From the Shelf
Collected Letters from the Heart
Today's the day Americans will send 145 million Valentine's Day cards and spend more than $27 billion, including $2.4 billion on candy, $2.3 billion on flowers and nearly $1.7 billion on gifts for pets. And that's with only 55% of Americans even celebrating.
Yes, love is complicated, as it ever was. The first Valentine was sent in the 15th century, but you could make a case for other precedents, including, from the 12th century, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics).
Letters, in fact, are what I've been thinking about this week. Not just romantic letters, but books full of letters portraying love in unexpected ways, like 84 Charing Cross Road (Penguin), in which Helen Hanff chronicles her 20-year correspondence with a bookseller ("the blessed man who sold me all my books") in an antiquarian bookshop in London.
Or the way the voices of playwright Sarah Ruhl and the late poet Max Ritvo shimmer in Letters from Max: A Poet, a Teacher, a Friendship (Milkweed Editions). Ritvo's cancer death sentence is the shadow here, yet what emerges from their brilliant, funny, heartbreaking exchanges is a frank exploration of human connection, mortality, art and much more in precious real time.
The letters Rainer Maria Rilke wrote almost daily to his wife, Clara, are collected in Letters on Cézanne, translated by Joel Agee (North Point Press). Rilke shares his intense encounters with Cézanne's works during the 1907 Salon d'Automne in Paris: "I wanted to tell you about all this, because it connects in a hundred places with a great deal that surrounds us, and with ourselves."
Regarding Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, edited by Chad Wiglesworth (Counterpoint), Gary Ferguson observed in the Los Angeles Review of Books that "these small, more literally grounded concerns, the tiny details of a day spent in Henry County, Kentucky, or in the foothills of the Sierras, are shining threads in the cloth of this long, good friendship."
Just sharing some collected letters from the heart for Valentine's Day. --Robert Gray
In this Issue...
by Alexis Coe
This refreshing biography of George Washington offers a balanced accounting of his successes and failures--as a general, a man and a leader.
by Marthe Jocelyn
A junior detective and her new friend work to solve a murder in this opener to a middle-grade series about a fictionalized child Agatha Christie.
by Daina Ramey Berry , Kali Nicole Gross
This engrossing book offers a look at U.S. history through the experiences of Black women.
Review by Subjects:
02/20/2020 - 10:30AMJoin Contessa Connie for our weekly, award-winning free story time. We'll have stories, a snack, and sing some songs!
02/21/2020 - 6:00PMThe remarkable Sierra San Luis forms the nexus of the Sierra Madres and the Rocky Mountains. The range runs north-south in the shape of a sleeping lizard. The high narrow pyramid of a head, Animas Peak, rests in the bootheel of New Mexico, and with a thin neck draped across the border the slumbering body curls into the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. Along the spine is a high ridge covered with sparse patches of six kinds of pine trees. The slope on the east side descends into the...
02/21/2020 - 02/22/2020 - 9:00AMBookworks sells books at the Organic Farming Conference.
02/22/2020 - 3:00PMA suspenseful and heartfelt story about an era whose uncertainties, controversies, and dangers will seem anything but distant to contemporary readers. If thirteen-year-old Marty Rafner had his way, he'd spend the summer of 1953 warming the bench for his baseball team, listening to Yankees games on the radio, and avoiding preparations for his bar mitzvah. Instead, he has to deal with FBI agents staking out his house because his parents--professors at the local college--are suspected communist...
02/23/2020 - 3:00PMOur Bookworks bookseller, geologist and renowned lecturer, Deb Green, presents a geology talk at Bookworks: "Always Book a Window Seat--The Lens Through Which Geologists View the World and Why it Matters." Looking at the landscape like a geologist can change the way you view the world--from a roadcut to the view from an airplane window, knowing the rudiments of geology tells you something about the earth processes that shaped the landscape before you. Those views tell a story of the...
A Book Date How-To
"Take yourself on a book date," Quirk Books advised.
Word evolution: "Quarantine." The Guardian explored how fasting in the wilderness developed into a medical condition.
Elite Daily checked out "9 Airbnbs with libraries that Belle from Beauty & The Beast would book."
"Generations of handwritten Mexican cookbooks are now online," according to Gastro Obscura.
She published poems under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Mental Floss gathered "11 enlightening facts about Anne Brontë."
For paper fans, Colossal showcased "miniature seascapes and cities top elaborate paper wigs by Asya Kozina and Dmitriy Kozin."
Happy 50th Birthday, Andrews McMeel!
Upcoming 2020 Titles: A Selection
The following are major titles from Andrews McMeel appearing this year:
break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale) by Amanda Lovelace. The bestselling and award-winning author of the "women are some kind of magic" poetry series presents a new companion series, "you are your own fairy tale." The first installment, break your glass slippers, is about overcoming those who don't see your worth, even if that person is sometimes yourself. (March 17.)
Dear Girl by Aija Mayrock. Celebrated activist and spoken-word performer Aija Mayrock presents her debut poetry collection that takes readers on an empowering, lyrical journey through being a woman in today's society, exploring issues like suicide, sexual assault, self-image, and healing. (April 7.)
Prince Neptune: Poetry and Prose by Cody Simpson. Los Angeles-based Australian writer, singer, songwriter Cody Simpson is thrilled to share his first book with the world. It's Jack Kerouac meets Arthur Rimbaud for the millennial generation. (April 7.)
She's Strong But She's Tired by r.h. sin. A poetic documentation of pain, loneliness, courage, and triumph by the New York Times bestselling author. (September 22.)
#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini by Nicole Byer. The actress, comedian, and podcaster extraordinaire's guide to being a #brave, bikini-wearing badass. (May 19.)
How to Vegan: An Illustrated Guide by Steven Wildish. A brilliant, incisively funny guide on how to eat vegan and how to talk vegan written by a vegan who is also an infographic genius. Walking the line perfectly between tongue-in-cheek without being offensive to either vegans or meat-eaters, Wildish provides helpful and humorous infographs for being, shopping, and eating vegan. (September 15.)
Snug: A Collection of Comics about Dating Your Best Friend by Catana Chetwynd. From the author of the bestselling Little Moments of Love, Snug perfectly captures the honest, playful, and relatable snapshots of romantic life. (February 4.)
I Left the House Today: Comics by Cassandra Calin by Cassandra Calin. Hilarious and relatable comics about one young woman's life, relationships, and day-to-day humorous musings on why it's good to leave the house sometimes--and when it's better to stay home. (June 2.)
Fangs by Sarah Andersen. A new gothic romance series from award-winning Sarah's Scribbles creator Sarah Andersen (author of Adulthood Is a Myth, Big Mushy Happy Lump, Herding Cats). Fangs has quickly become one of the most popular comics on Tapas (and Sarah has an online platform of more than five million). (September 1.)
Big Nate: Blow the Roof Off! by Lincoln Peirce. This latest in the Big Nate series takes readers on a hilarious, romantic, rock-and-roll adventure. (March 3.)
Camping with Unicorns: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (Volume 11) by Dana Simpson. The latest installment in this bestselling series is full of mischief, magic and adventure--as well as an important reminder to always stay true to yourself. (April 7.)
Also, AMP will introduce up to 20 new titles from its latest initiative in children's publishing, Epic! Originals, featuring an exclusive new line of books created in conjunction with Epic!, the world's leading digital library for kids.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the debut in syndication of Doonesbury by Pulitzer Prize-winning Garry Trudeau on October 26, 1970. Lewser: More Doonesbury in the Time of Trump, appearing July 7, is a mirthful and merciless skewering of the Trump administration that will include two years of original Doonesbury Sunday, full-color spreads, and 18 previously unpublished strips. The book will complete Trudeau's Trump trilogy, and arrives just as the 2020 election is in full swing. Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump and Sad: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump were his previous bestselling Trump collections.
Rediscover: The Memory of RunningNovelist, character actor and prolific audiobook narrator Ron McLarty died February 8 at age 72. McLarty regularly appeared in films and TV series such as Spenser for Hire, Cop Rock and Law & Order. His debut novel, The Memory of Running, had difficulty finding a print publisher, so McLarty released it as an audiobook. Stephen King came across that recording and, in 2003, in his Entertainment Weekly column "The Pop of King," he called The Memory of Running "the best book you can't read." King's comments caused a bidding war for McLarty's novel. It was published by Viking in 2004, followed by Traveler (2007), Art in America (2008) and The Dropper (2009). In addition to narrating his own work, McLarty's audiobook credits include authors King, Danielle Steel, David Baldacci, Anne Rice, Richard Russo, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Scott Turow and George W. Bush.
The Memory of Running follows obese drinker, smoker and middle-aged Vietnam War veteran Smithson "Smithy" Ide. In the course of a single week, Smithy loses both his parents and his estranged sister. When he rides his old Raleigh bicycle out of his parents' house in Rhode Island, Smithy begins a journey of redemption and self-discovery to claim his sister's body in Los Angeles. The Memory of Running is available in paperback from Penguin Books ($16, 9780143036685). --Tobias Mutter
All the Ways We Said Goodbye
by Beatriz Williams , Lauren Willig , Karen White
The powerhouse historical fiction triumvirate of Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White (The Glass Ocean) offers a romantic, adventurous multi-period collaboration that sees three formidable women's lives forever changed, set against the opulent backdrop of the Paris Ritz Hotel.
In 1964, Barbara "Babs" Langford receives a letter at her Devonshire home from U.S. citizen Andrew Bowdoin, whose father served with her late husband, Kit, in World War II. The letter asks her to come to the Paris Ritz and help investigate the truth about a female French Resistance operative who worked closely with Kit. In 1914, spirited young noblewoman Aurélie de Courcelles returns to her ancestral home just as German forces arrive to occupy it. Against her better judgment, she finds herself falling for a young German soldier she met previously at her mother's salon at the Ritz. In 1942 Nazi-occupied Paris, housewife Marguerite "Daisy" Villon passes information gleaned from her collaborator husband to the Resistance at the urging of her grandmother, who raised her at the Ritz. During this dangerous undertaking, she comes to love a British agent and uncovers a life-altering family secret.
Filled with hopeless passion and brave deeds in the face of evil, All the Ways We Said Goodbye twines together three heart-pounding stories of feminine courage and even adds a soupçon of Joan of Arc. Though its secrets are easily guessed, this rewarding journey of intra-era connections will charm historical fiction readers and Team W's fans. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White team up in their passionate third historical fiction collaboration, set largely at the glamorous Paris Ritz.
We Wish You Luck
by Caroline Zancan
Words have a power to create or to destroy, and that is the heart of the memorable We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan (Local Girls). The students in a low residency MFA program narrate in a collective voice the story of three who fascinate the others: Leslie, Hannah and Jimmy. "We'll forgive you for forgetting any of the rest of us, but it's important you remember these three. We aren't arrogant enough to consider ourselves more than the story's background at worst, its keepers at best." Simone, a bestselling author and visiting professor, butts heads with one of these three, leading to a series of acts of retribution that will ruin multiple lives and leave none of them unchanged.
Zancan also turns the spotlight onto other students for brief episodes, which helps to immerse readers in the insular world of a campus almost deserted during academic breaks. However, the students outside that trio primarily serve as a Greek chorus, which skillfully builds suspense with mentions of who will not be back, and futures that might have been but will no longer be, setting the stage for the revelations as to why. The collective narration has a nebulous quality, sometimes stating that "we" don't all remember events the same way or agree on exactly when something happened. The result realistically evokes the feeling of a distant memory or a dream. This is an engrossing story of friendship, creativity and grief. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library
Discover: Graduate students form inseparable friendships and catastrophic rivalries in a tale that will linger with readers long after the last page.
by Alexander Weinstein
In Universal Love, Andrew Weinstein presents stories set in the near future, showing how technology modifies human interactions. As in his debut short story collection, Children of the New World, characters live with technological advances that, to a reader in 2020, seem right around the corner. For instance, when handheld devices aren't enough in "We Only Wanted Their Happiness," parents allow chip implants in their children's skulls, providing neurological programming that is, predictably, addictive. "But how can you say no to your children?" the unnamed narrator shrugs. As children withdraw from reality into a more exciting virtual world, parents realize their decision is irreversible--kids, technologically savvier than adults, hold their parents' digital lives in their hands.
Each story is rooted in realism, making the speculative aspect even more unsettling. In "The Year of Nostalgia," a grieving family keeps their dead wife and mother "alive" with an interactive hologram. The ability to avoid grief, of course, does nothing to help them come to terms with her death. Living with the hologram, says one daughter, "sealed my grief somewhere deep inside." In "True Love Testimonials," virtual sites exist where avatars can have "empty sex or meaningful sex," just like real life. It's not ideal, and could use some upgrades, but "real life isn't part of the agreement," says one user.
Weinstein treats his characters with sympathy as they gamely face a world they don't understand. Fans of George Saunders and Ray Bradbury will recognize the compassion--and premonition--in these disquieting stories. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: These short stories introduce a near-future world where the bonds of human love and interaction struggle against technological advancements.
Mystery & Thriller
A Good Man
by Ani Katz
A Good Man, Ani Katz's debut novel, depicts the unraveling of a supposedly "normal guy" from inside his corrupted psyche. Thomas Martin seems to have it all: a well-paying, creative job, a beautiful wife and a precocious child. He worked hard to build this life, so different from his traumatic and abusive childhood. Which is why Thomas is horrified and distraught when, piece by piece, his life begins to fall apart. Desperate to regain control over what he thought belonged to him, Thomas attempts to go back to the beginning and tell his story in a way that will make sense to himself and defend what he has done.
Contained, measured and colloquial, Thomas's first-person voice invites the reader into his story as casually as someone might invite a stranger to a drink. His story, he admits up front, is told in tangents, "images and scenes, borrowed and spliced, more real than reality." Yet, readers still hold onto his performance of normativity, desperate to see rationality instead of the inevitable, impending disaster. Katz uses her unreliable narrator to masterful effect, first to trick readers into believing his fiction and then to reveal just how deranged and fabricated everything he's said was from the start. Ultimately, A Good Man's most effective twist, if it can be called that, is that Tom's life was never within his control. Impeccably paced and simply stated, Katz's story of a man on the edge offers an effective and horrifying revelation. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A slow-burn psychological thriller, this compact novel is a portrait of white male rage taken to its violent breaking point.
by Jenny Holiday
With Mermaid Inn, Jenny Holiday (Three Little Words; It Takes Two) begins a humorous new romance series centered on small-town life on a Canadian lake. Eve Abbott has been working as a librarian in Toronto, where she's lived for a decade, when she discovers that her great-aunt has died, leaving her the Mermaid Inn in tiny Moonflower Bay--known as Matchmaker Bay by the jokey locals. Eve spent summers in Moonflower Bay as a teenager and fell desperately in love with Sawyer Collins, until he broke her heart by kissing another girl in front of the whole town during the annual mermaid parade.
Sawyer, now the police chief, knows that he messed up, and he's missed Eve for years. She's back in town only temporarily, planning to fix up the decrepit Mermaid Inn and sell it, but Sawyer longs for her to stay. He's worried that the grown-up Eve is too good for him, though, and that she'd never readjust to small-town life. Luckily for Sawyer, the elderly residents of "Matchmaker Bay" are on his side, determined to get Eve and Sawyer back together for good.
There is hilarious repartee between the elderly locals and the slightly cranky (but very sexy) Sawyer, and between Eve and herself as she makes mental lists of why falling for Sawyer again is a terrible idea. As a result, Mermaid Inn is a charming and funny romance. Rom-com enthusiasts will love its cast of quirky characters and charming depiction of small-town life. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This charming and funny romance reunites high school sweethearts after a decade apart.
Marriage on Madison Avenue
by Lauren Layne
Lauren Layne (Love on Lexington Avenue) concludes her Central Park Pact trilogy with Marriage on Madison Avenue, a friends-to-lovers romance that can best be described as a game of "marriage chicken." Best friends since childhood, Audrey and Clarke both have their reasons for faking an engagement with the person they trust most in the world. Instagram influencer Audrey, who unwittingly had relationships with two married men, is being digitally harassed by a social media gossipmonger, while Clarke's mother is attempting to manipulate him into marriage with her ideal daughter-in-law.
The friends agree to cut things off after an official engagement party. Then, after visiting a wedding planner to show Audrey's Instagram followers. Then, after tasting some cake. And then never: "Audrey was tired of pretending, but what terrified her down to her very soul was that she wasn't tired of pretending to be engaged. She was tired of pretending she wanted it to end."
What starts as a mutually beneficial platonic arrangement gradually morphs into something neither of them could have predicted--even though all of their friends and family have known for years that Audrey and Clarke were meant for each other. It's those friends, four of whom paired off in the first two books, who provide the levity and support needed to balance the fear and stress the love interests experience. Readers who've followed the series will be charmed by this slow-burn romance in which Layne forces these two characters finally to think with their hearts instead of just their heads. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: Marriage on Madison Avenue is a sweet romance filled with friendship, laughs and two best friends who can't seem to get out of their own way.
Biography & Memoir
You Never Forget Your First
by Alexis Coe
If the cheeky title of historian Alexis Coe's biography of George Washington suggests anything, it should be this: You Never Forget Your First is not the typical, dry, academic biography of a Founding Father. On the contrary, Coe's work is at once entertaining and insightful, offering a fresh perspective on one of the most famous figures of American history--and one of the most mythologized.
Coe (Alice + Freda Forever) calls her work on Washington an "addition to a crowded bookshelf," and while that may be true, hers stands out as one of the few volumes written by a woman. It is also one of the more balanced biographies available, recognizing Washington's successes while also calling him out for his oft-overlooked failings: his seeming inability to respond to his mother's letters in a timely manner, for instance, or the far more egregious "deep-seated hypocrisy" of a man advocating for American freedom while refusing to free the hundreds of people he kept enslaved across his many properties. Coe also spends less time focusing on Washington's military prowess (or lack thereof) in favor of his skill as a strategist. Her account highlights his "ability to manage large-scale combat while also running spy rings and shadow and propaganda campaigns in enemy-occupied areas" during the Revolution, as well as the precedent-setting era of his presidency.
Weighing in around 300 pages, You Never Forget Your First is an accessible history of one of the most influential political figures in the U.S.--one as likely to appeal to die-hard history buffs as it is to more casual readers of narrative nonfiction. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: This refreshing biography of George Washington offers a balanced accounting of his successes and failures--as a general, a man and a leader.
A Black Women's History of the United States
by Daina Ramey Berry , Kali Nicole Gross
A Black Women's History of the United States is a fascinating look at how Black women have always played a role in American history, although that role was, and still is, often downplayed. History professors Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross showcase hundreds of instances of strength, defiance and achievement by Black women. Their book begins with Isabel de Olvera, a woman of African descent who joined an expedition to New Spain in 1600, and ends with Patricia Okoumou, who climbed the Statue of Liberty in 2018 to protest the incarceration of migrant children at the border.
For centuries, countless women survived the horrific journey in slave ships from Africa, and endured the brutality of slavery. Later, in the Jim Crow era and beyond, Black women became suffragists and activists, speaking out against their suppression and organizing collectively to try to better their circumstances. They "worked hard and consistently, often under unfair and degrading circumstances," earning less than Black men or white women.
Using the examples of women from the era of exploration to the modern day, Berry and Gross have created a vivid and compelling history that may be unfamiliar to many Americans. From Millie and Christine McCoy, conjoined twins who were born into slavery and treated as freaks on the state fair circuit, to Gladys Bentley, a cross-dressing Black lesbian who took Harlem by storm in the 1930s, U.S. history is full of Black women who have been overlooked. A welcome addition to the library of any history enthusiast, A Black Women's History of the United States is an absorbing read. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This engrossing book offers a look at U.S. history through the experiences of Black women.
A Girl's Guide to the Outback
by Jessica Kate
Jessica Kate (Love and Other Mistakes) showcases her Australian background in the inspirational romance A Girl's Guide to the Outback. The story begins in Virginia, where popular youth pastor Samuel Payton and his coworker Kimberly Foster keep butting heads at their youth outreach ministry, Wildfire. Kimberly, a business whiz, wants to expand Wildfire to more locations, but cautious Sam rejects her plan. He goes one step further, too, leaving the ministry to return home to Australia and help his sister Jules save her failing farm. Several months later, Kimberly, forced to admit that Wildfire is floundering without Sam, follows him to Australia, offering to analyze the farm's business plan and help Jules if Sam will temporarily return to Wildfire to hire his replacement.
The wild nature of the Outback shocks Kimberly, and Sam is stunned to find that Kimberly isn't quite as annoying as he always thought. As they work together to help Jules and talk about the future of Wildfire, they slowly begin to realize that maybe they could make a great team, both professionally and romantically.
Sweet and funny, A Girl's Guide to the Outback is a thoroughly entertaining inspirational romance riddled with hilarious farm accidents. Jessica Kate has created realistically prickly characters, forced to overcome many personal difficulties as they recognize a surprising attraction for each other. The hate-into-love trope is softened by the characters' growth, both in their personal development and in their faith. A Girl's Guide to the Outback is sure to please readers of romance and Christian fiction. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This inspirational romance follows the shenanigans of a pair of coworkers as they reluctantly team up to save an Australian farm.
Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond
by Lydia Denworth
Human beings can lead healthy, happy lives while remaining single and child-free. However, scientists have discovered that friendship is "a biological need for connection that must be met to achieve basic health and well-being."
Science journalist Lydia Denworth traces scientific research that has studied insects, monkeys and human infants and concluded that social connection and altruism are keys to survival among all three species. Further research with infants shows that connection begins in the womb, when babies learn to recognize their mothers' voices. This connection strengthens after a child is born; by looking at faces that become familiar, listening to human speech and experiencing soft and gentle touches, the "social brain" begins to develop.
Friendship follows the need for human connection, from the parallel play of young children to the tribal relationships of older children and adolescents, showing that isolation in childhood can eventually lead to "elevated blood pressure, increased aggressiveness, and increased stress activity." From birth to old age, loneliness affects the brain and contributes to poor health. Isolation, scientists found, is "a potential killer" that can damage the cardiovascular system in young people, resulting in high blood pressure when they grew old.
Exploring the effect that conversation has upon the brain, the role played by "digital friendship" and the deepening need for companionship as one grows old, Denworth shows that perhaps the most powerful way to maintain good health and achieve longevity is to establish strong friendships and keep them alive. --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller
Discover: A science journalist presents a powerful case that having lunch with good friends contributes as much to a long and healthy life as does diet and exercise.
Children's & Young Adult
The Body Under the Piano
by Marthe Jocelyn , illust. by Isabelle Follath
A wannabe sleuth, a new friend, a despised neighbor and a confounding murder splendidly combine in this novel based on the imagined childhood of Agatha Christie.
"I will tell you first about making a new friend and save the dead body for later. This follows the traditional rules of storytelling--lull the reader with pleasant scenery and lively dialogue, introduce a few appealing characters, and then--aha!--discover a corpse!" It's 1902, and 12-year-old Aggie Morton lives in a small coastal English town. She, her mother and her grandmother are all in mourning, having recently lost Aggie's father, and Aggie spends much of her time roaming free. It's a lonely existence, and so Aggie is terribly excited when she meets Hector Perot, a tidy, self-restrained Belgian boy and immigrant who is staying at the vicarage. Perot proves himself a great friend and a sharp mind when Aggie makes the ghastly discovery of--aha!--Irma Eversham's body. Certainly many had expressed deep dislike for the woman, but who would go so far as to kill her? Aggie and Hector are on the case.
Aggie's first-person narration includes all the trappings of an Edwardian childhood expressed with a contemporary sense of humor and mostly modern sensibilities. Marthe Jocelyn (Mable Riley) makes Aggie a wholly likable protagonist who, though quick-witted and opinionated, is often too shy to speak around others. Isabelle Follath's gray-scale, charmingly stylized illustrations perfectly match the text in taking something from the early 20th century and giving it a 21st-century twist. Heartfelt, funny and suspenseful, The Body Under the Piano is an excellent beginning to what is sure to be a pleasantly gruesome series. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A junior detective and her new friend work to solve a murder in this opener to a middle-grade series about a fictionalized child Agatha Christie.
Women Artists A to Z
by Melanie Labarge , illust. by Caroline Corrigan
Melanie LaBarge's debut picture book, Women Artists A to Z, shines a light on female artists from a range of time periods, styles, nationalities and backgrounds. Each spread features the artist, a letter representing an aspect of their artwork for which they're known, illustrations that emphasize their major works and a pithy but lyrical blurb with a short overview of the woman's impact. Some will be more well-known to U.S. audiences, like Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, while a vast swath of the subjects will be new to most readers, such as Maria Martinez, Yayoi Kusama and Helen Zughaib. LaBarge has smartly chosen to highlight creators who have worked in a diversity of mediums. Many of the women used their work to expose and confront injustices, such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, a printmaker and collagist whose creations underscore the displacement of Indigenous peoples. Some were scientists and educators, and each of them transformed the field with their unusual way of seeing the world.
Illustrator Caroline Corrigan interprets the women's body of work with reverence and ingenuity. The textured renderings vary in palette, often reflecting the artist's preferred medium or color scheme: Helen Frankenthaler's spread is full of bright hues, just like her large color field paintings; Agnes Martin's displays the more muted browns and grays of her grid paintings. The impeccable design is eye-grabbing, making this a work of art in itself. The back matter includes more details about each artist's life and prompts that serve as inspiration and impetus for future creators. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library
Discover: Women Artists A to Z is a lush, vibrant and empowering abecedarian showcasing women luminaries (past and present) of the art world.
by Yoko Tanaka
Scads of things happen in Yoko Tanaka's Dandelion's Dream; that the book's goings-on are a cinch to follow is all the more impressive given that they're relayed with nary a word.
One night, a dandelion in a field goes through a rather unexpected transformation: it morphs into an actual lion, its leaves now limbs and its flower a lion's face with a yellow orb of mane. Once Dandelion gets over his surprise, he jumps on top of a train: Why not see the world? A sharp turn sends Dandelion flying; fortunately, a sheep's woolly back breaks his fall. Dandelion rides the sheep to a ship that takes him to a big city, a Manhattan look-alike in which he barely comes up to pedestrians' ankles. The star of Dandelion's Dream may be a lion, but he's still the size of a flower.
In her first outing without a collaborator, Tanaka works in charcoal enhanced by digitally applied flashes of dusky yellow that she reserves for Dandelion's mane and tail tuft. As she did with the titular mammal in Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant, Tanaka finds bottomless humanity in the animals of Dandelion's Dream: besides the sheep who cushions Dandelion's fall, there's the bird who extends a wing on the ship so that the little lion can get out of the rain. Tanaka's point seems to be that when someone is willing to lend a hand, a dream can really take flight. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: In this beguiling wordless picture book, a dandelion morphs into a little lion who explores the big city.