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Week of Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tractors, jets, space shuttles... all come from engineers. And where do engineers come from? Babies, of course!

In Lori Alexander and Allison Black's Future Engineer (Cartwheel Books, $8.99), pre-readers ages 0-3 are told to "Flip a switch. Turn a gear" then asked, "could Baby be an engineer?" Engineers ask questions, want to know how things work and search for answers--so do babies! Adults of varying races and genders complete engineer-type tasks on the left-hand pages and babies of different genders and races take part in corresponding activities on the right: building blocks, asking questions (with a sock as a hat) and drawing on paper "and other places, too."

Some vehicles baby might someday help make are shown in One More Wheel! (Macmillan, $12.99) by Colleen AF Venable and Blythe Russo. To get babies into a wheel state of mind, the cover offers three wheels for baby to spin. Inside, a crocodile and a beaver begin to one-up one another, each riding out a vehicle that has "One MORE wheel" than the last. Eventually, the book displays a unicycle (1), racecar (6) and jet (7), it ends with "ALL THE WHEELS": a final page with a pull tab that extends to show a train carrying every vehicle previously displayed (roller skates and wheeled office chair included).

What else can engineers do? Create space shuttles and even go into space themselves. In Baby Astronaut by Laura Gehl and Daniel Wiseman (Harper Festival, $8.99), the title hero "flies way up high, above the clouds and into space." Once in space, she checks on science experiments, goes on space walks and sleeps strapped to a wall. "Night night, Baby Astronaut!"

--Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

 

The Best Books This Week

Fiction

The Girl with the Louding Voice

by Abi Daré

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With her debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré introduces Adunni, an unforgettable 14-year-old from the Nigerian village of Ikata, and her dream of becoming a teacher. Her recently deceased mother had told her, "Your schooling is your voice, child," and Adunni wants "a louding voice." But Papa cannot pay the community rent and sells his daughter to Morufu, the taxi driver, whose two other wives have not yet borne him a son.

Adunni's kindness and empathy toward others, in the face of such injustices, return to her, but it takes time. Morufu's first wife beats Adunni, but second wife Khadija befriends her. Khadija is pregnant; if this baby is not a boy, Morufu will kick her out. Adunni accompanies Khadija, she believes, to get medical help when the baby seems to be coming early. Instead, Adunni discovers en route that they are going to the village where the true father of Khadija's baby lives--a man who purportedly sires only sons. But Khadija dies of complications and Adunni fears she will be charged with murder, so she flees to the bustling city of Lagos to work for Big Madam, a wealthy woman who has made a fortune selling fabrics to the rich.

Through Adunni's narration, Daré explores the full scope of the young woman's widening world. Readers leave Adunni knowing that she has the intellectual resources and the guts to face whatever challenges she must in order to attain her goals. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

Dutton, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9781524746025

Small Days and Nights

by Tishani Doshi

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A woman, spiritually and emotionally adrift, uncovers family secrets and struggles to find her purpose in the perceptive and graceful novel Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi (Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods). Grace Marisola, desperate to give up an unsatisfying life in the U.S., returns to her childhood home in India after her mother's death to find that she's acquired both a secret house and an unknown older sister. This shock leads Grace, who longed for siblings as a child, to realize that "it is perfectly possible to exist in the world without being aware that someone close to you, someone of your flesh and blood, is moving about in the same air as you." This image of people simultaneously nearby and remote, close and yet unknowable, recurs throughout.

Grace's mother secretly owned a house on isolated property near the sea in Madras. This is where she hoped one day to retire with her oldest daughter, Lucia, who was born with Down syndrome and was moved to a residential facility as an infant. Her mother left no information behind, and Grace can barely process this news. Nevertheless, she believes that bringing Lucia to the Madras house, and living together as sisters and adults, will be a way for her to throw off the apathy that so far has marked her life.

Doshi is from Chennai, formerly known as Madras, and is a poet and dancer as well as novelist, garnering awards in both dance and writing. This novel, perfect for fans of Lauren Groff and Kate Atkinson, is awash in poetic language, sensory-rich scenes and fully formed characters. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

W.W. Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 272p., 9781324005230

Just After the Wave

by Sandrine Collette, transl. by Alison Anderson

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Three children awaken to silence in an empty house, finding only a note on the table and cupboards of food. Louie with his crooked leg, one-eyed Perrine and Noah, whose body refuses to grow, are the imperfect ones in French author Sandrine Collette's devastating second novel translated into English, Just After the Wave. They are the "rejects" whom their parents have left alone, with the promise to return for them.

Days before, the wall of a volcano slid into the sea. The gigantic wave it generated surged away from dry land, but floodwaters followed the tsunami and submerged the coast. Now the hillside where the family's house is perched has become an isolated island, surrounded by a new ocean and besieged by "the demented weather" of constant storms.

Each morning the waters rise higher. The parents know the only solution is to put as many children as they can on a makeshift raft, find an unflooded country and come back for the ones they're forced to abandon. They assure themselves that Louie is old enough to care for his sister and brother, that Perrine can cook basic meals and that Noah can help with chores. With their other children, they set off on an endless sea, determined to find safety and a way to rescue the ones they've left behind.

Just After the Wave is a fable for today, as well as a wrenching story of love and survival. Sandrine Collette has reached deep into past fairy tales and modern reality to create a novel that's a stunning, resonant wake-up call. --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller

Europa Editions, $18, paperback, 304p., 9781609455675

The Gimmicks

by Chris McCormick

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In Chris McCormick's heartrending debut novel, The Gimmicks, two Armenian cousins who grew up as close as brothers leave their homeland and the people they love to fight for a cause that has haunted their lives since birth. Ruben, clever and ruthless, and Avo, hulking and sensitive, join an underground liberation group that wants revenge for the 1915 Armenian genocide. While Ruben is sent off on increasingly violent and mysterious international missions, Avo is sent to the U.S., where he starts a career in professional wrestling and spends years trying to work his way back to Mina, the love he left behind. Years in the future, Mina goes to the U.S. There, she meets with Avo's wrestling manager, attempts to find Avo and pieces together the puzzle of what really happened to him and Ruben.

With enormous scope and heart, The Gimmicks captures the lives of three people through a series of snapshots in time. Such an accomplishment is a feat of precise plotting and patient pacing. Surprising moments of humor and tender insights into the three main characters carry the plot forward, but the ultimate payoff for this sprawling tale is in its poignant ending. Despite being spread across time and space, enduring years of betrayal, love and loss, Ruben, Avo and Mina find a spiritual conclusion, if not a physical one, that honors the hardships they've endured. Even though the protagonists have, over the course of the book, crafted personae meant to disguise and protect their true selves, by the novel's end, readers feel as though they've had a genuine glimpse into the souls of all three characters. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Harper, $27.99, hardcover, 368p., 9780062908568

Mystery & Thriller

The Wives

by Tarryn Fisher

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Seth has three wives. "I'm Thursday," the narrator of Tarryn Fisher's tense thriller The Wives explains. Thursday sees Seth one day a week and has no contact with his other wives, Monday and Tuesday. Often feeling insecure about her role in Seth's life, especially after losing their baby, Thursday agonizes over being perfect. She wants her shared husband to favor her--wants to feel control she knows she lacks. When she finds a bill in Seth's pants with Monday's name, Thursday secretly tracks her down, curious about her husband's life without her.

After Thursday befriends her under false pretenses, Monday divulges her husband's faults--he hides her birth control, he has a temper--but assures Thursday that her bruises were accidental. Though Seth being abusive seems ludicrous, Thursday seeks answers, needing to know if she's in danger. Yet the more she learns, the more questions she has. Why does Tuesday have a dating website profile? Do the other wives even know about Thursday? And if not, what else is Seth lying about?

Thursday's nail-biting pursuit of truth is fueled by her entrapment. She wonders how she's become the type of woman who has "forgotten what [her] own happiness means." Though she wants to change, her love for Seth keeps her stagnant. The trauma of her baby's death exacerbates her emotional instability, but her savage determination keeps her laser-focused on unraveling the real Seth, even when family and friends dismiss her. A gripping ride that will keep readers guessing, The Wives by Tarryn Fisher (Love Me with Lies series) delivers heart-pounding suspense through an unreliable protagonist bent on proving her sanity. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Graydon House/Harlequin, $16.99, paperback, 336p., 9781525809781

Thistles and Thieves

by Molly MacRae

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Out for a bike ride in the hills one morning, Janet Marsh stumbles across the body of Malcolm Murray, a highly respected local doctor. Soon afterward, a box of vintage first editions appears on the doorstep of Yon Bonnie Books, the bookshop Janet co-owns in the Scottish village of Inversgail. The books are accompanied by a note, but no name. Could the incidents be connected? In Molly MacRae's third Highland Bookshop mystery, Thistles and Thieves, Janet joins forces again with her longtime best friend Christine, Janet's daughter Tallie and Tallie's best friend Summer to solve a local mystery while still trying to make a living selling books.

MacRae (Scones and Scoundrels) brings back many familiar characters: Janet and her compatriots, Janet's nosy author neighbor Ian, knowledgeable barman Danny and local constable Norman, who alternates between gratitude for the women's help and exasperation at their amateur tactics. The cozy village setting is responsible for much of the series' appeal; like the Scottish weather, this mystery plot gets a bit murky at times. As Janet and Christine pursue their investigation and Summer hones her darts skills, two more victims (one of them the doctor's brother) are found. Readers will enjoy sifting through clues alongside the women, who bring their American pluck and tenacity to every case they encounter. With a couple of entertaining subplots (plus plenty of scones and wine), MacRae's mystery is a good companion for a dreich evening by the fireside. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Pegasus Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781643133218

Romance

The Arrangement

by Sylvia Day, Minerva Spencer, and Kristin Vayden

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Headliner Sylvia Day (Butterfly in Frost) joins forces with Minerva Spencer (Scandalous) and Kristin Vayden (The Temptation of Grace) in this steamy Regency romance anthology featuring three couples in matches of convenience who find themselves shockingly captivated by their spouses.

In Day's "Mischief and the Marquess," vivacious Lady Sophie Milton-Riley believes she and childhood friend Justin, now the aloof Marquess of Fontaine, will not suit as husband and wife. While Sophie tries to convince their match-making female relatives of that fact, Justin quickly realizes that mothers know best and sets out to sweep Sophie off her feet. In Spencer's "The Duke's Treasure," Beaumont, the Duke of Wroxton, marries potted meat heiress Josephine Loman for the funding to keep his estate afloat. Despite a rocky start, the attempted interference of Beaumont's former lover shows him how valuable his wife has become to him. Vayden introduces readers to Charles Brook, the rakish and irreverent Earl of Barrington, who is in desperate need of a reputation overhaul to complete a business arrangement in "An Inconvenient Countess." He takes penniless Diana Lambson as his last-minute spouse in hopes of gaining his peers' approval, but soon finds himself realizing he wants Diana's approval most of all.

Day provides her tried-and-true mix of deep emotion and hot sex; Spencer and Vayden illustrate why marriages of convenience remain a favorite premise among romance readers. The gratifying blend of new passion and unexpected love between their leads is exhilarating and hopeful. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Kensington, $15.95, paperback, 336p., 9781496731029

Business & Economics

A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond

by Daniel Susskind

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A world without work sounds nonsensical. So much of human value--both economic and intrinsic--is, for better or worse, derived from work. But in his dense yet captivating A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond, Oxford economist Daniel Susskind lays out the reality: automation is replacing human toil. In a matter of years, society could face an unprecedented unemployment crisis.

The culprit, of course, is the technology boom. For decades, technology has loomed in the collective consciousness as the harbinger of civil destruction, and much misplaced noise has been made over individual innovations (Susskind uses the particularly apt example of Industrial Revolution-era Luddites to prove this point). But with the explosive rise of multibillion-dollar tech companies in recent decades, the reality becomes clear: the power of machines (and those who create them) is only growing. Today, computers are finally better than humans at both simple and complicated tasks, whether legal analysis or sorting boxes.

To address this confounding issue, Susskind splits A World Without Work into three parts: context for how this happened; the problem economies and societies face; and how citizens and policymakers ought to respond. Using impressive data and research, tied to a far-from-comprehensive but nevertheless convincing understanding of economic inequality, he explains how "task encroachment"--or robots taking over human tasks--will lead to unemployment. In response, Susskind proposes a number of policy initiatives around education, regulation and taxation. Finally, he moves to "meaning," examining how humans will find fulfillment without work to order their lives. He does not offer a resolute conclusion. There's too much he admits he cannot know. But his wake-up call is urgent. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer

Metropolitan Books, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9781250173515

Political Science

Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia

by Joshua Yaffa

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Between Two Fires is one of the best attempts yet at capturing some of the many facets of life in Vladimir Putin's authoritarian shadow. In his nonfiction debut, New Yorker correspondent in Moscow Joshua Yaffa takes an effective approach comparable to Masha Gessen's The Future Is History by focusing on how a few individuals have adapted to Russia's new reality. Between Two Fires is primarily composed of a series of profiles linked by a theme: the concept of "the wily man." Yaffa writes: "For the wily man, interacting with the state is a game of half-truths and deceptions, served up as offerings to the bureaucratic machine, and told to one another as justification for squelching ambition and a sense of morality." Wiliness flourished under the Soviets and persists under Putin. Yaffa's subjects are all somewhere between saints and sinners--"most people are neither Stalin nor Solzhenitsyn"--a diverse group united by the compromises they've made.

Between Two Fires introduces readers to the head of one of the country's largest television networks, an aesthete willing to broadcast propaganda in exchange for a degree of creative control that allows him to indulge his esoteric interests. Yaffa also includes a Chechen humanitarian who has allowed herself to become a state mouthpiece in a questionably utilitarian exchange, a colorful owner of zoos in recently annexed Crimea and a rebellious Orthodox priest. Each profile is individually fascinating--these are daring, odd, contradictory people. While it is easy to second-guess their choices from afar, Yaffa portrays a Russia where wiliness might be necessary to thrive. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Tim Duggan Books, $28, hardcover, 368p., 9781524760595

Parenting & Family

Normal: A Mother and Her Beautiful Son

by Magda Newman

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Magda Newman shared the same hope as every expectant mother: that her son would be born "normal." But when Nathaniel was diagnosed at birth with a severe form of Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic condition affecting the development of the facial bones and tissues, she and her husband, Russel, were shattered.

Among his many challenges, Nathaniel was born without ears (the irony wasn't lost on Magda, a former concert pianist in her native Poland) and a blocked airway, requiring a permanent trach tube for him to breathe. Even with health insurance, Nathaniel's extensive medical needs and procedures (he would have 67 surgeries before turning 13) left the young couple with exorbitant bills, requiring the family to move in with relatives. Magda would also experience her own medical crisis; at 27, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Normal includes several sections written by Nathaniel, who offers his candid (and often humorous) perspective on his life. He shares his special connection with R.J. Palacio, author of the popular novel Wonder, which features a boy with Treacher Collins. Palacio wrote Normal's foreword.

With a heartfelt and candid style, Magda and Nathaniel both show how they coped with the challenges, isolation and the public's initial--oftentimes insensitive--reaction to Nathaniel's appearance. "Discomfort is a natural human response," Magda writes. "If I, his mother, experienced it when I first saw him, why shouldn't other people? My goal was to help parents and children move past that moment as quickly as possible and see Nathaniel for who he was, just like we did." As readers do exactly that, Normal becomes extraordinary. --Melissa Firman, writer and editor at www.melissafirman.com

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 272p., 9781328593122

Children's & Young Adult

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann

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Collaborators and Orbus Pictus Award-winners Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann (Giant Squid; Strongheart) crack open the world of the honeybee by following one Apis mellifera (Apis for short) through her short lifespan. The detail and whimsy of the honeybee's biography beautifully portray her as a vital part of Earth's ecosphere, setting up the delicate insect to be appreciated by young readers for her hard work and enormous contributions.

Each page of Fleming's text brims with information, presented with a poetic tone and capped off with a cliff-hanger, egging the reader on to the next stage of life: "Soon she is ready for her next job./ Flying?" Apis must nurse the larvae, tend the queen, build the comb and handle the food. As Fleming narrates Apis's experience guarding the hive, the pace quickens and depicts a fight scene with some "robber" bees. "The two grab hold of each other's legs./ They curl their abdomens./ They roll and grapple./ Apis buzzes, bites, burrows."

Rohmann's striking, life-like oil paintings accompany Fleming's intriguing text. The meticulous detail and large-scale, bug's-eye view emphasize both the honeybee's delicacy and her great importance. Minute features like the veins in her wings and the pollen in her hair are sure to mesmerize young audiences. In contrast, an equally beautiful gatefold reminds readers how tiny she is in the world we inhabit.

This dazzling picture book includes an essay and additional facts in the back matter, culminating in a phenomenal portrait of a tiny but indispensable component of nature--truly a delightful learning experience. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Neal Porter Books, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 6-9, 9780823442850

Yes No Maybe So

by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

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Yes No Maybe So is Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed's powerful response to the "bigotry and hateful rhetoric" that came after the 2016 presidential election.

Shy, awkward Jamie Goldberg, 17, is a Jewish kid who isn't "exactly great at talking to strangers." Example? He literally choked at an interview with a senator and now, instead of interning at the state capitol, is an errand boy for an assistant campaign manager for a Democratic state senatorial candidate in Georgia. Seventeen-year-old Pakistani-American Maya Rehman, who isn't "exactly the most adaptable person in the world," has also had her summer hopes dashed: she was supposed to leave for Italy with her parents after Ramadan; instead, her parents have decided to spend time apart. Once childhood friends, Jamie and Maya bump into each other at an interfaith event, where their mothers suggest they volunteer as canvassers for the upcoming local election. As they make their rounds, they encounter racist voters and anti-Semitic trolls, and their complex but sweet "slowmance" unfolds.

This Albertalli (What If It's Us?) and Saeed (Amal Unbound) collaboration grew out of their experiences campaigning for a candidate who hoped to flip his district. Their author letter shares their goal of not ignoring the "complexities of our current reality" but instead infusing it with joy and hope. They emphasize the importance of exercising the right to vote and nimbly express citizens' frustrations over ugly campaign practices, lack of variety and a corrupt system. The developing relationship between Maya and Jamie acts as a "raft in a sea of bad news." It's filled with lingering romantic moments, awkward cultural misunderstandings and so many doubts. But it's just the right amount of romance to balance the essential message about resistance Yes No Maybe So deftly delivers. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Balzer + Bray, $19.99, hardcover, 448p., ages 14-up, 9780062937049
how smart are crows?

Really smart! And Nosy Crow has a few things to teach you about sharks and dinosaurs… 

Do you know all there is to know about sharks? They’re all giant, cold-blooded creatures that enjoy eating humans, right? Well, Everything You Know About Sharks Is Wrong! is here to uncover the truth! From terrifying teeth to brilliant brain power, discover how everything you think you know about sharks is actually untrue in this in-depth, ingenious book. With fascinating, friendly, and easy-to-understand text written by zoologist Dr. Nick Crumpton and amazingly detailed color artwork on every page from illustrator Gavin Scott, this beautifully produced hardcover gift book with a stunning tactile cover will impress shark fans of any age.

And what about dinosaurs? They’re mean, green, and not very smart, right? WRONG! Including jaw-dropping research that will debunk many myths about all kinds of prehistoric creatures, Everything You Know About Dinosaurs Is Wrong! will turn young readers into paleontology pros! “Written with jaunty assurance by Nick Crumpton and illustrated with color and fun by Gavin Scott, this nonfiction excursion takes children ages 7-13 through a list of assumptions . . . and demolishes them one by one. It’s an engaging way to present the current thinking in paleontology, which, thanks to improvements in search techniques, is a field of stunning dynamism.” --Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal

At Nosy Crow, we publish high-quality, commercial fiction and nonfiction books for children from ages 0-12. To learn more about our child-focused, parent-friendly books visit www.nosycrow.us, or find us at @nosycrowus on InstagramTikTok, and Bluesky

Nosy Crow: Everything You Know About Sharks Is Wrong! by Nick Crumpton, Illustrated by Gavin Scott

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