contributed to the vibrancy of LGBTQ communities in cities, and lit beacons for those in rural areas. Some of them have worked to bring LGBTQ people into the mainstream, while others have resisted convention and affirmed their right to live in bold new ways. Together, they have--as the title of the book proclaims--changed the world. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor

Discover: Mason Funk offers pluralistic parade of smartly curated, intersectional and inspiring interviews with many of the people who forged the modern LGBTQ movement in the United States.

HarperOne, $24.99, paperback, 288p., 9780062571700

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide

by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark

In Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, hosts of the true-crime comedy podcast My Favorite Murder, share hard-earned lessons from their lives and offer quippy lists and cautionary tales for a mentally healthy and physically safe life. Framed as part humor, part self-help and part memoir, the book takes readers inside some of the podcast's most famous pieces of advice ("F*ck Politeness," "You're in a Cult, Call Your Dad," etc.). To illustrate these words of wisdom, Kilgariff and Hardstark reflect on their own pasts and the true-crime tales that have stuck with them. Kilgariff digs into her struggles with alcoholism and grapples with her grief over losing her mother to Alzheimer's, while Hardstark reveals her own history with addiction and self-doubt. 

Kilgariff and Hardstark, somewhat incredibly, manage to maintain the witty banter from their podcast personas and translate their particular, quirky brand of humor to the written page. From "Karen's Introduction" to "Georgia's Conclusion," their voices ring true and convey empathy, vulnerability and comfort. They also succeed in striking an excellent balance between the often dark self-revelations being described and their overall light, irreverent tone. The book, perhaps even more than the podcast itself, forges the connection My Favorite Murder has made between true crime and feminism. Kilgariff and Hardstark unwaveringly assert themselves as voices for female empowerment by encouraging candid dialogues about mental health and personal growth. By the end, readers understand the real rule Kilgariff and Hardstark live by, that of learning to be vulnerable with each other in order to be stronger together. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: My Favorite Murder podcasters invite everyone to join the conversation about how feminism, humor and true crime collide.

Forge, $24.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250178954

Social Science

The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

by Josh Levin

The Queen offers a compelling new look at Linda Taylor, the woman dubbed the "welfare queen" in the mid-1970s, after public awareness of her welfare fraud turned her into a political prop. Slate editor Josh Levin makes a convincing argument that Taylor's case was drastically oversimplified and used to paint ordinary welfare recipients in a negative light, eventually justifying cuts to welfare and other government assistance programs. The Queen portrays Taylor as an utterly singular individual whose crimes might have included murder. The "welfare queen" stereotype doesn't begin to explain her complicated, disturbing life.

In roughly the first half of the book, Levin approaches the welfare fraud case that helped turn Taylor into a national symbol. He shows how politicians, especially Ronald Reagan, used her to paint a misleading portrait of the undeserving poor and to engage in dog-whistle racism. As one state senator said: " 'Welfare cheaters' has become the new code word for the poor, for minorities in general and those temporarily down on their luck." In the second half, Levin digs into Taylor's background and tracks her life after the case. He finds a bewildering woman who lied incessantly, used dozens of fake names, manipulated and took advantage of vulnerable people, kidnapped children and was potentially party to multiple murders. Levin finds that her crimes went far beyond welfare fraud, but the justice system was more interested in her politically useful misdeeds. The Queen dispels the "welfare queen" myth by showing how anomalous Taylor was, representative of no one other than herself. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Discover: The Queen is a cross between true-crime story, biography and political history that centers on Linda Taylor, the woman dubbed the "welfare queen."

Little, Brown, $29, hardcover, 432p., 9780316513302

Children's & Young Adult

Pie in the Sky

by Remy Lai

In Remy Lai's debut, two brothers, 11-year-old Jingwen and nine-year-old Yanghao, immigrate with their mother to Australia from China following the death of their father. Jingwen is apprehensive about the move: struggling with his father's unexpected passing, he doesn't want to leave behind his grandparents and all that is familiar. Complicating matters further, Jingwen has to repeat a year in school because English still "sounds like an alien language" to him; he is embarrassed and ashamed that his little brother's English is better than his.

With their mother working at night, Jingwen copes with loss, his failures at school and his lack of new friends by imagining a variety of cakes based on recipes from their father. Papa had a friend "who told him the meaning of the idiom pie in the sky--an impossible dream"--which their father planned to use as a name for their future cake shop in Australia. Looking for a distraction from school and encouraged by Yanghao, Jingwen bakes his first cake, but Mama puts an end to the baking when she discovers that the boys have used the oven in her absence. Undiscouraged, Yanghao goads his older brother into secretly making the cakes while Mama is at work. As the brothers bond over the recipes and memories of Papa, they begin to find a way to make their new space feel like home.  

Lai's story is lovely, tackling the difficult topics of death, bullying and loss in a way that is empathetic and accessible to young readers. The relationship between the two brothers is the true heart of the novel, and Lai's illustrations add an extra layer of sweetness to the prose. Perfect for fans of Gene Luen Yang and Victoria Jamieson, Pie in the Sky is a delight. --Clarissa Hadge, bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.

Discover: Brothers Jingwen and Yanghao, dealing with the loss of their father and their move to a new country, bond over baking cakes.

Holt, $21.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 8-11, 9781250314093

The Parrot and the Merchant

by Marjan Vafaeian, trans. by Azita Rassi

An avid collector, Persian merchant Mah Jahan's most precious possessions are her birds. Despite her devotion, "she kept them in cages or chains so that they couldn't fly away and leave her." Most beloved is "a beautiful bright parrot," favored because "the parrot had learned to talk." Preparing for her upcoming trading trip to India--the parrot's home--Mah Jahan asks the bird if she would like a gift. "Please say hello to my parrot friends in India," the bird responds. "Tell them that I miss them, and that makes me sad. Ask them if they have any advice for me."

After finishing her work, Mah Jahan visits the Indian jungle to share her parrot's message. The jungle parrots are initially silent, until one suddenly drops out of the sky. "Oh, how terrible, that parrot has just died!," Mah Jahan thinks before rushing away. Back at home, describing her experience to her parrot causes an eerily similar reaction... but the parrot's seemingly fatal response will be her salvation.

Award-winning Iranian artist Marjan Vafaeian daringly updates the revered 13th-century poet Rumi's familiar tale. Originally published in 2013 in Iran, then smoothly translated by Azita Rassi, Vafaeian's version assigns she/her pronouns to the merchant, inserting a subtle message about female agency, nonexistent 800 years ago. Beyond the often-adapted story (Rashin's Two Parrots is a recent example), Vafaeian's intriguing illustrations are especially noteworthy, described in an afterword as "a sophisticated mix of beautiful birds and fabrics with interestingly strange, almost sinister, human characters." The natural world is cause for colorful, gorgeous celebration, Vafaeian suggests, but human intrusion turns the narrative into a cautionary tale for uncertain times. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Iranian artist Marjan Vafaeian updates for young, contemporary audiences an 800-year-old classic Persian tale about the value of freedom.

Tiny Owl, $16.99, hardcover, 24p., ages 7-11, 9781910328033

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

by Isabel Quintero, illus. by Zeke Peña

William C. Morris Award winner Isabel Quintero (Gabi, a Girl in Pieces) makes her picture book debut with this loving tribute to her father and the city where she grew up. In My Papi Has a Motorcycle, the Mexican American author uses her signature lyrical and spare style to capture the joyous and thrilling moments shared between young Daisy and her papi as they ride his motorcycle through their Corona, Calif., neighborhood.

"When he lifts me onto the smooth black seat his hands don't feel rough, they don't feel tired--they feel like all the love he has trouble saying." Daisy treasures this daily ritual and the time spent with her soft-spoken father as they pass beloved landmarks like the neighborhood panadería and her grandmother's church. Quintero infuses this slice-of-life tale with small moments of tension, such as signs of gentrification--"as we near the shop, we see that it's empty and out of business. I can tell Papi is disappointed"--and dog chases. The narrative is also peppered with bits of history and mentions of the work that immigrants did (and do) to shape U.S. culture and history. Zeke Peña's fluid watercolor and digital art evokes the circuitous journey and the warmth that envelops the father-daughter pair. Featuring close-up facial expressions, graceful body movements and quote bubbles in English and Spanish hanging above characters' heads throughout, Peña's experience as a comics artist shines through. Every corner of each page is filled with rosy and vibrant renderings, never overwhelming, but always intentional and emotive. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library 

Discover: This heartwarming picture book celebrates the freedom of motorcycle rides and the unchanging love between a daughter and father.

Kokila/Penguin, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780525553410


Author Buzz

My Royal Showmance
(A Park Avenue Promise Novel, Book 2)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

The reality TV setting made writing My Royal Showmance so much fun. Anika is expecting a boring time on her latest job but things turn when she has to step in for one of the contestants. It's supposed to be one night, but Luca has other ideas. He's looking to bring tourism back to his small country, but when he sees Anika he realizes he might do something remarkable--find love on the set of a TV show.

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: My Royal Showmance (The Park Avenue Promise #2) by Lexi Blake

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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