“The Book of Aron” by Jim Shepard – “The Warsaw Ghetto during the darkest days of World War II is the setting of this important, heartbreaking but also inspiring new novel from National Book Award nominee Shepard (Like You’d Understand, Anyway). Told from the perspective of Aron, a Jewish boy in the ghetto, it is the study of the sadistic and systematic deprivation and dehumanization of a people. Forced with his family from the countryside into the ghetto, where he joins a band of hardy young smugglers, Aron eventually loses his entire clan to typhus, malnutrition, and forced labor and ends up in an orphanage in the ghetto run by Janusz Korczak, an important historical figure from this period. Korczak was a well-known advocate for children’s rights before the war and became famous for the orphanage he ran in the ghetto, and the author brings this heroic figure powerfully to life. Shepard also skillfully depicts the blighted human and moral landscape within the ghetto, where normal understandings of right and wrong have become impossibly compromised under the pressure of extermination. Surrounded by devastation, hopelessness, and cruelty, Korczak becomes an exemplar of all that is good and decent in the human spirit. Few will be able to read the last terrible, inspiring pages without tears in their eyes.” –Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2014.
“Death and Mr. Pickwick” by Stephen Jarvis – “In this astounding first novel, Jarvis re-creates, in loving and exhaustive detail, the writing and publication of Charles Dickens’s first novel….The book offers an impressively imagined account of Seymour, Dickens, and a huge host of others (the sheer scale of the book is, itself, Dickensian)…[Death and Mr. Pickwick] is a staggering accomplishment, a panoramic perspecitive.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“The Debtor Class” by Ivan G. Goldman – “A chance encounter with collection-agency owner Philyaw leads ex-con Bento to a job and an unexpected sense of belonging in this gripping, elliptical novel from Goldman (Isaac: A Modern Fable). Bento and colleague Liz Huizar–who racked up student loans to obtain a master of library science degree, then found herself working as a dancing chicken for a fast-food restaurant–are at the center of an eccentric cast, including Bogart look-alike Philyaw; Gillespie, an unscrupulous cop whose Y2K fears led him to imbibe silver, permanently turning his skin blue; and Roland Sussman, a bestselling writer who returns from a three-year retreat in a commune to learn that his ex-girlfriend has stolen all his assets. Though Goldman doesn’t develop all his potentially intriguing characters or give much more than cursory accounts of their interactions, this is a sobering and triumphant read about the recent recession’s effects on average Americans, the challenges ex-convicts face in society, and the bonds people forge in unlikely circumstances. ” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Discount” by Casey Gray – “As a microcosm of contemporary society, few places have the potential for being more evocative than a nationally recognized, big-box retailer. Set in the increasingly quirky border region of New Mexico (thank you, Breaking Bad), Gray’s tale of a few short days in the life of a discount superstore parses the activities and ambitions, desires and frustrations of its owners, management, employees, customers, and their families and cohorts on a minute-by-minute basis. There’s a widow whose dead husband lies cooling in their RV parked in the store’s lot, a severely disfigured Iraq war veteran learning the checkout ropes, a sometimes gang member working the deli counter, and a floor manager who opens a Pandora’s box of trouble by sending an inappropriate text to a coworker with troubles of her own. From disaffected goth teens to lonely housewives, Gray’s characters are far from being the cliched stereotypes these labels would suggest. Their frailties and pride, confusion and alienation, conformity and disdain reflect society’s essential conundrums with a zest and vigor that elevate them to prototypes of a new and daring culture. Fans of Jonathan Franzen and T. C. Boyle, Sam Lipsyte and Jonathan Tropper will flock to Gray’s hearty satire of rampant consumerism and corporate arrogance.” — Haggas, Carol. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg – “As she listens to nursing home resident Ninnie Threadgoode tell stories of Whistle Stop, AL, in the 1930s, Evelyn decides to make positive life changes that lift her out of a midlife crisis. VERDICT Though this story of small-town characters may appear quaint, it packs great emotional punch, fearlessly touching on issues ranging from racism to depression. The storytelling never wavers, and bittersweet events are laced with gentle humor. A modern novel with the feel of a classic.” — Ala-Rusa Codes. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2013.
“Girl at War” by Sara Novic – “Novic’s important debut brings painfully home the jarring fact that what appears in today’s headlines on a daily basis–the atrocities of wars in Africa and the Mideast–is neither new nor even particularly the worst that humankind can commit. Take it from 10-year-old Ana Juric, conscripted into the Yugoslav civil war in the early 1990s by the bad luck of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is able to calm herself by going through the motions of loading and reloading a munitions magazine. And she’s one of the so-called lucky ones who survived and who was, by the grace of UN peacekeepers, delivered from her nightmarish homeland to the safety of an adoptive American family. However, as Novic gradually reveals, you can take the girl out of the war zone, but you can’t take the war zone out of the girl. By the time Ana becomes a student at a New York university, all that violence has been bottled up inside her head for a decade. Thanks to Novic’s considerable skill, Ana’s return visit to her homeland and her past is nearly as cathartic for the reader as it is for Ana.” — Chavez, Donna. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“This Heart of Mine” by Brenda Novak – “After serving 17 years in prison for a fatal accident she didn’t cause, Phoenix Fuller is back in Whiskey Creek to help her difficult, reclusive mother and get to know Jake, the son she hasn’t seen since the day she gave birth. Sadly, Riley Stinson, Jake’s dad and the man who is raising him, just wants her gone–and so do many of the townsfolk, especially the family of the girl she supposedly ran down. But Phoenix is not the frightened girl who left years earlier, and when the sparks begin to fly, she is more than willing to take the flak and fight for what she knows is right–and the man she’s never stopped loving. VERDICT A courageous, humble heroine intent on getting on with her life, a hero torn between his feelings and others’ expectations, and a surprisingly mature teen make this another engrossing addition to Novak’s addictive series.” — Kristin Ramsdell. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.3
“The Jazz Palace” by Mary Morris – “”Not only does Morris, rhapsodically fluent in the liberating innovations of jazz, vividly convey the passion to make music that rules the precarious lives of Benny and Napoleon. She also turns this tale of brutal hardships and stubborn dreams into a lush, swirling, evocative jazz composition, in which she sensitively depicts a city-in-flux shaped by poverty and romance, immigrants and migrants, anti-Semitism and racism, visionaries and gangsters. A graceful and involving affirmation of the transcendent power of art.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Language Arts” by Stephanie Kallos – “At two, Cody Marlow started talking to God. But just a few months later, he started losing his language, with God the last word to go. With Cody’s autism at its core, this story weaves back to his father Charles’ formative fourth-grade year, when he excelled in the Palmer handwriting method, entered a pilot language-arts program, won a citywide short story competition, and befriended the strange new boy, autistic Dana McGucken. When it’s clear that something is wrong with Cody, his mother, Allison, is relentless in seeking remedies, while Charles, teaching language arts at a private alternative school, finds his son pulling away from him. As Cody turns 21, his parents are divorced, with Charles, living alone in the family house, writing daughter Emmy as she leaves for college, and Allison seeking comfort in Judaism. After startling revelations, comfort comes, thanks to an ambitious art student and a feisty Italian nun with dementia. Kallos’ earlier novels,…This novel, masterfully plotted and written, is a wondrously beautiful story of love and loss, offering hope in the face of the harshest reality.” — Leber, Michele. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“The Liar” by Nora Roberts – “Appalled by the depth of her husband’s deceit and the debt he leaves behind when he is lost in a boating accident, Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth takes her three-year-old daughter, Callie, and heads home to her family and her Smoky Mountain roots. Reconnecting with her past and building a life for herself and Callie is the order of the day. Having another man in her life–especially one as appealing as Griff Lott–or realizing that something evil and dark has followed her to Rendezvous Ridge is certainly not on the agenda. … Riveting.” — Kristin Ramsdell. 512p. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
“Our Souls At Night” by Kent Haruf – “Within the first three pages of this gripping and tender novel, Addie Moore, a 70-year-old widow, invites her neighbor, Louis Waters, to sleep over. “No, not sex,” she clarifies. “I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably.” Although Louis is taken off guard, the urgency of Addie’s loneliness does not come across as desperate, and her logic will soon persuade him. She reasons that they’re both alone (Louis’s wife has also been dead for a number of years) and that, simply, “nights are the worst.” What follows is a sweet love story, a deep friendship, and a delightful revival of a life neither of them was expecting, all against the backdrop of a gossiping (and at times disapproving) small town. When Addie’s six-year-old grandson arrives for the summer, Addie and Louis’s relationship is tested but ultimately strengthened. Addie’s adult son’s judgment, however, is not so easily overcome. In this book, Haruf, who died in 2014, returns to the landscape and daily life of Holt County, Colo., …with a stunning sense of all that’s passed and the precious importance of the days that remain.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Paradise Sky” by Joe R. Lansdale – “The latest novel from Lansdale (The Thicket) revolves around an unfortunate misunderstanding that leads Ruggert, a local landowner, to seek vengeance against a young African American man, Willie. Ruggert and his men kill Willie’s father, and Willie flees his Texas home. Loving, a Civil War veteran, takes Willie under his wing and teaches him how to shoot and ride a horse. When Loving dies, Willie renames himself Nat Love in honor of his mentor and heads to the town of Deadwood in South Dakota Territory, where he befriends Wild Bill Hickock, among other colorful characters. When Ruggert hears that Nat is living in Deadwood, he sets out after the young man again. VERDICT Loosely based on the true story of African American cowboy Nat Love (1854-1921), this fast-paced Western with its multicultural cast of characters is a winner. Readers of Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers will welcome Love’s sense of humor and resilience in the midst of the rough-and-tumble American West.” — Emily Hamstra, Univ. of Michigan Libs., Ann Arbor. 416p. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
“Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel” by Meg Cabot – “…When last we saw her, Mia had just graduated high school. Now 26, she’s still lovable, albeit more mature; (slightly) less of a hypochondriac; and a tad burned out by fame. But when longtime love Michael finally pops the question, Mia is more than happy to surrender to the fairy tale. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Princess Diaries book without a royal scandal: another surprising secret from Mia’s father, as well as interference from the ever-present, deliciously wicked Grandmere, creates a whirlwind of jaw-dropping, hilarious, and occasionally touching events. … Original fans of the series, now adults themselves, will be thrilled with this, but it will be enjoyable for those on either side of Cabot’s extensive fan base … ” –Reagan, Maggie. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen – “Adept in the merciless art of interrogation, the nameless spy who narrates Nguyen’s dark novel knows how to pry answers from the unwilling. Unexpectedly, however, this Vietnamese communist sympathizer finds himself being tortured by the very revolutionary zealots he has helped make victorious in Saigon. He responds to this torture by extending an intense self-interrogation already underway before his incarceration. The narrator thus plumbs his singular double-mindedness by reliving his turbulent life as the bastard son of a French priest and a devout Asian mother. Haunted by a faith he no longer accepts, insecure in the communist ideology he has embraced, the spy sweeps a vision sharpened by disillusionment across the tangled individual psyches of those close to him–a friend, a lover, a comrade–and into the warped motives of the imperialists and ideologues governing the world he must navigate. In an antiheroic trajectory that takes him from Vietnam during the war to the U.S. and then back, Nguyen’s cross-grained protagonist exposes the hidden costs in both countries of America’s tragic Asian misadventure. Nguyen’s probing literary art illuminates how Americans failed in their political and military attempt to remake Vietnam–but then succeeded spectacularly in shrouding their failure in Hollywood distortions. Compelling–and profoundly unsettling.” — Christensen, Bryce. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Your Next Breath” by Iris Johansen – “In bestseller Johansen’s… novel …, the CIA operative is pleased to be reunited with her 11-year-old son, Luke, after his rescue from a Russian criminal who kidnapped him when the boy was two. Meanwhile, Catherine determines that the man responsible for the brutal murders of three people close to her is Tomas Santos, a drug dealer who was recently released from prison in Caracas–and who hates Catherine for killing his wife in a shoot-out. Hu Chang, her best friend from Hong Kong (where she grew up), and Richard Cameron, a security chief for a powerful conglomerate with whom she once worked on a case, assist Catherine in the hunt for Santos, as do Eve Duncan, the heroine of the author’s main series, and Eve’s policeman husband, Joe Quinn. Paranormal scenes in which Catherine and Cameron communicate at a distance serve to heighten the sexual tension between them. ” –Agent: Andrea Cirillo, Jane Rotrosen Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Bone Tree” by Greg Iles – “Penn Cage and fiancee Caitlin Masters doggedly continue their search for the truth behind a series of murders from the 1960s. Past secrets have resurfaced to haunt Penn’s father, Dr. Tom Cage. When Tom is accused of killing his former nurse, he jumps bail to evade the far-extending reach of the Double Eagles, a Ku Klux Klan secret cell. Frank Knox, the deceased Double Eagles leader, was rumored to have been highly involved with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Tracking this theory, FBI special agent John Kaiser is determined to hear the truth from Cage. High-ranking state policeman Forrest Knox, Frank’s son, is also hunting for Cage, using his extensive network of corrupt police and government officials. Tangible proof of the conspiracy is rumored to be in a giant cypress known as the Bone Tree, but Forrest and the rest of the Double Eagles will do anything to stop Penn, Caitlin, and Cage. VERDICT Picking up immediately from Natchez Burning, best-selling author Iles superbly blends past and present in his swift and riveting story line.” Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
“Death by Dinosaur” by J. D. Mallinson – “A visiting professor from Germany has been found dead of unnatural causes at a natural history museum in London, where he cut a controversial figure. Is his demise a result of acute rivalries within the academic community? Or is it related to his background in Germany? Inspector George Mason, of Scotland Yard Special Branch, is assigned to solve this crime, which has major repercussions in official circles in England, Germany and France. Mason is ably assisted in his investigations by Detective Sergeant Alison Aubrey, as by detectives seconded from other police forces in Britain. His enquiries take him to parts of rural England, France, Switzerland and Germany, accurately portrayed by an author who spent several years teaching and traveling in Europe. ” — Amazon.com
“Death in the Floating City” by Tasha Alexander – “Alexander’s seventh Lady Emily mystery, set in Venice, is one of her best, not only for the fabulous Lady Emily (a relative of Amelia Peabody?), her comely mate Colin Hargreaves, and the circuitous plot, but also because readers will fall in love with the vividly described nineteenth-century Floating City…Fun to read, fast paced, and delightfully suspenseful…the perfect entertainment for both Elizabeth Peters fans and readers who have enjoyed Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation novels.” – Booklist
“A Demon Summer” by G. M. Malliet – “Agatha-winner Malliet’s entertaining fourth Max Tudor cozy…finds the former MI5 spy turned Anglican priest working up the nerve to tell his bishop that he plans to marry Awena Owen, who holds decidedly untraditional religious views. But before Max and Awena can tie the knot, the bishop dispatches him to the nunnery of Monkbury Abbey, where the sisters produced a fruitcake that sickened the Earl of Lislelivet some months after he visited the abbey. The bishop, who’s worried that the poisoning wasn’t an accident, believes that Max is better suited than the police to gain the sisters’ confidence and learn the truth about the fruitcake. The community, Max learns, is divided between those who want the abbey to have more contact with the outside world and those who don’t. Meanwhile, he has a possibly related crime to solve. The ending with a traditional gathering of the suspects will please Golden Age fans.” — Agent: Vicky Bijur, Vicky Bijur Literary. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
“Destroyer Angel” by Nevada Barr – “Bestseller Barr’s gripping 18th Anna Pigeon novel (after 2012’s The Rope) takes the National Park Service ranger on an autumn camping trip along the Fox River of the Iron Range in upstate Minnesota. Anna’s first vacation since her honeymoon three years earlier doubles as a get-together with Heath Jarrod, a paraplegic; Heath’s daughter, Elizabeth; Leah Hendricks, who designs outdoor gear; and Leah’s daughter, Katie. For Leah, the trip also is a “shakedown cruise” to test a new line of equipment to make the outdoors accessible to the handicapped. On their second night, four armed men invade the campsite while Anna is on a solo canoe float. Barr touches again on her recurring theme, that man is the biggest threat in nature, as Anna works unseen to disarm the thugs and free her friends. Barr’s gift for depicting breathtaking scenery elevates the story, as does Anna’s complex, ever-evolving personality.” — Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
“Dry Bones: A Longmire Mystery” by Craig Johnson – ““The [Longmire] series continues to be fresh and innovative. In Dry Bones, Johnson accomplishes this through a ‘sixty-five-million-year-old cold case’ with current social and political implications, as well as via vibrantly complex characters. Devoted series fans won’t feel a sense of déjà vu in Dry Bones, but they will easily identify Johnson’s tendency toward innovative imagery (‘my brain felt like it was bouncing around like a sneaker inside a washing machine’), crack dialogue, humor and a strong sense of place. Absaroka’s maker brings dem bones to life, and readers are sure to rejoice.”
“Gathering Prey” by John Sandford – “With his usual electrifying plot, wit, and fascinating characters, Sandford commits multiple murders that will keep his legion of readers awake late into the night.” — Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Heirs and Graces” by Rhys Bowen – “Set in 1934, Bowen’s rollicking seventh Royal Spyness mystery (after 2012’s The Twelve Clues of Christmas) finds Lady Georgiana Rannoch, a distant cousin of George V, typing up her mother’s life story. But once Mummy decides her memoirs are too scandalous for publication, Georgiana must seek new employment. With options limited, she writes Queen Mary, who rewards her with a royal audience and a business proposition. The son of the dowager Duchess of Eynsford, a friend of the queen’s, has not produced an heir, and the future of the family hinges on a newly discovered relation, Australian Jack Altringham. But Altringham, an uncouth sheep farmer, needs help acclimating to British high society, which is where Georgiana comes in. Inevitably, a murder crosses her path, and the quasi-royal again gets to show off her detecting chops. The appealing lead and breezy prose will remind many of James Anderson’s period mysteries featuring the Earl of Burford.” — Agent: Meg Ruley, the Jane Rotrosen Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
“Pursuit in Provence” by Phyllis Gobbell – “Gobbell’s refreshing debut introduces Jordan Mayfair, an architect from Savannah, Ga., who joins her 72-year-old travel writer uncle, Alex Carlyle, on a journey to Provence. Jordan’s troubles begin when their flight to Paris is diverted to Brussels, where she leaves her suitcase on a commuter train. The efforts of an American dressed like a cowboy to get it to her before the train pulls out of the station are to no avail. Later, in Paris, Jordan is stunned to see the cowboy-looking American she encountered in Brussels. Stranger still is the cowboy ending up outside her hotel as a hit-and-run victim. Jordan and Alex eventually reach the village of Fontvieille, where her hotel room is ransacked and her new suitcase flung open. Someone apparently believes Jordan has something valuable in her possession, but what? Seasoned with humor and evocative descriptions of magnificent historic sites, this whodunit should appeal to fans of both cozies and traditional mysteries.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Rest is Silence” by James R. Benn – “Benn offers a thrilling mix of fact and fiction in his ninth whodunit featuring Boston cop-turned-army investigator Billy Boyle (after 2013’s A Blind Goddess). On the eve of D-Day, Boyle, who serves on Eisenhower’s staff, travels to Kingsbridge, England, and looks into the death of an unknown man whose corpse washed ashore on a beach. Since the location was used as practice for the amphibious assault that will be launched shortly in France, the higher-ups are concerned that a link may exist between the dead man, who was shot in the head, and the secret invasion plans. A feud among local gangsters that Boyle learns about suggests a less sinister theory, but the path to the truth is appropriately complex. The affable and capable Boyle continues to grow as a character, and Benn effectively uses the impending Allied invasion of Europe as the background for the whodunit plot.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
“The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith – “Private detective Cormoran Strike, quite busy after his last high-profile case (The Cuckoo’s Calling), is now investigating the disappearance of author Owen Quine. Quine’s wife thinks he’s off at a writer’s retreat, but, of course, matters aren’t that simple. Quine’s new manuscript has been leaked to key people in the London publishing world, and his thinly veiled caricatures of his colleagues’ most private weaknesses have made him very unpopular. Meanwhile, Cormoran’s capable assistant Robin is planning her wedding and wishing she could resolve the unspoken tension between her boss and her fiance. Good luck with that. Verdict This Cormoran Strike adventure delivers on all the promise of the first one.” –Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib. . LJ Xpress Online Review. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2014.
“George Harrison: Behing the Locked Door” by Graeme Thomson – “He was known as the Quiet One, a “shallow” and “simplistic label,” as journalist and music biographer Thomson rightly notes. But George Harrison, the youngest Beatle, was a complicated fellow, “the least flashy, the least brash,” asserts Thomson; the Beatle who was least drawn to the glare of fame. Indeed, Harrison, who had a serious green thumb, seemed happier tending his garden than playing the role of the rock star. Many critics thought he would disappear from the spotlight after the Beatles officially split in April 1970. Instead, he enjoyed his most fertile period with the release of a triple album, All Things Must Pass, and the “symbolic pinnacle” of his career, the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, the first benefit music concert. Thomson looks at Harrison’s normal upbringing in Liverpool; his joining the Beatles and the chaos that followed; his forging a solo career as well as his stint with the Traveling Wilburys; his role as a movie producer; and his final years, including a violent attack in his home and his death in 2001 in Beverly Hills at 58. Thomson is especially compelling in his illumination of Harrison’s inner life, his robust spirituality, and his deep love of Indian culture. A must for all Beatles collections and for fans of the quiet man himself.” — Sawyers, June. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Words Without Music: A Memoir” by Philip Glass – “An absorbing, graceful, and humane window into the interior life of one of our most important and arguably most famous composers…. For everyone who has been fascinated and moved by his music, the book will be full of deep insights into how Glass the man became Glass the composer.” — George Grella – The Brooklyn Rail
“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough – “Mechanical invention is close to a religious calling in this reverent biography of the pioneers of heavier-than-air flight. Pulitizer-winning historian McCullough (Truman) sees something exalted in the two bicycle mechanics and lifelong bachelors who lived with their sister and clergyman father in Daytton, Ohio. He finds them–especially Wilbur, the elder brother–to be cultured men with a steady drive and quiet charisma, not mere eccentrics. McCullough follows their monkish devotion to the goal of human flight, recounting their painstaking experiments in a homemade wind tunnel, their countless wrong turns and wrecked models, and their long stints roughing it on the desolate, buggy shore at Kitty Hawk, N.C, Thanks largly to their own caginess, the brothers endured years of doubt and ridicule while they improved their flyer. McCullough also describes the fame and adulation that the brothers received after public demonstrations in France and Washington, D.C., in 1908 cemented their claims. His evident admiration for the Wrights leads him to soft-pedal their crasser side, like their epic patent lawsuits, which stymied American aviation for years. Still McCullough’s usual warm, evocative prose makes for an absorbing narrative; he conveys both the drama of the birth of flight and the homespun genius of America’s golden age of innovation.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer – “With deep compassion and graceful prose, botanist and professor of plant ecology Kimmerer (Gathering Moss) encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live. In such a culture, Everyone knows that gifts will follow the circle of reciprocity and flow back to you again… The grass in the ring is trodden down in a path from gratitude to reciprocity. We dance in a circle, not in a line. Kimmerer recalls the ways that pecans became a symbol of abundance for her ancestors: Feeding guests around the big table recalls the trees’ welcome to our ancestors when they were lonesome and tired and so far from home. She reminds readers that we are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep… Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put into the universe will always come back.” — PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY
“Don’t Trust Don’t Fear Don’t Beg” by Ben Stewart – “In 2013, the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise was boarded by Russian commandos after a protest at a state-owned oil platform in the arctic. The 30 crew members were arrested and, along with their ship, taken to Murmansk, where, after cursory court appearances, they were promptly remanded for two months while facing piracy charges carrying 15-year sentences. Stewart was part of the international group that mobilized to get the Arctic 30 released, and he has crafted not only a gripping narrative about their capture and jail experiences but also an invaluable look at the Russian prison system and the country’s political and economic dependence on oil. The personal stories that Stewart recounts are appealing enough, but the crew was deeply affected by their time in prison and the people they met there, and the author wisely imparts that immensely interesting aspect of the story as well. This broadens the book’s appeal to far beyond its obvious environmentalist audience, and, indeed, anyone seeking to understand modern Russia will find it enlightening. Enormously compelling and important, Stewart’s account commands attention on each and every powerful page.” — Mondor, Colleen. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” by Zach Dundas – “Learn, if you don’t already know, that Doyle regarded his Holmes efforts not as crime stories but “fairy tales.” Or what happened when Doyle applied Holmes’ methods to a crime on his own patch. Or why, since Holmes never wore a deerstalker, he’s seen today wearing one anyway. Dundas’ matey writing style makes the details easy to absorb while we wait for the real meat: the scraping away of a century of misunderstandings that have made the great detective something he’s not, and, in the process, the revealing of what he really is–a warmhearted man, kind and courteous, with a prankish sense of humor. Dundas might have said more about the furrow-browed scholarship Holmes is attracting lately, like the observation that Holmes’ obsession with logic is a cover for his passion for justice. He would rather play tricks with the law of England than with his own conscience, as Holmes put it after he let a killer go free. A delight for Baker Streeters.” — Crinklaw, Don. 320p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted” by Ian Millhiser – ““A powerful critique of the Supreme Court, which shows that it has largely failed through American history to enforce the Constitution and to protect our rights. With great clarity and poignant human stories throughout, Ian Millhiser has written a book that all who are interested in American government and our legal system—which should be all of us—must read.” —Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law
“Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General” by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard – “At he time of his death, Patton had become known … as both an exalted commander … and a controversial hero, relieved of his duties by General Dwight Eisenhower … For almost seventy years, there has been a suspicion that his death was not an accident. … O’Reilly and Dugard reveal the true man and the many powerful people who wanted him dead.” — inside front cover
“The Lost World of the Old Ones” by David Roberts – “Roberts expands and updates his In Search of the Old Ones (1996),…exploring the prehistoric ruins of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and southwest Colorado. In recounting his treks over the past 20 years, Roberts addresses debates both academic, …and moral, such as whether discovered objects, including baskets and pottery shards, should be left in place or removed and incorporated into museum collections. In the company of fellow adventurers, archaeologists, and native guides, Roberts explores Range Creek, a tributary of Utah’s Green River, and finds granaries left by the ancient Fremont Puebloans; Fortress Rock, near Canyon de Chelly, where a band of Navajos hid for four and a half years to escape the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo in 1863; and the little-explored, nearly inaccessible Kaiparowits Plateau, now part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Roberts’ captivating retelling of these and other exploits in search of the Southwest’s ancient history has the pull and excitement of a suspense novel and appeals to a wide range of readers interested in this region’s deep past and great beauty.” — Donovan, Deborah. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio” by Andrea Mays – ““The Millionaire and the Bard” weaves a thrilling tale of literary detective work, high financial stakes, and the vision of one man, Henry Folger, to preserve one of the great written treasures of civilization. ” — Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire
“My Generation” by William Styron – “My Generation is the definitive gathering of William Styron’s nonfiction, exposing the core of this greatly gifted, highly convivial, and profoundly serious artist from his literary emergence in the 1950’s to his death in 2006.” — inside front cover
“Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert D. Putnam – “Robert D. Putnam vividly captures a dynamic change in American society—the widening class-based opportunity gap among young people. The diminishing life chances of lower-class families and the expanding resources of the upper-class are contrasted in sharp relief in Our Kids, which also includes compelling suggestions of what we as a nation should do about this trend. Putnam’s new book is a must-read for all Americans concerned about the future of our children.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University
“The Quartet” Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1733-1789″ by Joseph J. Ellis – “…True to form, here he (Elli) reviews this short but important time in America’s history through the eyes of its major figures–George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison–rather than offering an analysis of the weighty interval between the nation’s failed first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and the ratification of the second (and successful) constitution and its first 10 amendments, which we now know as the Bill of Rights. … With his usual skill, Ellis brings alive what otherwise might seem dry constitutional debates, with apt quotations and bright style. There may be equally solid surveys of “the second American Revolution,” a term Ellis borrows from other historians, but this one will be considered the standard work on its subject for years to come. ..” Agent: Ike Williams; Kneerim, Williams & Bloom. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Road to Character” by David Brooks – ““The road to exceptional character may be unpaved and a bit rocky, yet it is still worth the struggle. This is the basic thesis of Brooks’s engrossing treatise on personal morality in today’s materialistic, proud world. . . . [His] poignant and at times quite humorous commentary on the importance of humility and virtue makes for a vital, uplifting read.”—PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY
ADULT AUDIO BOOK
“The Forsyte Saga The Complete First Series”
“Foyle’s War, Set 8”
“Halt and Catch Fire The Complete First Season”
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the FIve Armies”
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”
“Ken Burns: Cancer The Emperor of all Maladies”
“Penguins of Madagascar”
“The Napping House” by Don Wood
“Yummy Yucky” by Leslie Patricelli
“Night Night” by Caspar Babypants
“The Baseball Player and the Walrus by Ben Loory
“Billy’s Booger” by William Joyce
“By Mouse and Frog” by Deborah Freedman
“Drum Dream Girl” by Margarita Engle
“Hippos are Huge” by Jonathan London
“How to Draw a Dragon” by Douglas Florian
“I Don’t Like Koala” by Sean Ferrell
“I Wish You More” by Any Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld
“Janine” by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
“Look!” by Jeff Mack
“Mama Seeton’s Whistle” by Jerry Spinelli
“Marilyn’s Monster” by Michelle Knudsen
“Orion and the Dark” by Emma Yarlett
“Sidewalk Flowers” by JonArno Lawson
“Spots in a Box” by Helen Ward
“Stick and Stone” by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
“Such a Little Mouse” by Alice Shertle
“Tommy Can’t Stop” by Tim Federle
“What a Wonderful World” by Bob Thiele & George David Weiss
“Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont
“Yard Sale” by Eve Bunting
JUVENILE AUDIO BOOK
“Frostborn” by Lou Anders – “Grades 4-6. In a fantasy world imbued with Norse mythology, young Karn is rescued from undead pursuers by a half-giant girl named Thianna. Thianna and Karn are both being hunted by magical foes and rely on one another to survive. Narrator Tassone has developed separate accents for the people of the story–the Ymirian frost giants; the humans of Norrongard; and the wyvern riders, who hail from a foreign southern land. He does well voicing inhuman characters like the oafish trolls; the undead draug; and an ancient, irritated dragon. The story switches between Karn’s voice and Thianna’s. These transitions are seamless, and Tassone is equally compelling narrating a female character. The on-point readings of an abundance of unfamiliar Nordic words and fantastical names make listening to this fantasy a particular pleasure. This fast-paced story, with heroes who defeat vicious enemies using their wits, launches the Thrones and Bones series.” — Blau, Amanda. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch” by Chris Barton – “Grades 3-5. The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here. Barton has a lot of territory to cover, from slavery to the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond, along with Lynch’s personal journey. Because of this, the information at times seems clipped, though it’s consistently incisive. The complete time line at the end of the book helps fill in the gaps, and the story generates interest that will encourage additional research. Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of whipping, a potential lynching, and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. A scene of the horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion, which adds to the power of the telling, and the rich, soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger.” — Ching, Edie. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Adventures with Waffles” by Maria Parr – “Ages 7-9. This heartfelt and humorous debut novel comes to the U.S. having received award attention abroad and spawned a television show in the author’s native Norway. Trille considers his classmate Lena his best friend (“There isn’t really any such thing as an ordinary day when you’ve got a… friend like Lena”), but she’s too free-spirited to think of their relationship in those terms. The episodic novel follows the friends as they make mischief together–playing Christmas music in June for money on the street, for example, or pretending they are spies while riding on Trille’s grandfather’s moped. “You and Lena never do the same thing twice,” exclaims Trille’s father after the busking incident. “You only come up with more insanity!” Trille and Lena’s warm friendship recalls that of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi and Tommy, though Parr does engage in serious issues, too. Lena’s hunt for a father (her mother is her only family) often has Trille considering his own close-knit family, and the loss of Trille’s grandmother and his shared grief with his grandfather are tenderly and authentically treated.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Fourth Apprentice” by Erin Hunter – “Gr. 5-8. Fans of the ongoing Warriors series will enjoy this first volume in the Omen of the Stars subset. Cats Jayfeather and Lionblaze are grieving for Hollyleaf and are uncertain of the identity of the third cat with the ‘power of the stars.’ All of the clans are suffering from the heat and drought. When Lionblaze discovers his apprentice Dovepaw can ‘see’ events happening far-off, he organizes a patrol to investigate a vision about the river. Dovepaw is a reluctant heroine, furious about her powers and new responsibilities. The perilous journey creates powerful bonds between the clans, but ancient grievances portend new battles.” — Chris Sherman. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2009.
“Ice Dogs” by Terry Lynn Johnson – “Grades 6-9. In the year since 14-year-old Alaskan Victoria lost her father, she has felt isolated from her mother and her community. She pours herself into working with the dog-sled team she and her dad loved and runs in local sledding races, finding little else to engage her interest or energy. Setting out one morning with the team to a distant neighbor, she comes across a wrecked snowmobile and its unconscious driver, Chris, as a deadly snowstorm rolls in. Thus begins an adventure in the vein of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1987) as Victoria and Chris struggle to survive in the harsh Alaska wilderness. Johnson has crafted a vivid setting and cast of characters, teens and dogs, coupled with pacing that locks the reader in from the opening descriptions of a sled race to Victoria and Chris’ semi-cooperative three-day attempt to make it home. Some gentle gender-role switching–athletic but citified Chris can sew but doesn’t know survival basics–adds even more texture to this dynamic adventure. Emotionally satisfying and insightful, this story has staying power.” — Goldsmith, Francisca. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“Lost in the Sun” by Lisa Graff – “Ages 10-up. Less than a year ago, 12-year-old Trent Zimmerman accidentally contributed to the death of his teammate Jared during a hockey game, after nailing him with a puck (Jared had a “bad heart”). Already prone to overthinking, Trent is overwhelmed by disturbing thoughts, which he draws in a closely guarded book, and very angry. He backs away from his best friend, acts out at school, and clashes with his family. With help from a persistent classmate, who is known as much for the large scar on her face as for her weird outfits, and a similarly dedicated teacher, Trent is gradually able to let go of his intense guilt and regain his confidence. Trent’s barely constrained rage is visceral, and the moments when he lashes out, verbally and physically, are as frightening as they are realistic. In an ambitious and gracefully executed story, Graff (Absolutely Almost) covers a lot of emotional ground, empathically tracing Trent’s efforts to deal with a horrible, inexplicable accident and to heal the relationships that have become collateral damage along the way.” — Agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Meaning of Maggie” by Megan Jean Sovern – “Ages 8-12. Maggie Mayfield aspires to be president one day, and she’s preparing by excelling at school, following the rules, and living by her family’s motto of pulling up one’s bootstraps when times get tough. Unbeknownst to Maggie, her 11th year is one of those times. The novel is structured as Maggie’s memoir, written one year later, as she recounts those tumultuous 12 months. Maggie knows that her father is ill (he requires a wheelchair ever since “his legs fell all the way asleep,” as Maggie puts it), but her family is shielding her from his diagnosis, a balancing act both they and first-time author Sovern pull off beautifully. Maggie (and readers) see hints of the grim reality, but it isn’t until halfway into the story that Maggie uncovers the full truth: multiple sclerosis. Although Sovern dials up Maggie’s precociousness a bit high (and the novel’s late 1980s setting seems entirely incidental), the author handles the topic of debilitating illness with a light touch in a story that’s heart-wrenching yet full of heart.” — Agent: Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
“The MIsadventures of the the Family Fletcher” by Dana Alison Levy – “Grades 4-7. Two dads, four sons, one dog, one cat, one imaginary cheetah. That’s the family Fletcher. This delightful offering is reminiscent of Jeanne Beardsall’s Penderwicks books, along with other stories that hearken back to an earlier, golden age of family stories. Levy makes some bold choices here. The chapters are alternately narrated by the brothers, who each has his own problem to work through. Twelve-year-old Sam is an athlete but toying with acting; fourth-grader Eli thought he wanted to go to a strict academic school, but it’s not working out; Jax, also in fourth grade, has to interview the grumpy neighbor for a project on veterans; and kindergartner Frog can’t get anyone to believe his school pal isn’t imaginary. If the book has one problem, it’s excess. Four brothers and all their friends make for a lot of characters and a lot of story. However, the warmth of this family and the numerous issues that readers will easily identify with make this a welcome choice, especially for boys. An interview in a local paper explains how this family became one.” — Cooper, Ilene. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“Night Gardener” by Jonathan Auxier – “Gr 4-6–Storytelling and the secret desires of the heart wind together in this atmospheric novel that doubles as a ghost tale. Irish immigrants to England, Molly and Kip make their way to the Windsor house in search of employment. The great house stands in the shadow of a menacing tree, which locals speak of only in fearful whispers. Despite her young age and the warnings of a local storyteller, Molly uses the power of her own words to secure work, but soon realizes that all is not right in the house. Constance, Bertrand, Penny, and Alistair Windsor each struggle with personal demons, and strange footprints appear at night. A malevolent spirit, the Night Gardener, haunts the estate, dooming its inhabitants with foul dreams while the tree grants wishes to entrap the recipients. Molly and Kip must face their own dark secrets to release the Gardener’s hold and end his evil enchantments. Auxier gives readers a spooky story with depth and dimension. Molly’s whimsical tales illustrate life’s essential lessons even as they entertain. As the characters face the unhealthy pull of the tree’s allurements, they grow and change, revealing unexpected personality traits. Storytelling as a force to cope with life’s challenges is subtly expressed and adds complexity to the fast-paced plot. Readers of Mary Downing Hahn or Peg Kehret’s ghost novels will connect with the supernatural elements and the independent child protagonists of Auxier’s tale of things that go bump in the night.” — Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2014.
“Omega City” by Diana Peterfreund – ” The missing page from a kooky aerospace scientist’s lost diary is the clue that sends Gillian Seagret, her younger brother, and her friends on an adventure into an underground bunker. But the treasure she expects to find–the prototype for a long-lasting battery–is nothing compared to what they actually discover: the subterranean Omega City, built during the Cold War to support life if the Earth were to become uninhabitable. The city has fallen into disrepair, and the pitfalls in its crumbling depths are as much a threat as the trio of armed thugs who are trying to steal Dr. Underberg’s inventions for themselves. In this fast-paced series opener, the author’s first for middle-graders, Peterfreund’s (Across a Star-Swept Sea) focus on character development is complemented by the equal attention she gives to the vast underground city itself. Gillian’s instincts to protect her friends and clear her historian father’s tarnished name are admirable, but Peterfreund gives every character the opportunity to grow, revealing themselves for who they really are.” — Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures” by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater – “Grades 2-4. Nine-year-old Pip Bartlett is crazy about animals, particularly of the magical variety, and she can’t wait to spend the summer with her aunt, a magical-animal vet. When Pip arrives at the clinic, however, life soon turns chaotic: the town is infested with combustible pests (fuzzles), and a ruthless government inspector keeps threatening her aunt. Pip teams up with the neighbor boy and an anxious unicorn named Regent Maximus to save the town from a fiery end and to save the fuzzles from an untimely death. Pearce and Stiefvater perk up the “real” world considerably with the addition of miniature silky griffins, Pegasi, and lilac-horned Pomeranians to an otherwise realistic setting. Illustrated pages from Pip’s beloved Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures are included, offering magical animal stats with ample annotations made by Pip. Through conversations with Pip–yes, she can talk to the animals–these creatures prove themselves to be memorable characters in their own rights. Lighthearted and funny, this slim book will delight readers who prefer their stories with a fantastic flair.” — Smith, Julia. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Seven Stories Up” by Laurel Snyder – “Grades 3-6. What would you do if you had the chance to meet the adults you know back when they were kids? Annie’s mother has always kept her birth family a secret, so Annie can’t wait to meet her grandmother–until her relative turns out to be just plain mean. But something magical happens, and Annie wakes up in 1937 to discover her grandmother as a young girl. Together they embark upon adventures, and Annie uncovers her grandmother’s past–which helps shape a new future. Her discovery that her grandmother had been sickly as a child and therefore kept locked up compels her to encourage her to take a stand, thereby changing her grandmother’s whole attitude to the world around her. Snyder infuses her novel with a touch of magical realism (and, of course, time travel), and many readers will wonder what the grown-ups in their own lives were like as kids. Filled with historical facts that weave seamlessly with the narrative, this is a heartwarming story about knowing, and truly understanding, your family.” — Thompson, Sarah Bean. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“There’s an Owl in the Shower” by Jean Craighead George – “When Borden’s father finds out that there’s an owl in his house, he’s pretty angry. Mr. Watson is a logger, and spotted owls spell big trouble for the logging industry. Then the little owl imprints on the gruff Mr. Watson. And the lives–and views–of one logging family are changed forever. Author and naturalist Jean Craighead George tells a heartwarming story about an owl that made his way into one family’s home–and their hearts.” — BRODART CO., c1997.
“Under the Egg” by Laura Marx Fitzgerald – “As he lay dying, Theodora Tenpenny’s grandfather Jack muttered something about a treasure “under the egg.” Theodora, 13, thinks this means that Jack–a thrifty, unknown artist–left a means of providing for Theo and her unreliable mother. She searches the mantelpiece, beneath Jack’s painting of an egg, and the bowl where they display an egg gathered from the chicken coop behind their Greenwich Village townhouse. Nothing. Then an accident uncovers another image under Jack’s painting, sending Theo and her new friend Bodhi, the daughter of two film stars, on a mission to discover the provenance of what appears to be a Renaissance masterpiece. Theo is smart and resourceful, and debut author Fitzgerald creates a plausible backstory for the teen’s uncanny ability to spot “the difference between a Manet and a Monet.” While the resolution falls into place too easily, the search for answers forces Theo out of her shell and into the wonderfully quirky community around her. Fans of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” — Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013
“The Year We Sailed the Sun” by Theresa Nelson – “Ages 9-12. Nelson’s story of fiery, stubborn Julia Delaney (“She’s a biter!” somebody warns early on) is set in St. Louis in the record-breaking cold winter of 1911-1912. After the grandmother who has been caring for Julia and her siblings dies, Julia and her older sister, Mary are sent–against Julia’s zealous protests–to the House of Mercy, an orphanage run by nuns; older brother Bill goes to the local priest’s News Boys Home. While focusing on Julia’s determined efforts to run away and reunite with Bill, Nelson (Earthshine) believably recreates the complex, dangerous world of Irish gang wars in St. Louis into which Bill and then Julia are drawn, as well as the era’s Irish-Catholic milieu ruled by nuns, priests, and police officers. An endearing and high-spirited mute orphan, a gracious and compassionate society lady, and a fancy doll all play key roles in Julia’s climactic adventure during the blizzard of 1912, which leads to an ending that seems too good to be true, until readers learn in a closing note that the story is based on the life of Nelson’s mother-in-law.” — (Mar.). 432p. Web-Exclusive Review. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“109 Forgotten American Heroes …and Nine or so Villains” by Chris Ying – “Learn new and amazing stories about the contributions, inventions, wisdom, savvy, courage, and ingenuity of 109 great Americans such as John Russell Bartlett (the first to compile American words and trace their origin), Mr. Charles F. Brannock (who invented the first tool to accurately measure foot size), Cher Ami (a pigeon who effectively saved 194 American soldiers during World War I), and Thomas Jefferson (founding father, author, architect, president, and the man who introduced Americans to macaroni)!” — AMAZON.COM
“The Death of the Hat: A Brief History Poetry in 50 Objects” by Paul B. Janeczko – “…Paul B. Janeczko takes readers on a journey from the Middle Ages to the present with 50 of the world’s greatest poems. Simple objects anchor Janeczko’s selected poems, but readers will revel in the power of poetic language as a candle, sword, wheelbarrow and even a birthday card are taken to otherworldly heights. Top-notch watercolors from two-time Caldecott winner Chris Raschka buoy masterpieces by the likes of William Wordsworth, Carl Sandberg, Sylvia Plath and Mary Oliver. And of course, Billy Collins’ titular piece makes an appearance. A rare picture book, The Death of the Hat is a rich but accessible collection that children and adults alike will treasure. Hilli Levin.” — BookPage Children’s Corner Web Exclusive Review. BOOKPAGE, c2015.
“Hidden” by Loic Dauvillier – “Grades K-3. Worried that her grandmother has had a nightmare, a young girl offers to listen to the story, hoping to ease her grandmother’s mind. And for the first time since her own childhood, the grandmother opens up about her life during WWII, the star she had to wear, the disappearance of her parents, and being sent to the country where she had to lie about her name and her beliefs. Every year, more stories set during the Holocaust are released, many for children, and this one is particularly well done. Dauvillier doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors of the Holocaust; instead, he shares them from the perspective of a girl young enough to not quite understand the true scope of the atrocities. Set in occupied France, the story told is honest and direct, and each scene is revealed with care. The frankness of the storytelling is tempered by appealing cartoonlike illustrations that complement the story and add a layer of emotion not found in the narration. A Holocaust experience told as a bedtime story? It sounds crazy, but here it works.” — Volin, Eva. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“Hippos are Huge!” by Jonathan London – “PreS-Gr 2. With gorgeous mixed-media illustrations and accessible, engaging language, this picture book will spur interest in the world of hippos. Trueman’s vivid images take advantage of every inch of available space to convey the size of these creatures, and the “Isn’t this cool?” tone of London’s text keeps readers hooked. Two types of text appear on each page: larger print encompasses the main narrative full of fascinating facts (ideal for reading aloud), while smaller print presents drier statistics and additional facts of interest. With a focus on high-interest details–such as a spread featuring two bull hippos flinging dung at each other in warning–this title stands out.” — Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD. 32p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
“Look Where We Live” by Scot Ritchie – “This cheery picture book emphasizes the importance of community, describing the different facets of one particular suburban neighborhood. A multiethnic group of young friends–Nick, Pedro, Yulee, Sally, and others–take part in activities together as they prepare for a street fair to raise money for the local library. The neighborhood tour includes some familiar picture book community staples, such as the library and a community garden. Each section also highlights important aspects of living in a community and includes a brief comment or conversation prompt (“Working and playing together help make a community strong”). The sunny illustrations are packed with inviting details and friendly characters. Parents and teachers will particularly appreciate that Ritchie also stresses the role of retirees, local businesses, and ordinary citizens.” –Rachel Anne Mencke, St. Matthew’s Parish School, Pacific Palisades, CA. 32p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
“Lost in NYC” by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez – “Ages 8-12. In an emotionally astute (and geographically useful) comic, which incorporates archival photographs, subway maps, and other materials, Pablo’s family moves so frequently that he is determined not to become attached to anyone or anything–even New York City. During a field trip to the Empire State Building on his first day of school, Pablo shrugs off his classmate Alicia’s attempts to befriend him, as well as his enthusiastic teacher’s history lessons en route. After Pablo and Alicia accidentally get on an express train and watch their classmates and teacher pull away on the local, Pablo’s frustrations come to a head: he storms away from Alicia at Times Square and has to find his own way to the Empire State Building. Sanchez uses a mix of full spreads and panels, depicting myriad dramas unfolding on (and below) the streets. With humor and sensitivity, Spiegelman reveals how getting lost can be the first step toward finding your way–while also giving NYC residents and visitors alike a valuable primer on the subway system and its history.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France” by Mara Rockliff – “Grades 1-3. … Rockliff tells the story of how Benjamin Franklin debunked Dr. Mesmer’s magical cure-all. As scientific innovation swept France in the eighteenth century, Mesmer decided to bring his own discovery to the mix–animal magnetism, an invisible force responsible for remarkable, seemingly spontaneous healing. Dubious of the true benefits of being mesmerized, King Louis XVI called on the most popular man of science, Ben Franklin, to help investigate. With a heavy emphasis on his use of the scientific method, Rockliff shows how Franklin’s experiment–blindfolding subjects so that they don’t know they’re being mesmerized–led to the discovery of the placebo effect, a vital component of medical testing to this day. Her dramatic text is perfectly complemented by Bruno’s lush, full-color illustrations, stuffed with period detail and sweeping ribbons and curlicues. Each page is teeming with personality, from the font choice to the layout to the expressive figures to the decorative details surrounding a name–on one spread, Franklin is in a tidy serif, while Mesmer is nearly choked by flourishes. Together, Rockliff and Bruno make the scientific method seem exciting, and kids interested in science and history will likely be, well, mesmerized.” — Hunter, Sarah. 48. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“Roller Girl” by Victoria Jamieson – “Grades 4-8. …Astrid’s new obsession is tough, fast-paced Roller Derby. She thinks she and Nicole can spend their summer together at junior Roller Derby camp, but Nicole opts instead for ballet camp with Astrid’s archnemesis. And when it turns out that Astrid isn’t quite the Roller Derby prodigy she had hoped to be (she can barely master falling!), it seems both her summer and the impending start of junior high will be disasters. The bright, detailed, and colorful illustrations convey Astrid’s scrappy personality while also focusing on the high-contact aspect of Roller Derby: the girls hip check and elbow one another right out of the panels. While learning the game, Astrid learns how to be a friend and, maybe, that not all friendships are forever. A touching look at the ups and downs of following one’s dreams, in addition to introducing readers to a relatively unknown sport.” — Reagan, Maggie. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
“Tell Me about the Presidents: Lessons for Today’s Kids from America’s Leaders” by Mike Henry “Tell Me about the Presidents is a quick and fun book for children in the elementary grades. Each chapter is an interesting story about our country’s presidents. The stories include facts that are not usually in textbooks or taught in classes. Each chapter concludes with three short questions to test readers on what they absorbed. This books is a great learning tool that can be used by parents and teachers to teach American history in a new and exciting way.” — back cover
“Welcome to the Neighborwood” by Shawn Sheehy – “Sheehy makes an impressive children’s book debut, using dramatically unfolding pop-ups to introduce seven woodland animals with special construction skills of their own. In gracefully orchestrated spreads featuring crisp, cut-paper artwork, the animals appear alongside the structures they make: a honeybee rests on the wall of her hive, its golden combs remarkably dimensional; a beaver presides over its watery habitat (“If he can’t find a pond to build in, he makes one!”); and a land snail’s shell grows as “calcium and proteins ooze from folds on his back.” Sheehy describes each animal’s behaviors using succinct yet vivid language, and a closing scene brings all seven animals together to emphasize the interdependence of their “neighborhood,” one that humans are part of, too. A visually striking and enriching overview of animals living independently and as part of an ecosystem.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“The Porcupine of Truth” by Bill Konigsberg – “Konigsberg (Openly Straight) eloquently explores matters of family, faith, and sexuality through the story of 17-year-old Carson Smith, whose therapist mother has dragged him from New York City to Billings, Mont., where his alcoholic father is dying. After Carson meets Aisha, whose conservative Christian father threw her out of the house when he discovered she is a lesbian, the teens embark on a multistate road trip, chasing down fragmentary clues that might lead them to find Carson’s long-absent grandfather. Strained parent-child relationships are laced throughout this story–on top of Carson and Aisha’s anger toward their respective fathers, Carson’s mother only talks to him in detached therapyspeak (“I truly hear underneath the sarcasm that you’re feeling pain, Carson”), and Carson’s father hasn’t put his own paternal abandonment behind him. Bouts of humor leaven the characters’ intense anguish in a story that will leave readers thinking about inherited traits (whether an oddball sense of humor or a tendency to overdrink), the fuzzy lines between youth and adulthood, and the individual nature of faith.” — Linda Epstein, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
“Skyscraping” by Cordelia Jensen – “Grades 9-12. Jensen’s semiautobiographical debut novel in verse thrusts readers into the flannel-clad early 1990s, before New York City lost its gritty edge. Mira’s senior year is supposed to be about editing the school yearbook and applying to college, but instead, it’s the year she discovers, “Things can switch so quickly, / like the flick of a light.” After walking in on her professor father and his teaching assistant James, both naked, she finds her world upturned: her parents’ marriage is open. Her father is gay. And his days are numbered, because his HIV is quickly turning into full-blown AIDS. In exquisite free-verse poems, Jensen traces Mira’s struggle as she drifts away from her family before being jerked back into their orbit. Mira’s emotional landscape is palpable and strongly rooted in celestial imagery, which she uses to make sense of her place in the universe in the midst of life-shattering change. Small period details, from Keith Haring’s artwork to the emergence of Starbucks to Kurt Cobain’s death, layer in historical context naturally, but it’s Jensen’s stunning ability to bring the raw uncertainty of the AIDS crisis in the 1990s to vivid life that is so exceptional. Illuminating and deeply felt.” — Barnes, Jennifer. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
YOUNG ADULT BIOGRAPHY
“No Summit Out of Sight” by Jordan Romero – “Ages 12-up. Inspired by a mural in his California school depicting the highest mountain on each continent, nine-year-old Romero vowed that he would reach those “Seven Summits.” Smoothly piloted by LeBlanc, this chronicle reveals how Romero, now 18, achieved this goal at a record-setting age, scaling each mountain under the guidance of his father and stepmother, professional athletes who compete in extreme adventure races. Romero sets the scene for each climb–from Mount Kilimanjaro in 2006 to Antarctica’s Mount Vinson in 2011–with notes on each region’s culture, people, topography, climate, vegetation, wildlife, altitude, and atmospheric changes. While informative, segments detailing trip preparation and training are (expectedly) less gripping than accounts of perilous climbing expeditions; in the most dramatic one, Romero describes being slammed by an avalanche on Mount Everest. The emotional pitch of the story remains high as Romero contends with extreme weather, frustration, exhaustion, and homesickness to reach, with almost palpable exhilaration, each peak. Photos document steps Romero’s odyssey throughout the book and in a color insert.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
YOUNG ADULT NON-FICTION
“Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor” by Lynda Barry – “Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor” is the first book that will make her (Lynda Barry) innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use. Barry’s course has been embraced by people of all walks of life – prison inmates, postal workers, university students, teachers, and hairdressers – for opening paths to creativity. Syllabus takes the course plan for Lynda Barry’s workshop and runs wild with it in Barry’s signature densely detailed style. Collaged texts, ballpoint pen doodles, and watercolour washes adorn Syllabus’ yellow lined pages, which offer advice on finding a creative voice and using memories to inspire the writing process. Throughout it all, Lynda Barry’s voice (as author and teacher-mentor) rings clear, inspiring, and honest.” — Amazon.com
“SuperMutant Magic Academy” by Jillian Tamaki – “Bestselling Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer) returns with an offbeat coming-of-age graphic novel about mutant teenagers at a school that teaches magic alongside other, more prosaic, school subjects. Showing its origins as an infrequently updated webcomic, the book opens with one-page vignettes, which are choppy and abrupt. But as the comic progresses the characters become clearer, the vignettes get longer and more developed, and the book becomes an often painfully blunt look at the insecurities and cruelties universal to teens–even flying teens. The central story focuses around Marsha, a tomboyish, frumpy broom-flyer, and Wendy, her beautiful best friend who can transform into a fox. Marsha’s very real love for Wendy drives the text, but other students have their own agonies, which they keep hidden in plain sight. The humor is sometimes slapstick, but more often it offers ultra-dry observations on modern disengagement. Tamaki is playful and loose with her art, unafraid to be experimental as she draws us into a world where true feelings are the greatest danger.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.