From the Shelf
Let's Face It: Mom Is Great!
Sometimes the exact right book is the one that gets directly to the point: Mom is great. If you're looking for a board book for Mom and a little one to share on Mother's Day, you could not possibly go wrong with any of these titles.
Disney Baby: I Love You Mom, illustrated by Jerrod Maruyama (Disney Books, $9.99), is perfect Mother's Day reading. Every page features a Disney animal parent with her happy babies. On one spread, Roo says, "I love that you keep looking for me when it's time to play." Lift-the-flap sections give prereaders a tactile experience, which also reveal more of the story: "I'm right here, Mom," Roo yells from Kanga's pouch. Familiar characters and plenty of hearts and smiles make this a perfect book to share.
In Little Penguin and Little Zebra (Amicus, $8.99 each), both by Julie Abery and illustrated by Suzie Mason, little animals wander off to play knowing that Mama will be there to help. In both books, the baby animals fall down and get picked up by their doting Mamas who then give them the confidence to continue exploring. Ridiculously cute illustrations with rhyme schemes that scan remarkably well ensure that both caregiver and baby will find something to love in each book.
The final book to pick up is a classic nursery rhyme with pull tabs for extending (pun intended) the story. Five Little Ducks: Sing Along with Me! (Nosy Crow, $8.99), illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang, is as springy, upbeat and prereader-focused as one can get. Caregivers and little ones will likely joyfully sing along as they enjoy the pastel palette, smiling duck and ducklings and tabs that allow for pop-ups in some unexpected places. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Francisco Goldman
The irresistible Monkey Boy features the author's not-quite doppelgänger confronting new truths about his dysfunctional family, his ancestry and himself over a long Boston weekend.
by Kyle Lukoff
A Stonewall Award winner makes his #OwnVoices middle-grade debut with a gender-affirming story about a tween who's haunted by their beloved late uncle.
by Michael Koresky
Memoir and movie appreciation merge in this unforgettable and moving tale of a mother and son reliving their past by rewatching favorite films from the 1980s.
Review by Subjects:
From Penguin Bookshop
05/12/2021 - 7:00PMAn Evening with Katherine St. John & Kristin Bair Celebrating the release of The Siren Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 7:00 PM ET on ZOOM ABOUT THE EVENT The Penguin Bookshop Writers Series will host author Katherine St. John to celebrate the release of her second novel, The Siren! Katherine will be joined in conversation by fellow author Kristin Bair to dive into the world she's created in The Siren, as well as discuss her writing process...
Fabulous Felines in Picture Books
"Picture books featuring fabulous felines" were highlighted by the New York Public Library.
Mental Floss showcased "6 historical figures who kept secret coded diaries."
On Antiques Roadshow Celebrity Edition, author Jason Reynolds wanted to know the value of some of his literary treasures.
Russia Beyond examined "3 books that made Mikhail Bulgakov want to be a writer."
The revolving bookcase Ariel "is softly nostalgic... with apertures sized for modern paperbacks," Bookshelf noted.
Rediscover: Jason Matthews
Jason Matthews, the retired CIA officer and bestselling author of the Red Sparrow trilogy, died on April 28 following a prolonged battle with a rare neurodegenerative disease called corticobasal degeneration. He was 69. Prior to publishing his debut spy thriller, Red Sparrow, in 2013, Matthews spent 33 years in the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations, where he served as an operations officer and senior manager. He specialized in counter-proliferation, denied operations, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, foreign cyber threats and operational training. He received the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit and the CIA Career Intelligence Medal and retired from the CIA in 2010.
Colin Harrison, Matthews's editor and the v-p and editor-in-chief of Scribner, said it "appeared to be a great mystery" how a quiet CIA operations officer became a "bestselling, critically acclaimed spy novelist," but "when you learned Jason Matthews spoke six languages, had read widely for decades, was an astute observer of human behavior, and was adept at composing long classified narratives, it all made sense. His books were not only sophisticated masterpieces of plot and spy craft, but investigations into human nature, especially desire in all its forms." Matthews followed Red Sparrow up with Palace of Treason in 2015 and The Kremlin's Candidate in 2018. Red Sparrow, which was adapted into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence in 2018, is available in paperback from Scribner ($17).
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Atinuke
|photo: Paul Musso|
Atinuke is the Nigerian-born author of many books for children, including the Anna Hibiscus and No. 1 Car Spotter series. She started her career as an oral storyteller of tales from the African continent. Now she draws on her childhood memories to write about contemporary life in Nigeria. Atinuke is the author of three picture books illustrated by Angela Brooksbank: Baby Goes to Market, B Is for Baby as well as Catch that Chicken! In Too Small Tola (published by Candlewick Press), she introduces a chapter-book heroine who is every bit as mighty as she is small. Atinuke lives in Wales.
On your nightstand now:
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
Coming to England by Floella Benjamin, illustrated by Diane Ewen
100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne
The Oxford Companion to Black British History, edited by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones
I gobble up any modern Nigerian fiction that I can get my hands on. Also, I'm writing a children's book on Black British history, so I'm immersed in it right now.
Favorite books when you were a child:
Astrid Lingren's Karlsson on the Roof
Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lancaster Brisley
The Magic Faraway Tree series as well as anything and everything else by Enid Blyton! That was what my mum could get her hands on for me in Nigeria in the '70s!
I wish I'd had the Katie Morag books by Mairi Hedderwick.
Your top five authors:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie--everything she writes is outstanding.
Sarah J. Maas--when I want to switch off and go to another world, I turn to SJM; like the best fantasy, so many of the lines describe how I feel!
J.R.R. Tolkien--his books have seen me through some of the worst times in my life!
Jon Klassen--I go back to his picture books again and again.
Astrid Lindgren--she's been a favorite for 50 years.
Book you've faked reading:
Not going to admit to that!
Books you're currently an evangelist for:
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Books you've bought for the cover:
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and A Story About Afiya by James Berry.
Books you hid from your parents:
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.
Books that changed your life:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker--the first book I read with Black people in it, and it literally changed my life.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez changed how I saw writing.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy opened my mind to other possibilities.
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés changed how I saw stories.
Favorite line from a book:
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." --Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series
I cling to this quote in times of need.
Five books you'll never part with:
The Stone Boy and Other Stories by Thich Nhat Hanh
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
The Mountain Is Young by Han Suyin
Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Books to get me through hard times:
(I'm cheating here coz I'll also never part with these!)
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
Both the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
New and Selected Poems, Volumes One and Two by Mary Oliver
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman
Current favorite picture books:
Picture books are my favorite genre!
So Much! by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Katie Morag and the Two Grandmothers by Mairi Hedderwick
No Matter What by Debi Gliori
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Neal Layton
My current five favorite Nigerian books:
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Every Good Will Come by Sefi Atta
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
by Francisco Goldman
That the protagonist's name is Francisco Goldberg--an amalgam of maternal Guatemalan immigrant and paternal Jewish parentage--presents an irresistible invitation to explore autobiographical overlaps with award-winning creator Francisco Goldman. The parallels are immediate: both are peripatetic journalist/writers with connections to Boston, New York, Mexico City, Latin America. Beware of quick assumptions, however, because Monkey Boy's subtitle could easily be "I didn't know," a phrase repeated throughout, as Goldman's not-quite-doppelgänger narrates a New York-to-Boston trip that leaves him poignantly changed, perhaps even newly enlightened.
On a Thursday in March, Frankie (his childhood name, to which he reverts for the days ahead) boards a morning train for a scheduled radio interview (he's famous), followed by dinner with a woman with whom he briefly shared 10th-grade kisses. The journey, marked by the arrivals and departures along the Northeast Corridor, is not unlike Frankie's fits-and-start-reveals of his own life as readers piece together details of his dysfunctional family, his bullied childhood (when he was "Monkey Boy" and worse), his work, his affairs. From his arrival at South Station through 3:43 a.m. Monday morning, Goldberg's multiple interactions--all with women--will reveal new truths both past and current about his own birth, his abusive father, his deteriorating mother, his estranged sister, their erased ancestry, his mother's nonagenarian portrait painter.
Goldman's ability to intricately alchemize real life and fiction won him considerable praise for Say Her Name. That convincing intimacy illuminates Monkey Boy, which, despite exposing historical, generational, familial denial and horror, ultimately proves to be a beguiling, surprisingly droll portrait of an unsettled middle-aged man (still) searching for love and (self-)acceptance. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: The irresistible Monkey Boy features the author's not-quite doppelgänger confronting new truths about his dysfunctional family, his ancestry and himself over a long Boston weekend.
by Rachel Cusk
With her Outline trilogy (Transit; Kudos), Rachel Cusk confirmed her status as a thoughtful, provocative novelist, one that appears even more secure with the publication of Second Place, a psychological novel that's a serious exploration of themes that include female identity and the meaning of art.
The titular location refers to a cottage the narrator, identified only as M, and her second husband, Tony, have built on reclaimed wasteland adjacent the isolated coastal marsh where they live. Her plan is to use the dwelling as a home for "the higher things... that I had come to care about one way or another in my life." To further that goal, M impetuously decides to extend an invitation to an artist named L, whose work, she says, "picked me up off the street and put me on the path to a different understanding of life." There's nothing casual about M's invitation. A writer whose own output has been modest, she's dogged by a lifelong identity crisis. After L initially accepts, and then rejects M's hospitality, he arrives with Brett, a much younger woman whose relationship to him is ambiguous.
Cusk meticulously charts the rising tension between L and M as the two come into a conflict that L seems to have sought from the beginning, and that involves a shocking amount of asymmetric psychological warfare. Cusk is a patient, elegant writer, in some respects like her creation M, who admits she needs to "get at the truth of a thing and dig and dig until it is dragged painfully to light." Second Place is the admirable product of that determination. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this meticulous and provocative psychological novel, a troubled woman's encounter with a powerful artist sparks a profound crisis.
A Lonely Man
by Chris Power
The first novel by Chris Power (Mothers) is an exhilarating literary thriller about the nature of fiction itself. A Lonely Man follows an author who must confront the dangers of inhabiting another person's story.
Robert Prowe is a British writer living in Berlin with his wife and two daughters. With a book of stories published years earlier and his first novel long overdue, his career seems to be at a standstill. But then he encounters an intriguing stranger, who confides in him a dangerous secret: Patrick, a ghostwriter, claims to have been employed by Sergei Vanyashin, an exiled Russian dissident, to write a book exposing the crimes of the Russian oligarchy. Now Vanyashin is dead--his death dubiously ruled a suicide--and Patrick believes the assassins will soon come for him. Sensing a way out of his creative rut, Robert takes Patrick's incredible story and shapes it as his own.
With a deft and subtle hand, Power structures his novel in such a way as to draw out the kind of tantalizing ambiguity that only precise writing can produce. His protagonist sees "life not as a vast sprawl, but a series of stacked realities"; Power reflects this view by nesting one man's account within another, raising questions of reliability that reverberate through multiple layers of narration. These questions gather into an atmosphere of uncertainty, lending Power's metafiction a charge of suspense. Exploring the shifting borders of fiction and reality, A Lonely Man locates peril in the disputed territory between the two. --Theo Henderson, bookseller at Ravenna Third Place Books, Seattle, Wash.
Discover: In this deftly layered literary thriller, an author follows his friend into the perilous space between life and fiction.
Just Last Night
by Mhairi McFarlane
Mhairi McFarlane (If I Never Met You; Don't You Forget About Me) has a gift for writing nuanced romances with grieving or complicated heroines. Often her characters are women in their mid-30s coming out of unfulfilling long-term relationships or emotional affairs, and Just Last Night is true to form.
Eve, Susie, Justin and Ed have been friends since their schooldays in northern England. For more than 15 years, their foursome has met for Thursday night trivia each week. Eve has been secretly in love with Ed all this time, but he's had a long-term, annoying girlfriend, so she's never acted upon her feelings. They've stayed in their enjoyable, mundane routine for all these years, until one Thursday night when Ed gets engaged to his horrible girlfriend, Eve goes home with a handsome bartender, and a sudden tragedy strikes, leaving their foursome permanently fractured.
Heartfelt and introspective, Just Last Night explores the nature of grief and unexpected loss, but with a deft touch that never approaches the maudlin. Eve, the main protagonist, ends up learning things about Ed and Susie and Justin that she never knew, despite their many years of friendship, and realizes also that she herself is a much more capable person than she ever suspected. Perfect for fans of The Two Lives of Lydia Bird or The Happy Ever After Playlist, Just Last Night is a truly lovely, and achingly funny, depiction of friendship and the hope that new beginnings bring. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this poignant romance, a woman in her mid-30s reexamines her relationships after a sudden, heartbreaking loss.
The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave
Laura Dave (Eight Hundred Grapes; Hello Sunshine) sustains the suspense as a woman grapples with her husband's sudden disappearance--plus the terror of not knowing whom to trust--as she commits to finding him and truths about the life she thought they shared in The Last Thing He Told Me.
Married just a year, Hannah and Owen are happy in their floating home in scenic Sausalito, Calif. A widowed father when they met, Owen is devoted to 16-year-old Bailey, while Hannah patiently works to gain the girl's acceptance. The night Owen doesn't come home, Hannah and Bailey are forced to become a team. Both have received cryptic notes from him within an hour of hearing an NPR report: the FBI and SEC have raided his software company, his boss is in custody and other staff are under suspicion of fraud. The next morning a U.S. Marshall appears and bluntly tells her: "Owen's not who you think he is."
Gentle with Bailey, Hannah also knows the girl likely holds memories leading to truths about Owen. Clues take them to Austin, Tex., a trip heavy with anxiety and suspicion of what, and who, they might find. This tension, paired with a bittersweet camaraderie between Hannah and Bailey, propels the plot, supported with passages from their past that eventually mesh with what they discover. Dave weaves a complex yet well-supported explanation of Owen's past, and offers a poignant, thrilling conclusion. But an epilogue provides an even more surprising--and satisfying--ending. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.
Discover: A woman and her teenage stepdaughter join forces to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of their husband and father in this gripping thriller.
by Jennifer Saint
Two princesses from Greek mythology step from the shadows to tell their stories in Jennifer Saint's passionate, assured debut novel. Ariadne, eldest daughter of King Minos of Crete, and her younger sister Phaedra live under the pall of their family's shame. Thanks to their father's impiety, their mother, Pasiphae, gives birth to "Minos' greatest humiliation and greatest asset. My brother, the Minotaur." Although Ariadne and her mother try to love the carnivorous creature, his vicious nature makes him a natural weapon.
In Ariadne's 18th year, she helps Prince Theseus of rival Athens end the nightmare of the Minotaur's Labyrinth. In return, Theseus betrays Ariadne, marooning her on an apparently uninhabited island. Rescued by the gentle god Dionysus, she finds a measure of happiness, while Phaedra, who believes Ariadne has died, must enter a loveless political marriage. Over the course of their lives, both sisters repeatedly experience "a truth of womanhood: however blameless a life we led, the passion and the greed of men could bring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do." Separated by deceit, the daughters of Crete must fight for meaning in lives controlled by the whim of gods and men.
Saint's background in classical studies is apparent in her portrayal of self-interested gods and hapless mortals. Her focus on Ariadne, usually treated as a supporting character or footnote, allows her to highlight the powerlessness and scapegoating of women in patriarchal systems. Filled with luxuriant descriptions of pastoral ancient Greece, and unflinching, intelligently developed emotion, this shrewd commentary on the inner lives of overlooked women should resonate with fans of Madeline Miller's Circe. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: Jennifer Saint's debut is a deeply felt, well-executed feminist take on Greek mythology.
The Secret Bridesmaid
by Katy Birchall
The Secret Bridesmaid, Katy Birchall's adult fiction debut, is a breezy romantic comedy about a Londoner with an unconventional job. Instead of an actual wedding planner, brides hire Sophie to act as the bridesmaid who's there to help, not to take over. In her words, "As a professional bridesmaid, I'm merely there to aid the bride in producing her vision for the day and be a helping hand to her. I'm not there to take control, but rather help the bride feel in control."
Sophie's life is so consumed by the weddings of others that she hardly makes time for a social life of her own. When an aristocratic mother hires her on behalf of her daughter--who absolutely does not want Sophie's services--Sophie finds herself working harder than ever to be a helpful fake best friend.
The Secret Bridesmaid is full of situational humor and sparkling banter with the bride's brother, Tom, but readers will be also invested in Sophie's character growth. She is a young woman so good at mitigating risk for others that she takes none of her own. If her job is to pretend to be someone else and take care of everything the brides desire, who is the real Sophie and what does she want?
Sophie goes to great lengths to help her clients, with results that will make readers laugh or shake their heads at all manner of wedding antics. Those looking for escapism and a bit of romance will find a lot to enjoy in The Secret Bridesmaid. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: Katy Birchall delivers laughs and a light romance in her adult debut, filled with wedding silliness and upper-crust drama.
Biography & Memoir
Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the '80s Films that Defined Us
by Michael Koresky
In this charming and moving mix of memoir and movie appreciation, film critic Michael Koresky (Terence Davies) and his mother, Leslie, decide to meet monthly to rewatch and discuss films from the 1980s with strong women in leading roles. Ten films: one for each year of the decade. Each film brings up memories from their lives.
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean reminds Koresky of coming out and how the lack of gay characters in films from his youth made him feel invisible. "For me, movies were an escape, not a mirror," he writes. Both watch Mommie Dearest as if it were a comedy, but their conversation turns more serious when they discuss how the film hobbled Faye Dunaway's career (and how female stars are often counted out after one flop while male stars are not). And Leslie remembers childhood abuse from her mother. Terms of Endearment brings back memories of Koresky's father's early onset dementia and how the family dealt with their grief over his early death.
Not all the movies bring up traumatic memories. The Jane Fonda-produced comedy 9 to 5 brings back anecdotes of Leslie rejoining the workforce. It's also fascinating to discover that despite the film's feminist leanings, screenwriter Patricia Resnick was all but pushed out of the production process once the film's male director was hired. Other films include The Color Purple, Aliens, Baby Boom, Country, Crossing Delancey and The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Films of Endearment is an empowering, surprising and unforgettable tribute to strong women in films--and in the audience. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: Memoir and movie appreciation merge in this unforgettable and moving tale of a mother and son reliving their past by rewatching favorite films from the 1980s.
Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn't Ours
by Sarah Sentilles
Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn't Ours by Sarah Sentilles is an astonishing account of motherhood experienced through the complex lens of foster parenting. Sentilles gracefully articulates the spiritual and emotional preparation she and her husband, Eric, undertook for their role as foster parents, and shares with raw honesty the challenges of dealing with the overburdened and underfunded bureaucracy of the Department of Human Services (DHS).
At the heart of Stranger Care is sweet Coco, a calm, happy baby who inspires in her foster parents a deep joy and devotion. She thrives in their care. Visits with her birth mother, Evelyn (a pseudonym), result in Coco regressing and falling ill, yet her fate is dependent on DHS metrics that favor the unstable, untruthful Evelyn without regard to Coco's best interests. Sentilles (Breaking Up with God) is careful not to paint Evelyn in broad brushstrokes that diminish her humanity, yet is critical of DHS protocols that often result in children returning to unsafe conditions with volatile biological parents.
A writer and scholar of religion, Sentilles is a co-founder of Alliance of Idaho, an organization dedicated to protecting the basic human rights of immigrants. Each chapter of Stranger Care celebrates the interdependence of our fragile world while chronicling Sentilles's heartrending foster care journey. As she points out, our shared humanity lies in our willingness to care for society's most vulnerable. And so it is with fostering a child for whom love, stability and compassion are among the greatest gifts a foster parent can offer. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and freelance reviewer
Discover: An exceptionally gifted storyteller shares an intimate account of her experience as a foster parent and reflects on the majestic interconnectedness of our natural world.
Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter's Love Story in Black and White
by Kitt Shapiro , Patricia Levy
In Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter's Love Story in Black and White, Kitt Shapiro, with Patricia Levy, has written both a loving biography of her mother, one of the best-known Black performers of the last century, and a memoir of their special bond.
Eartha Kitt, a self-described "poor cotton picker from the South" (even as she collected Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Emmy nominations--her "Santa Baby" still defines pop Christmas music), arrived in New York City in 1935 at age eight, rescued from an abusive South Carolina childhood. A diligent student "up North," she was performing professionally by 1950, establishing her "feline, sultry and exotic" style. She had Kitt in 1961, during a brief marriage to a white man. "I was really the first blood-related 'family' she had ever known," Kitt writes, and they were inseparable, "from the first day of my life to the very last day of hers."
Eartha, of African American and Cherokee heritage, delighted in defying stereotypes and called blue-eyed blonde Kitt her "walking United Nations." Kitt savored their world-wide travels for Eartha's bookings, as well as their home with gardens and animals in the California hills. Blacklisted after criticizing the war in Vietnam at a 1968 White House event, Eartha was a life-long activist: "She always did what she could to defend the underdog." Kitt notes that besides funding, "she devoted her time," including at Kittsville, a cultural arts program for inner-city youth, which continues today. Eartha Kitt traditionally closed her shows with the song, "Here's to Life," and her daughter's memoir is a generously documented tribute to the world-renowned performer who was, nonetheless, "a mother first." --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.
Discover: In a richly detailed and loving memoir of singer and actress Earth Kitt, her daughter describes her successful career and the special bond they shared.
Children's & Young Adult
Too Bright to See
by Kyle Lukoff
Kyle Lukoff has already received acclaim for his picture books, including his #OwnVoices 2020 Stonewall Award-winning When Aidan Became a Brother. Lukoff's middle-grade debut, Too Bright to See, is another illuminating story that explores gender identity, featuring a trans tween who's finally ready to "see myself in the mirror," and declare, "It's me. Just me."
Infant Bug, Bug's Mom and Mom's brother Roderick left New York City and moved to the family's rural vacation home after an accident killed Bug's father 11 years ago. In the Vermont house, the living share space with ghosts: "Uncle Roderick always told me that passing spirits and lingering presences are a normal part of living in a house almost as old as the dirt it sits on." But now Uncle Roderick has died at just 32, leaving both Bug and Mom feeling untethered.
Middle school looms, and Bug's best-and-only-friend, Mo, now wants to be called Moira. She's worried about makeup, clothes, new friends and--suddenly--boys. Bug, meanwhile, doesn't have the words to explain why everything doesn't seem to fit. Bug has never needed Uncle Roderick more... and perhaps, Uncle Roderick hasn't departed quite yet. Or won't, at least, until Bug has heard Roderick's message loud and clear: "Be you."
Clearly aware of his middle-grade audience, Lukoff creates an accepting world for Bug with supportive family, friends and school administration. He balances that kindness with brief, realistic references to other less-fortunate LGBTQIA+ youth who are bullied, even abandoned. While gender identity remains prominent throughout, Lukoff also combines pitch-perfect adolescent angst, evolving friendships and spooky encounters to create a welcoming story accessible to young readers of all backgrounds. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: A Stonewall Award winner makes his #OwnVoices middle-grade debut with a gender-affirming story about a tween who's haunted by their beloved late uncle.
The Night Walk
by Marie Dorleans
Readers share with a family the joy of a mindful nocturnal hike in Marie Dorleans's The Night Walk. This picture book is full of vivid sensory details and atmospheric illustrations that create an experience of nature that both the young and young at heart will certainly cherish.
Dorleans (The Epic Race) hooks her audience on the first page as the parents wake two sleeping children snuggled in their beds, "Wake up, you two... Let's go, so we get there on time." Where could the family need to go so late at night? What happens if they don't get there on time? The mystery is set. They walk through town, noticing the smell of flowers, the pavement "still warm from the heat of the day" and lights in various buildings. They continue on into the countryside where Dorleans entertains them with the wonders of nature: "We walked slowly, lulled by the rustling of the leaves above. Then suddenly.../ ...a lake! We stopped to play with the moon." Through the forest and up a hillside (with a break for a chance to admire the night sky), the family's nighttime exploits cover an array of outdoor wonders. The whole time, readers are reminded, "We need to keep walking, so we get there on time." The mystery is solved in a wonderfully satisfying, spectacular fashion at the book's conclusion.
In The Night Walk, Dorleans depicts the vastness that can be explored in a picture book with minimal words and a limited palette of primarily blue, black and white. Her text pairs with her beautifully detailed graphite pencil and watercolor art to emphasize the expanse of the natural world. The result is awe-inspiring. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: In this intriguing and mysterious picture book, a family goes on a nighttime adventure, experiencing the marvels of nature all along the way.
From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement
by Paula Yoo
On June 19, 1982, 27-year-old Chinese American Vincent Chin was bludgeoned with a baseball bat by Ronald Ebens and stepson Michael Nitz. The two white men, like too many others, were driven by anti-Asian resentment over Detroit's declining auto industry due to Japanese competition. "It's not fair," Chin said before losing consciousness. His final words inspired Paula Yoo's impressively thorough From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement.
Chin died four days after the vicious assault, just five days before his wedding. Ebens and Nitz pleaded guilty to manslaughter and each received a $3,000 fine and three years' probation without imprisonment. That egregious lack of justice emboldened a pivotal moment in Asian Pacific American activism and civil rights history. Yoo opens her extensive examination with an unexpected new voice: Jarod Lew, who, 30 years after Vincent's murder, learns his mother was Vincent's fiancée, Vikki Wong. Jarod's personal discovery is Yoo's framing narrative for the book; his journey becomes an ingenious reminder to all readers--just as Jarod must understand his history so, too, does each new generation.
As a former Detroit News reporter and TV writer/producer, Yoo initially considered making a film about Vincent Chin. But the spikes in anti-Asian violence after Trump became president convinced her to transform her celluloid intentions onto the page. From a Whisper is arguably the most comprehensive overview of the gruesome events and the aftermath of trials, protests, convictions, reversals and civil suits, and is enhanced with photos, newspaper clippings and significant backmatter, including a timeline, endnotes and sources. Yoo is determined: "not knowing" is no longer an option. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Paula Yoo impressively educates a new generation as to why Vincent Chin's 1982 murder and its civil rights-changing aftermath matters now more than ever.