From the Shelf
Pride and Prejudice and Pride Again
Jane Austen's novels have long captured the imaginations of modern readers; television and movie adaptations abound, and Austen-inspired stories are easy to come across. Of late, there have been several inventive and out-of-the-box retellings of Pride and Prejudice (Harper Perennial, $10), in particular, worth noting for the avid Austen reader looking for a new take on one of Austen's best-loved novels.
Curtis Sittenfield's debut novel, Prep (Random House, $17), marked her as a writer to follow; her subsequent novels, including Eligible, have carried that reputation forward. In Eligible (Random House, $17), Austen's characters are moved out of 19th-century England and into 21st-century Cincinnati, Ohio.
In Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (Morrow, $15.99), Sonali Dev also reimagines the classic story in contemporary times--this time in a family drama featuring an immigrant Indian family in modern-day San Francisco, Calif.
Soniah Kamal's Unmarriageable (Ballantine Books, $27) reimagines the large Bennett family as the Binat clan of present-day Pakistan. The Bennetts are once again reinvented, as the Benitez family, in Ibi Zoboi's Pride (Balzer & Bray, $17.99), set in the rapidly changing neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Each of these modern-day retellings take inspiration from Austen's classic tale despite vastly different characters and settings, all while maintaining Austen's characteristic wit and satire. More impressively, however, they replicate the biting social observations and criticisms for which Austen is still so beloved. Turns out Austen's study of gender roles, societal expectations, familial duty (and its corresponding conflicts), class and social mobility are just as present in modern times as they were when Austen was writing.
In this Issue...
by Colson Whitehead
The Nickel Boys is an account of black boys struggling to survive a vicious reform school in the early 1960s.
by Elsie Chapman , Caroline Tung Richmond, editors
Hungry Hearts is a delicious YA collection of overlapping short stories exploring the ways in which food can bring people together.
Feminist journalist Jennifer Block received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant to complete this jaw-dropping investigation into the women's health industry.
Review by Subjects:
Seven Synonyms for Taking a Break
"Words at Play": Merriam-Webster defined "7 ways to get away from it all."
"The many literary roles of Tom Hanks" were screened by Quirk Books.
"Crookshanks is based on a real cat." Mental Floss shared "8 facts about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
Author Gail Simmons chose her "top 10 books about walking in Britain" for the Guardian.
Design You Trust featured "fantastic pencil sculptures by Jasenko Đorđević."
Rediscover: Ball Four
Major League Baseball pitcher and tell-all sportswriter Jim Bouton died last week at age 80. Between 1962 and 1978, he played for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. In 1969, Bouton took notes on his season with the Seattle Pilots (their first and only year as a franchise) and later with the Astros. Those notes became Ball Four (1970), a candid look behind the scenes of Major League Baseball, including less than flattering depictions of fellow players. Bouton recounted his earlier years with the Yankees and Mickey Mantle, whose heavy drinking had been successfully hidden prior to Ball Four. Naming names, sharing information given in confidence and revealing secrets like the league's widespread use of amphetamines (or "greenies") made Bouton an industry pariah. Mantle and the Yankees did not resolve their grievances with Bouton until the 1990s.
Ball Four has since sold millions of copies worldwide and is considered a groundbreaking work of sports writing. Bouton's first followup to Ball Four, I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally (1971), examines the negative reaction by industry insiders. Ball Four has since been updated and republished several times, most recently with a new epilogue by Bouton, in Ball Four: The Final Pitch (Turner, $29.95, 9781630260347). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Erica Witsell
|photo: Stefan Carpenter|
Erica Witsell lived in Florida, California, Italy and Ecuador before settling in the mountains of western North Carolina 16 years ago. A high school teacher for more than 10 years, she now teaches English as a new language at a community college in Asheville. Witsell's debut novel, Give (BQB Publishing), is a family saga that explores themes of motherhood, queer identity, polyamory and modern fertility. Her reflections on life and motherhood can be found on her blog, On the Home Front.
On your nightstand now:
I recently finished The Behavior of Love by Virginia Reeves, but it's still on my nightstand because I can't wait to lend it out and talk about it with someone. Reeves deals deftly with so many complicated issues--marriage, health and the shifting nature of love and desire--that I hardly noticed when my airplane was stuck on the tarmac for two hours. There's also A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, because I loved Life After Life so much, and Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, a gem of a book which my eight-year-old daughter reads to me at bedtime.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I think the books that resonated with me the most deeply when I was young were the ones about children who long for a home of their own: Goodnight, Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Mandy by Julie Andrews. I am not at all surprised that the book I wrote three decades later is about many of those same themes of home and belonging.
Your top five authors:
Jane Austen was my salvation in junior high, when all I really wanted to be reading was romance but wouldn't have been caught dead with a Harlequin. Sarah Waters rocked my world with Tipping the Velvet in the late '90s, and I haven't missed a book of hers since. I've loved Ann Patchett's fiction for years, but her collection of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, definitely sealed her place in my top five. Cheryl Strayed got my attention with Wild, but won my heart with Tiny, Beautiful Things; she was my inspiration when I was working on Give. The fifth slot is a toss-up between Wallace Stegner and my 10-year-old son, Clayton, who made me a very proud mama when he self-published Poseidon: The Defeat of Cronus last year.
Book you've faked reading:
When I was a first-semester freshman in college, I intentionally picked classes with the longest reading lists. Until then, reading had never once felt like a chore, so it never even occurred to me that I should pace myself. By the time we got to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford in "Literature of the Great War," I was absolutely drowning. I never even opened it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I think if everyone in the U.S. read this book, we might have a chance with criminal justice reform. Also, How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. This brilliant book is hilarious and heart-wrenching all at once.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Just looking at the cover of this lovely book makes me nostalgic. I only wish it had been published 30 years earlier, so I could have discovered it as a child.
Book you hid from your parents:
The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel. What can I say? I was horse crazy and checked out any book at the library with "horse" in the title. Let's just say that Auel's title is a bit of a misnomer. I'm a little surprised that the librarian let me check it out, but maybe she was fooled, too.
Book that changed your life:
My mother gave me The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hallfor Christmas when I was 19, soon after I told my parents that I was in love with another woman. I don't remember much of the plot, but I remember feeling, when I read it, that I was connected to something much larger than myself. It was also very clear from that gift that my mom was going to support me no matter what, which is a pretty life-changing thing to know.
Five books you'll never part with:
My beloved childhood copy of Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik has survived not only my three children but many years in my classroom library, so I think it's destined for the next generation, duct-taped cover and all.
Every time I've moved, The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings has made the cut and come with me. When I read it as a child, I cried my eyes out when the boy has to kill his deer; now, it's the sacrifices the father makes for his son that choke me up.
I'm never parting with Affinity, because I learned from loaning out Tipping the Velvet that I'm unlikely to get a Sarah Waters book back.
Random Passage by Bernice Morgan and A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher have permanent places on my bookshelf, so I suppose I really like novels about women with complex emotional lives who are thrown into harsh and inhospitable circumstances (colonial Newfoundland and the Oregon Trail, respectively).
Book you'd most like to have on a deserted island:
There's no contest: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, in the original translation. I couldn't put this trilogy down when I read it for the first time as a teenager, and I binge-read it again when I was nursing my infant twin daughters. An epic story about a woman's life in medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter is historical fiction at its best, with timeless themes that resonated with me as much at 36 as at 16. I can't wait to read it again, although preferably not on a deserted island.
Favorite line from a book:
" 'The purpose of Art,' his mother said--instructed even--'is to convey the truth of a thing, not to be the truth itself.' " Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Circe by Madeline Miller. I couldn't put this book down, and then regretted how quickly I was finished with it. Never has Greek mythology felt so fresh or so relevant.
The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
The Nickel Boys forgoes the fantastical touches of Colson Whitehead's previous book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad, for a no-less-harrowing account of a vicious reform school in the Jim Crow-era South.
Whitehead's protagonist is Elwood Curtis, a black boy living in Tallahassee, Fla., in the early 1960s. Elwood is something of an idealist, listening repeatedly to a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches and taking to heart his moral vision. Elwood clings to this code even when it is repaid by cruel trickery and, eventually, an encounter with police that cuts short his promising future and sends him to the Nickel Academy.
The Nickel Academy falls far short of its billing as a "reform school." In reality, the students are underfed, segregated and viciously beaten. Some students fare even worse.
At the heart of The Nickel Boys lies the question of how best to respond to the evils of the world. Whitehead shows how difficult it is to put Martin Luther King Jr.'s self-sacrificing ideals into practice, to remain optimistic in the face of bottomless violence and cruelty. Elwood is challenged by fellow student Turner, for whom the problem lies deeper than surface-level inequality: "You can change the law but you can't change people and how they treat each other... the way Turner saw it, wickedness went deeper than skin color.... It was people." Long after students leave the reform school, the Nickel Academy's lessons seem almost impossible to unlearn. Elwood may be naïve, but his convictions give him strength. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Discover: The Nickel Boys is an account of black boys struggling to survive a vicious reform school in the early 1960s.
by Karl Marlantes
In this sweeping saga set against early-1900s Finland, occupied and oppressed by Tsarist Russia, and the untamed old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn, What It Is Like to Go to War) tells the story of the Koski siblings as they leave their homeland for a raw, new place on the other side of the world.
Fleeing political persecution, 17-year-old Aino joins her brothers on Deep River, just north of the mighty Columbia. What greets her is an unimaginable world of 300-foot trees, a logging frontier that is rough, lush and buzzing with the promise of progress. As her brothers settle into their own rhythm--Ilmari at his farm and Matti as a logger--Aino returns to her socialist roots, working to unionize the big logging camps. The labor movement is in its infancy in the United States, and Aino's passionate mission to bring socialism through the IWW takes her across southern Washington as she gives speeches and organizes rallies, leaving little time for her personal life. As each character faces love, loss, devastation, transformation and redemption--Aino most of all--she must ask: "The cause was worthy--but was it worth it?"
Based in part on his own family history and influenced by the epic Finnish poem The Kalevala, Marlantes depicts the depths of Finnish endurance (Sisu) in a time of hardship and great change. Spanning the years from 1893 to 1932, Deep River is a vast account of the logging, fishing and farming industries and the immigrants and Americans who brought them to life. It is fantastic historical fiction full of impassioned characters working hard to put down roots in a constantly developing world. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This epic family saga follows three Finnish immigrant siblings in turn-of-the-century Pacific Northwest logging country as the world around them is in flux.
by Nancy Thayer
Keely Green and Isabelle Maxwell have been best friends since preschool. They've grown up together on Nantucket, sharing idyllic times at their favorite beach, Surfside, and riding their bikes all over the island. However, Keely, the only child of working-class parents, has always been a tiny bit jealous of Isabelle's much more luxurious life. The Maxwell family has a huge house and spends every summer in Europe; most importantly, in Keely's eyes, Isabelle has a handsome, wonderful older brother named Sebastian.
For years Keely tries to tamp down her infatuation with Sebastian, and focuses on her friendship with Isabelle. They both decide that they want to be writers when they grow up, which creates an extra bond between them. But then, in high school, the boy that Isabelle loves asks Keely to homecoming. A few years later, Keely is forced to drop out of college, while Isabelle continues living her charmed life. This creates deep tension between the two, and Keely must carefully navigate both her changing world and her complicated friendship with Isabelle.
Nancy Thayer (A Nantucket Wedding, Secrets in Summer) knows how to create the perfect beach read. A heady mix of summer, family secrets, first love and friendship, Surfside Sisters is meant to be devoured on a lazy afternoon. Readers who love Elin Hilderbrand or Jamie Brenner will be delighted by Surfside Sisters, with its familiar island routines and its eclectic, book-loving characters. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this charming beach read set on the island of Nantucket, two best friends navigate first loves and jealousies.
Mystery & Thriller
Growing Things and Other Stories
by Paul Tremblay
Of the recent horror writers to have made their mark, Paul Tremblay belongs the most to a tradition of psychological terror. Stories in Growing Things such as "Something About Birds" and "Notes from 'The Barn in the Wild' " have themes of cosmic horror, but his best work derives its power from the ordinary and domestic gone mysteriously wrong. Two other stories connect directly to Tremblay's earlier novel A Head Full of Ghosts, a wrenching tragedy that left what happened to the central character ambiguous. Throughout this collection, the reader is forced to make their own shuddering conclusions as to why, for instance, in "-------," a family man meets a woman acting as if she's his longtime wife and his children seem to agree.
Like fellow New England writer Shirley Jackson, Tremblay is a master of delving so deep into a psyche that a reader longs to come up for air. Yet he's also surprisingly playful about his own reputation and the milieu of horror fiction (as in the blackly funny "Notes from the Dog Walkers"), and restless in his experimentation with form. Growing Things is not Tremblay's magnum opus but a stepping stone to one. Here are 19 stories without boundaries, elegantly crafted and written to speak to the deepest fears and strangest obsessions. And all they ask in return is to enter the reader's dreams, to be thought of with a twinge of anxiety. The only warning one can give is: buyer beware. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer
Discover: Horror writer Paul Tremblay's collection of stories is terrifying, experimental and remarkably vulnerable.
Window on the Bay
by Debbie Macomber
Two Seattle friends--divorcées--are faced with empty nest syndrome in Debbie Macomber's Window on the Bay.
Jenna and Maureen met as college freshman while taking a French class and became best friends. They vowed that after graduation, they would take a trip to Paris where they would "walk in the moonlight along the Seine, tour the Louvre, and see the view of the city from the Eiffel Tower." Maureen's unplanned pregnancy, however, forced the friends to defer their plans to "someday."
Over the years, Jenna, an ICU nurse, and Maureen, a librarian, married, had children and divorced. Throughout 20 years of ups and downs, the two single moms emotionally supported each other. Now middle-aged--with their children grown and launched--Jenna and Maureen decide "someday" is now. Paris awaits. That is, until Jenna's mother has an accident that brings an attractive male surgeon into Jenna's life. Meanwhile, Maureen catches the attention of a book-loving plumber who, working near the library, starts paying Maureen visits in search of new reading material. The two women, bruised by the past, are leery, but soon become lured by the prospects of new love. But what about Paris?
Macomber (Cottage by the Sea, If Not for You) unspools several tender, romantic story threads. Through a refreshing role-reversal, the young adult offspring of each woman--with complications in their own lives--prove sources of unexpected wisdom to their mothers on the brink of change. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: Two middle-aged divorcées--friends since college--find their plans to visit Paris complicated by familial demands and the prospects of new love.
by Ebony Flowers
In chunky lines and charmingly chaotic frames, debut author Ebony Flowers uses the comic format to explore the vital and myriad ways that the experience of young black women is tied to their relationship with their hair. Across the eight short stories that make up Hot Comb, Flowers illustrates the profusion of cultural forces young black girls must contend with: peer pressure, white beauty standards, well-meaning strangers, not-so-well-meaning strangers and, perhaps most interestingly, advertisements. Throughout, Flowers makes clear the ways in which the success of the black hair industry depends on the malleability of adolescent self-image and thrives on the insecurities of black children and teenagers. In recognition of this, Flowers ends each story with a powerful editorial insertion: a brand-new advertisement that draws from distinctly black cultural imagery to celebrate black hair as it is.
In Hot Comb, black hair proves to be a rich symbol for interpreting the insidious politics of race and class that play out each day in the lives of black Americans. Flowers's stories do not attempt to mask the harshness of poverty and racism, and they do not romanticize hardship. What Hot Comb does instead is celebrate the devotion of black mothers, the creativity of black children and the ingenuity inherent in the black experience. This is a deeply impressive debut and belongs on the bookshelf between Lynda Barry and Claudia Rankine. Ebony Flowers is a cartoonist to watch. --Emma Levy, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Ebony Flowers pushes the bounds of the comic form in this intimate and poignant portrait of black womanhood.
Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination
by Alexandra Minna Stern
Alexandra Minna Stern (Eugenic Nation) meets the rising wave of white nationalism head-on in her important and timely work, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination.
Stern, American Culture and History professor at the University of Michigan, dispenses with any pretense of neutrality in her reportage, instead referring to herself as a "scholar-activist." She sets out to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the so-called alt-right movement so that it may be better confronted and dismantled. What she finds in this detailed and telling work is a group of disaffected white men desperate to re-establish white male power, epitomized by the idea of a segregated white homeland, or "ethnostate." She follows these men's interactions in online chat rooms and popular media, both in the U.S. and Europe, and discovers what unites them: antipathy toward multiculturalism, feminism and immigration. She finds a movement once confined to the shadows and associated with neo-Nazism now seeking mainstream approval for its racist and xenophobic ideas.
Stern uncovers so many disturbing things about the alt-right movement that it's hard to focus on one. For example, white nationalists have appropriated left-wing environmentalist ideas like green sustainability and bio-community for their white utopian dreams. Some even back reparations for African-Americans, envisioning a separate black homeland in the South. Stern analyzes these different threads of supremacy and separatism, all based on what she deems "racial nationalism." The most disturbing aspect of Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate is the validation the alt-right has received from President Donald Trump. Stern makes a strong case that the president's rhetoric and policies on immigration stem from the same racial nationalism.
Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate is an important volume for anyone interested in the future of liberal democracy. Stern has fashioned an invaluable guide with which to unmask a new breed of racism. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: The myths and pernicious beliefs of white nationalism are laid bare in this mix of exposé and cultural criticism.
On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane
by Emily Guendelsberger
On the Clock is a study of modern service work as told through the author's experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center, a Convergys call center and a busy McDonald's. In a voice that is as down-to-earth as it is scholarly, journalist Emily Guendelsberger combines her experience at these service jobs with citations from primary and secondary sources to form a narrative that is both educational and entertaining.
Guendelsberger explores the science and consequences of repetitive physical and emotional stress, delving into increasing worker productivity demands, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing through Ford's assembly lines all the way to today's timed bathroom breaks, call time targets and required greeting of every customer within four seconds.
Rather than serving as an indictment of these three companies, On the Clock uses their practices as examples of the service industry at large. Workers across the sector are dehumanized to the point of being expected not to have bodily functions, emotions or any of the things that make us human.
Guendelsberger begins the book with a tale of two worlds, as defined by their understanding of the phrase "in the weeds." Service workers recognize this as when they are swamped with work, demand outpacing their capacity to meet it. In white-collar jobs, it's defined as being bogged down in the details. Guendelsberger's book seeks to ensure that the workers themselves aren't seen as the details. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: With humor and wit, On the Clock delivers history, modern context and real-life stories to anyone wondering why modern workers are so stressed and dissatisfied.
Health & Medicine
Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution
by Jennifer Block
In her well-received first book, Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, feminist journalist Jennifer Block exposed the concerning aspects of maternity care in the United States. With Everything Below the Waist, she sounds an alarm about the condition of women's health care in America, where women run greater risks of reproductive system surgery than in any other developed nation. Partly supported by a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, Block's chilling exposé unveils a broken medical system and the patients who suffer its inadequacies and abuses.
Block delves deeply into the history of women's reproductive health and its practitioners, contrasting her findings against interviews with modern practitioners, researchers, nonprofit service providers and feminist thinkers. The emergent picture is one evocative of a science-fiction dystopia, a world where medicine ignores the basic fundamentals of female biology while seeking to control and shape it into a more convenient package. Women take hormonal birth control without full understanding of the poorly disclosed risks and side effects, while corporations offer egg-freezing parties to help their female employees put off parenthood. Years later, would-be mothers face painful fertility treatments with no guarantee of success.
Decrying a system that encourages women to sacrifice their most fertile years, Block laments, "We are running a race designed by and for men and literally taking steroids to compete." Everything Below the Waist is a call to action, insisting "[w]e need clinicians who focus less on controlling women's fertility and more on enhancing our health." Women of childbearing age in particular should not skip this important and well-researched analysis of a field that holds their lives in its hands. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: Feminist journalist Jennifer Block received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant to complete this jaw-dropping investigation into the women's health industry.
Escalante's Dream: On the Trail of the Spanish Discovery of the Southwest
by David Roberts
In Escalante's Dream: On the Trail of the Spanish Discovery of the Southwest, adventure writer David Roberts (Limits of the Known) takes the reader on a journey that is part road trip, part historical exploration and part love story.
In 1776, two Franciscan friars, Francisco Atansio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, led an expedition across the Southwest in search of a land route from Santa Fe to the new mission at Monterey. In 2017, Roberts and his wife, Sharon, re-created their journey, guided by Escalante's firsthand account and the report of "exploratory rediscovery" created for the expedition's bicentenary in 1976.
Frustration is the dominant emotion for much of Escalante's Dream. Roberts wrestles with the inadequacies of Escalante's account as a travel guide, the bicentennial report's lack of academic rigor and the absence of historical markers commemorating the expedition's travels through the Southwest. He worries over his inability to like, or even understand, the men whose footsteps he follows.
Roberts also struggles with new physical limitations, the result of a two-year battle with throat cancer. He opens the book with the admission that this six-week journey is both tame, compared to the adventures that defined much of his adult life, and the most extreme challenge he is now able to face.
By the book's close, frustration is replaced by appreciation both for the friars themselves and for the value of this "tame" adventure in the company of his wife, "the best thing we had ever done together." --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins
Discover: Adventure writer David Roberts struggles to follow the forgotten trail of "the Spanish Lewis and Clark" across the Southwest.
Children's & Young Adult
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
by Elsie Chapman , Caroline Tung Richmond, editors
In Elsie Chapman (A Thousand Beginnings and Endings) and Caroline T. Richmond's (The Darkest Hour) Hungry Hearts, 13 stories of how people show "love through food" unfold and intertwine in the neighborhood of Hungry Heart Row. Featuring tales told from diverse points of view that discuss loss, love, family and how food can bring people of all cultures together, this collection of connected short stories combines a number of different genres--fantasy, crime, mystery, magical realism, romance--to create a vibrant neighborhood and a vivid tapestry of experiences.
Hungry Hearts is filled to the brim with delightful surprises and deep familial bonds. In Karuna Riazi's "Hearts à la Carte," a mysterious boy falls from the sky "as harshly... and roughly... as a shooting star" and befriends Munira, a young woman who keeps desperately hoping adventure will find her. The spirit of a dead parent is brought back to life by the cooking of their favorite dish in Sangu Mandanna's "Rain." And "Panadería Pastelería" by Anna-Marie McLemore tells the enchanting story of a girl named Lila who has the magical ability to find and make pastries for those who need them most. Blended together, this baker's dozen of stories creates a multilayered and diverse neighborhood, its community brought together through their experiences with grief, love, intrigue, family and, of course, food. Each author creates an atmosphere that pulls at the heartstrings, the collection leaving a delightfully bittersweet taste in readers' mouths. --Tasneem Daud, blogger and booktuber, Nemo Reads
Discover: Hungry Hearts is a delicious YA collection of overlapping short stories exploring the ways in which food can bring people together.
The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales
by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer , illust. by Simini Blocker
In his first graphic novel for children, writer Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (Octopus Escapes) offers four original, offbeat fairy tales, whimsically illustrated by artist Simini Blocker (My So-Called Superpowers).
In "Hip Hop Wish," a riff on The Arabian Nights, a carefree frog accidentally hops onto a magic lamp. The fiery orange-and-yellow genie who emerges finds granting wishes difficult since his amphibious summoner has none. A traveling minstrel with far more motivation than talent bedevils a grumpy witch who hates music and claims a hilarious (if unconventional) victory in "The Singing Rock." "The Sorcerer's New Pet" follows a jealous sorcerer who attempts to steal his humble but clever rival's spells with amusingly disastrous results. Finally, in "Ogreish Art," an artist grows rich painting flattering but dishonest portraits of royals only to learn, when hired by Rog, King of the Ogres, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Lachenmeyer demonstrates a thorough understanding of folktale anatomy, layering tropes in unexpected combinations that nonetheless make each story feel like a rediscovered classic with a slyly delivered moral. The digital illustrations marry the magical and the pastoral as Blocker's broad palette of rich jewel tones and delicate pastels takes readers into the cool blue of the ogres' caverns, lush green woods and sunrise-skied hamlets. Her gift for capturing nuanced facial expressions extends not only to the human cast but to the many animal characters. This lighthearted collection should delight pre-readers from preschool on, and independent readers through fifth grade. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library
Discover: In this graphic novel for young readers, four original fairy tales feel like rediscovered classics with a sly twist.