From the Shelf
Who (or What) Are We Talking to Now?
"This is real," writes Jenny Odell in How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House). "Your eyes reading this text, your hands, your breath, the time of day, the place where you are reading this--these things are real. I'm real too. I am not an avatar, a set of preferences, or some smooth cognitive force; I'm lumpy and porous, I'm an animal."
I read Odell's book shortly before encountering Klara, the AF (Artificial Friend) in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Klara and the Sun (Knopf). Set in a not-so distant future, the novel depicts a world where genetic editing is normalized, workers are "substituted," children are "lifted" (or not) and "interaction meetings" teach kids how to... interact. "Everyone's had to find new ways to live their lives," says one parent. Though not human, Klara must adapt too, and a key question ("Do you believe in the human heart?") shows just how close she gets to the answer, which is oddly scary and heartening.
"She opened the portal." Patricia Lockwood's narrative voice is cautionary (and sharp, and funny, and heartwrenching... all the words) in her novel No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead). As readers, we are lured by the protagonist down a rabbit hole as she navigates virtual landscapes where she has achieved global fame for a single post: "Can a dog be twins?" Then lives--and a death--outside the portal pose hard, unanswerable questions of their own (" 'Can ghosts learn new technology?' her sister asked, thinking of what must come next....").
My final stop on this recent reading journey seems logical in retrospect. I found sanctuary in Laura Imai Messina's The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World (Overlook Press), a beautiful novel inspired by an actual disconnected "Wind Phone" in Japan, on which people can talk to lost loved ones. The "function of the telephone, rather than to channel and guide voices into a single ear, was to broadcast them out onto this wind."
Maybe it's all real. --Robert Gray, editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Dario Diofebi
This ambitious debut novel takes readers on a heady, humorous journey through high-stakes cardrooms and darkened corridors of power in contemporary Las Vegas.
by Tasha Spillett-Sumner
An Indigenous mother-to-be gathers significant items for her child's medicine bundle in this joyful picture book about welcoming a new baby.
by Pip Williams
A young British woman quietly creates a compendium of words from women and the lower classes in this sweeping feminist bildungsroman set against the writing of the first Oxford English Dictionary.
Review by Subjects:
From Garden District Book Shop
09/16/2021 - 6:00PMEVENT Postponed THE GARDEN DISTRICT BOOK SHOP HOSTS KENT BABB TO CELEBRATE HIS NEW RELEASE, ACROSS THE RIVER: LIFE, DEATH, AND FOOTBALL IN AN AMERICAN CITY The Garden District Book Shop is thrilled to host an evening celebrating the recent release of award-winning sportswriter Kent Babb’s, Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City. What is sure to be a classic work of sports journalism, Across the River is an investigation into the...
Goodnight Moon, the Immersive Art Exhibit
"Enter the world of Goodnight Moon in new immersive art exhibit," Untapped New York advised.
Open Culture examined a "4,000-year-old student 'writing board' from ancient Egypt (with teacher's corrections in red)."
Mashable noted that "25 Stephen King short films are being shown at this virtual festival."
CrimeReads investigated "the Voynich manuscript, the most indecipherable coded text ever discovered."
Author Claire Fuller picked her top 10 novels set in villages for the Guardian.
Jon Klassen: Laughs Between the Lines
|(photo: Moranne Keeler)|
Jon Klassen is a Canadian-born author/illustrator. His books include I Want My Hat Back, Caldecott winner This Is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat. He is a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to children's literature. He lives and works in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. His new book is The Rock from the Sky (available now from Candlewick).
Your work is known for its dark, humorous edge.
I think storytelling, especially for kids, is about balance. I like my books to be fairly quiet and almost boring-looking, but to get permission to do that I need a story that has a lot of emotion behind it. The same applies to darkness and humor: if you strike the right humorous tone, you're allowed to get darker with it. Darkness and humor are closely related. It's actually hard to be funny without being at least a little dark, because humor is a release valve for things that bother you. It reframes something that actually is just plain dark without solving it or making it better, but at least it helps you look at it.
What inspired you to structure The Rock from the Sky as five stories?
I had tried chapters in my last book, and I really liked how it changed the writing. A big inspiration was James Marshall's George and Martha stories. I always felt like some of the biggest laughs in those books were when you turned the page and saw the title for the next story and realized that was how he'd ended the last one. I also had the first story done but felt it was too short on its own to justify a book and I had a few characters I knew and enjoyed, so I wanted to see where it went.
What does your background as an animator contribute to your work in picture books?
You learn that you can't just have a character do something; you need to prepare the audience for it. Every action has a few frames of prologue and epilogue, and consequences of those actions have to be exaggerated to look real. A ball hitting the ground has a frame where it's almost flat when it lands, but anything less than that doesn't look right when you play it. I think my stories are kind of like that: the consequences for everything are way outsized, but that's the only way they feel right.
As you did in previous stories, The Rock from the Sky has no narrator, only dialogue.
Having no narrator does a lot of the stylistic work for me. Removing it adds this weird silence between the lines that I love, and I write to those silent pauses as much as anything. Initially that came from my not knowing what to do with a narrator. I had the pictures and I had the voices--a narrator seemed like one too many ways to get information to the audience. It also reminds me of how a play sounds. Characters in plays don't often talk naturally; they declare things out loud and have asides to the audience and often don't say what they mean to one another. All these great dramatic tricks suit picture books because they are about clarity and trusting your audience at the same time.
The stories play out against a sort of dreamy, perpetual twilight.
Now that we're talking about plays, the basic idea for this book was kind of a cheap show that maybe got put on after the main event by some bit players who found some hats in the costume box. I wanted them to feel small on a big stage, like they maybe weren't supposed to be there. The lighting is meant to sort of be like how a stage is lit upward. The clouds are hit from the bottom and move along like they're on strings, and when the sun does show up it doesn't cast any light directly. Twilight kind of works for the after-show idea, too. The main thing is over. People are sneaking out and going home to bed.
While hats don't act as plot drivers in this book, they are strongly featured.
In this book they act as a symbol for how I thought about these guys, as kind of broad, campy comedy actors. The little bowler hats cover a surprising amount of ground, referentially. They bring up Laurel and Hardy, Samuel Beckett, Magritte. I don't expect kids to get that, but it helped me write them, weirdly. The snake is wearing a beret for reasons I haven't quite explained to myself. I didn't want him to have a bowler; he's not really one of the gang but he had to have something. His job is to indirectly tempt one of the characters away from his friend, so maybe I thought it should look romantic?
Be brutally honest: What's the ratio of stolen to legitimately owned hats in this book?
As I say, I think the hats are all borrowed from backstage and will probably be forcibly taken back once the stage manager hears about this dumb show going on without his permission.
I get the sense that the animals in the story have known each other a while.
I think that's right, that the idea was to suggest a long time spent with each other. The depth of their relationship kind of came out of necessity--I couldn't figure out how to get that turtle to move out of the way of the rock until I thought of him being jealous of his friend's new friend, and then it was like, "Well well well, look who's secretly invested." I don't think their relationship problems are resolved by the end of the book, but I think the turtle might not try to leave in a huff--or move at all--for a while.
How did you develop the cyclopean monster in the third story?
He had to be simple and scary, but not angry-scary. Almost robotic, but he couldn't be a robot because he's also emotional and flies off the handle for reasons we're not privy to. I think he's supposed to be an alien, or at least the result of something inexplicable that happens in the future, an experiment gone wrong, I don't know. I was thinking about the drawings you see of The War of the Worlds, but a cheap stage-show version.
How does your creative process change when you have a collaborator?
I love collaborating. So much of working by yourself involves trying to get out of your own way and collaboration does that automatically. It's very freeing. I find I'm up for stuff collaboratively that I would overthink on my own.
What should readers expect from you in the future?
I'm looking to adapt some older folk tales maybe! Maybe scary stuff. Again, trying to get it out of my control completely, but if it's older or more obscure in its origins, I also get to do what I want to it, so it's another nice mix. We shall see. --Jaclyn Fulwood
Rediscover: John Naisbitt
John Naisbitt, the business guru and author of the megabestseller Megatrends and other futuristic titles, died on April 8 at age 92, the Washington Post reported. In Megatrends, published in 1982, Naisbitt focused, the Post wrote, "on 10 major trends he believed were reshaping American commerce and society. His first observation, long before personal computers had become commonplace, was that the country was moving from an industrial and manufacturing society to an information society." He also predicted that technology companies would "foster a new industrial model, with ideas rising up from workers rather than being imposed by executives at the top of the corporate ladder." The Post noted that some of the ideas in Megatrends "didn't quite hit the mark, including the suggestion that businesses and individuals would come to value long-term planning over short-term gain. Still, the cheery optimism of Megatrends, in which technology would benignly break down social and financial barriers, had such widespread appeal that the book sold more than 8 million copies around the world and stayed on bestseller lists for years."
His other books include Re-inventing the Corporation, co-written with his then-wife Patricia Aburdene (1985); Megatrends 2000: Ten New Directions for the 1990s (1990); High Tech/High Touch, co-written with his daughter Nana Naisbitt and Doug Phillips (1999); and most recently, Mastering Megatrends, co-written with his wife, Doris Naisbitt (2019).
The Dictionary of Lost Words
by Pip Williams
In her intriguing first historical novel, Pip Williams (One Italian Summer) follows an unconventional woman who makes the Oxford English Dictionary her life's work while secretly collecting working class and women's words deemed unworthy of its pages.
In late 19th-century England, Esme Nicoll spends her childhood hiding under tables in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where a team of lexicographers, including her widowed father, work diligently at collecting and editing definitions on paper slips for the first Oxford English Dictionary. At age five, she swipes a slip bearing the word "bondmaid." Years later, the realization that this word applies to Lizzie, a maid and her close companion, as easily as to a Roman slave girl angers Esme. She questions why the OED leaves words out, often the language of working-class people and women. "All words are not equal," or not considered so, explains family friend and female intellectual Ditte. While remaining devoted to the OED, Esme begins using oral history techniques combined with lexicography to collect the words of market vendors, actresses and servants. As British suffragists protest and World War I draws near, writing The Dictionary of Lost Words becomes Esme's guiding purpose.
Told in Esme's gentle, inquisitive voice and spanning four decades, The Dictionary of Lost Words is a searching, feminist exploration of how class and gender affect the boundaries of language. This sweeping coming-of-age story, set against a tumultuous time in British history, is a historical fiction fan's dream. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: A young British woman quietly creates a compendium of words from women and the lower classes in this sweeping feminist bildungsroman set against the writing of the first Oxford English Dictionary.
by Dario Diofebi
In Paradise, Nevada, his staggering debut novel, Dario Diofebi has created a comic epic with the complexity and sweeping emotion to suit its singular setting, Las Vegas.
On a spring night in 2015, a bomb detonates inside the Positano Luxury Resort and Casino, a place built on the same paradoxes as Las Vegas itself, at once "both fiction and reality, both paradise and home." Months before the fateful event, four strangers converge on the Positano seeking salvation from their own personal crises: a digital poker wizard looks to make a living playing the tables after his faith in mathematics is shaken; an existentially adrift cocktail waitress finds purpose in organized labor's struggle against predatory capital; an Italian immigrant with an expired visa confronts the fear and loneliness that govern his life; and a determined Mormon journalist pursues a story with profound implications for her career and her family.
Diofebi takes a patchwork approach to his intricate plot, patiently weaving each narrative thread toward an explosive finale. Along the way, he deftly and playfully steers readers down side roads of noir and western, road novel and heist thriller. Perhaps the greatest of Diofebi's many gifts as a novelist is the psychological acuity with which he draws his characters. Even with the novel's grand staging, Diofebi keeps a keen eye on the anxieties and aspirations that animate each of his protagonists. With an abundance of warmth and humor, Paradise, Nevada establishes Dario Diofebi as an eminently thoughtful and ambitious novelist. --Theo Henderson, bookseller at Ravenna Third Place Books, Seattle, Wash.
Discover: This ambitious debut novel takes readers on a heady, humorous journey through high-stakes cardrooms and darkened corridors of power in contemporary Las Vegas.
In a Book Club Far Away
by Tif Marcelo
Military spouses, even former ones, don't send an SOS for just anything. So, when captain's wife Adelaide Wilson-Chang summons her two dearest friends, nurse Sophie Walden and Army veteran-turned-caterer Regina Castro, to help her out after a surgical procedure, they know it's serious. The problem? Sophie and Regina have been estranged from each other for years, since the heartbreaking end to the posting in upstate New York where they all met. Former army nurse Tif Marcelo (Once Upon a Sunset) unfolds the complicated story of the trio's friendship in her third contemporary novel, In a Book Club Far Away.
Marcelo tells her story in all three characters' voices, shifting between Adelaide's present-day medical crisis and the year the women met and formed a book club with their fellow army spouses. The plot's tension ratchets up as readers learn more about what transpired back then, and the women edge closer to confronting one another about their past betrayals and their far-reaching effects. Meanwhile, Marcelo relates, with compassion and realism, each character's present struggles: Adelaide's emergency surgery, Sophie's twin teenage girls and Regina's tentative new romance all stand alongside professional challenges for each woman. Sharing a house for two weeks, the women are forced to work through their longstanding conflict, confront long-held assumptions about one another and even squeeze in a little reading. Marcelo's warmhearted, juicy novel is a compelling portrayal of the fierce bond among military spouses and a sensitive exploration of friends trying their best to right old wrongs. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Tif Marcelo's juicy, warmhearted third contemporary novel follows three former army wives struggling to reconcile a past betrayal.
Mystery & Thriller
by Richard O'Rawe
Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2004. Five days before Christmas. Two officials from the Northern Bank are relaxing at home with their families when their houses are invaded, kicking off one of the biggest unsolved heists in U.K. history. Former Irish Republican Army bank robber Richard O'Rawe gives a brilliant account of how it might have happened in the engrossing historical thriller Northern Heist.
James "Ructions" O'Hare and his uncle Panzer O'Hare are bank-robbing partners, but the aging Panzer's health has begun to compromise his judgment when it comes to family. Panzer's cocaine-addicted pedophile son, Finbarr, knows his dad and Ructions are planning one last big steal and thinks he's entitled to a percentage of the take. Finbarr tries to ensure a share of the money by enlisting the help of IRA bigshot Tiny Murdoch, but Tiny aims to let the robbery happen, get rid of Finbarr and keep all the money. The IRA gets a cut of any stolen bank money. They suspect what Tiny is doing. The police scramble to stop the robbery and blame it all on the IRA no matter what. Ructions must outsmart all the backstabbing, kneecapping thugs standing between him and the biggest cash grab of his life.
It's unclear which banks Richard O'Rawe targeted or how big a role he played in those heists, but his dialogue and pacing certainly imply he was there. The brutal men in his world do just as much damage with a hard look as they can with a bullet, all while sticking to a kind of honor among thieves that metes out swift justice to those who don't. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: One of the biggest bank heists in U.K. memory gets a gritty makeover in ex-IRA bank robber Richard O'Rawe's historical thriller.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Jeff VanderMeer
Hummingbird Salamander by the prolific Jeff VanderMeer (Annihilation; The Strange Bird) is a gripping and uncanny eco-thriller that refuses to keep readers on stable ground. The novel jets into action when its protagonist, who insists readers think of her as "Jane Smith," is handed a mysterious safe deposit key by a barista. Driven by curiosity, Jane tracks down the box, only to find an invitation to an unsettling scavenger hunt inside. With only a taxidermied hummingbird and a note signed by Silvina, a dead eco-terrorist, as guides, Jane begins what ultimately becomes a years-long quest that costs her her job, separates her from her family and threatens her life.
VanderMeer is no stranger to genre bending, but in Hummingbird Salamander he finds his perfect fit: a surreal, noirish, post-apocalyptic story with an unexpected hardboiled detective at its heart. Jane and the novel's genre cut through any attempts at melodrama or sentimentality, and yet both instill a sense of inevitable world-ending that carries its own inherent pathos. As Jane's obsession with finding the "end" of this deepens, readers, too, begin to feel both the futility and yet life-giving importance of her endeavor. The more her quest to find the treasures of a lost world threatens her existence, the more desperate she becomes to sacrifice everything to take one last look at the past. While the reality of Jane's near-extinction world might be suggested to be in the future, the harrowing crisis of her near-extinction mindset remains all too present and haunting. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A curious and entertaining eco-thriller, Hummingbird Salamander serves up a heavy dose of chaotic fun and fast-paced action to balance out its existential dread.
I'm Waiting for You: And Other Stories
by Bo-Young Kim , trans. by Sophie Bowman , Sung Ryu
As impressive as Kim Bo-Young's intriguing stories are, their literary provenance is equally entertaining. "I wrote 'I'm Waiting for You' for one person to read and one person to hear, with no ambitions of it ever being published," Kim reveals in her author's note. An old friend reached out via "polite email" and, although Kim had never written a romance, requested "a story he could use to propose"! The highly successful result--both as aphrodisiac and literature--appears as the eponymous opener to Kim's four-title collection of two interlinked pairs, the first and last translated by Sophie Bowman, the middle two by Sung Ryu.
Lucky readers are wise to lean in and get ready to sigh and soar. The bracketing stories, "I'm Waiting for You" and "On My Way to You," are a he-said/she-said duet about timeless love. In between exploring such everlasting commitment, Kim includes "The Prophet of Corruption" and "That One Life"--the latter she calls "a light spinoff" of the former--in which the immortal world of connected-yet-conflicting creators observe and evaluate the machinations and manipulations they control on Earth below.
Kim, lauded as one of Korea's most influential and award-winning sci-fi writers, served as a script adviser to an earlier film by Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho of Parasite fame. Her short story "Between Zero and One" was a highlight in the 2019 anthology Readymade Bodhisattva, which introduced her work to Anglophone audiences. Kim appears poised to enjoy well-earned international acclaim. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Kim Bo-Young, one of Korea's most influential sci-fi literary stars, transforms a friend's request for assistance with a marriage proposal into a compelling four-story collection.
To Love and to Loathe
by Martha Waters
Following To Have and to Hoax, Martha Waters's To Love and to Loathe returns to Regency-era England with a witty enemies-to-lovers romance that sparkles with banter and tension. Young widow Diana, Lady Templeton, is looking for an affair but doesn't have the reputation to let eligible gentlemen know she might be interested. Her brother's longtime friend Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham, is known in society for his many liaisons. Isn't it convenient that they're both available at the same time, that he's holding a two-week house party and that they've been carrying a torch for each other for years?
The plot is a bit more complicated, however. Diana bets Jeremy that he'll be married within a year and enlists the help of his grandmother in her matchmaking scheme. So even as she's attempting to set him up with an eligible young woman during the house party, Diana negotiates a short-term fling with Jeremy--a practical arrangement that of course won't involve their hearts at all. "His intention had been to remind her of the strange, potent connection between them, to leave her wanting more. He had no idea... if he'd accomplished that aim--but he'd undoubtedly succeeded at reminding himself."
To Love and to Loathe is told in alternating points of view, illustrating two similarly delusional perspectives. Diana and Jeremy express their attraction through good-natured bickering as funny as it is obvious (to everyone but them). While they attempt to lie to themselves and each other, readers know the delicious truth: they've been meant for each other since the day they met. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: Martha Waters's second historical romance is a delightful enemies-to-lovers escape filled with banter and humor.
Biography & Memoir
by Brandi Carlile
Cross-genre musical artist Brandi Carlile seemed to burst on the scene following a multiple Grammy-winning evening in 2019. The most nominated woman at the 61st annual awards (six), Carlile blew audiences away with her Song of the Year performance, "The Joke," an anthem for those who struggle to fit into the world's divisive molds. Thanks to Carlile's intimate memoir, Broken Horses, the story of how the "overnight sensation" struggled and strived for years can be known beyond the fans who have followed her religiously even prior to her first studio album in 2005.
Carlile's childhood in Washington State was marked by alcoholism, poverty, religion, health problems, instability (14 different homes) and, as the first-born grandchild, her own "inflated sense of self-importance and burden of perceived responsibility." That said, her family was warm, close, musical and filled with characters that lay a good storytelling foundation. But it is Carlile's sense of self and her ability to be deeply vulnerable and introspective before an audience that allow her to plumb the depths of her upbringing and forge her trail to center stage.
A brilliant lyricist, Carlile adapts her gift to the long form without missing a beat. Her style is conversational, whether the topic is music, charity work, motherhood (Carlile and her wife have two daughters), LGBTQ+ rights, Barack Obama or Carlile's beloved "gay pen pal father figure," Elton John. Overflowing with thoughtfulness, wicked humor, photographs and song lyrics, Broken Horses is an epic sit around the campfire. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: In her superb memoir, singer-songwriter and producer Brandi Carlile tells her captivating story, from hardscrabble beginnings to award-winning success.
Essays & Criticism
The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000-2020
by Rachel Kushner
Rachel Kushner's The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000-2020 starts with a bang: an account of her participation in the 1992 Cabo 1000, a perilous motorcycle race from San Ysidro, Calif., to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But in this collection, featuring 19 pieces of edgy memoir, eclectic journalism and diverse criticism, Kushner consistently delivers on the promise of that exciting opener.
Among the most entertaining entries are Kushner's reminiscences about growing up in San Francisco. "Not with the Band" describes the series of bartending jobs that brought her into the heart of the city's rock music scene in the 1990s, and features a memorable encounter with Keith Richards. In the titular essay, a video clip shot from a vehicle driving down Market Street in 1966 sparks memories of her time working in the notorious Tenderloin and living in Haight-Ashbury. But Kushner doesn't draw only on recollections of her home turf. "In the Company of Truckers" is a brief, disarming piece about a random act of kindness received while on a cross-country drive in the late 1990s.
Admirers of Kushner's novel The Flamethrowers, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, will delight in the essay "Made to Burn," which, in addition to Kushner's prose, features arresting images that provided some of her inspiration for the novel. Not every one of Kushner's pieces will enchant every reader, but The Hard Crowd consistently showcases the work of a conscientious, engaged journalist. Her talent for writing fiction is already well-recognized, but this introduction to her nonfiction showcases the breadth of her talent. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: Rachel Kushner displays a wide-ranging and occasionally idiosyncratic set of interests in her first nonfiction collection.
Children's & Young Adult
I Sang You Down from the Stars
by Tasha Spillett-Sumner , illust. by Michaela Goade
A young Indigenous woman joyously awaits the birth of her child in this celebration of family and tradition by Cree and Trinidadian writer Tasha Spillett-Sumner (Surviving the City), with dazzling illustrations by Tlingit artist and Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade (We Are Water Protectors).
"I loved you before I met you," the mother says. "Before I held you in my arms,/ I sang you down from the stars." Readers see her gazing up into an amethyst sky at sunset, longing for a child. The swirling white plume of a falling star's trail mingles with chimney smoke from her nearby home. Following the sweeps of stardust, she finds a white eagle feather in a strawberry patch, "the first gift in a bundle/ that will be yours." After becoming pregnant, she continues to gather items to add to the baby's bundle; after the birth, the mother sees stars reflected in her daughter's eyes. During a celebration of family and friends--most of whom share her brown skin tone while a few appear white--she realizes the baby is like a bundle filled with love and hope for the future.
While the assembling of medicine bundles is practiced primarily by Indigenous cultures, Spillet-Sumner's tender free-verse tribute to the joy of welcoming a new baby should resonate with any caregiver who has excitedly awaited a child's arrival. Her spare, uplifting lines sing with gratitude, reverence and elation. Goade's ethereal watercolor and mixed-media illustrations soar across the page, overflowing with gorgeous touches. The stardust swooshes recur, sometimes framing insets that show traditional dances, sacred images from the natural world and allusions to both Cree and Tlingit stories. I Sang You Down from the Stars will make a beautiful gift for an expecting family as well as a read-aloud to assure children they are loved. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library
Discover: An Indigenous mother-to-be gathers significant items for her child's medicine bundle in this joyful picture book about welcoming a new baby.
The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
by Erin Soderberg Downing
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie is populated by quirky children, a distracted but loving parent and enough adventures and crises to pack more than one middle-grade book. Luckily, this is only Book 1 of the Great Peach Experiment series.
Two years after the death of her mother, 12-year-old Lucy Peach has settled into a new normal. Lucy is the "fixer," tending to her younger brothers, Freddy and Herb, and managing their expectations of their father, who never quite follows through with his promises. So when Dad announces that they've unexpectedly come into $1 million--thanks to the success of an invention their mother was working on before she died--and that he has purchased a food truck so that they can travel the country, Peach family feelings are... mixed. Be that as it may, in a matter of days, the Minnesota family hits the road with a plan to sell Great-Aunt Lucinda's peach pie out of their truck--and to win first prize at the Delaware, Ohio, Food Truck Festival.
Erin Soderberg Downing (Moon Shadow; the Quirk series) is exquisitely tuned in to her middle-grade readers. In addition to her sometimes poignant, often comical scenes, she includes Freddy's drawings and commentary, Lucy's droll letters to Great-Aunt Lucinda, an excellent seventh-grade book list and maps of the Peach family's progress through the Midwest. In When Life Gives You Lemons, Downing gently but candidly takes on the diverse ways a family grieves, allowing Lucy and the others to come to a bittersweet conclusion: "The time had come to let go of what was, and accept what is." And don't fret: a certain kind of reader will be satisfied to know that yes, someone does eventually get a pie in the face. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: In an enjoyable and accessible middle-grade novel, a grieving family travels the Midwest in a food truck--though they have zero experience--on a journey back to wholeness.