From the Shelf
Present and Past Through the Eyes of a Modern Irish Master
The Irish novelist Colum McCann once observed that "an ounce of empathy is worth a boatload of judgment." His three most recent novels demonstrate how important that quality is in his compelling fiction.
McCann first attracted a wider audience when Let the Great World Spin (Random House, $18) won the 2009 National Book Award. At the heart of the novel is the feat of French daredevil Philippe Petit, who traversed a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in August 1974. Out of that astonishing achievement McCann spins an intricate web of stories focusing on characters from every level of society to create a rich tapestry of life in the troubled New York City of the 1970s.
In Transatlantic (Random House, $17), McCann again relies on a polyphonic narrative, this time to explore the connections between Ireland and the U.S. over the past 150 years. He blends historical characters like Frederick Douglass and former senator George Mitchell, who brokered the agreement that brought an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland in 1998, with fictional creations to paint a memorable portrait of two countries linked by memory and culture.
With the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in May 2021, McCann's 2020 novel Apeirogon (Random House, $18) couldn't have been more timely. Understanding that the role of the novelist is to transcend geopolitics to tell human stories, in an audaciously structured narrative, McCann focuses on the experiences of Israeli Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin, both of whom lost their young daughters a decade apart--one to a terrorist bombing and the other to a shooting by an Israeli border guard. The men bonded over those shared tragedies and have become passionate advocates for a peace that will spare others the grief that has scarred their lives. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
In this Issue...
by Clare Sestanovich
This hilarious and cutting collection of 11 stories examines the politics of modern-day relationships, breakups and performative attitudes with an exacting wit.
by Joshua Cohen
With a blend of fiction and nonfiction, Joshua Cohen's dazzlingly smart campus comedy pursues lofty questions of history, religion and politics.
by Anita Silvey
Anita Silvey captivatingly portrays a woman who put the welfare of gorillas above her own.
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...
Pulp Tarot Card Deck
"The Pulp Tarot: a new tarot deck inspired by midcentury pulp illustrations." (via Open Culture)
CrimeReads recommended "seven mystery novels where the crimes are motivated by books."
Mental Floss shared eight facts about Bette Green's Summer of My German Soldier.
Author Jonathan Lee picked his top 10 books about public spaces for the Guardian.
Rediscover: Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn, "whose plain-spoken poems about the small things in life and the bigger things within them filled numerous collections, one of which, Different Hours, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001," died June 24 at age 82, the New York Times reported. Beginning with Looking for Holes in the Ceiling in 1974, Dunn "specialized in poems about surviving, coping with and looking for meaning in the ordinary passages of life, or at least of the middle-class life he was familiar with.... his subject matter was of a sort that might draw a sigh or smile of familiarity from the reader," the Times wrote. In an article written for the Pulitzer website, Dunn mentioned three primary influences: Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and Theodore Roethke.
Dunn's other books include Pagan Virtues; Keeper of Limits; Lines of Defense; Here and Now; What Goes On: New and Selected Poems 1995-2009; Loosestrife; Landscape at the End of the Century; Local Time; Degrees of Fidelity: Essays on Poetry and the Latitudes of the Personal; Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs; and Riffs and Reciprocities: Prose Pairs. His final book, The Not Yet Fallen World, will be published in 2022. Different Hours is available from W.W. Norton ($14.99).
Maybe from the beginning
the issue was how to live
in a world so extravagant
it had a sky,
in bodies so breakable
we had to pray.
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Zakiya Dalila Harris
|(Nicole Mondestin Photography)|
Zakiya Dalila Harris is the author of The Other Black Girl (Atria), about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing. Harris spent nearly three years in editorial at Knopf/Doubleday before leaving to write her debut novel. Prior to working in publishing, she received her MFA in creative writing from the New School. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Guernica and the Rumpus. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
On your nightstand now:
My reading list is doubling by the day, but I'm extremely excited to finally read The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw. I've been hearing so many great things about her short story collection since last summer, and when I saw Philyaw read an excerpt at the National Book Award finalists reading last fall, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
I also can't wait to read When Women Invented Television by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong; In Every Mirror She's Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström; and Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I loved the choose-your-own adventure Goosebumps spin-off series, Give Yourself Goosebumps--and my favorite of those was Scream of the Evil Genie. Before I picked that book up, I'd been taught that there was just one way to read stories: from the first page to the last. So, I enjoyed flipping the pages forward, then backward, and sometimes backward again to get to a conclusion. And I really enjoyed feeling like I was in control of the story itself.
Your top five authors:
James Baldwin, Stephen King, Margo Jefferson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Colson Whitehead.
Book you've faked reading:
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, which is kind of funny because it isn't a long book. It was assigned in high school, and I just have these very vivid memories of me lying on the floor in my bedroom trying to read it and I just couldn't. I found the protagonist pretty annoying.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie tackles the nuances and complexities of race and Americanness and Blackness so brilliantly, and even though the protagonist is Nigerian and I'm from Connecticut, I can relate to the ways she's forced to grapple with her Blackness so, so much.
And really, it's just a beautifully written meal of a book. Every sentence is magic.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The last cover that drew me in and inevitably led to me buy it was that of Severance by Ling Ma. That dusty pink color of the jacket caught my eye because I've rarely seen that color on a jacket. But I also loved the thoughtfulness of the layout of the jacket itself: the title and the author's name look like they've been printed on a label that's been stuck on the front of the book; there's a simulated tear at the top of the page; the words "A Novel" look like they've been stamped on. The packaging sets a distinct tone for the book, and complements the dystopian plot of Severance quite nicely.
Favorite line from a book:
"There is not a Negro alive who does not have this rage in his blood--one has the choice, merely, of living with it consciously or surrendering to it." --James Baldwin, "Notes of a Native Son"
I first read James Baldwin's essay "Notes of a Native Son" right around the time Eric Garner and Philando Castile and so many other Black names were in the news. I was feeling the same visceral rage Baldwin speaks of--a rage toward all the injustice and indifference--so I could see myself clearly in this line. Knowing that I wasn't alone and that I could place my rage in Baldwin and other Black writers like him really comforted me then, and it still comforts me today.
Five books you'll never part with:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I'm a huge fan of psychological thrillers and Hitchcockian-type characters, and this one had both. I wish I could hop back on that ride without knowing how it ends so I can fully experience that final twist all over again.
Book that changed you as a writer:
Kindred by Octavia Butler. It's one of the few books I've read more than once, first when I was a teenager, and again when I was writing The Other Black Girl. As a teenager, I remember thinking, Wow, you can do that? Because I'd spent so many years reading essays and memoirs and poems about slavery--never a sci-fi novel. So, Kindred really switched up the game for me, showed me what genre can do.
And for the record: it's the sixth book I'd never part with!
Objects of Desire: Stories
by Clare Sestanovich
Clare Sestanovich's debut short story collection, Objects of Desire, focuses on a series of women grappling with the dissolution of their various relationships and the unsteady dynamics that result. Many of the 11 stories take place in the "after": after the divorce, the breakup, the breakdown. There are no romantic reunions, no sensible conclusions. "Terms of Agreement" is an informal letter from an unnamed narrator to her former boyfriend, an attempt loosely to recover the details of a relationship now past. It is also an exploration of performance: the performance of everyday living, especially in the context of someone else. Sestanovich studies the way people act (and why) with a blunt, humorous hand. In "Wants and Needs," a 20-something takes in her 19-year-old "sort-of stepbrother" and lazily imagines a relationship with him, one she doesn't even really want.
The prose is snappy, electric and tight; even unassuming sentences are charged with meaning. And though the book primarily focuses on people--the way they see each other, the way they relate--it also examines modern society's role in enabling and dissolving their relationships. Most of the young narrators are somewhat creative and aimless: aspiring writers and painters participating in the gig economy. A politician ex-boyfriend is "admirable politically and abhorrent personally." A young man rejects emotional intimacy on dating apps, while his parents' open relationship brings in a much younger mistress. The characters--their attitudes, worldviews and situations--are distinctly 21st century. Sestanovich has managed to create an accesible, sharp collection without sliding into cliché. -- Simone Woronoff, freelance writer and reviewer
Discover: This hilarious and cutting collection of 11 stories examines the politics of modern-day relationships, breakups and performative attitudes with an exacting wit.
by Joshua Cohen
In The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, his deceptively compact sixth novel, Joshua Cohen (The Book of Numbers) blends fiction and nonfiction in a piercingly funny campus comedy brimming with ideas about Jewish history and identity.
To readers, the name that serves as the title of Cohen's novel is likely familiar. To his characters, in 1959, it is obscure; as his narrator Ruben Blum puts it, the name "was still a generation from its infamy." Ruben is a Jewish historian--but "not an historian of the Jews"--at the fictional Corbin College in rural New York State. As the faculty's first and only Jewish member, Ruben is given the job of reviewing the candidacy of a potential second: Ben-Zion Netanyahu, an Israeli academic with a reputation for zealotry and propagandizing. Accompanied by his incorrigibly rowdy family, Ben-Zion arrives at Ruben's door and proceeds to upend every sphere of the professor's intellectual, professional and domestic life.
The real-life Ben-Zion was a significant figure in the movement called Revisionist Zionism, an extreme vision for a Jewish state eventually realized through the political career of his son, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Ruben grapples with Ben-Zion's work, which takes a view of "Jewish history that approaches dangerously close to the mystical," Cohen's novel occasionally takes on the form of a lecture, carefully weighing competing historiographies. Buoyed by Cohen's brilliant prose, these digressions never feel oppressive or overly didactic; rather, they are lively, engrossing and, if anything, regrettably brief. As entertaining as it is insightful, The Netanyahus is exhilarating satire. --Theo Henderson, bookseller at Ravenna Third Place Books in Seattle, Wash.
Discover: With a blend of fiction and nonfiction, Joshua Cohen's dazzlingly smart campus comedy pursues lofty questions of history, religion and politics.
by Francine Prose
For many followers of history, among the most grievous miscarriages of justice perpetrated by the U.S. government were the 1953 executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage. Such grim subject matter would seem an inauspicious backdrop for a literary caper, yet Francine Prose nimbly employs the Rosenbergs' fate to launch The Vixen, an often funny escapade revolving around a fictional New York publishing house at Red Scare-mad midcentury.
A few months after the Rosenbergs are executed, Simon Putnam, a Jewish, Brooklyn-bred recent Harvard graduate, begins a job as a junior assistant editor at Landry, Landry and Bartlett, a publishing house whose literary bona fides mitigate its financial precariousness. Simon has been winnowing the publisher's slush pile for six months when he's finally given a real assignment: he must pretty up for publication a debut novel called The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic, a potboiler based on the Rosenberg case; it's intended to make enough money to get Landry, Landry and Bartlett out of hock.
Simon is aghast at the prospect of having a hand in the novel's publication, and not just because it's a piece of propaganda designed to convince readers of the Rosenbergs' guilt: if Simon's parents knew what he was working on, they would be devastated. And yet Simon understands that challenging his boss would be career suicide.
Prose (Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932) has crafted an inspired work of fiction that, while staying within a realistic framework, does for an invented New York publishing house what Ira Levin did for a certain Manhattan apartment building in Rosemary's Baby. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: Humor and dodgy behavior drive this crafty historical novel about a New York publishing house's effort to capitalize on the 1953 executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.
by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
Originally published in the U.S. in 1938 to critical and popular acclaim, Address Unknown is the epistolary story of two friends torn apart by political extremism. Weighing in at a mere 96 pages, this novel-in-letters is as relevant now as it was when Kathrine Kressmann Taylor released it to the world, the year before Hitler invaded Poland. This new edition also acknowledges the full name and sex of the author for the first time, as Address Unknown was initially published under the gender-neutral pseudonym Kressmann Taylor.
It is the story of two German friends, Max Eisenstein and Martin Schulse, who co-own an art gallery in San Francisco but are separated when Martin returns to Munich with his family in the fall of 1932. Their correspondence is initially warm and chatty, with playful asides to the questionable artistic tastes of their clients and homey descriptions of family life. But the tone darkens quickly when Adolf Hitler comes to power in early 1933. As a Jew, Max is alarmed and questions Martin about conditions in Germany. Martin's early ambivalent replies reveal his wait-and-see attitude about the extent of Hitler's aims. As the months go by, the correspondence devolves chillingly until an unforgivable betrayal by one of them is revealed--and the power of the pen is cleverly and fiercely mobilized by the other. Bookended with an introduction by Margot Livesey and a poignant afterword by the author's son, Charles Douglas Taylor, Address Unknown reintroduces readers to a forgotten classic by a truly prophetic writer. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver, Colo.
Discover: An instant sensation when published in 1938, this powerful epistolary story of friendship versus fascism transcends time and place.
Mystery & Thriller
by Joe R. Lansdale
October 1968 in New Long Lincoln, East Texas, a father turns to his 14-year-old son, Daniel, and says, "Sometimes you have to do what's best for all involved," before driving their Buick off a bridge into the icy waters below. The words turn out to be prophetic in the exceptional murder mystery Moon Lake by Joe R. Lansdale (More Better Deals; The Thicket).
Jeb Candles and his daughter rescue Daniel from the sinking car in Moon Lake and offer to take the boy in. But Daniel is white, the Candleses are Black and that living arrangement creates conflict with the city council, forcing Sheriff Dudley to relocate Daniel a two-hour drive away to live with an aunt he forgot he had.
Ten years later, when Moon Lake dries up, authorities discover two bodies in a car--one in the driver's seat and the other in the trunk. The police request that Daniel return to Moon Lake to identify the bodies. They suspect Daniel's father killed his mother and stuffed her in the trunk before driving off the bridge, but the trunk corpse doesn't match his mom's description. Then several more cars with dead bodies in their trunks are pulled from the lake, and Moon Lake becomes a bigger murder mystery than the town can keep secret.
Lansdale's descriptions ("He wore a thin smile like he had farted and thought it was funny") mesh nicely with the throat-grabbing plot, but it's Lansdale's mindful mixing of the bright and the brutal that keeps fans clamoring for more. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: The discovery of multiple corpses expose the greed and racism of a small southern town in this powerful murder mystery.
by Laura Lippman
Aubrey sends mail to a writer and calls his private cellphone in the middle of the night. But this is impossible, because Aubrey is a character from one of the writer's bestselling novels. Threats of blackmail from a fictional person turn into real-life extortion and murder in Laura Lippman's teeth-grinding psychological thriller Dream Girl.
Famous novelist Gerald Andersen is bedridden in his multi-million-dollar high-security condo after a nasty fall. His assistant, Victoria, takes care of his errands during the day; Aileen the night nurse monitors his medication; and Claude, Gerry's physical therapist, makes twice-weekly visits. Gerry's bored, but comfortable--until he starts getting calls and mail from his most popular character, Aubrey. Only Gerry hears the phone ring when Aubrey calls and the phone display shows no record of the call. The mail sent from Aubrey disappears. Thinking his medication might be causing hallucinations, he cuts back, but the late-night calls from Aubrey continue and money begins to disappear from Gerry's accounts. Just when he thinks he is experiencing early signs of dementia, he awakens to find a dead body slumped in the corner of his room.
Laura Lippman (Sunburn) keeps readers on edge with a continuous onslaught of unexplainable moments leading her main character to question his sanity before giving himself completely over to the horrible situation. The novel's conclusion may cause unruly debate, but getting people to talk about a story this well written should be the ultimate goal of all writers. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: Laura Lippman's suspenseful psychological thriller combines the essential elements of Misery and Gaslight.
by Jeffrey B. Burton
Jeffrey B. Burton melds nail-biting action and appealing characters in The Keepers, his highly satisfying second novel about Mason "Mace" Reid, who trains dogs in human remains detection (HRD), assisting various Chicago law enforcement agencies.
Burton infuses The Keepers with fascinating details about HRD training as well as a detailed look at Mace's five working dogs, managing to reveal each one's personality but showing they are dogs, not humans with four legs. Still, Burton realistically illustrates the skills, instincts and abilities that dogs have, while highlighting the strong bond that service dogs have with their handlers. This is especially true of Vira, Mace's sensitive golden retriever, who works on "the Sherlock Holmes level," able to sniff out the guilty. Vira does her job superbly--it's up to the people to find the evidence to support her.
Mace and officers Dave Wabiszewski and Kippy Gimm tackle three separate investigations--the deaths of a faded rock musician, a union organizer and the head of the Special Prosecutions Bureau in the state attorney's office. The cases begin to merge as the three--and the dogs--come up against dirty Chicago politics.
Hard-charging action scenes collar the plot's realism, leading to a fast-paced finale. Readers can be assured that each dog survives, and each is a hero. The believable characters continue to evolve as the investigations affect each in different ways. The growing relationship between Mace and Kippy adds to their character development. Burton's appreciation of dogs and how they relate to people elevate The Keepers. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer
Discover: A trainer and his human remains detection (HRD) dogs sniff out dirty Chicago politics in this entertaining second novel in a promising series.
Body, Mind & Spirit
Ordinary Wonder: Zen Life and Practice
by Charlotte Joko Beck , Brenda Beck Hess, editor
Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011) is widely regarded as one of the most influential Western-born teachers of Zen Buddhist practices. Ordinary Wonder: Zen Life and Practice collects 34 of her never-before-published talks and teachings, which present her lessons on awareness, joy and developing one's practice. Beck also discusses how to cultivate a steadiness with the practice of what she refers to as "sitting"--meditation--in accessible ways both for newcomers to Zen practice and also longtime practitioners.
Beck avoids lofty metaphors in favor of plain explanations of how moments in everyday life present opportunities to engage in Zen practice. She states, "There isn't some magic in Zen practice. It's not going to change you the way you expect. It will not give you anything you think you deserve. But when you do the work of being with exactly what is, slowly, unexpectedly, transformation happens."
She also emphasizes that practicing is not about striving toward something, but rather, a process of finding one's "core belief"--a negative belief about ourselves that causes us pain--and instead of suppressing it, learning to sit with it and to exist with it so that we can "recognize what's underneath the surface, what's underneath even that core belief. There you are." For Beck, finding oneself isn't about striving toward enlightenment but learning to find peace in the everyday and to find the courage to be in the moment and in one's body, and do things differently than one might have before. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer
Discover: This fascinating collection offers 34 previously unpublished teachings on how to be more awake and in tune with one's life from Zen master Charlotte Joko Beck.
Now in Paperback
Notes on a Silencing: A Memoir
by Lacy Crawford
The propulsive memoir Notes on a Silencing opens in October 1990, when 15-year-old Lacy Crawford was sexually assaulted by two star athletes at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H.--described in the third person.
The facts carry readers along as they would in a crime novel, with clinical details that force observers to imagine the motives and emotions of the perpetrators and victim. Crawford then shifts to a first-person narrative. "What interests me," she writes, "is the near impossibility of telling what happened in a way that discharges its power." What follows is an exploration of power in its countless iterations: the power of peers, the power of teachers, of administrators, of alumni, of parents--and the power that a diploma from a storied school can bequeath unto its graduates. What is that diploma worth, and what would you endure to get it?
From that initial chapter describing the assault during the fall of her junior year, Crawford flashes back to her first days on campus: fresh from Lake Forest, Ill., and newly exposed to the wealth and worldliness of her classmates. By toggling between the timelines before and after the book's central event, Crawford conveys the universal experience of survivors--the divide between the person she was and the person she becomes afterward--and builds the narrative to the epiphany that unlocks her silence. A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2020, Notes on a Silencing was also named a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, and a Best Book of the Year by Time, People and NPR. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: In a precise, lucid account, the author examines herself and the forces outside her that converged to suppress her voice after a sexual assault at a prestigious school when she was 15 years old.
by Raven Leilani
Raven Leilani's first novel, Luster, is a rocket-paced, sensual fever dream of sex, trauma, relationships and conflicting perceptions.
Edie is in her 20s and struggling, with her crappy shared Bushwick apartment, her low-level position in children's publishing, her uninspired sexual choices and her irritable bowel syndrome. Her painting is not going well, and she is a Black woman in New York City: "Racism is often so mundane it leaves your head spinning, the hand of the ordinary in your slow, psychic death so sly and absurd you begin to distrust your own eyes." Early on, her affair with Eric seems different, refreshing, in spite of the 23-year age gap. Then Edie gets fired and evicted, and she spirals, landing, weirdly, in the middle of Eric's open marriage. His wife, Rebecca, set a lot of rules for his relationship with Edie. But Edie finds herself taken in, literally, by Rebecca, living in their guest room in New Jersey, asked to mentor this white couple's adopted Black daughter, Akila.
Edie's first-person narration is nearly stream-of-consciousness, long sentences overflowing with imaginative visual impressions and self-deprecation. Her particular blend of despair, panic and self-destruction is spellbinding. As she hesitatingly helps Akila with her hair and accompanies Rebecca to work (conducting autopsies at the VA) and to a midnight mosh pit, Edie begins to paint again, inspired by the minutiae of this family home.
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2020 and winner of the John Leonard Prize from the National Book Critics Circle, Luster is intoxicating and surprising, never letting readers settle into recognizable patterns. Leilani has crafted an unforgettable novel about a young woman making her own way. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: Race, sex, shifting social rules, art, inspiration and digestive troubles plague the compelling protagonist of this debut novel.
Children's & Young Adult
Unforgotten: The Wild Life of Dian Fossey and Her Relentless Quest to Save Mountain Gorillas
by Anita Silvey
Anita Silvey completes her trilogy of biographies (Untamed; Undaunted) about Louis Leakey's "Trimates" with Unforgotten: The Wild Life of Dian Fossey and Her Relentless Quest to Save the Mountain Gorillas, a candid, captivating account of a tenacious and ardent animal lover. Silvey gives Fossey (1932-1985) the royal treatment as she details the winding path that took the conservationist to a remote corner of Rwanda to research and live among the great apes.
Silvey connects Fossey's childhood to her young adulthood, when she tried pre-veterinary medicine. She struggled with physics and chemistry, so opted to earn a degree in occupational therapy instead. Then, her interest turned to the great apes of Rwanda. Silvey explains her nontraditional path by digging into Louis Leakey's mentorship of Fossey: he disregarded her lack of qualifications and worked to secure funding for her endeavor. Fossey's 18 years in the mountains of Central Africa included struggles, missteps and learning experiences, as well as heartwarming and entertaining anecdotes. Silvey offers a balanced view, covering Fossey's alcoholism, erratic behavior and health problems, as well as her conflicts with the Rwandan government: "Dian had alienated far too many people.... Because she would not stay away, someone set out to kill her." Despite Fossey's shortcomings and the manner of her death, Silvey makes abundantly clear the monumental contribution she made to the scientific community.
Included in the book are photographs and sidebars that enhance Silvey's narration. Young readers are provided with additional information about Leakey, other animals of the region and Gorillas in the Mist, the movie based on Fossey's life. At the conclusion of the book, a "Field Notes" section offers even more resources for inquisitive young scientists. Young animal lovers, science enthusiasts and conservationists should find Unforgotten riveting and inspiring. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: Anita Silvey captivatingly portrays a woman who put the welfare of gorillas above her own.
by Dhonielle Clayton, editor
Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles), along with powerhouse authors Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon, present a satisfying and hopeful series of half-dozen love stories in Blackout. Together, the six women of color work to show that love can be found in even the most unexpected circumstances.
A blackout in New York City changes the course of several Black teens' lives. Tammi and Kareem have to travel together on foot from Harlem to Brooklyn when public transit goes down, forcing the two to face the aftermath of their breakup. Jacorey, stuck on his own in a stalled underground train, deals with buried feelings for a crush. Nella falls for a beautiful girl who helps her search in the dark for a lost photo of her grandmother. Lana, locked inside the New York Public Library, prepares to tell her best friend that she's in love with him. Kayla's disappointing boyfriend and troublesome crush get into a spat while stuck on a bus during a school trip; Kayla learns that choosing herself might be the best option. And Grace, who gets stranded when her ride-share runs out of gas, finds a potential love interest in her driver.
Clayton, the brains behind Blackout, divides the book into five acts to tell each teen's story. She weaves the authors' short stories together through precisely laid-out chapters that make connections among characters. For example, in Clayton's "All the Great Love Stories... and Dust," Lana sees Tammi and Kareem (from Jackson's "The Long Walk") and wonders what their love story could be. Each author brings an unmistakable voice to the humorous, lighthearted storytelling, affirming that Black people are not a monolith. Every character and every chapter celebrates Black culture through language, fashion and individuality. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children
Discover: Several acclaimed authors of color present six love stories that develop and change during a blackout in this feel-good, heartwarming novel.
Best Day Ever!
by Marilyn Singer , illust. by Leah Nixon
Best friends can't always be on their best behavior, and, sometimes, even the best days can turn bad in seconds. Prolific author Marilyn Singer (Every Month Is a New Year) captures that push-and-pull in her energetic picture book Best Day Ever!, illustrated by debut artist Leah Nixon.
Within minutes of waking up, a rambunctious puppy has already decided today is the "best day ever." She's stretched, greeted her favorite human with plenty of licks and helped him get dressed. The morning only gets better as she digs in the yard, barks at a cat, runs in the park and jumps in the lake. But when the young pup brings the stink of a dead fish onto her best friend's lap, the day ends early with a return home for a dreaded bath. When knocking over a lamp causes hollers, best becomes worst... until apologies and assurances of "everything's okay" restore the best day ever.
The simple, affecting text is significantly enriched by Nixon's colorful, dynamic digital art. The first spread reveals hints of a bed handrail and wheelchair; the next page shows the boy in it. Nixon's illustrator's note and photo reveal she, too, is wheelchair-bound since a recent construction accident, making Singer's dog-and-boy celebration "the best book for me to illustrate," even allowing her the opportunity to use herself and her dog Lucy as models. Both author and artist showcase their lifelong canine devotions, made clearly visible in the hugs, cuddles, mischievous joy and agonizing sorrys between bffs--the puppy's regretful eyes! This effervescent adventure is irresistible. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: A rambunctious puppy and her favorite human delightfully begin and end The Best Day Ever! together, but not before they share a few mishaps and apologies.