From the Shelf
My Antidote for Book Hangovers
I recently read a book in one day. It's regrettably rare, considering how much I love doing it, leafing through those first pages with my morning coffee, marking my spot with a finger while I fix an afternoon snack, burning the midnight oil to linger over that final scene.
That novel was The Easy Way Out by Stephen McCauley (Washington Square Press, $19.99), the ridiculously funny story of Patrick, an irresponsible travel agent who must advise his brother Tony through an ongoing affair in the lead-up to Tony's Irish Catholic wedding. Not that Patrick is exactly a shining beacon of wisdom and reason, as he does everything in his power to avoid solidifying his own relationship with the man who wants to buy a house with him.
Afterward, I found myself wondering if another book could possibly feel as warm and satisfying as this again. Anyone who reads a lot knows that feeling of a "book hangover," a reading experience that just won't let go, a fear that nothing else will come close.
But then I remembered I felt this way after finishing Revolutions of All Colors by Dewaine Farria (Syracuse University Press, $22.95) mere months earlier. Farria's superb novel follows three young Black men from Oklahoma as their ambitions take them all over the world.
And then there was the way I felt after finishing Myla Goldberg's latest novel, Feast Your Eyes (Scribner, $17). It's the utterly dazzling story of a New York street photographer whose commitment to her art risked everything, including her relationship with her daughter, and it's styled as a retrospective exhibition of photos, which readers must imagine.
So, if I ever worry again, in the bleak midnight hours, that I'll never find another book as good as the one I just finished, I need only remember that if it's happened once, it's happened a thousand times. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Kim Neville
A poignant exploration of relationships and the strong bonds people form with everyday objects.
by Allison Saft
Forbidden romance and political intrigue make this a thrilling YA gothic fantasy.
by Sarah Beth Durst
In a world where bones fuel magic, an aged band of former heroes reunite for an action-packed, banter-heavy adventure when their former nemesis returns.
Review by Subjects:
From Fountain Bookstore
05/16/2021 - 10:00AMPurchase of book from Fountain either in the book, ebook, or Libro.fm audiobook is required. Young Adult (or YA for short) is a very diverse and exciting genre. Our book club is subtitled Adults Who Read YA, so this group is open for those 18+ years old. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression,...
05/17/2021 - 6:30PMPurchase of book from Fountain either in paper, ebook, or audio is required. Fountain of Evidence features discussions on books in the popular true crime genre, but may occasionally read fiction based on true crimes. Ages 21+ only. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual...
05/19/2021 - 2:00PMRooted in pathos and told in Sendker’s signature gentle style, THE HEART REMEMBERS is, at its core, a novel about love’s ability to unify us in the face of hardship. Written from the alternating perspectives of Julia’s estranged son, an empathic 12-year-old named Ko Bo Bo, and her brother, U Ba, Ko Bo Bo’s uncle and caretaker, THE HEART REMEMBERS delves into Julia’s enigmatic past and the personal and political events that fractured her family. Hosted by the owner of Fountain Bookstore...
05/20/2021 - 7:00PMGET TICKETS HERE Join the Friends of the Chesterfield County Public Library on May 20 as they celebrate their 50th anniversary with a virtual visit from Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty series. Bruel, a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of both picture and chapter books, will highlight his soon-to-be-published Bedtime for Bad Kitty, a picture book for young children or anyone who has resisted bedtime with the same determined ferocity as Bad Kitty....
05/20/2021 - 2:00PMThreat management expert Spencer Coursen shares lessons learned from his decades of global experience as a combat veteran, supervisory special agent, and private security professional to help you avoid life’s most common “safety traps” which often hide behind our own false sense of security — because sometimes feeling safe, is the most dangerous thing we do. Hosted by Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice. Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management...
Books for Women's History Month
"Books for Women's History Month recommended by our Teen Ambassadors" were featured by the New York Public Library.
Words Merriam-Webster is watching: "Remembering how it was in the 'before times.' "
"Drawing comfort: the sketchbooks that got Chris Riddell through 2020." (via the Guardian)
Open Culture shared "the exquisite, ephemeral paper cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen."
The Library of Congress "needs your help transcribing James Garfield's diaries," Mental Floss noted.
Rediscover: Walter LaFeber
Walter LaFeber, an author and Cornell University history professor "whose unvarnished version of American diplomacy drew hundreds of students and spectators to his Saturday morning lectures, and whose acolytes went on to influence the nation's foreign policy," died March 9 at age 87, the New York Times reported. LaFeber "valued the roles that institutions played in shaping history, but he never underestimated the influence of individuals," enlivening his books and lectures by fleshing out characters from Aaron Burr and John Quincy Adams to George W. Bush, and even Michael Jordan in his book Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (1999).
His other books include The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (1963); Creation of the American Empire: U.S. Diplomatic History (1973); The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective (1978); The American Age: U.S. Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1750 (1989); America, Russia and the Cold War (the most recent edition of which was published in 2006); and The Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam, and the 1968 Election (2005). LaFeber also co-authored 20 books and appeared in documentaries such as PBS's American Century, BBC's End of the Cold War and Walter Cronkite's American Presidencies.
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Courtney Summers
|photo: Megan Gunter|
Courtney Summers is the author of the YA novels Cracked Up to Be, All the Rage and Sadie. Her work has received numerous honors, including an Edgar Award, a John Spray Mystery Award, a Cybils Award and an Odyssey Award. She lives and writes in Canada. Summers's most recent book is The Project (Wednesday Books).
On your nightstand now:
I'm reading Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, about the ravages of climate change through the eyes of a traumatized woman. It's incredibly lovely and thoughtful and sad. I also just finished Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield, about a girl who spends the summer in Jamaica, hoping to reconnect with her father--it's a powerful coming-of-age novel, unflinching and bold.
Favorite book when you were a child:
It was a series: The Baby-Sitters Club. I was obsessed. I'll never forget the anticipation I felt waiting for the latest installment. Stacey was my favorite. The intensity of the connection I forged with those characters was a foundational part of my childhood. I don't think I'd be writing without it.
Your top five authors:
My top five are always the most recent authors whose talents reinvigorate my process by reminding me what writing can be, in a way that makes me demand more from myself. Currently they are: Angeline Boulley (Firekeeper's Daughter), Mercedes Helnwein (Slingshot), Tiffany D. Jackson (Grown), Casey McQuiston (One Last Stop) and Kate Elizabeth Russell (My Dark Vanessa).
Book you've faked reading:
I hated school and often faked sick to get out of it and at some point, all my faking overlapped with a class read of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I never managed to make it up. I've seen bits of the movie and I know all the catchphrases. It's gotten me by so far!
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Need by Helen Phillips. It's one of the most audacious, genre-defying, clever and unconventionally romantic stories with one of the most terrifying openings I've ever read in my life. The writing is astounding. It's also one of the most rewarding books to get other people to read. Every time I do, I brace myself for the inevitable flurry of texts as they go on that ride.
Book you've bought for the cover:
In the Quick by Kate Hope Day was an instant preorder for me. The first time I saw that astronaut floating in that gorgeous pink space, I gasped. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early read and am happy to report the book itself is just as beautiful.
Book you hid from your parents:
I never hid books from my parents. I can't remember feeling I should have to, though I do remember my mom watching me wander past with a copy of The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton when I was too young for it. She suggested I reconsider. She was right.
Book that changed your life:
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier was a wonderful little revelation that a story doesn't always owe anyone anything but the truth of itself--no matter how disconcerting, uncomfortable or unwelcome it might be.
Favorite line from a book:
"It was the utter finality of it that was so difficult to accept, the knowledge that they no longer existed as components, however insignificant, of a greater universe. Not even as corpses. They had simply become not." From the Alien novelization by Alan Dean Foster. I hope, by now, he's gotten his royalties.
Five books you'll never part with:
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, The Need by Helen Phillips, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Stories from Jonestown by Leigh Fondakowski and The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Need by Helen Phillips, but this time I would read it in front of a mirror so I could see the look on my face when I reached its final, brilliant page.
The Memory Collectors
by Kim Neville
Kim Neville's first novel, The Memory Collectors, is a feat of characterization and plot, as well as an intriguing consideration of the enormous significance objects and places can hold for people.
Evelyn is a young adult in Vancouver, socially isolated, making a living by picking through recycling bins and alley discards for items to sell at the Chinatown Night Market. Her relationship with her little sister, Noemi, is fractured. Their family experienced a tragedy that for much of the book remains unclear. And then there is Harriet, an older woman with a hoarding problem and a mysterious connection to Ev. They share an ability to read an object's emotional associations by touch or proximity, but they have very different feelings about this gift--or curse. Ev hides from things she thinks of as "stained," living in new and undecorated spaces, and moving often as her own feelings settle in. Harriet collects the things she thinks of as "bright," filling the spaces around her with borrowed emotions until she makes her neighbors ill with "the soft, scrambled buzz of thousands of stains." Harriet hopes to use her collection to heal, with Ev's help. But Ev may know better just how dangerous a brooch or a balsawood glider can be.
The Memory Collectors is a remarkable piece of magical realism, imaginative and vivid in its specificity. Seemingly trivial items offer enormous symbolic opportunities. Tender, electric, this story and its vibrant characters will stay with readers long after the pages have closed. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: A poignant exploration of relationships and the strong bonds people form with everyday objects.
by Malcolm Brooks
In the unlikely setting of 1937 rural Montana, teenage cousins share a passion for aviation in Cloudmaker, a sweeping yet personal coming-of-age story. Following Painted Horses, Malcolm Brooks again offers engaging, resolute characters and evocative descriptions of the country and the era.
Eighteen-year-old Annalise is exiled from California to her aunt and uncle's in the "bona fide jerkwater" town of Big Coulee, interrupting her social life as well as her flying lessons. Meanwhile, her cousin Huck, 14, has secretly tested a glider and built the frame for an "honest-to-God airplane" in his dad's shop. Worldly Annalise and whip-smart but sheltered Huck share respect, affection, a goal of getting in the air and a commitment to following Amelia Earhart's progress.
Descriptions of their flights are exhilarating, as they revel in the landscape and views, with Big Coulee no larger than a Lionel train village: "It all looked so gol dern small." Supporting characters are fully realized: Huck's father, Roy, is "a salt-of-the-earth sort" and his mother, Gloria--frail, protective and a tent-revival Christian--gradually becomes central to the story. While Huck and Annalise refine the plane with Yak, new to town and key to their success, subplots simmer: gangsters have a keen interest in a wristwatch Huck acquired in a recent escapade; looming drought forecasts trouble; and both cousins find romance. Evocative, descriptive prose of 1930s Montana--as well as the days "before white people and horses and guns"--in pitch-perfect dialect will immerse readers firmly in Brooks's beloved American West, and above it. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.
Discover: Teenage cousins committed to aviation deal with challenges to build and fly a plane in 1937 rural Montana.
by Pola Oloixarac , trans. by Adam Morris
The woman at the center of Mona by Pola Oloixarac (Dark Constellations), translated from Spanish by Adam Morris, is a young Peruvian writer who gigs as a "vraie [true] littérature" academic at teaching posts around the world. She's one of a small group of international writers nominated for a distinguished Swedish literary award, and as she arrives in Sweden, she hopes that a win, with its monetary prize, will give her freedom to leave academia. What at first seems to be a set piece in the rarefied world of ambitious literary types evolves into a psychological exploration of how performative behavior can substitute for authentic living.
Once in Sweden, Mona "luxuriate[s] in her own exoticism, gliding freely through her very own ocean, feeling special and unique." Yet Oloixarac makes sure that readers see through Mona's egocentrism, using other characters as mirrors to show how she appears to those around her, and it isn't always pretty. "You're a complete caricature of a woman," she is flatly informed by Lena, a European writer. Mona is almost always high, frequently drunk and her graphic hypersexuality turns out to be, unsurprisingly, horrifyingly dangerous. Her inner life, revealed by the narrator, underscores how little energy she invests in connecting with those around her.
It's true that the other writers seem to be playing at age-old literary types--the hedonist, the contrarian, the celebrity--but Mona's dispassion protects her from the work of burrowing deep into her own consciousness. With controlled emotion that builds to a devastating ending, Mona uncovers the complexities of a post-feminist generation. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: A celebrated young Peruvian writer attends a Swedish literary festival in this intelligent and provocative novel that skewers intelligentsia and acute self-indulgence.
The Salt Fields
by Stacy D. Flood
In Stacy D. Flood's gorgeous novella, Minister Peters boards a train in South Carolina in 1947, laboring under the burdens of very personal loss and the generational damage to a Black man from the South. Minister was a single father after a killing took his wife (in "the age when the murder of a black woman didn't warrant the pen, ink, or gasoline that it would take to investigate"). Now, after losing his daughter also, Minister departs for the promise of the North and an escape from his ghosts.
The Salt Fields puts Minister at a crossroad, with little left to breathe life into him and nothing to lose. He's seated on a train with three strangers, and the dynamic flows from there. Flood packs generations into a novella not much more than 100 pages long, with language cradling the horrific thorns of the past. If prose about lynchings and whippings could ever hold beauty, Flood accomplishes it. Words are never wasted in this compact work, and Flood is proficient at painting the piece with few strokes. Sometimes this occurs on a small scale, with a line or two (e.g., the action in a club is "a long kiss between everyone in the room."), but he's equally adept regarding societal issues such as racism and sexism. In a short yet significant description, the whites-only entrance to the train station is freshly painted with Romanesque pillars, the Black entrance chipped paint over old pine. Yet both lead to a common platform where everyone awaits the same train to somewhere else. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: This powerful and gorgeously written novella tackles major problems of the 1940s South via the shared train ride of four strangers.
Body of Stars
by Laura Maylene Walter
In this meditative, tenderly written debut novel from Laura Maylene Walter, a teenage girl struggles with the challenge of creating her own fate in a world where a woman's destiny is written on her skin.
Celeste Morton is approaching her changeling period, when an adolescent girl's birthmarks that reveal her future will settle into their final form. Her brother is also eager to study her adult markings--since only women have these markings, Miles can learn about his fate through what Celeste's predict about her family; he also longs to practice interpretation professionally, in spite of the field being closed to men. When Celeste does change, her markings reveal a future tragedy she can't bear to share. It overshadows even the fear of abduction, a pervasive threat for changelings, who are nearly irresistible to men.
The focus of Body of Stars is less on its protagonist's struggle with society than on a more intimate level. Its heart is in the relationship between the siblings, in resilience after a life-changing event, and in the search for meaning in the face of mortality. Walter also hints at larger themes of what these markings mean to issues of gender throughout the world, including implications for transgender people in countries more progressive than the Mortons'.
This luminous coming-of-age story will appeal to fans of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and readers of feminist science fiction like The Power by Naomi Alderman. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library
Discover: This luminous, otherworldly Bildungsroman asks the question of how one can shape the future when they already know their destiny.
Mystery & Thriller
Her Dark Lies
by J.T. Ellison
In J.T. Ellison's gripping romantic suspense novel Her Dark Lies, a murderer is on the loose at the worst possible time. When troubled artist Claire Hunter becomes engaged to impossibly wealthy Jack Compton, she believes her struggles are over--not only does she stand to inherit a fortune, she also gains attention and acclaim for her budding career thanks to her new powerful connections. But when the couple's family and friends gather for the wedding at the Comptons' villa on a private island in Italy, it quickly becomes apparent that someone does not want Jack and Claire to live happily ever after. A mysterious and sinister individual is terrorizing the couple, and as the weather grows more menacing and the murders add up, Claire and Jack are forced to confront their pasts--particularly the truth surrounding the puzzling deaths of several Compton women on the island, including Jack's first wife.
Rich, beautiful and privileged, Jack and Claire are not terribly sympathetic characters, but their devotion to each other is enviable and touching--and their obliviousness to reality is both frustrating and compelling, as readers learn about the culprit behind the mounting tragedies long before the characters connect the devastating dots. Ellison (Good Girls Lie) tells the story from multiple perspectives, revealing just enough information to build suspense and cast doubts about who can be trusted, making this novel delightfully unpredictable and absorbing. Ultimately, it's not clear whether the Compton family needs protecting from the world--or the other way around. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this gripping romantic suspense story, a murderer is on the loose during a high-profile wedding on a picturesque Italian island.
The Jigsaw Man
by Nadine Matheson
At the start of Nadine Matheson's sinister The Jigsaw Man, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley returns to field duty with London's Serial Crimes Unit only to be greeted by pieces of two dismembered bodies. The methodology reminds Henley of the serial killer Peter Olivier, infamous for jigsawing his victims and scattering the segments around London. The latest body parts are carved with Olivier's signature, a symbol whose existence the cops have never publicly revealed.
The problem is, Olivier has been serving a life sentence inside a high-security prison and Henley put him there herself two years earlier. The only logical conclusion is that Henley and the SCU have a copycat killer on their hands. Henley must face Olivier again to ask for help, but he has other plans.
The Jigsaw Man is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach; it depicts gruesome scenes of murder and torture, sometimes from the victims' point of view. But this is countered by the humane portraits of the detectives. Henley isn't just an inspector; she's also a wife and mother with a young daughter and struggling with the work-life balance while trying to keep her family safe from murderous psychopaths. There's also the fact Henley is a Black woman leading a team of detectives, her trainee is a man named Salim Ramouter and the head forensic pathologist is a woman named Linh Choi. Matheson doesn't make a big deal out of her diverse cast of characters. She's simply normalizing inclusion and reflecting what the real world looks like. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd
Discover: A detective inspector must enlist the help of a notorious imprisoned serial murderer to apprehend a copycat killer.
A Game of Cones
by Abby Collette
Abby Collette (A Deadly Inside Scoop) embraces the quirks of the charming town of Chagrin Falls in A Game of Cones, her second Ice Cream Parlor mystery. Bronwyn "Win" Crewse is happy that her family's shop is finally thriving in her quaint Ohio village. One of the few Black families in Chagrin Falls, the Crewses have managed the ice cream parlor for decades, but it had begun to fail in recent years, so Win left her advertising job in New York City to work on revitalizing it.
At a town meeting, Win and her fellow shopkeepers are stunned to find out that Zeke Reynolds, a developer, is planning to put a mall right on the town "square" (it's really a triangle). The small-business owners are appalled at how Zeke's plans would alter their village and affect their livelihoods. And then, just a day after he's booed out of the meeting, Zeke is found dead in an alley.
To complicate matters, Rory, a former ad agency friend, abruptly appears, offering Win an amazing deal to come back to New York. Rory's erratic behavior makes her a prime suspect in Zeke's murder, so Win and her shopkeeping pals can't help but get involved. Nobody liked Zeke's plans, but there's no way Rory would actually be involved in his death, would she? Lighthearted and full of delicious-sounding ice cream, A Game of Cones is a cozy treat. Win and the quirky cast of Chagrin Falls add flair to this charming #ownvoices mystery. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this quirky Ice Cream Parlor mystery, a developer who had big plans for a small town is found dead.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Bone Maker
by Sarah Beth Durst
A creaky band of former heroes must reunite in this inventive, fast-paced and nostalgic fantasy by Sarah Beth Durst (The Queen of Blood; Race the Sands).
Twenty-five years ago, bone maker Kreya and the four other Heroes of Vos defeated the dark lord Eklor, but Kreya's husband, Jentt, was killed. Now living anonymously in a tumbledown tower, Kreya illegally scavenges human bones to fuel a forbidden spell that resurrects Jentt for short periods by taking equal time from Kreya's life. When a funeral pyre theft goes awry, Kreya decides to return to the battlefield around Eklor's deserted tower and gather enough bones to bring Jentt back for good. Former comrade Zera, a powerful, flamboyant bone witch, joins her but stipulates, "I require pie before I desecrate a mass grave." The pair are horrified to hear a sound on the battlefield they thought silenced forever: Eklor's laughter. Kreya longs to go away with Jentt, but first they must reunite with bone reader Marso and warrior Stran to uncover the truth behind Eklor's possible resurrection. What they find leaves them reeling from past traumas and wondering how far second chances should extend.
Bone magic wielders can either make animated constructs, create magical talismans or divine the future from animal bones in Durst's inventive magical system. Fantasy readers used to the climactic final battle trope should enjoy this spin on what comes after, and whether a hero remains forever responsible for saving the day. The Bone Maker is a witty, thoughtful delight. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: In a world where bones fuel magic, an aged band of former heroes reunite for an action-packed, banter-heavy adventure when their former nemesis returns.
Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature and Feminism in Our Time
by Vivian Gornick
Among the bulwarks against the tide of anti-intellectualism in the United States is Vivian Gornick (Fierce Attachments; The Odd Woman and the City; Unfinished Business). Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature and Feminism in Our Time, an erudite but accessible collection of 24 previously published pieces spanning nearly 40 years, shows Gornick at her enduringly brainy, astringent and peevish best.
The selected essays reflect Gornick's longtime evangelism for the active mind and her abiding preoccupations with literature, feminism, lefty politics and her beloved New York City. She is especially attuned to Jewish American literary life. On Alfred Kazin and his peers she writes, "An angry fever inhabited the work of many of these writers, one that burned with so singular a strength only the remarkable elasticity of the American language could take it on." Gornick's immunity to groupthink finds her taking positions that could easily be misconstrued as contrarianism: she praises Harriet Beecher Stowe's démodé Uncle Tom's Cabin, but is sour on Joan Didion's adulated Play It as It Lays.
Pulling up the rear in Taking a Long Look are the book's oldest pieces, all originally published in 1978. They leave readers with the certainty that while Gornick may not have always been right ("If the ERA does not pass this year, it will pass next year. Of that there can no longer be any doubt"), she was always blisteringly good (Henry Miller "really thinks he takes Bunyanesque steps across the world of human vermin"). --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: Twenty-four essays spanning nearly 40 years show Vivian Gornick's consistency as a searing writer and canny thinker.
Children's & Young Adult
Down Comes the Night
by Allison Saft
Allison Saft's deftly plotted YA debut is an icy, atmospheric blend of gothic horror, fantasy and romance.
Wren Southerland knows she's the best healer in the Queen's Guard. Long ago, Wren, considered Queen Isabel's "worthless" illegitimate niece, was dismissed to a cloister where she was raised and trained by the Order of the Maiden. Now in the service of the queen, Wren repeatedly makes "foolhardy... emotional" decisions to heal all people, no matter which side they took in the barely contained war that has been waged for centuries between Wren's country, Danu, and its neighbor, Vesria. Wren had hoped her skills with medicine and magic would save her from "the queen's impatience," but learns she is to be banished to the coal mines instead. An unusual invitation offers her a chance for redemption, though: if she'll journey to the estate of Lord Lowry to heal his servant Henry, Lowry will "bolster Danu's military." Wren is certain that acting as liaison will allow her to regain the queen's good graces. But a dire warning on the ride to Lowry's estate only barely describes the atrocities Wren has waiting for her. And the irresistible Henry, it turns out, is none other than Danu's most feared enemy.
Both Wren and Henry's goals are realistic and understandable, as each grapples with the burden of outside expectations. Slowly, they discover that they may stay true to their principles as they each struggle to save their kingdoms. Saft's lush, atmospheric prose and delightfully menacing settings--combined with an artfully creepy villain with a penchant for the unspeakable--make Down Comes the Night the perfect read for a long, cold winter evening. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
Discover: Forbidden romance and political intrigue make this a thrilling YA gothic fantasy.
The Old Boat
by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey
Authors, illustrators and brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey rocketed onto the children's literature scene with their gentle and heartwarming picture book The Old Truck. In The Old Boat, the brothers/creators once again use the inspiration of the persevering women in their lives to tell a heartfelt, moving story that spans generations.
"Off a small island, an old boat rode the tide." The first spread shows an adult and a child--both brown-skinned with hats and big smiles--floating atop an ocean full of fish near the shore of an island. The next spread shows both figures, aged, driving the boat farther from the island, which is now surrounded by garbage. As the sailors grow older, they ride the tide "first shallow./ Then deep./ Then deeper." Eventually, the no-longer-a-child fishes alone: "Far from home, the old boat was cold/ and lonely/ and lost." As with The Old Truck, the child-to-adult in The Old Boat ultimately finds their way and makes changes back home, "First shallow./ Then deep./ Then deeper." Unlike in The Old Truck, though, the positive changes they make include not upgrading the boat but instead allowing it to slowly turn into a reef--"an old boat was home."
The Pumphreys created the art using more than 300 handmade stamps composed and colored digitally. Their use of white space is effective, allowing each brightly colored stamp and background to shine on the page. At first, this appears natural, but as the garbage builds up, the pages become overly filled, forcing the eye to settle on the boat as the only place of calm consistency. The Old Boat is a picture book with simple, accessible text, an eye-catching palette and a universal message that would be perfect for both solo exploration and a story time read. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: In this kindhearted sophomore work, the authors/illustrators/brothers use the picture book format to celebrate both the earth and their ancestors.
A New Day
by Brad Meltzer , illust. by Dan Santat
The title A New Day sounds like a metaphor, and it is--partially. Brad Meltzer (Heroes for My Son) and Dan Santat (The Adventures of Beekle) also have a literal meaning in mind: their cheeky, chortle-worthy picture book is about an abdication crisis of calendrical proportions.
Sunday is exhausted: "Do you know how much work it takes to give the world a beautiful, free day...?" She quits her job, leaving the other six days of the week no choice but to hold auditions for--that's right--a new day. Among the qualities sought in Sunday's replacement: "Must be relaxing, tranquil, chill (though not as chill as Saturday)." Responding to the cattle call, a swarm of humans and animals suggest days like FunDay, RunDay, BunDay, DogDay and, of course, Caturday, but none of these wow the judges. Finally, a kid proposes "a day when people can show more kindness to each other." When Sunday hears this, she returns to her job, convinced that "with a little more kindness in it, every day can be a NEW DAY."
The book's exultant message follows a continuous parade of rhymes, puns and wisecracks, conveyed largely by dialogue balloons; a confetti-colored palette amplifies the funhouse atmosphere. Santat gives each day of the week its own color and personality, calling to mind an animated starter Crayola set. He does bang-up work keeping up with Meltzer's three-ring circus of characters, perhaps most memorably the folks proposing, and dressed for, GelatinSuitsDay ("Watch the way my ears wiggle!"). --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: In this gag-packed, graphically wacky picture book, Sunday quits her job, forcing the other six days of the week to hold auditions for a replacement.